Dear Searcher part 3: “purity and secondary virginity”

person, couple, love

This is my third post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here, and you can read the second post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to a person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 14th 2016, someone found my blog using the search term “purity and secondary virginity.”

Dear searcher,

Virginity is one of the most ill-defined concepts we have in this world. Ever notice that? There’s a myriad of sexual things we can do and still be technically “virgins.” Then again, it depends on who you ask. One of my earliest memories of learning this was at a pool party in high school. I was fourteen, maybe fifteen, and one of my friends said, “If I let a guy do it in my butt, am I still a virgin?”

One friend said “Heck no!”

Another one said, “Maybe. Did he go all the way in?”

Sure, there are clinical definitions of sex, and a doctor once told me the definition of “sexually active” was “physical contact with any body parts covered by a bikini.” By that definition, I was sexually active by the end of high school, even though I didn’t have sex until I was almost done with college. But “sexually active” is different from “virginity.” Virginity is much harder to define.

Some people define losing one’s virginity as a person’s first time having penis-in-vagina sex, but by that definition, gay and lesbian people who never experiment with straight people will remain virgins their entire lives. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry to anyone who was using this as a sneaky way to cheat the “rules” and remain a virgin, but  oral and anal sex are included in the umbrella of acts that can remove one’s virginity, no matter what your friend Tara says. As clear as this is to me now, I considered myself a virgin for a while after I’d had oral sex. Our culture is very heteronormative, and still views sex largely from a straight male perspective. Even though penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t really do a whole lot for many women as far as pleasure is concerned, it’s still considered the gold standard.

With all that being said, at the end of the day you’re the one who needs to decide how you personally feel about sex. The question to ask yourself is, does any of this really matter? Does whether or not you are a virgin affect your value as an individual? Does it affect your identity positively or negatively? Does it affect your self esteem?.

Virginity is not always given up willingly, but it is still considered gone if it is lost in rape. If you do believe a person’s value is tarnished by sex, do you consider it just as bad for a victim as for a person who’s doing it of their own volition?

What about gender differences? If you find out that a female friend has had sex, how do you judge her? Now imagine that instead of a female friend, it is a male friend. How do you judge him? If there is a difference? Why is that?

You may have noticed that there is one, or any other number of unsettling things about the way you view virginity by asking yourself these questions, and there’s a reason why they’re unsettling: virginity is a concept that society made up: a social construct. It’s not actually important at all. I really mean that. Virginity is as much a social construct as the way we assume video games are for boys, the way someone invented dresses and said “these will be women’s clothing, not men’s.” It could have gone the other way. There’s no biological reason for women to wear dresses, or for video games to be marketed heavily to boys. It’s not the way things have to be, just the way our culture is. “Virgin” is a label applied to people who have not had sex, but sex is, at the end of the day, an experience, not necessarily a terrible or life-altering event.

Imagine if we had a label for people who had never eaten sushi, and although we judged people for never having eaten it, we also judged people who have. Imagine if people also claimed that there was a biological difference between people who ate it and those who didn’t–a sushi barrier that broke as soon as the delicious fish slid down your throat. Ridiculous right? That’s exactly what sex is though.

It’s an experience, just like eating sushi, or going sky diving, or going to work for the first time. It’s something many people do, and while the first time may be a milestone for you, it doesn’t make you a better or worse person than you were the day before. Yes, even in women, there is NO PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE between those who are virgins and those who are not. (FYI, hymens DO NOT POP, please click the link and educate yourself. And this one while you’re at it. Trust me on this, I’m a cisgender female with a hymen who’s having sex. And yes, those are both YouTube videos. Sadly, YouTube has frequently been a more reliable sex ed resource than traditional resources.)

But your search term included “secondary” virginity, which tells me that you’ve been sky diving. You’ve had figurative sushi before, and you’re interested in becoming a virgin again. I was raised Catholic, and taught that this could be done spiritually, through an appeal to God and a promise to follow Catholic teaching on sex (abstaining till marriage) in the future. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a complete waste of your time and energy. If you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten sushi. If you’ve gone on an international vacation, you’ve gone on an international vacation. If you’ve been sky diving, you’ve been sky diving. Sex is part of your life experience now, just like every job you’ve had, every friendship, every lesson, every skill. Maybe you aren’t happy with how it happened. Maybe it was the wrong person. Maybe you were a victim. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. Pretending the past didn’t happen is not a healthy way to do that.

