Last night I watched Insight on SBS (which featured our very own Rose Russo talking about her experience hiring an escort to lose her virginity) and I was fascinated by all the different views on virginity, the cultural implications of the loss of virginity, and also there was a lot of discussion about the value of virginity.
It got me thinking a lot about the way women are viewed in society, and the way women are so often valued on their purity. We’ve written before about sexual dysfunction that can come from abstinence only education, and also the fear women can feel about sexual behaviour, as if it’s wrong in some way, but today I’d really like to focus on one word that kept cropping up in the program:
It was raised from the perspective of a dowry, a financial transaction. It was raised as “she kept herself for me”, losing something or giving something to the man. It was also raised from a personal perspective, the value of yourself.
The repetition of this term “value” and all the associated terms, words like loss, losing, giving up, was almost unconscious throughout this whole conversation.
This really stood out for me, and I think it is different between women and men. There is a lot more focus on the virginity of women than of men. This is well documented and generally agreed on. A men who has a lot of sexual partners is a stud, a woman is a slut. We all know this is cultural perspectives in a great many cultures. But why is it that women’s value is so intrinsically tied to her purity, her virginity?
I would like to posit that it is because she is, at the heart of it, still seen as a commodity. And her virginity, her purity, her value, is entirely as a possession. A commodity. Something to trade, to own.
The language of some of the people in the program reflected this, as the women said “I kept myself for him” and the men said “she kept herself for me”.
The only different perspective that stood out to me was that of Tinashe Dune, who spoke from a Shona Zimbabwean perspective about virginity as something that gives a woman power, which is not for losing or giving up but sharing.
That perspective was refreshing, and it worried me a little that I found that refreshing. That I was so desensitised to the link between virginity and value that it wasn’t until Tinashe mentioned a different perspective I even realised I hadn’t noticed it up until that point.
Why are women still seen as possessions? What is it that makes society accept this? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?
What do you think? Do you agree with me, or think women aren’t seen as possessions? Is value tied with virginity? Do you value your virginity?