Ivy Hymens: Why glorifying virginity is bad for women


If you didn’t catch the New York Times Magazine piece, “Students of Virginity”, make sure to check it out. It serves as a good reminder as to why the abstinence-only, modesty, chastity, or whatever they’re calling it at the moment, movement is bad for women.
The piece – which examines the abstinence movement in ivy league colleges – focuses mostly Harvard student Janie Fredell, an outspoken member and speaker with True Love Revolution. What I found interesting is that Fredell tries to explain her penchant for virginity-worship using a feminist analysis:

“People just don’t get it,â€? Fredell said. “Everyone thinks we’re trying to promote this idea of the meek little virgin female.â€? She said she was doing no such thing. “I care deeply for women’s rights,â€? she said…She had awakened to the wage gap, to forced sterilization and female genital mutilation — to the different ways that men have, she said, of controlling women. One of these was sexual. Fredell had seen it often in her own life — men pushing for sex, she said, just to “have something to say in the locker room,â€? women feeling pressured to have sex in order to maintain a relationship. The more she studied and learned, the more Fredell came to realize that women suffer from having premarital sex, “due to a cultural double standard,â€? she said, “which devalues women for their sexual pasts and glorifies men for theirs.â€?

Okay…but isn’t the problem the double standard – not the sex? (Shameless plug alert.) If we don’t like that women “suffer” from sexual double standards, how is not having sex fighting back? Seems more like giving up to me. Of course, Fredell also frames her views with the idea that it’s just men who want or “push” for sex and uses bad science to boot – but that’s a whole other post.
Jill hits on the nail on the head:

I can recognize that it is hard to remain abstinent, especially in the face of a very sexualized culture. I appreciate and applaud the personal strength of individuals who decide abstinence in the best choice for them. But what I can’t support is the constant attacks on sexually active people. People who have sex do not feel a constant need to tell abstinent people that their human dignity has been compromised, or that they’re dirty, or that they are secretly unhappy, or that they’re headed for total life ruin.

Indeed. It also doesn’t help Fredell’s “feminist” argument that abstinence-proponents rely on the virgin-whore dichotomy to shame women into being chaste.


For example, last fall Fredell participated in a debate at Harvard with Lena Chen, a student sex blogger.

The women themselves saw their encounter as a meeting of two feminist positions, roughly encapsulated by a headline that appeared on another sex blog: “Harvard’s Jezebel Takes On Campus Virgin Mary.�
…The debate between Fredell and Chen was described on Ivygate, a blog about Ivy League news and gossip. The blogger dutifully recorded that both women looked their parts — Fredell “modestly dressed in jeansâ€? and Chen wearing “a miniskirt that left little to the imagination.â€?

Charming, yes? Even better:

[P]eople wrote in to Ivygate, calling Lena Chen a “slut,� a “whore,� a “total whore,� a “whore whore slut.� And then someone by the screen name of Sex v. Marriage wrote in to say that “most guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie.�
Fredell was happy that the event had drawn a large crowd. She told me later that she considered it one of the revolution’s finest moments.

I’m sure she did. But guess what? Perpetuating the virgin/whore stuff hurts all women, not just the “whores.” Until women’s morality is divorced from their bodies and sexuality, we’ll continue to be defined by what’s in between our legs – instead of in our hearts.

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55 Comments

  1. rileystclair
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    i actually take student organizations like true love revolution more seriously tahn say, the people throwing purity balls and actively using the “guard your diamond!” language and i do appreciate that whether or not to have sex is a personal choice and i respect whatever choice that is.
    however, “Okay…but isn’t the problem the double standard – not the sex?” sums up my feelings. fredell is right to focus on the existence of a double-standard with regard to sexual behavior, but advocating either abstinence or promiscuity doesn’t help to eradicate that standard.
    personally, the abstinence people freak me out a little (e.g., fredell controls her biological urges by…going on a long run? really?) because bottling up natural human sexuality to fit it into some constricting paradigm of monogamous hetero marriage just strikes me as potentially psychologically unhealthy. i get the concept of personal restraint as strength, but personally the thought of a guy i date refraining from acting on ANY sexual thoughts would produce the same blank stare as if he told me he was abstaining from eating or sleeping. but once again, not my choice to make.
    i guess i wish that no one felt the way to accomplish feminist goals was to adopt any particular sexual lifestyle over another. being true to yourself and doing what makes you comfortable without shame is what matters here.

  2. Messy Jessi
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I tend to assume and loudly proclaim that all abstinent people are secretly unhappy and headed for total ruin (or a joyless marriage with joyless sex), but that’s because I’m not getting any and I am deeply unhappy about it.

  3. epagirl
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree with the above critiques of the abstinence movement. In terms of Fredell’s debate with Chen, though, it seems only fair to acknowledge that the two women were trying to find common ground (which seemingly disappointed the school newspaper). The author of the article seems at least a bit responsible for linking Fredell’s pleasure over the event with Chen being called a slut.

  4. MaggieElisabeth
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t agree more with what rileystclair said. I have no problem with people either abstaining from sex or having loads of it – it really just depends on their reasons for doing it. “Nice girls don’t do that,” is not a good reason. Nor conversely, is “everyone else is doing it.” Young women need to learn how to protect their space and their bodies, while at the same time knowing that their sexuality and desires are healthy and awesome!
    Anyway, with that in mind, Fredell said something that made me feel very sad. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something to the effect of: I don’t have sex because it opens you up to getting hurt, violated, dumped, etc. While she shouldn’t have sex if she doesn’t feel ready, all relationships are inherent risks and without opening yourself up emotionally (and physically), you can’t reap the rewards of an intimate relationship. While sex doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of that equation, if you’re abstaining simply because you’re afraid of being vulnerable to heartbreak… well, it made me sad, that’s all I can say.

  5. Ollybeth
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    And then someone by the screen name of Sex v. Marriage wrote in to say that “most guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie.�
    Uh-huh. So I guess Ms Chen must be having all that sex by her lonesome. Yay double standards!

  6. stanna
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Glad you posted on this. I thought overall it was a poor article. My two questions when I got to the end of it were: Why does one Harvard student group with ’12 active members’ deserve such extensive coverage in the New York Times? And what the hell was the point?

  7. stanna
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Also, right on Ollybeth – I wonder if it occurs to people, when they make such statements, that there is a good chance that the Ms. Chens of the world wouldn’t want to end up with them, either? I know I wouldn’t.

  8. Liz M
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    From the article:
    Fredell asked me, “Why bond yourself so intensely when you’re not sure you’re going to spend the rest of your life with this person?� She loved her boyfriend, she said, but “there’s nothing unbalanced or irrational about our relationship.� After her own breakups, she has always bounced right back and knows that if her boyfriend ever pushed her to a decision, she could walk away.
    Wow. So not only is this girl denying herself any form of sexual pleasure, but she won’t even allow herself to feel passion? If you feel tepid or lukewarm about a break-up, I can’t help but feel that you weren’t all that into your boyfriend in the first place. Love – at least IMHO – is SUPPOSED to be irrational and unbalanced at times. It sounds to me like this girl has emotional issues – separate from her virginity pledge, which can be the right choice for some people – and can’t let people in fully. I would feel sorry for people like this, but then they spread lies about oxytocin and women’s biology, and suddenly I don’t feel so sorry anymore.

  9. EG
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Until women’s morality is divorced from their bodies and sexuality, we’ll continue to be defined by what’s in between our legs – instead of in our hearts.
    Absolutely agreed. As Angela Carter wrote, I don’t keep my honor in my vagina.
    I confess that I don’t understand abstinence on any level. My worst, most crushing heartbreak was with someone I’d made out with, but never had sex with. My observations are that such heartbreak is even more crushing when it occurs within a marriage. So that explanation doesn’t make any sense.
    I don’t have to understand it–I don’t understand belief in God, either. But I would feel better about abstinence as a free choice if its proponents said things like “I’m not ready for sex,” “I just don’t want to have sex,” or something like that, statements that make it clear that this is a personal, individual choice. But instead, they always couch their choice in the rhetoric of a self-righteous, objective morality that elevates them at the expense of the rest of us. That makes me suspect that they don’t see abstinence as a legitimate free choice, but as something that people should be coerced and frightened into. And that makes me question the legitimacy of such a choice.

  10. Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Jessica! I was trying to write something about this earlier and I couldn’t get it out that well. But the statements you have in bold pretty much sum it up. And this club looks worse than I originally thought – did she really not mind that people called the other woman a whore?

  11. Liz M
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    MaggieElisabeth, just saw what you posted…good to know I’m not the only way one who feels that way.

  12. zoelawgirl
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I know I am preaching to the choir here, but what I don’t get is why it has to be all or nothing. Why is pre marital sex either everywhere with everyone or not at all? Ollybeth is right on. Plus,by stressing abstinence these people are denying both men and women the ability to function in consensual adult relationships. I think those are important lessons for young adults to learn– heartache and all. Without them we wind up missing out on the richness of relationships and, eventually, coupledom.

  13. realityfighter
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    i guess i wish that no one felt the way to accomplish feminist goals was to adopt any particular sexual lifestyle over another.
    No kidding, RSC. You should have seen the real-life libertarian troll at our meetup trying to earn cookies by railing against monogamy. It’s not monogamy that’s the problem – it’s sexism.

  14. Shadow32
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    EG, spot on. The article makes it clear they’re not defending the rights of women (or men) to abstain, they’re attacking pre-marital sex as an option (at least for women).
    And Fredell talking about pressure to have sex ignores all the social pressure on women to be Good Girls.
    I think a support system for students who want to abstain but don’t know “how to protect their space” as Maggie put it (and that goes for boys as well as girls, of course) would be great. But as a support for personal choice, not as a Damn The Whores group.
    And LizM you’re right about Fredell’s obvious distrust of passion even without sex, an attitude I’ve heard expressed by other abstinence-advocates before.

  15. claricedurdan
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Disclaimer: it takes all kinds, and no one’s better than anyone else.
    However…
    I can’t have been the only one who thought Ms Fredell, when she confronts her sexuality, will end up being either asexual or a lesbian. Or just neurotic.
    Some people really are late bloomers, some people choose to wait for marriage. Fine. But when you go around claiming other people would be happier if they adopted your lifestyle… well, then I’m sitting here wondering if your long distance boyfriend is gay and is using you as a cover. Sorry but… I know lots of Catholics and the ones who are happy about their sexual choices aren’t grossed out at the thought of masturbation. Ms Fredell clearly has a lot of lessons to learn about what people are like and what she needs to be comfortable with herself.

  16. Amanda Leigh
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m new here and haven’t felt the urge to comment, until now.
    I once believed I would be chaste until married and regurgitated all the stuff Fredell is saying. In the end, it was not a choice for me to abstain. It was what was expected of me by my family, friends, and “most importantly church.” (rolls eyes) That was then.
    Over the past six or seven years I’ve taken a look at this “lifestyle” and realized what crap it is. It’s not my choice, it’s an expectation and it’s incredibly unhealthy. I learned that sex is for men and the only way to get a “good” man is to keep sex from him until we’re married. How ridiculous is that? It’s taken me a long time to really enjoy sex and understand that I shouldn’t feel dirty or whorish about the fact that I CHOOSE to have sex. I still have times that I have sex and feel gross and disappointed in myself, but I’m working on that. There have been plenty of times that I’ve chosen not to engage in sex because of reasons of my own (counseling, commitment issues, health), but that is my choice. And I find that to be the main issue here.
    Is it really their choice?

  17. rileystclair
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Liz M – excellent points. not being ready for sex or a serious emotional commitment is one thing–trying to shield oneself from heartache or pain for…ever is another. fredell’s comment about how nothing about her relationship was irrational creeped me out. human relationships are complex and often irrational. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with a cost-benefit analysis about how much to invest in a relationship or evaluating its probable success, but actively choosing to disengage from the love rollercoaster altogether for fear of getting hurt seems to deny much of human experience.
    not that i am without the occasional romantic regret, but i can confidently say that my life is that much richer for having loved and lost.

  18. AbbieNormal
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say I’m against abstinence groups, because I think it would be nice to have a network for both men and women choosing not to have sex, but I think the point should be a place to go where you’re not told your a stupid prude, rather than a group trying to convince everyone that their decisions are wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having (safe, informed) sex, but as a college-aged female virgin hoping to wait for a serious relationship before having sex, I have to say there’s a lot of media out there telling me that I’m wrong, too. Both sides of the virgin/whore dichotomy suck, especially when you’re not doing it for religious reasons and it seems like there’s no one to relate. It’d be nice to have an organization telling me that I’m not a cocktease for refusing to put out, but neither am I a slut if I want to go for it. I think it all comes down to balance, and there seems to be a major problem in finding it.

  19. ellestar
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Liz M – excellent points. not being ready for sex or a serious emotional commitment is one thing–trying to shield oneself from heartache or pain for…ever is another.
    I think that this situation is a little more complicated than simply shielding oneself from heartache.
    In college, I had sex, but I was terrified of having a relationship with someone who might break my heart. Left and right, I saw my friends getting their hearts stomped on by losers who didn’t deserve their love and attention. I did not want that for myself.
    What I discovered later was that I wasn’t afraid of relationships, I was afraid of bad relationships. I didn’t want to be throwing myself around my apartment, crying to my friends, being the remotest bit sad over breaking up with someone who I didn’t really fit with in a relationship.
    Therefore, I can almost sympathize with the woman in the original post. I didn’t go quite as far as she did, equating sex with a “loving” relationship, but I was picky about those I spent my time with.
    I think it’s just a matter of time until the woman in the OP finds out what I did:
    Once I figured out that I was more scared of bad relationships than relationships in general, it was just about putting myself out there and not being afraid to be honest with myself and with those I dated whether I thought the relationship we had would work. It took a long time, but by keeping myself open to others, I finally found someone whose personality fit mine so well that I didn’t want to be without him.
    So now I have (lots and lots of) sex and a great relationship, too.

  20. epagirl
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  21. electronBlue
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Having gone to the big H myself as an undergraduate, I feel compelled to comment. While I find the whole “abstinence movement” thing a bit sad, for all of the reasons that have been explained so well in the posts above, I found the article itself pretty hilarious.
    There were a WHOLE LOTTA us not having sex at Harvard, for various reasons, but none of us thought that that was special enough to start a club about it, for pete’s sake.
    Oh, and I’m really glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read her comment about the “hookup” culture there, ‘cuz I’d have spat it across the room. Does she even attend the same school I did? If you find the sex and relationship culture at Harvard threatening, you have lead a very, very sheltered existence. Active? Yes. Awkward? You know it. Threatening? Puh-leeze. Unless you’re dumb enough to go into a finals club*.
    *The finals clubs are like frats, but they are unaffiliated with the school, so they can block anyone but rich white guys from joining.

  22. rumpuskat
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Two things.
    1. I call bullshit on the oxytocin thing. So far, the most painful breakup I’ve had was with the one man I didn’t sleep with. I thought I was protecting myself. Snerk.
    2. These people began as rank Christians; the “science” is just their attempt to convince us godless heathens. STFU y’all, you’re still rank Christians.

  23. BluePencils
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    What Ms Fredell hasn’t figured out is that by being forced to be abstinent, she’s still letting men control her sexually. The way to be free is to own your own sexuality. Have sex if you want to, or don’t. I never cared if anyone “devalued” me for having a sexual past–anyone who would do so was not a person who had any value or use in my life. My sex life, or lack thereof, is no one’s business. If some man didn’t want to date me because I wasn’t a virgin, that was a great reason for me not to want to date him!
    Ms Fredell sounds like an intelligent, forthright woman, and hopefully some day she’ll figure out she’s worth more than what’s between her legs.

  24. annajcook
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    There were a WHOLE LOTTA us not having sex at Harvard, for various reasons, but none of us thought that that was special enough to start a club about it, for pete’s sake.
    This is one of the frustrating things about the abstinence movement in general, I think. Because it’s loud and very either/or in its philosophy, it sets up this framework where you’re either committed to abstaining from sex for ideological reasons, or you’re going at it 24/7. What about those of us who aren’t having sex for all those reasons in between–not the right time, not the right person, not the right context, etc., etc., etc.? As someone who hasn’t had a sexual relationship yet, I might feel a little lonely as part of that 5% or whatever–but I’m sure as hell not going to find like-minded company with the people who start shit like the Silver Ring Thing!

  25. Vodalus
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that a lot of these comments have been incredibly hostile towards any woman (or man) choosing to practice abstinence. I suspect that many of you would find the same comments abhorrent and repressive if the same things were said about women who choose to have premarital sex. Speculation about profound emotional instability, prediction of doomed marriages and crushed dreams, calling people sad… Those are not tolerant statements. Those are not statements evaluating women independent of their sexual practice.
    I agree that most of the abstinence “movement” is bad for women, but that’s because it makes blanket statements pigeonholing individuals. It also gives men a free pass on controlling their sexual behavior–if we can do it, then so can they. But that doesn’t mean that there are no advantages to being abstinent until marriage, just as there are advantages to gaining sexual experience.
    If sexuality is actually to be held independent of a woman’s worth, then we have to stop challenging people based solely on their bedroom habits. Focus on the arguments, not on the personal motivation. Otherwise we feminists are no better than those we oppose.

  26. Allytude
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I always feel that the abstinence only folk think sex is dirty… to be cleansed only by holy matrimony. They do have a “it is so icky”: thing about it. Why are they trying to get their distaste for bodily urges to the rest of us. Its natural isn’t it, then why the long run?
    On another note, I do not know why i kept reading the Ivy hymens as “Poison ivy hymens”

  27. BluePencils
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that many of you would find the same comments abhorrent and repressive if the same things were said about women who choose to have premarital sex. Speculation about profound emotional instability, prediction of doomed marriages and crushed dreams, calling people sad…
    I don’t know if you have listened to anything the abstinence movement has to say, but that’s exactly what they describe will happen to those who practice premarital sex. No lasting relationships, bad marriages, etc. Which, I’d like to point out, is bullshit in my own personal experience, I have a very close and fulfilling marriage that’s extremely happy. And I had plenty of premarital sex, some with my future husband. As did all of my friends and pretty much everyone else I know. Their marriages run the gamut from happy to divorced–they’re just people. Having sex before marriage means nothing regarding your future relationships, other than you’re not completely hung up on one person as the one who can provide all sexual happiness for your entire life. I’d rather play the lottery. (And I don’t pay the stupid tax, BTW.)

  28. Mina
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    If they’re really pro-abstinence, then why do they promote marital sex so much? Has anyone reminded them that having sex within marriage is definitely not abstaining from sex…?
    “Some people really are late bloomers, some people choose to wait for marriage.”
    …and some people choose to never rape!
    When no one consents to sex with you, your options are (a) not having sex and (b) having sex with someone against his or her will.
    “But when you go around claiming other people would be happier if they adopted your lifestyle…”
    That depends on which other people.
    If a guy who can’t get a date and abstains from sex tells other guys who can’t get dates they’d be happier adopting his lifestyle instead of whining about how they supposedly have a right to sex with women…
    “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having (safe, informed) sex, but as a college-aged female virgin hoping to wait for a serious relationship before having sex, I have to say there’s a lot of media out there telling me that I’m wrong, too.”
    So true. IRL it’s not stupid, slutty, and reckless to want to have sex, *and* it’s not stupid, paranoid, and a waste of one’s vagina to want to abstain from sex.
    “Left and right, I saw my friends getting their hearts stomped on by losers who didn’t deserve their love and attention. I did not want that for myself.”
    Someone telling you that you shouldn’t want to avoid that would remind me of this scummy it’s-for-her-own-good “defense” of raping drunk women:
    ——
    “>Suppose that Jane goes to a party,
    > and voluntarily gets drunk to the point of impaired judgement. Joe,
    > who has been shot down repeatedly by Jane in the past, observes that
    > this is his chance, and propositions her. In her drunken state, she
    > says, Sure, why not, and they get busy…
    “I disagree. You are making Joe morally responsible for knowing that Jane would never change her mind. And for that matter, we’ve all been assuming that the judgment made while sober is the ‘correct’ one. One of alcohol’s qualities, as
    many have noted in this discussion, is that it lowers your inhibitions. But inhibitions are not always good things;
    sometimes they keep you from doing or saying things that you OUGHT to do or say, or that you would be happier if only you could do or so say them.
    “From Joe’s perspective, it is possible that Jane has been saying ‘no’ because she’s afraid of the discomfort that many
    women experience on their first time. Or perhaps she’s had the idea that sex is ‘dirty’ drilled into her. Either way,
    it is possible that lowering her inhibitions through voluntary innebriation will allow her to get by those blocks, and that in the long run it will be a positive thing
    in her life.”
    ——
    “As someone who hasn’t had a sexual relationship yet, I might feel a little lonely as part of that 5% or whatever–but I’m sure as hell not going to find like-minded company with the people who start shit like the Silver Ring Thing!”
    Same here!