You have to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer what society labels a “virgin,” just like I am no longer a college student. The transition from one label to another is difficult because it can become a huge part of your identity if it matters to you. I loved being a college student. But I was ready to move on to the next part of my life. Try to think of sex like that. You don’t have to do it again if you don’t want to. But you’ve done it now. You know what it’s like, at least in one circumstance, and now you can learn from it just like you can with any other experience. What you take away from it is up to you.
Has anyone else encountered this idea of secondary virginity? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Oklahoma Pro-Life Propaganda Legislation

Check out this video on YouTube in which TYT reports on legislation that just passed in Oklahoma. This legislation requires the state to spend money they don’t have to teach kids in public schools that life begins at conception. It would require public schools to have advertisements for pro-life so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” and also use taxpayer money for pro-life “celebrity” visits.

Great use of taxpayer money, guys.

This comes at a time when Oklahoma schools are among the lowest ranking schools in the nation. It’s little wonder when they’re wasting their time and funding on propaganda. This is why we need to get religion out of politics. People should not be allowed to legislate based on their religious beliefs. If you don’t have a good secular argument for a legislation, it shouldn’t even be considered.

Any thoughts about this? Have you seen similar frustrating legislation in your state when it comes to this issue? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Dear Searcher part 2: “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?”

This is my second post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to the person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 12th, someone found my blog using the search term, “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?” This is an open letter to that person.

search terms_2
Dear person who stumbled upon my blog using the search term, “i didnt report a sexual assault, am i to blame?,”

I recently made this post regarding sexual assault and my own experience, including my decision to not report it, which I hope can help you see that you’re not alone.

I know this can be difficult to accept when it’s about yourself, but the answer to your question is a resounding no. Victims are never to blame. It may still feel that way. It still feels that way for me sometimes. But you were violated against your will. That’s the definition of sexual assault. You cannot be blamed for something happening to you that you didn’t want. Is it your fault if someone you’ve never met is rude to you? If you get mugged, is it your fault?

No.

So why is it that people like us–myself included–often feel like it’s our fault when it comes to sexual assault? There are a myriad of reasons, but a lot of it comes from the way society talks about this particular crime. We’re told so many things over and over again about this: don’t go into dark places, don’t leave your drinks unattended, don’t walk alone at night, don’t wear short shorts, short skirts, low-cut tops, slinky dresses, dresses altogether, or maybe don’t wear pants. That’ll fix it. And sure, we can be cautious, but we can’t possibly account for every twisted fantasy of a potential stranger lurking in the dark. We can’t possibly know until it happens who among our friends and acquaintances is harboring the intention to take advantage of someone. Of us.

What helped me was finding someone I could talk to. I picked one friend and I told them everything. In the process of talking about it, I began to see what had happened with a new found clarity.

Then I wrote about it, nonstop, for no one to see, and gradually became comfortable enough to show people, to tell a few people, to share my writing with my creative writing class in college. Your healing process might be different, but it begins with the knowledge that this happened to you, that it was not your fault, and that the part of this that you control is what happens now.

You have to do what makes the most sense for your life, for your situation, and for your health. In a perfect world, I would urge you to report it, but I know it’s not that simple. I didn’t report mine for many reasons. Lack of evidence for my case, lack of trust in my nation’s police and its criminal justice system in general are all reasons I chose not to report mine. But if I lived somewhere else, maybe I would have. It’s difficult to say what you would do when you’ve never been in that exact situation. Telling your story is hard because it involves reliving it. You want to tell it in a situation of trust and safety, and a police station or a courtroom are simply not most people’s idea of a safe space.

With that being said, there are good things about reporting, and doing so may bring you some much-needed closure. I wish I could say with certainty that my abuser had faced some sort of punishment and hopefully some therapy to address a lot of the psychological issues I saw in him during our time together. I really don’t know what’s happened to him since I cut off communication with him. I also never even looked into the possibility of getting a restraining order, but that can really help some victims when it comes to the issue of safety. Maybe something like that would be helpful for you, depending on your circumstances. Whatever you decide, you should not be judged for it. You have to make the decision that you feel is best. No one can make that decision for you.

