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

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

Dear Searcher Open Letter Series Part 1: “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship”

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This is the first post of what may become a series if this continues to happen. I’ve occasionally had some pretty bizarre search terms pop up on my blog stats, some of them not surprising, others somewhat frustrating. While I can’t be certain that the person who did this will see it, I think this is a topic worth exploring again on this blog, and maybe someone down the road will stumble upon it who needs to see this.

On January 6th, someone found my blog using the search term, “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship.” This is an open letter to that person.

Dear person who stumbled upon my blog using the search term, “How Often Visitation Should Be During Courtship,”

I’m guessing that the person searching this isn’t a kid. It’s a parent. More likely than not, the parent of a daughter, possibly a young adult daughter. Even if it is the daughter or son doing this search, show your parents this letter. They should probably read this. As someone who had friends who participated in courting culture, I have a sense of how this works. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve also seen young women raised in some form of conservative dating culture find themselves in situations you would never wish upon your children.

I know you want what’s best for your little girl. But you need to understand something: if she is at least 18 (in the United States), your little girl is an adult now. She may not seem like one in your eyes. Maybe she relies on you for a lot of financial things. Maybe she asks you basic questions about how to balance her checkbook and other adult tasks, and that makes you think of her as seventeen, or sixteen, but never eighteen. Adults know how to do these things.They’re independent! But the economy isn’t what it used to be. Just google the minimum wage in your state and compare it to the monthly cost of renting a studio apartment.  Financial independence doesn’t define adulthood anymore. Birthdays happen regardless of where we are in life, and even though you have her best interests in mind when you try to protect her from the world, you’re kidding yourself. You can’t keep her seventeen forever. It’s like putting a plant in a pot that’s too small for it. You’re stunting her growth. If you keep waiting for her to be big enough to move on to the big backyard outside without at least moving her to a bigger pot first, you’ll find that she stays exactly the same size. In my experience, incremental raises in expectations lead to a great deal of growth in a person. Some of the childishness you perceive in her may not even be the result of immaturity on her part. It may be a reflection of your expectations of her. Maybe it’s time you re evaluated those expectations.

It’s time for her to make her own decisions. If she’s 18 and you’re still making big decisions for her, some things need to change. Yes, dating is a big decision. Yes, dating the wrong person can lead to heartbreak and pain. Yes, adding sex to the mix of that can make it more complicated. You’re right about all those things, but your approach is not making them easier for your adult child to handle. There will come a day when you aren’t around to make her life decisions. Wouldn’t it be better if she figured out how to make those choices now, with you there to offer advice and support, than later when you’re not? There will always be adult men in your adult daughter’s life, and you don’t put the same restrictions around them as you do with the man she is courting–the man who is a serious contender for marriage to her. When the repair man comes to fix her washing machine, will you insist on having a chaperon there to make sure he doesn’t try anything funny, or will you trust your daughter to hold him to the standards of a professional? When she answers the door to sign for a package delivered by UPS, will you wait with her for the package that could come any time on Tuesday or Wednesday? Will you track the package to ensure that you know when it is coming, reviewing every correspondence your daughter has with the company to ensure that it is appropriate, timing her phone calls to be sure she isn’t giving up too much of herself to her involvement with this company? I don’t think so.

So why do you plan to do it for her relationship? Down the road, when she’s in the marriage you practically arranged, you won’t be there watching to ensure that the man you approved of is a good husband. You won’t be watching their dates to be certain that he is respectful, that he doesn’t disrespect her, or harm her, or abuse her in any way. That would be invasive. That would overstep some boundaries. After all, they’d be a married couple, and it’s up to them to manage their relationship, right? Right?

How are they supposed to learn how to do that in the first place if they’re not allowed to make the small decisions couples make when they’re first going out? How is she supposed to learn what he’s like when there are no chaperons around if she never speaks to him in private? For all you know, he could be putting his best foot forward because you’re there. You won’t be there to watch them every second of their marriage. So while they’re trying to decide if they like each other enough to make that commitment, let them go out to dinner together, just the two of them. They’re in a public place anyway. As a matter of fact, a movie theater is a public space too. So is the ice rink, the bowling alley, and so are many other perfectly good places to go on a date. Let him take her to them, and let them get to know each other’s full personalities, including the thoughts they don’t share with you.

For further reading, check out this great article that the Wall Street Journal did about how parents can positively influence their children’s dating decisions for the better. Hint: it doesn’t involve making those decisions for them. If you’d like to see some personal testimonies by women who know even better than me–who’ve experienced courtship themselves and can tell you first hand how that turns out in the end–check out the Homeschoolers Anonymous posts about courtship here. Remember, this isn’t about what’s best for you, or what gives you the most control. This is about what’s best for her.

As always, if you have any thoughts about this feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy