Hungover Feminist Weekly Report – Vessel of Something Edition

This week’s report is about the always entertaining topic of abstinence-only programs.

(Thanks Amber for introducing me to the term Vessel of Honor)

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23 Comments

  1. Denelian
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    my mom is an OB/Gyn nurse, and she is the one who taught my 7th grade sex-ed class.
    i will NEVER forget it.
    a girl in my class was reacting to being told that condoms should be used even for oral sex. she said something about wouldn’t they taste bad?
    my mom says, i quote EXACTLY,
    “They come in flavors”

  2. Denelian
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    my mom is an OB/Gyn nurse, and is the one who taught my sex ed class. i will never forget this – my mother said that condoms needed to be used every time, even for oral sex. a girl reacted to this. my said, and i quote EXACTLY:
    “They come in flavors”

  3. Denelian
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    sorry about the double posting – with the first one, i was told that there was an error, so i of course reposted. bad me, very sorry!

  4. Posted May 4, 2007 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Why don’t we come up with some new phrase to replace “losing one’s virginity?” We could make it something you gain instead.
    A quick check of thesaurus.com doesn’t yield a direct antonym for “virginity,” which seems odd, since it shows we define sexual experience by what it means we are not.

  5. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    “Why don’t we come up with some new phrase to replace “losing one’s virginity?” We could make it something you gain instead.”
    Oh yeah I agree. I decided that I felt that way a number of years ago. Plenty of cultures didn’t traditionally have the word “virginity” in their vocabulary. I had a friend whose uncle had a live-in servant from like Bulgaria, and she talked about “gaining your womanhood”

  6. Posted May 4, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Abstinence education works.
    Try again.

  7. cherylp
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I love the random name generator for abstinence-only education programs idea. One name I saw in the Waxman report that strikes me as ironic is “Project Reality”. Bwahahahah!

  8. Kimmy
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Jcb, would you care to provide some evidence for that, or do you honestly expect that we will just accept your blanket assertion? If you check the site, you’ll see links to studies and other information showing that it doesn’t actually work, so you’ll need to counter that information.

  9. Posted May 4, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky enough to get mostly-decent sex ed, too. As horrible as it would have been for everyone involved, I sometimes chuckle at the idea of what it would have been like trying to teach abstinence-only sex ed with me in the room . . . I had never had sex at that point, but I still would have pulled out a can of feminist whoop ass.
    As for the alternative to “losing your virginity” the term I see most often used is “first sexual encounter” or more specifically “first sexual intercourse.” The problem is that it sounds really clinical. I’m not sure if we should try to use it more and get it into the vernacular or come up with something else entirely, though.

  10. annajcook
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I read in a British novel once that “popping the cherry” was a slang term for one’s first intercourse. I kinda like it. It has a nice cheeky humor about it. And there might be some great variations, if we wanted to get creative with fruit and sex metaphors . . .

  11. Posted May 5, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never liked “pop the cherry,” because in my experience (and maybe this isn’t how the phrase is intended, it’s only how I’ve come across it) it’s only used it as a term for women, and a pretty degrading one at that. Usually I’ll hear “I’m going to pop her cherry” or “he popped her cherry.” So, instead of a woman “losing” something it’s now having something “done” to her instead of particpating in a recipricol act.

  12. annajcook
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey Cara,
    You might be right about the use of the phrase . . . I haven’t had occasion to hear it used much. You’re certainly right about the passive connotations, if it’s used in the sense of “doing-to” the partner, rather than the person speaking about themselves.
    And it does still emphasize intercourse as the act, versus beginning sexual activity is a more general sense. I think it’s a big problem that our understanding of losing our virginity is focused on intercourse, because then how are we supposed to think about any up-to-intercourse activity we engage in? Doesn’t that count as sexual experience? (Duh . . .) And shouldn’t we have better language to talk about it? And certainly my gay/lesbian friends have felt a little foggy about how to communicate the idea of “losing their virginity” (first sexual experience), since intercourse in the traditional sense is not really applicable . . .

  13. stellaelizabeth
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    my health class (frosh year) was pretty honest but what i remember best was footage of birth after birth after vaginal birth. i swore to myself at that time that i would only do it (have the sex) if i was on BC AND a condom was in the house. and by in the house i mean on the penis.
    i’ve always and only associated ‘popping the cherry’ with breaking the hymen, and therefore am not all that fond of it as a term. ‘cept as a heeelarious joke. heelarious to me, anyhoo.
    i feel like ‘my first time’ is what i’m more used to, as a phrase, although it sounds so judy blume, huh?

  14. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    yeah annajcook,
    “popping the cherry” has been used a lot around the places where I’ve lived. It’s definitely a way of sort of objectifying women. It’s a similar concept as “losing your virginity” too. Cherry is often intended to stand for hymen. And of course an awful lot of misinformed teens and young adults think that sex is supposed to hurt the first time, and that the hymen has to be “broken” (when in reality it usually just stretches out). Once you pop the cherry it can’t come back.
    And then sometimes guys will be like “I am gonna pop her cherry” and players in high school might be called “cherry-poppers”. Virgins of either sex might just be called “cherries” as in “he/she is still a cherry”
    I guess I kind of like the “becoming a woman” phrase. I guess it sort of equates sexual experience with maturity, which I disagree with. But it certainly has more positive connotations -even gives a positive connation to “woman” which for some reason is not often used as a positive alternative to “girl” in our culture. (like have you noticed how grown women are called “girls” as though it is an affectionate term? And being “girlish” is almost always a good thing?)

  15. annajcook
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    So clearly, I spend too much time reading British literature instead of listening to real people talk :D . . .
    I have to admit, though, that I still like the fruit theme. Metaphors about flowering, ripening, appetites . . . sounds like a promising avenue of exploration.
    . . .I always thought “becoming a woman” had to do with getting your period (another who category of linguistic terms we could talk about!) rather than being sexually active.

  16. Posted May 5, 2007 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I still like “first time” and “first sexual experience.” I think we really ought to just call it what it is, you know?

  17. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Well yeah Cara, that is generally what I call it, I guess. But even “first time” is pretty loaded to me. I always think of my mom and how you’re “first time” is supposed to special and with someone you love deeply and might spend the rest of your life with blahblablah
    “. . .I always thought “becoming a woman” had to do with getting your period (another who category of linguistic terms we could talk about!) rather than being sexually active. ”
    That’s how some people use it, sure. But the woman from Bulgaria I mentioned above used it when she had sex the first time (or rather, the story is even more entertaining: She had actually married my friend’s uncle to gain entrance into the U.S.; however, he just did it to help her out, there was an age disparity and they weren’t actually sexually active. In the U.S., she fell for a maintenance guy who also worked at her “husband’s” house house (my guess is the uncle/home-owner is rich) and one day she scampered down the stairs yelling “I’m a woman now!” to all the other people in the house, indicating she had had sex with the guy she had a crush on. (They were apparently a household relatively comfortable with each other) I think as soon as she has a chance to become a US citizen, the plan is for her to divorce the older uncle so that she can have her own life.)
    You like fruit and flowers? Hmm… the druids use to slice apples a certain way so that they looked like female genitals. How about “blossoming” or something like that?

  18. Posted May 5, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree that “first time” has some fairly heavy connotations that go with it, but at least it is a factual description and ON ITS OWN doesn’t imply anything either negative or positive about the act. I think it’s the culture that gives it the loaded meaning. Certainly it’s not unproblematic, but it’s the best I’ve heard so far.
    I have major problems with “becoming a woman” because it equates womanhood with sexual experience. Sometimes 12 year olds have sex and I don’t think we would consider them “women.” Sometimes you don’t have your first sex until well into your twenties or later, and those women are undoubtedly still women in the time before they have sex. Like with the word “virgin,” using the word “woman” in this context makes it about who you ARE instead of what you DO. And I think that’s a big problem that most of us have with the word “virgin.”

  19. stellaelizabeth
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    cheers, cara, well said.
    i’m a fan of euphemisms, but the first time i had sex i’m not so sure i became a woman or entered my womanhood, even though it was a positive and consentual experience. i also feel funny about saying a blossoming occurred or my pineapple ripened or any such thing. i transitioned from being a person who hadn’t had hetero partnersex to one who had.
    “first time” or “first sexual experience” is free of gender and even practice, in a way.
    i am not against brainstorming a new phrase for that transition, but the one that fits my mouth best, talking about my experience is not about cherry blossoms or womanhood.

  20. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Well yeah, I said I don’t like equating maturity with sexual activity, either. So I agree with you there. Personally, I think it’s going to be tough to find any phrase that everyone’s completely comfortable with.

  21. Mina
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    “I have major problems with ‘becoming a woman’ because it equates womanhood with sexual experience.”
    Exactly – that’s my problem with it too.
    “Sometimes 12 year olds have sex and I don’t think we would consider them ‘women.’”
    Now this reminds me more of the “you become a woman with menarche” attitude than the “you become a woman with sex” attitude. I bet that in many cases whoever paid bride prices and dowries for sex with those 12 year olds would consider these poor kids “women.”
    “Sometimes you don’t have your first sex until well into your twenties or later, and those women are undoubtedly still women in the time before they have sex.”
    …and having sex with them undoubtedly didn’t make their first partners pedophiles either.
    Meanwhile, the no-adulthood-until-sex attitude also seems to reward rape. For example, I’m in my 20s, I’ve never had sex, and nobody’s wanted to have sex with me. I shouldn’t have to somehow force someone to have sex with me against his will in order to gain adult status and lose childishness (and thanks to becoming a woman by turning 18, I don’t have to).

  22. Mina
    Posted May 5, 2007 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    “I’ve never liked ‘pop the cherry,’ because in my experience (and maybe this isn’t how the phrase is intended, it’s only how I’ve come across it) it’s only used it as a term for women, and a pretty degrading one at that.”
    I’ve usually seen “cherry” as a term for “hymen.” The one exception I can remember was in a comic book scene:
    “Um is everything all right in here?”
    “‘Evening, Agent.”
    “Quiet, Three-Fifty. Ampersand’s getting his cherry popped!”
    [Ampersand is one of the character's male pet capuchin monkey]

  23. Hoopla
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    When I was in high school, an acquaintance asked if the rumor were true that I had never “sailed the seven seas.” It made being sexually active seem kind of swashbuckly.

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