Now for some resources. I’m a big fan of Dr. Doe on the YouTube channel called Sexplanations. She did a very good video on sexual assault in which she shares her experience with reporting her sexual assault, and also some resources that might be helpful to you. I recommend checking it out if you’re looking to hear something from someone with more credentials but also the experience to understand what you’re going through. I wish you the best of luck as you move forward after this. I know it’s a major cliche, but things can and often do get a lot better with time.

As always, if you have any thoughts about this feel free to leave a comment. Especially if you have experience with this and know of any resources that you would recommend. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Catholics on Tubal Pregnancies and Abortion

madonna with child statue

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An old friend of mine is now working for a pro-life organization. As children, we were Catholic homeschoolers from the same hometown, attending many of the same co op classes and homeschooling events, so as a result we used to be very close. I even considered her my best friend for many years, but we’ve drifted apart as I became increasingly liberal and she attended a strict Catholic college and became increasingly conservative. We’re still Facebook friends though.

As a result, I see a lot of posts from her that I’m pretty sure are for her work, encouraging people to come to pro-life events and participate in online pro-life campaigns. Sometimes though, she posts articles that are just things she’s particularly interested in–some of them still relating to the pro-life movement. It’s these that tend to spark my attention. I’ve shared some of them on this blog to write about them in the past. This blog has been a great outlet for me to engage with the ideas she’s sharing without getting into an argument on Facebook (we all know how that usually goes). I’ve been in a few arguments with her online and I finally decided that we were both basically getting nowhere. She hasn’t grasped a lot of the concepts I find vitally important for modern sexual ethics (consent being a big one we argued about), and we were basically talking over each other rather than conducting a productive dialogue. She didn’t have any new ideas to offer me either, having been raised with the same background as I was. I knew what she was going to say, and I also knew that many of the “facts” she might spout at me would be from the pool of inaccurate information touted by pro-life activists. So when she shared this article about Catholic teaching concerning tubal pregnancies, I decided to write about it here instead of getting into a heated argument.

First of all, the fact that she had shared that article at all piqued my interest. We had been part of a pro-life organization for teens in high school. (I was briefly president of this organization, I’m sorry to admit), and during that time, various pro-life activists would come in to teach us different “facts” about the issue. We would watch “documentaries” about abortion. We would join prayer groups that protested outside abortion clinics. We held our pro-life stance in much the same way that we held our religious faith. We knew we were right, and that others were wrong. We were only interested in the information that confirmed our bias.

One visitor in particular comes to mind. This guest speaker spoke about the various arguments people make in support of abortion, and how to refute them. There, for the first time, we were introduced to the argument that abortion sometimes needs to be performed “for the health and safety of the mother.” I don’t recall this speaker having any real credentials–no medical background what-so-ever–but she told us forcefully that there simply were no situations in which abortions were medically necessary. Furthermore, she claimed that carrying to term is always safer for the mother than aborting. I now know that neither of those things is true.

Ectopic (often called tubal) pregnancies are perhaps the strongest example of a situation in which ending the pregnancy is literally the only way for the woman to survive. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the pregnancy happens somewhere other than the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes while traveling the path it is supposed to take to get to the uterus. This is a life threatening medical condition. Furthermore,  the treatment is removal of the pregnancy.  That’s it. These pregnancies can end in miscarriage, but if that does not happen quickly enough, allowing a pregnancy to continue inside the fallopian tube leads to the tube rupturing fairly early in the pregnancy. Even the Catholics in the first article admit to that. I believe they said the fetus is at most 10 weeks old at the point of the anticipated rupture. That’s a little more than two months into the pregnancy. We do have a lot of ways of keeping premature infants alive, but at that point, the fetus is not viable. There’s no getting around that. A quick google search revealed that the record for shortest gestation for a surviving premature baby is 21 weeks and 5 days–more than twice the gestation time that is possible in these pregnancies.

So what do they suggest as a way to treat ectopic pregnancies? Keep in mind, this is an article in which a Catholic theologian is attempting to discern the church’s stance on something the church has never directly addressed. Here’s what they say on the matter:

A mother facing a tubal pregnancy risks imminent rupture of the fallopian tube. While the doctor would opt for the least risk and expense to the mother, all the options presented to her involve terminating the pregnancy. The mother, however, must respect both her life and that of her child. [emphasis mine]

There is no treatment available that can guarantee the life of both. [emphasis mine] The Church has moral principles that can be applied in ruling out some options, but she has not officially instructed the faithful as to which treatments are morally licit and which are illicit. Most reputable moral theologians, as discussed below, accept full or partial salpingectomy (removal of the fallopian tube), as a morally acceptable medical intervention in the case of a tubal pregnancy. [emphasis mine]

The author of this article goes on to admit that salpingectomy during a tubal pregnancy will terminate the fetus. In what is perhaps the most hilariously brilliant piece of mental gymnastics I’ve ever seen performed by a conservative activist, the author writes:

On one hand, there can be no direct attack on the child (direct abortion) to save the life of the mother. On the other hand, the life of the mother is equally valuable and she must receive appropriate treatment.[emphasis mine] It might be that the only available remedy saves the life of the mother but, while not a direct abortion, brings about the unintended effect of the death of the child. Morally speaking, in saving the life of the mother, the Church accepts that the child might be lost.

I literally laughed out loud when I read that. My friend has read this, and shared it. She knows just as well as I do that this goes against so many of the pro-life narratives we believed in with every fiber of our beings. Firstly, there’s the obvious fact that the author is admitting that sometimes ending a pregnancy is necessary to save the mother, which we were told was never true. Second, we often read narratives about women who chose to do things like forego cancer treatment in order to carry a pregnancy to term, knowing very well that this could lead to their own deaths. These women were celebrated for giving their lives for their unborn child. To the pro-life movement, that was praised as the right thing to do. This does not fit those narratives.

Third, and this is perhaps the best part, the writer is clearly trying very hard to find a surgery that can fix this problem but isn’t designed as an abortion procedure. To admit that a literal abortion using one of the processes currently used by abortion providers can be a necessary way to save someone’s life would be to admit that the church and the pro-life movement is wrong. So it’s not really an abortion, you see, because there is “no direct attack on the child.” Ha! That’s a bit like saying that if in your religion removing a finger is immoral, removing the whole arm isn’t because that’s not a direct attack on the finger. Of course removing an arm involves removing a finger. Why are we doing the more invasive thing when most of these pregnancies are so early that a pill could literally solve this problem? SURGERY IS ALWAYS RISKY. If you can solve a problem by taking a pill that we know works consistently, just take the goddamn pill.

Seeing as most of this information is contained in the original article itself, I was particularly curious to see my friend’s thoughts. She had commented when she shared the article, basically saying, “I don’t know how I feel about this. I guess if they made every effort to save the life of the baby too it would be OK.”

I want very badly to tell her I’m sorry, but it’s not going to make it at 10 weeks. In fact, it won’t have 10 weeks if the mother is to be saved–probably more like 7 or 8 , because the doctors will probably want to do the procedure before the tube ruptures. Click the above link if you want to see what a pregnancy looks like at that point. How viable does that look to you? I know my friend means well. I know that to her, that fetus is a human being who should be given all the chances to succeed in life. But that fetus will literally kill its mother before the pregnancy can continue far enough for it to become viable. This isn’t a save one or the other situation. The choice is between saving the mother and losing the child or losing both. It’s a terrible choice, but it’s a real one that people do face.

I like to think that after reading this, my friend is beginning to reevaluate the issue of abortion. Maybe at least in the case of ectopic pregnancies, she’ll conclude that it should be permitted. I know she probably thinks that’s a slippery slope. I used to think that myself. But abortion, like many of the big issues of our time, is not as simple or clear cut an issue as many like to make it out to be.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Feel free to leave a comment below. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Gender Roles and Chores: Reading Recommendation

A friend of mine shared this post on Facebook, and it really reflected my own experiences in my family, so I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The title is a bit weird, but don’t be put off by it. It’s actually a post expanding on a previous article by the same writer, which you can read here if you’re interested, but you can get the idea from the quotes in the first link. It’s about relationships, chores, and gender roles, and the author makes some points that I think help to explain at least some of the contributing factors to the fact that my mother runs my family’s house with little to no assistance unless she begs us to help her. And that’s not healthy for family life.

