On Virginity

I’ve been sick this past week, so I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on the couch watching videos. I watched the BBC 4 part documentary on Pagans, which I was quite impressed by. The BBC really does produce much higher quality content than American made-for-tv documentaries, which always feel so redundant and basic.

Anyway, in the first section, “Sexy Beasts,” they talk about the Egtved girl, who I have talked about before. (Hilariously, when I just googled the Egtved girl to get the wikipedia link for you guys, there was that picture of me sitting like the bronze statue wearing that string skirt I made in the image suggestions. The internet is a weird thing, where I can google an obscure archeological find and see a picture of myself.) Anyway, while talking about the Egtved girl, they talked about virginity and how it meant something different in Pagan Europe than it does in Christianity. Since sexuality wasn’t seen as bad, virgins weren’t necessarily seen as more “pure” than non-virgins, they were seen as “ticking time bombs of sexual energy.” They think the Egtved girl was a virgin because she was 15 when she died, but dancing in that skirt could have been nothing but sexual. The idea being that a virgin is more sexually potent than a non-virgin because she can arouse and be aroused, but that energy is never released, it only builds.

Which got me thinking about Mary and Jesus in a very heretical way. What if Mary was capable of carrying the child of God not because her virginity made her more pure than other mothers, but because her virginity meant that she had more life source force in her?

And then I got to thinking about sex, and me, and my history with the Christian guilt and just how deeply damaging that idea was for me, that virginity was a pure state of being and sex was bad and women should be pure and so once I lost my virginity I wasn’t pure anymore, I was a whore. But no categories are stable, and as we see in the Egtved girl, sometimes the virgin IS the whore. The Norse gods are always missing that which they rule over because, as they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Freyja loves Odh more when he isn’t there, Sif loves her hair more once it’s gone, and sex is better when you can’t have any (Sort of. sometimes.)

By the way, can we talk about how annoying the phrase “lose your virginity” is? How much it takes the agency out of the choice to begin a sexually active life? “Oh, whoops, my boyfriend came over and I lost my virginity. I can’t find it anywhere!”

But, in America, with all it’s problems, could this idea be a good thing? Could this idea be a healthier and more successful way of helping our daughters lead healthy sex lives and wait until they are ready? I think it could. We teach our daughters that they are helpless to men’s desire (because men are the only ones with desire and only want one thing out of women), and they have to be pure. So then once they’re rebellious or a man wants them or they find out that they want it to, which is scary because they weren’t supposed to, those ticking time bombs of sexual energy explode and it isn’t always healthy and they aren’t always prepared. I think it would have been easier for me if I had been taught that virginity gives a girl power and agency over her choices, that she can arouse a man or herself and know the power in that without giving in to it. That her virginity is hers to own and to give to a partner when she chooses to.

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2 thoughts on “On Virginity

  1. Another interesting thing is male virginity. I’d love to see a male blogger discuss it from a man’s perspective and I’d love to hear ideas on how male virginity was viewed by Pagans back in the day. Currently, male virginity is almost seen as a bad thing by the time the hit high school. Many males get bullied and teased if they’re virgins (or been if they’re not, the term virgin is used as a way to put a guy down regardless of age). Being a virgin to a man/boy is almost this shameful thing these days.

    Obviously, it’s a rite of passage for anyone who gives their virginity… but it’s interesting to be that virgin women are commonly seen as ‘pure & demure’ and virgin men are ‘weird and emasculate’.

    • Excellent point. Of course I’m extremely female, so I tend to think about things only from a feminine perspective.
      It’s my understanding that for most of history, there was no real concept of male virginity. Virginity is usually tied to the hymen, and ensuring the legitimacy of any children. So male virginity is usually irrelevant.

      Nowadays, I think you’re right. Men who are virgins are thought of as sort of naive or lost. Where I was a teenager, in the Bible belt, though, there were quite a few men who saw it as purity. My husband, in fact, planned to wait until marriage until I convinced him otherwise because he wanted to be pure for his future wife. So I don’t think the idea of purity for men is totally lost. It’s just buried under the other layer of macho virility.

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