  29. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Everyone has pretty much summed up why this movement is harmful so I’ll just say ditto.
    RUMPUSKAT “1. I call bullshit on the oxytocin thing. So far, the most painful breakup I’ve had was with the one man I didn’t sleep with. I thought I was protecting myself. Snerk.”
    I call B.S. on their explanation and use of oxyctocin to bolster their political claims, not the concept itself.
    Oxytocin levels rise whenever there is a close bonding relationship and lowers when their are gaps in that relationship (e.g., women with less contacts with friends, family, etc.) – it can serve as a motivator to seek out others when it is low or relationships are disrupted.

  30. Mina
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    oops, sorry about the line break errors

  31. FemiDancer
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Vodalus:
    I think some of the comments you were addressing were basing those statements not on her desire to abstain, but the listed reasons for why she is abstaining. She thinks that oral sex is “disgusting and disrespectful.” I imagine she means both cunnilingus and fellatio, but there is probably a pretty unhealthy attitude towards sex underlying a statement like that. I know other women and friends at my school who are disgusted by the thought of putting their own finger in their vagina or who are extremely ashamed of masturbating. That sort of body shame is going to lead to unhappiness in your sex life, even when married.
    And, to be honest, the three women I know (I’m still pretty young) who got married because they wanted to be virgins until marriage, rushed into their marriages so that they could finally have legitimate god-sanctioned sex, and now all three of them are in some stage of formal separation or are divorced. Obviously anecdotal and not scientific evidence, but it sure puts me off of the idea of waiting till marriage.

  32. EG
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    They do have a “it is so icky”: thing about it. Why are they trying to get their distaste for bodily urges to the rest of us.
    Well, y’see, sex is disgusting, dirty, and disrespectful, debasing, and bad bad bad. That’s why you should only have it with the person you cherish best in all the world. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
    Let’s see…I’ve never felt disrespected by someone going down on me. I have felt disrespected while giving a guy a blow job, but that was because he was behaving like an asshole, not because fellatio is inherently debasing. My advice? Don’t blow guys who act like assholes. Problem solved.

  33. ellestar
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    And, to be honest, the three women I know (I’m still pretty young) who got married because they wanted to be virgins until marriage, rushed into their marriages so that they could finally have legitimate god-sanctioned sex, and now all three of them are in some stage of formal separation or are divorced. Obviously anecdotal and not scientific evidence, but it sure puts me off of the idea of waiting till marriage.
    Let me preface this by saying that if people want to wait for marriage to have sex for religious or other moral reasons, as long as their making those choices for themselves and are truly comfortable and happy with those choices, it’s their decision and I can respect that.
    However, I’m of the mindset that one should test drive the car before purchasing it. I think sexual compatibility is an important part of a relationship. I’ve had relationships where I’ve liked men until we went to bed together. Then, I found that I didn’t like them so much. If I had been of the no-sex-until-marriage group and had pressured for a wedding until hopping into bed, I’d be in a very unhappy marriage.
    But that’s just my take. Bad sex is not a surprise that I want to have after the wedding.
    My advice? Don’t blow guys who act like assholes. Problem solved.
    HA!
    That is sage advice.

  34. UltraMagnus
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I too am tired of all the “oxytocin” bullshit. The body always makes more of it, you will never “run out” and notice it’s only that WOMEN will run out if they’re fucking before marriage. They never seem to run out by having lot’sa sex with their husbands and they never seem to run out when having multiple children so why is it only a limited resource when it’s being used for premarital sex?
    I don’t care if you want to abstain until marriage, more power to you, what I have a problem with are all these people trying to “save” women from… heartbreak? “There’s no condom for the heart,” well, that’s because you don’t have sex with it, that should be obvious.
    And the way Janie freaked out when the author told her about her co-presidents comments about his struggles with abstinences, not to mention her bullshit “Everyone go for a long run when you’re horny” makes me think she’s either extremely naive about human sexuality, or she’s in great denial about her own.

  35. Mina
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  36. FeDhu
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Rule #1 – You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
    Rule #2 – If you choose to do what everyone else is doing, do it for your own reasons, not theirs.
    Rule #3 – Whatever you choose to do, do it for your own reasons, not someone else’s.
    My rules for living a happy life. :) I don’t always succeed but I try. If someone chooses to abstain from sex (like me!) then more power to them, go for it, yahoo and yee-haw, but let it be because *they* want to, not because they have been pressured, blackmailed, lied to or mislead about it. That’s my beef with the abstinence movement, they make it a ‘group’ activity instead of a personal choice. I remember in high school, I refused to sign a purity pledge because I thought it was coercive, even though I freely admitted I had no interest in having sex.
    As for whoever said that Fredell was going to become a lesbian or asexual, with all due respect, bite me and FU. It’s a choice and a fair one, but that post made it sound like Fredell was somehow defective because she did not want to be hurt in a relationship. Who does?? Give her a few years, let her discover her own strengths and then whatever choice she makes about future relationships will be *her* choice, not a choice foisted off on her by a society that is so determined to die young, they forget about living.

  37. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    While I agree with the general direction of the thread, I would just like to point out to whoever said that it’s sad there’s nothing “irrational” about this girl’s relationship that the passionate, lovestruck type of relationships are not the ideal in many cultures. Rather, practicality /is/ the ideal for many cultures.
    I’m really not sure one is better than the other. Even American psychologists say that marriages based in friendly love are more likely to last than marriages based primarily on passionate love. (Of course, I guess the ideal for many people probably combines the two kinds to some degree…)
    Don’t get me wrong -I think passionate love can be wonderful fun. But one of the crux’s of the “human experience”? Mmm… not as much… I mean, according to psychology it’s often mainly related to how one imagines one partner to be in the first few months of a relationship, and also from Anthro class I know it’s becoming increasingly more popular in specific countries thanks to the Hollywood culture.

  38. annajcook
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Nina–
    I know I don’t speak for anyone else on this thread, and I don’t know what others mean when they use words like “passion” and “love,” but I personally believe there are ways of thinking about love that aren’t rooted in Hollywood culture or the euphoria of an early crush. The sort of lasting love that I have in my most intimate relationships takes a lot of hard word and time, and isn’t incompatible with some of the practical relationship decisions that you mention as grounds for stable relationships. Love has many different forms, and the same relationship can contain many of them, simultaneously.
    I think, if anything, it’s the abstinence-only crowd that presents the unrealistic expectations of passion as the cure-all for any relationship (within marriage). And what I heard people expressing in this thread was a sadness that some people who choose abstinence are doing so because they’re trying to protect themselves from the potential pain and loss that comes with making yourself vulnerable through intimate relationships. It’s the way that abstinence-until-marriage is positioned as the cure-all for relationship issues that seems to be a really damaging set-up to many of us.

  39. Kei
    Posted March 31, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I understand that our culture does encourage sexual activity at an early age and it is something that needs to be changed. However, I don’t see how attacking EVERYONE that is “hooking up” as she calls it is any better than peer pressure. I totally agree that it takes a strong woman to remain abstinent. I’ve only been tempted for about 3 years but I have not yet had sex because I am waiting for the right time. And I must admit it has been extremely difficult. Although I value my virginity and am very proud of myself, I know that other people are ready at different times in their lives. I also realize that I am a healthy growing girl and I have desires such as every other teenager in this country. If they feel the need to have sex then so be it, as long as they are safe and intelligent about it.
    I am on a small college campus but the “sex culture” still surrounds me just the same. In fact, I happen to talk about sex all the time. It’s a rather interesting topic. I don’t and have never felt pressure to have sex and if a guy ever made me feel that way then I would know he was just a waste of time. That is my personal choice. I don’t go around announcing it to the world, making false promises, or pretending that not having sex is a good excuse to be ignorant about it. I am a strong advocate against abstinence-only education. I am happy to know all that is necessary even if I am not ready to engage in sexual intercourse. I don’t see anyone stop teaching children how to act when they get married. If we can be taught from as young as 3 years old what we are expected to do at 25, then why shouldn’t we be taught at 12 what most of us are already engaging in?
    I just find the whole “pledge” thing ridiculous. Whether it be with your family or God, I find it pretty darn stupid to be wearing a ring advertising something that you have no idea about. The only pledge you have is to yourself. And that is to do what is right for you, to be safe, and happy with your decision. That includes knowing all the benefits and consequences of your actions before you decide what you are going to do. But of course, I guess in their eyes I would just be another “whore”. How dare I believe in sexual freedom?

  40. MLEmac
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    AbbiNormal: I hear you. I lost my virginity to a very serious boyfriend who I had been with for two years before we did anything beyond making out. I used to say I was waiting for marriage, because I thought that it was right for me, and I got a lot of flak from people who thought I was making a really stupid decision. Ultimately, I’m really glad I waited until I did, particularly because I was with someone who I felt really comfortable with, and sex is really freakin awkward the first few times.
    I feel like the lesson should always be “be true to yourself”

  41. david
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    A number of points…
    First, we must recognize that this is a very complex issue and many people hold many different beliefs. People define ‘sex’ differently, not all people are comfortable performing different sexual acts or being in different sexual situations. Many people are uncomfortable with different parts of the sexual experience. While I think that we can all agree that people should only participate in sexual experience up until the level they are comfortable, I feel that we often forget that might include not participating.
    Second, why might someone not want to participate? RELIGION…. yes, of course this is a reason, but we must remember that these people were brought up in a certain lifestyle with certain beliefs that teach them certain ways of thinking (I bet this is true of all of us, just not the not having sex part). This upbringing is an essential part of who these people are, and to deny it is to deny a part of who they are. While perhaps the vast majority of the population disagrees with them, seeing that there are only 12, we don’t actually have any proof that they are wrong, only lots and lots of circumstancial evidence. Why this is important is because we need to consider what being chaste does for these people. It empowers them. If they decide that they want to practice abstinence and that gives them power and control, then all power to them.
    Third, as an ex-member of such an organization, I am very aware of the fact that everytime someone learns that you are still a virgin they look at you funny, think somethings wrong, totally cannot understand and then usually proceed to get into an discussion where they tell you your ideas are unconvincing and then proceed to throw up other ideas of their own which are also equally unconvincing, both parties being totally convinced by their own arguements. The two people see the issue differently, and the important thing is that both parties feel empowered by the decisions that they make for themselves regarding their own sexuality
    Fourth, the most important thing is that those who have decided that they are going to be chaste until marriage know that if they decide that abstinence is no longer empowering them the way that it used to or if their priorities change, that they will not be scorned or thought poorly of by the vast majority of society (possibly not including family and some friends). Many may argue that they feel pressured not to see their sexual side, but at the same time, they also have lots of pressure from everyone they talk with to explore their sexual side, the forcing goes both ways. Now, here is where I take the most issue, while I was still practicing abstinence, I always felt scorned and belittled and not understood and like people thought I was weird and that I was ruining my life. This is a huge problem, I believe that current thinking is that it is ok to be sexual, that it is normal and to not be sexual is weird and looked down upon for various reasons. I think that if someone decides to practice abstinence (a very difficult choice to make in college when there are no parents breathing down your back) we need to be encouraging and supportive, in the same way that if someone decides to stop practicing abstinence we need to be encouraging and supportive. We must learn to support everyone in their sexual decisions, including both those who like 10 person orgies and those who do not believe in sex before marriage.
    There are no rights or wrongs in this game, no one should be pro-sex or pro-abstinence, we need to be pro what feels good for you, empowers you and makes you feel comfortable. Just as much as we teach that sex is a fine thing we need to also teach that abstinence is totally ok as well, and that there is nothing wrong with it. Do people defend it with what we feel are bad reasons, yes, but I wonder to what extent people are citing those reasons just because they need to site something when they feel attacked because they aren’t yet comfortable with their sexual sides?
    Am I totally neglecting many important issues, yes of course I am, but here is my question, does it matter if a someone isn’t going to loose their self-worth/…/… if they loose their virginity if they think that they will. I firmly believe that no one has the right to tell someone else what to think or believe; therefore I cannot tell someone that their worth isn’t in their virginity, because if they think it is, then for them it really truly is. What I can tell them however is that I think they have lots of value and worth that is totally unrelated to anything sexual and that so long as they want to be a virgin I will completely support them. Being abstinent is hard, we need to be much more supportive than we currently are of these peoples sexual choices.

  42. Emily
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I can see where Fredell is coming from with respect to staying somewhat emotionally distant before marriage, though one can become very attached to another and feel substantial pain when it doesn’t work out even if there is no physical contact. I myself felt this way and was pretty successful in not getting too emotionally invested in my relationships (sex or not)until the pretty advanced stages of the relationship with my husband. I don’t feel like I had “emotional issues” as Liz M suggested. I focussed on keeping it light hearted and fun and saved all the passion and emotional risk (as well as the risk on being stuck in a unsuitable relationship because of emotion) for when I had found a person who I knew would make an excellent life partner based on logical and thought-out reasons (attracted to, good person, fun to be with, compatible goals, etc.). Though I was able to do this and enjoy sex, I can understand why that would make staying emotionally restrained harder or impossible for some people. So I think that that reason is an excellent one for her not to have sex until she feels emotionally safe to do so.
    I also agree that this article was a bit pointless. In the end, I felt like I knew way too much about her, and the other student’s sexuality.

  43. Mina
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, I wonder how much the abstinence-pledge clubs participate in rape prevention efforts on campus. Rape’s a much bigger threat to abstinence than looking at someone funny when she or he says she or he’s a virgin, after all.
    “I am a strong advocate against abstinence-only education. I am happy to know all that is necessary even if I am not ready to engage in sexual intercourse. I don’t see anyone stop teaching children how to act when they get married. If we can be taught from as young as 3 years old what we are expected to do at 25, then why shouldn’t we be taught at 12 what most of us are already engaging in?”
    I totally agree!

  44. Jessica F.
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I actually grew up in a religious environment that encouraged abstinence until marriage, and I signed a virginity pledge somewhere along the line. My family, though, is fairly liberal, as was my church, so it wasn’t as creepy as that sort of message can be. We were taught not so much that sex is dirty but that sex is important; that you don’t have to have sex just to keep a boyfriend, that pressuring someone for sex isn’t love, and that if you’re not ready, you don’t need to have sex.
    Those are valuable messages, especially for young girls to take home. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging kids to wait until they’re older (and more capable of handling their emotions) to have sex. The problem comes along when girls are the only ones being presented with the abstinence message, or when virginity is portrayed as a one-time deal, a do-it-and-you’re-a-whore sort of thing. But a lot of these groups are doing valuable work in making kids see themselves as more than sexual beings, and as worht more than sex.

  45. Posted April 1, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I love it when you post articles like this because 1)They’re awesome and 2)I take those funny-ass pictures and make them profile pic on Facebook. Everybody wins.

  46. Noah
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Women shouldn’t have sex because that’s what the oppressive male gender wants in order that boys can brag about it in the locker room?
    Wow! And this women professes to be a feminist? Somebody needs to tell her that unfair gender stereotying cuts both ways. Put aside her moral beliefs about abstinece with which I am not going to challenge, she’s constructed an entire way of life based on a belief that men are pigs.
    Thank you very much.

  47. Allytude
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Why is the poison ivy lady so sex-obsessed herself… True she is obsessed the other way, but she is still obsessed. I would think a better protest at the sex-culture would be nto to acknowledge it or something, give it the silent treatment…. not harp on about it…

  48. Posted April 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m not abstaining. I just don’t have sex. I’m not guarding my diamond, I just think that my time is too precious to be wasted on sex, dating and all related activities. Geez, I don’t think of my genitals as of a diamond but rather something as functional as appendix, it’s just somewhere there, does nothing and sometimes causes problems.
    And, yes, I was told a few times that I should find a shrink.
    I have my strong opinions on sex and related matters when it comes to my person. Something along the lines of Nobody is gonna make me do such disgusting stuff when I can go and learn, say, Old Norse. But should anyone prefer sex to Old Norse – not my business, not my choice.
    In a way I can relate to the Harvard girl. The social pressure exists; I’m nearing 30 and every now and then I have to endure questions about my babies, boyfriends, wedding and crap and most of the time I just cannot say Go kill yourself. The people mean it well. However, I don’t feel like telling everybody that I just don’t think sex is the thing for me. I’m fed up with friendly advices along the lines of Try it with a few guys and you’ll start to like it. (I don’t want to know what the unfriendly advices might be.) I don’t want to try anything. I don’t want to discuss my body issues with some idiotic shrink. I just want to be left alone and when it comes to plans for future, then let people ask me about my dissertation, not about my boyfriends. I don’t see any reason why to make my personal choices a political statement. And I guess that it’s really my choice, that the Harvard lady does just what the church and the family expects her to do. Now, that’s too bad.

  49. Posted April 1, 2008 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    And then someone by the screen name of Sex v. Marriage wrote in to say that “most guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie.�
    It is so transparant that this argument is ALL about men and retaining good standing to men now matter how you spin in.
    ********
    When the abstinence-until-marriage argument comes up (with which I’m very familiar, having been raised Mormon), I have a go-to statement that I’ll share here. It’s a bit simplistic but it’s fast and it actually gives abstinees pause, which is rare:
    Christianity was founded during and adopted by the Roman Empire, making it a theocracy, meaning the state and religion were one. Before birth control, “bastard” children and orphans had to be dealt with by the state/religion, so the simple solution was to make adultery/pre-marital sex illegal and reprehensible before god.
    Translation: if you’re going to have sex, you have to be married and prepared to take care of the consequences. No dependents on the state, please.
    Now that we have birth control, this pragmatic “morality” is outdated and irrelevent.
    We have options, let’s use them.

  50. Mina
    Posted April 1, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    “However, I’m of the mindset that one should test drive the car before purchasing it. I think sexual compatibility is an important part of a relationship.”
    Personally, I agree that sexual compatibility is important!
    At the same time, I don’t want my first time to involve a guy test driving me while considering dumping me the mornning after.
    “If I had been of the no-sex-until-marriage group and had pressured for a wedding until hopping into bed, I’d be in a very unhappy marriage.”
    …and if I join the no-discovering-sexual-compatibility-until-having-sex group and pressure my boyfriend (if I ever have one close enough) into not discussing each other’s turn-ons and turn-offs until hopping into bed, then I’d be more likely to have an awful first time. (Of course, having that discussion ahead of time can’t always totally prevent bad sex, but surely it lowers the likelihood)
    “I have my strong opinions on sex and related matters when it comes to my person. Something along the lines of Nobody is gonna make me do such disgusting stuff when I can go and learn, say, Old Norse. But should anyone prefer sex to Old Norse – not my business, not my choice.”
    …except if someone’s preferring sex with you to Old Norse. Then it is your business and your choice to not want sex with him or her should totally override this choice of his or hers!
    Seriously, on another forum I saw some idiot whine along the lines of ‘If we’re on a date and I want sex and you don’t, why is your vagina more important than my penis?’

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