When people in a long term relationship–like a marriage–live together, they have to keep the magic alive. But they also have to go about their routines, and look after their home, and take care of the kids. This person argues that the way we unevenly split the duties of taking care of a household, leaving the woman (or to not be heteronormative, one partner) with most of the tasks, eventually drains the relationship. This is because essentially one person ends up managing all of the household chores and deciding when they will get done, leading to them having to nag the other person to help out, just like our moms did when we were kids.

As he explains,

…no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

I think the reasoning behind this idea is pretty obvious, but his understanding of this issue goes much deeper than “making your wife feel like your parent is gross and stupid.” It is. But it’s also lazy, irresponsible, and not what you do in an equal relationship.

He goes on to write about how he would always tell his wife to ask him to help her when she needed it, never taking initiative himself to learn the regular activities that are necessary for the house to function and help do them as needed. If these were tasks he’d been assigned at work, he would figure out when to do them on his own, but at home? Never. He expected her to plan out when these things would need to get done, leaving her to manage everything from the chores to the schedules for everyone in the household, which is a lot for one person to manage. He writes:

I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother.

She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

 

I’m not gonna lie guys. I’m very guilty of this at home myself. Most days I don’t want to do chores, and as much as I love my mom, I have to really push myself to do them.

But here’s the thing. If I see dishes that are dirty, or a dishwasher full of clean dishes, I don’t need to be told “wash the dishes” or “empty the dishwasher.” I just need to kick myself in the pants and go do it.

Most of my family members–and by that I mean the 3 males in my family–are not like that. My dad literally asks my mom (and me now, for some reason) for step by step instructions on how to do simple everyday tasks like cooking pasta or reheating chicken from two days ago. It actually drives me crazy, because I’m in my early twenties. If anything, he’s way better at all of this than I am. But I have a vagina, so I need to be prepared to run a household someday, right?

I need to be prepared to delegate chores, and manage everyone’s schedule by myself, like my mom does, right?

I seriously hope not.

I’ve never known anyone more overwhelmed than she often is. She technically works 4 jobs (part time), 3 of which involve significant preparation beforehand (teaching music and being a musician). She is no longer physically capable of keeping the house tidy AND working all her jobs. She’s just too busy all the fucking time. And nobody helps her. Because my family’s very old fashioned. And a bit patriarchal. So it’s my mother’s job to tell everyone else what their jobs are. We’re all adults here (all except my youngest brother, who’s a high school sophomore. Where did the time go?) We’re all capable of pitching in without being told. So why is it so hard?

Maybe we take my mom for granted. Maybe we don’t respect her enough. Maybe she’s stuck between the lives of different generations, having the career that women today can have, but also juggling the tasks of a full time homemaker. She’s also the one who makes sure the bills get paid each month. (Apparently when they were just married, my mom had my dad pay the bills one month, and NOTHING GOT PAID. So she took over.)

Just as she took over the dishes when they didn’t get washed. And cleaning the bathrooms and the floors and dusting and de-cluttering the house. Our house is a fucking mess, I’m not going to lie to you. My family’s relationship with chores is not a healthy one. I’m part of the problem. But I’m the second most productive chore-doer in the house. There’s a pretty clear correlation between gender and chore-doing in this family. I try not to let it bother me, but it really does. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m looking forward to moving out, to getting married, and to having a place with my fiance, in whatever order that occurs. It’ll be nice for us to work out our own system of divying up the chores fairly. I hope we can avoid settling into the roles my parents have assumed. I want us to be co breadwinners and co homemakers. I don’t think that’s a ridiculous thing to want. But we both grew up in a very gendered world. We’ll see with time how successful we can be at defying those old expectations.

What do you think about these articles? Have any of you had experiences relating to gender and chore completion in your lives? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy