Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Virginity: The Last Taboo?

I recently went to see “Spring Awakening,” an incredible Broadway play that circles around the sexuality of several teenagers in 1890s Germany. One of the main issues in the play concerns Welda, a 15-year old who inadvertently gets pregnant when her mother refuses to teach her about sex. This got me thinking: sexual education is a crucial part of our culture and there are many debates about whether schools should be teaching/preaching abstinence or safe sex. But in the long run, does it really make a difference?

I tried to make a list of all the people I know who are virgins and came up with a very short list. Since I am in my mid-twenties, most of the people I know who planned on waiting until marriage have either left that by the wayside or got married immediately after college. I had a close friend my senior year of college who admitted to me that he was a virgin, but not by choice, and subsequently lost his virginity a few months later. And that was the last time I can recall having a friend who was an admitted virgin.

In today’s society, it seems it would be difficult to abstain from sex, especially with the plethora of media that is consumed by it. But even on a personal level, I’m not sure someone would be comfortable in my social circle were they not sexually active. Many of my conversations with my friends revolve around sexuality in one form or another, and I’d be hard-pressed to have a conversation with my girlfriends that didn’t include who they or I had hooked up with recently.

In fact, my friend from college admitted he was a virgin after a night of drinking when we were going around a table and announcing where the weirdest place we’d ever had sex was. He got quiet and uncomfortable and finally pulled me aside to tell me his not-so-tawdry secret. It was my glimpse into a world where your lack of sex is something to be ashamed and embarrassed of, and makes you an outsider.

So, after all this musing, I decided to do some actual research. I started by asking my female friends if they knew any people who were still virgins by choice, and not for any staunch religious reason. The only person who actually knew anyone was my little sister E, but her friends are still relatively young (late teens to early twenties), so it wasn't entirely shocking. Otherwise, none of my close female friends could name a virgin that they were close to. Granted, one could argue that I run in a certain circle where it would be difficult to be a virgin, and therefore they do exist but are hanging out in alternate circles, but I checked through a pretty wide cross-section of females.

Then, I went around asking my guy friends what they thought of virgins, and if they would be more likely to sleep with a girl who is a known virgin, or known to be promiscuous. And for a wide range of reasons, almost all of my guy friends said they would choose the promiscuous girl over the virgin. Some of them claimed that they figured the sex would be better with the non-virgin, but overwhelmingly the response was that they wouldn't want to be remembered as the girl's first.

One of them turned to me and asked if I would remember my first time for the rest of my life, and I responded that of course I would. And he looked at me pointedly and told me that he wouldn't want to be that guy.

Which implies, with my limited research, that in NYC society it's far more acceptable to be a slutty mcslut slut slut than it is to be a virgin. Which definitely wasn't the case historically. What brought upon this change? Madonna? Sex and the City? The 60's? Sexual education? The existence of Charlie Sheen? The accessibility of porn to our generation? All of the above?

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