Virgin Shaming

I had another post all lined up for today. It was a happy one. I wanted it to run this morning, but I am frustrated. Yesterday, I was too angry to write about it. Today, the rage has faded, leaving me sad and without a lot of hope.

I’m not sure exactly how to start. I don’t even know quite how to tag this post. Is it about religion? books? stupid things that people say? stereotypes? I guess? yes? all of the above? This is hard. I don’t want it to be a long, rambly rant. I have points, and I’d love for other people to understand them. Here goes.

I unfollowed two blogs this weekend. I don’t do that often because I am pretty selective about who I follow in the first place. But I clicked “unsubscribe” with no hesitation at all. In the last few days, I dumped two blogs whose authors vilified parents who teach abstinence to their teens. Don’t leave yet! Hang with me for a few more sentences.

Let me be really clear here. These authors weren’t merely disagreeing with the stance. I follow all kinds of blogs whose authors have views different than my own. It’s a big world. If I only hung out with people who see things my way, I would have a very small circle indeed. In this circumstance, the authors were angry, disrespectful, and tried to present us as stupid. Not just ignorant. Stupid. Me no likey.

This is a loaded issue, and a personal one. That’s what really gets me. It was so personal. One of the authors went so far as to say that she felt sorry for our kids. She tried to clarify that statement in her comments, but her explanation was even muddier than the original phrasing. What I did see quite clearly is that there are underlying assumptions about teaching abstinence that border on myth.

Myth #1 – People who believe in abstinence are uptight. 

You might be surprised.

Myth #2 Teaching abstinence means that sex education involves saying “Don’t have sex until you’re married. I’ll give you a pamphlet on your wedding night.” 

I am not going into too much detail because it’s not necessary, and I’m also trying to keep this post under a million words. Suffice it to say that sex ed in my opinion should never be so black and white. There are many shades of grey. (Insert requisite Fifty Shades reference  and guffaw like a middle schooler here. Because I know I did.)

Myth #3 – By teaching my children to wait until they are married to have sex, I am judging those who do not. 

I think this may be the biggest one. There’s often the assumption that by saying something is wrong for my family, I am pointing a finger at the rest of the world. Trust me. If I’m looking for a someone to shake my finger at, I need look no further than my mirror. I’ve got enough to be going on with right here, thanks.

Myth #4 – Abstinence is unrealistic. 

I won’t disagree that it’s difficult. Learning to drive is hard, too, but if I think it’s not a good idea to run into mailboxes and school children, I’m going to teach my kids the skills to avoid them. I would be selling my kids short if I didn’t have high ideals for them. It would be inconsistent, actually. I’m going to tell my kids that they can be a marine biologist or an artist if they’re willing to work hard enough, so it would be strange to say I don’t have faith that they can delay certain pleasures until they’re married.

Both blog posts in question were in reference to things that are happening within the publishing industry, specifically with young adult fiction. I’ll address that particular topic in a future post, now that you know where I’m coming from.

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! If you’ve been here a long time, welcome back! Feel free to leave a comment below.

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73 thoughts on “Virgin Shaming

  1. Virginity is a gift that you can only give once. If your never taught that it’s special or that it could be a gift to someone you really love that has proven they deserve it… you only figure that out after it’s too late. When I met the man I finally truly loved, it didn’t matter, but my heart truly ached that I didn’t have it to give and I would have loved that to have been different.

    Glad there are those who still remember that there are some things that do have value, even when not everyone will see it.

  2. For some people, tolerance only means you have to believe as they do.
    Sadly those same people often do not realize personal attacks and ridicule are forms of bullying.
    So much for the idea “you believe what you want. I’ll believe what I want, and sometimes we will agree to disagree.” So little civil discourse these days.

  3. My mom became extremely angry one night when my boyfriend and I stayed in the car too long when he brought me home from a date. She flipped the porch light off and on to signal that it was time to come into the house. She was the most UPTIGHT, UNREALISTIC, quick to JUDGE my actions parent I know….and I THANK HER FOR IT! Marjorie L. LoVette

    ________________________________

  4. I found out the other day that my daughter had had sex. She is fourteen. To say I went mad is an understatement. She didn’t even use protection. My daughter told her mother and her mother felt no need to tell me until it came to the time of getting the morning after pill. I had to phone the doctor to get one for her, and the doctor told me to calm down and get rid of my anger. He told me that if I showed my anger at her, she would go off and do it again. He told me that I needed to sit her down and talk to her about it, and to make sure she always carried protection with her. He also said that by doing that, reduces the chances of her doing it again.

    I did sit down and talk to her. I told her that I was disappointed and that by not telling me straight away increased the chances of her becoming pregnant. I also had a go at my ex-wife for not telling me straight away with something this important. Apparently she “didn’t think it was that big a deal”

    My daughter has assured me that she won’t be doing it again in a hurry.

      • After the doctor talked to me – after all, she’s my little girl – and chatted about what kind of things to expect from her, we sat down and discussed what happened and where she goes from here. Also about safe sex and that not being an invitation to her to go running out every night with someone. I treated her like an adult and she spoke to me like an adult and apologised for withholding it from me.

      • So am I 🙂 Not a lot of teenage girls can talk to their dads. But I have custody so her mum doesn’t really know what goes on in her own world, let alone her kids

    • Yeah – I had to wait 14 hours to talk to my son about something he had mentioned to me in a text. It was about sex and I waited until I settled down and we were eating a shake at a drive in. Judgmental does NOT mean flying in your face and letting you have it…judgemental in what we are talking about means having discernment over what is happeneing and seeing the road it can lead a person down…it is concern, judging the situation and discerning what is best. We judge everything…the toothpaste we use, what car to buy that is best for our money, and even where we go to eat (is it clean, what are the prices, is the service good?). When it comes to sons and daughters and their activities it is going to happen – I have heard hurting, tough kids say they wish their parents had more rules for them, those who can do whatever they want are always hungry for some guidlines. (Teacher for 22 years with emotionally disturbed kids).

      • Thanks for that info. I agree. One of my daughter’s friends said that she wishes she had the rules I give my daughter. She has slept with loads of people and she is the same age. She tends to sleep with twenty-plus year olds.

  5. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the enormous power and danger of sex, for two people are, at some level, not only merging their bodies but their essences. I am quite alarmed and disturbed to see how sexual today’s young people and to know that we have all contributed to it to some degree.

  6. I appreciate your openness and honesty about this! It is a very difficult path to choose to raise our children differently than the societal norm and I am in complete agreement with you on your points. Thanks for dispelling the myths. 🙂

  7. As a “mother” of 5 teenagers (2 of them are just teens who are always at my house) I know the subject all too well. My kids are very open and honest with me about their lives because they trust me. I think that trust and communication are the keys to reaching teens. They listen to my opinions and aren’t scared to ask questions. We have mutual respect. They talk to me about their problems and their feelings. So far they have each made the right decisions in their lives and I am so grateful to be a part of that. Kat

  8. I think this is a symptom of our divided political climate. The expectation is that you are all in on one side or the other and any acknowledgement of the other side is weakness. The truth is that no one has all the answers on their side, be it sex ed or jobs or any other issue.

    What we end up with is us yelling at each other. The people we hired to handle our business and find common ground do nothing. They don’t have to, people are too busy yelling at each other to yell at them

  9. So.
    *cough*
    Here’s a laugh (maybe?) for you.
    I had the TOTAL BACKWARDS IDEA of what you were writing about because I mis-defined the word ‘vilified’.

    It wasn’t until the very end, when I was confused that you sounded like you were ‘vilifying’ abstinence too, that I realized ‘vilify’ did NOT mean ‘praise’ and ‘commend’.

    I’m very embarrassed, being the wordsmith that (I think) I am. Obviously not too embarrassed to share. I can never resist sharing a laugh, even when it’s at my own expense.

    When read the way you intended, this is a great post. 😉

  10. I have always felt, “to each his own”- as for me and my family, I want my boys to wait as long as possible! We forget that sex is a really, really big deal. How many of us can remember that first time, and how many of us can really say it was the right time, and we were ready? Someone close to me had sex for the first time at 14 (felt a lot of peer pressure) and he, YES, HE waited another 4 years before going for it again because I think that first time was a little traumatizing. While I don’t believe someone has to wait for marriage per say unless they want to, I do believe you should wait until you feel 100% ready, and no one is ready when they are teenagers, in my opinion.

    • I used to work with teens. Many of them had been sexually active, and some of them actually talked about how much they regretted the choices the had made. That was something that really stayed with me, their feeling of regret.

    • I do believe you should wait until you feel 100% ready…

      That, for me, is the most important thing. I personally don’t consider virginity to be a religious thing, or something that, if you don’t have it, you’re worth less — I personally don’t like when people say things like, “you owe it to your husband/true love to be pure/untouched/let him be the first, etc.” because it makes a woman’s body sound like some prize that other people have a “claim” to. In the same vein, I don’t like if people imply that sex is something scary or dangerous.

      At the same time, when I saw the title of this post, I had one of those moments of “OMG-I’m-not-the-only-one-who-feels-this-way!!!” You see things like that Oprah episode about the “30 year old virgins,” with the producers in the behind-the-scenes saying how “weird” it is for a woman not to have had sex by 30… and that segment of the movie “He’s Just Not Into You” that says “If she’s not having sex with you, she’s not into you”… and it really feels like society is shaming people, making them feel less developed or mature or normal if they haven’t had sex by a certain age. And it’s certainly hard for people who identify as asexual, because people act like sex is some prerequisite for being considered a healthy, normal adult.

      In the end, sex is a very personal decision, and no one should be frowned on for when/if/how often they have sex (of course I believe in being safe, and knowing about the negative things that can happen, and how to avoid them!) — whether one does it before or after marriage, whether it’s in one’s 20s or 30s or ever.

  11. Even though I disagree with you, that won’t make me unfollow you, and it’s obvious you love your family in your way just as I loved my daughters (who have grown up to be beautiful wives and mothers) in mine. I respect your views and the way you’ve expressed them. And I’m very glad I’m not raising kids today (mine are 39 and 42).

  12. I hate when people on either side become black and white and extreme. My parents took the dont do it and that was it approach. It failed and I was left feeling like I had no one to talk to about uncomfortable subjects. I think communication is the key. The parents that truly care enough to talk to their kids are so much more likely to get across a difficult idea like waiting.
    Kudos to staying true to who you are.

    • Open communication is so important! I think it’s critical, too, that I share with my kids the stuff I struggled with so they know I get it. Be it school, sex, drugs, or even what college to go to, they need to know that not everything comes easily, and that it’s normal to struggle sometimes.

  13. I happen to agree with you on this issue completely, but we could disagree and still be civil. Seriously people…

    I happened to make it through my teen years without having sex and my first time was with my husband.

    I don’t regret waiting for a second.

    But we live in an instant gratification society that often ignores the long-term consequences of our actions, proposing freedom to do as we please and then often blaming others when we find ourselves in a predicament.

    Parents who are going to teach abstinence need to be open with their children about sex because they will learn about sex no matter what, and they need guidance from those who have wisdom and experience.

  14. I think an abstinence education with “No. Because I said so.” is a bad idea, but one that teaches the risks and dangers (physical and emotional) of sex isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

    And go your for standing up for what you believe!

  15. I think you’ve done a good job laying this out, without trying to be judgmental. I also think there’s far too much meanness in our world today (in fact, I posted something to that effect this morning). Parents should have the right to teach their kids as they see fit. Morals included. Good for you, for holding up high ideals for your kids, explaining the options as best you can. I’ll be interested in seeing where you’re going with the YA publishing arena!

  16. Last night I unfollowed someone on Instagram and I long ago stopped getting her Facebook feeds and I’ve known her since we were tiny. She’s political and she assumes we all fell the same way as her. I may or may not. My husband’s friends are the same. They assume we have the same beliefs as they do-religious, financial, child rearing or politically-because they’re all military. I resent anyone who overshares their views assuming we all feel the same. I welcome that you teach your children abstinence and I would hope that you would respect my beliefs as well, were I to share them, whether they are the same as you or not. I am a white woman of Jewish descent with a white husband (ex-military) and a half-black child. I dare anyone to try and guess what I believe about anything. That being said, what’s wrong with teaching your children abstinence? Maybe they will wait and I think that’s awesome and probably makes for a stronger person than your average Squish who may or may not have come into bipolar in college. If they don’t, are you going to stop loving them? Are we going to point at you and say, “Ha!!! You couldn’t do it!” Give me a break. Good for you for not wavering and for sharing without throwing it in our faces and for dropping those asses.

    • I love your sentence “I dare them to guess what I believe about anything.” Exactly right! We’re all complex creatures from a variety of backgrounds. It’s important to respect one another’s beliefs whether we agree or not.

      It was stunning to me how much anger those two bloggers had. That was the most alarming thing to me.

  17. Thank you for sharing. Just last week, I got mocked by classmates (I’m 39 and returned to school with other older adults) for abstaining until marriage. “What if he was a 5 second guy and you didn’t know that until you were married?” It hurt. But I reminded myself that not everyone understands the reasons for waiting go beyond religious. Although in my case they were religious. But beyond that, it’s safer, it’s not giving away a part of yourself to just anyone. I WILL NEVER have to worry about an STI. Not every married person can say that. And that saddens me.

  18. I am curious what is going on in young adult fiction. I suppose given the content of your post, I should be able to guess. I have found that the people who preach the necessity of understanding “different” points of view, are the least likely to actually tolerate them.

  19. I think everyone has to live by their own beliefs. You don’t have the right to tell me what to believe & I don’t have the right to tell you what to believe. I would prefer you don’t try to impose your beliefs on me because then you’ll be talking to my back as I walk away. Personally, I think abstinence is an option but I also told my daughter to wait until it was right & special for her. I didn’t want my daughter to feel like she was letting me down if she couldn’t live up to an expectation I may have for her.

  20. See, I happen to be of the complete opposite opinion about sex education (the reasons for which belong on my own blog I think) but I respect you too much to assume that your reasons are not every bit as valid for you as my own are for me. In the end the result will probably be even the same: Grown-up children who feel loved and cared for, with a healthy self-esteem and the ability to make smart choices for their lives. Great post with a generous portion of “that made me think”, thank you, Heather.

  21. “Learning to drive is hard, too, but if I think it’s not a good idea to run into mailboxes and school children, I’m going to teach my kids the skills to avoid them.” I want this on a t-shirt!!

    Seems like most of the comments, even if they disagree with your opinion, are well though-out and respectful. Says something about the community you’ve created here. I would assume you’ve created a similar kind of reciprocation in your home, one that fosters conversations about abstinence and other “uncomfortable” topics. I wonder if those bloggers have created the same kind of close knit openness within their own homes. Not judging, just wondering…

  22. Bravo. I wish people could refrain from the bludgeoning just because they have a different viewpoint. It shows such weakness of character to behave that way. And I agree with one of the commenters here. Our society is hyper-sexualized. I feel so sorry for pre-teens and teens who must feel the pressure to experiment and do what their peers are doing. I support teaching abstinence even though I’m not a parent. Education and abstinence.

  23. Totally get why you unfollowed because of the disrespect. I’m curious if there was no disrespect would you have still been bugged enough to unfollow? I’d guess not. This is such a loaded issue. Personally my two cents is that anyone who has had sex, especially more than once, knows how good and how soo soooo bad it can be. How utterly incompatible one can be sexually with another person, even someone we love. I cannot imagine what I’d do if I married someone, finally had sex (first time ever, or not) and was deeply (deeply and consistently) disappointed. I believe in abstinence as in “you’re under 21 and live in my house and there will be NO sexin’ it up until you’re an adult and understand protection and know yourself well enough to know if you should or not.” I don’t understand “don’t have sex” from any parent who refuses to teach their kids ALL the variables, protections, possibilities, anatomies and dangers. I was raised Catholic “DON’T DO IT” and you know what? When the damn burst, it burst hard. Because I didn’t know any better. Pregnant literally the second time I ever did it. Abstinence isn’t enough, IMHO. Worse, a terrible wedding night surpise. lol… Interesting post! – Andrea (Anastasia)

    • If the authors had been respectful, I doubt their posts would have registered on my radar at all. I read all different views on many different subjects. I like learning how others see the world. But if these folks couldn’t be respectful regarding someone else’s views, I doubt we have enough in common to make it worth my while to stick around.

      I think presenting sex ed and ideology in the right way is so important and oh-so difficult, regardless of the specifics of our views. Gah! This parenting gig is tough!

  24. Thank you. I, too, long to instill in my kids a belief that they CAN be different. That just because something is easy, doesn’t mean it will be easy to carry forever. My goal is total openness with my kids, clear expectations, and making sure they know that I am a safe place to land – no matter what.

  25. I thought parents teaching abstinence to their kids was STANDARD (guess that’s why I’m Asian). Whether or not the child actually follows his parents’ teachings into adulthood is another thing. Kids are having sex way to early nowadays to even know what it really is. BTW, if you want some Chinese New Year panties just let me know. They are hideously uncomfortable and instant copulation killers. I can probably even get them custom embroidered with messages like, “Don’t even THINK about it.” and, “More people are killed every year by enraged mothers than drunk drivers.”

  26. My sons are actually my step-sons. Sons of my heart they have been with me since they were 3 and 5. When their father and I separated they stayed with me, several years later when we divorced their mother went to court and asked the court to award me physical custody. She had health issues that made it difficult. I have always been their primary compass, she has always been a huge part of their lives. She and I are pretty close in our true north.

    We both always said do what is right for you, when it is right for you but remember it isn’t about peer pressure or what everyone else is doing. It is only about what is right for you. It is better to wait, better to have heart, mind and soul grown up and in tune.

    My oldest came to me when he was just 16, he said he and his then girlfriend thought they were ready. I took him to the pharmacy and had him talk to the pharmacist, he explained all about STD’s, safe sex and condoms. He helped him select the right one. Then I found the check out line with the cutest youngest girl. He threw the condoms in my basket, I handed them back to him, “If you are old enough for sex you are old enough to buy them yourself, I certainly do not need these.”

    “But Mom!”
    “Nope, buy them yourself or put them back.”

    He put them back. I found out later, he decided he was not ready. She broke up with him shortly after and several months later was pregnant. He waited till his first college girlfriend. He married his second college girlfriend.

    My youngest, he took a different route, but he had a difficult time with his father. His recovery was hard.

    I have never wanted Abstinence Only in schools, but then I don’t want anything in schools but biology. I think how we teach our children should be what is right for our families.

      • They are grown men now, in their thirties both of them. I even have a grandson. Their lives were so disrupted though my wife-in-law (their mother) and I simply worked hard to insure there were safety zones. Honesty was the only policy we had, validating their feelings and telling them the truth about how we felt without judgment so they had all the information they needed.

        We were lucky, I come from a big family with lots of brothers. Sometimes I called on them for ‘man talk’.

  27. “Virginity is a gift that you can only give once” My Mum taught me that too. I taught my girls the same but …..
    One can only try, keep all communication open, give support when it’s needed and give love all the time.
    All the best to you and yours 🙂

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