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:
â€œPeople just donâ€™t get it,â€? Fredell said. â€œEveryone thinks weâ€™re trying to promote this idea of the meek little virgin female.â€? She said she was doing no such thing. â€œI care deeply for womenâ€™s rights,â€? she said…She had awakened to the wage gap, to forced sterilization and female genital mutilation â€” 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 â€” men pushing for sex, she said, just to â€œhave 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, â€œdue to a cultural double standard,â€? she said, â€œwhich 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 canâ€™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 theyâ€™re dirty, or that they are secretly unhappy, or that theyâ€™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: â€œHarvardâ€™s Jezebel Takes On Campus Virgin Mary.â€?
…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 â€” Fredell â€œmodestly dressed in jeansâ€? and Chen wearing â€œa miniskirt that left little to the imagination.â€?
Charming, yes? Even better:
[P]eople wrote in to Ivygate, calling Lena Chen a â€œslut,â€? a â€œwhore,â€? a â€œtotal whore,â€? a â€œwhore whore slut.â€? And then someone by the screen name of Sex v. Marriage wrote in to say that â€œmost guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie.â€?
Fredell was happy that the event had drawn a large crowd. She told me later that she considered it one of the revolutionâ€™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.