Friday, October 10, 2008

Thankyou, Feminism.

Feministing has the 'Friday Feminist Fuck You/Yeah' now, where they either vent their anger about a particular anti-woman person or group or praise someone who has helped the cause. In a sense, this is a bit like that. I'm saying thankyou, on a Friday... but not to any one person, not to an organisation. I would like to thank Feminism.

"What for?", you may well ask. "There are lots of positive things that can be attributed to the feminist fight, are you grateful for ALL of them?" Well, yes... but today, there's one particular reason at the forefront of my mind.

My virginity.

To those of you who find this strange, sit tight, let me explain. I know there has been a lot of inaccurate criticism of feminism in this area. The suggestion that telling girls that sex isn't sinful and need not be marriage-linked will turn them all into raging sex-addicts who have 15 pregnancies and 9 STDs and 100 partners under their belt by the time they reach the grand old age of 13 has been flung around a lot recently; I've lost track of the number of times I've read about the spread of abstinence-only education, or seen yet another book being published about how wonderful it is to be a virgin because having sex will RUIN YOU, or scrolled through another thread full of people expressing the view that a girl's sexuality is the property of first her father then her husband (REMEMBER THAT LESBIANS ARE SINFUL), and how all of these things are seen as good and the only way to have a healthy sexual attitude.

This, my friends, is rubbish.

I am 19. I have had 3 boyfriends, in relationships ranging from 6 months to 2.5 years. I also have vaginismus, a fact I have known about but initially could neither name nor understand since I hit puberty. There have been several situations where I could have been pressured* into penetrative sex, where I could have ignored the fact that I knew I could get hurt because 'losing your virginity is supposed to be painful'. Where I could have been pressured into a whole range of things before I was ready. Currently I am on the path to overcoming my condition (yay all-month swimming!) but am still refraining from The Big Sinful Act That Will Make Me Worthless And Un-Marriable through choice - I don't feel that I'm ready yet. I'm perfectly fine with this decision, I'm happy with my choice, and my current partner is fully supportive of it.

To whom do I owe my ability to say no and not feel guilty about it? What helped me stay a virgin until I'm ready?

The people who define sex as a sin?
The idea that sex must be saved for the man I marry?
Being fed scary misinformation, such as 'condoms don't work at all'?
Modesty, trying never to excite a man's sexual desires by covering up everything below the neck?
Purity pledges?
A big ceremony where I tell daddy that I will never have sex before marriage?
Never being told about sex?


I had a flawed but still comprehensive sex education at school. I filled in the gaps with information from sites like Scarleteen and from groups like the Sandyford Initiative, and was so impressed by these people that I too hope to be able to help others in the realm of sexual health in the future. Religion played no part in my upbringing, and my parents were always honest whenever I had questions to ask. I knew that condoms have a high success rate when used correctly and can protect against a range of STDs. I have no dreams of marriage, and don't want to turn my sexuality into a bartering chip. I HAVE WORN SKIRTS ABOVE THE KNEE! I also think that purity pledges do nothing, and statistics have reinforced my opinion that abstinence-only sex-ed doesn't work at all - and can be harmful.

What I do have to thank:
Being told that my body is my own, as is my sexuality.
Being told that it's okay to say no.
Being told that no-one has the right to force me into anything.
Being told that, whilst sex can be a good thing, it should only happen when both me and my partner are ready, and it is not a bad thing to ask someone to wait if they are but you're not.
Being told that there is nothing shameful about my body - allowing me to seek help and find out about my vaginismus instead of hoping it'll go away and never understanding it.

All these things - bodily freedom, integrity and autonomy, openness about female anatomy, the belief that women are worth something and can make the right decisions for themselves when given all the relevant information (as opposed to being told what is and isn't right or blatantly mislead) - these are all championed by feminists everywhere, every day. I know more about myself through talking to other women in a frank and open way than I would from being told not to touch that thing there, it's bad. I have been able to help myself. I have been able to make a choice and have the courage to stick by it, because I know there's nothing wrong with abstaining - but I also know there's nothing wrong with not being a virgin, either.
As a bonus, thanks to all those progressive types out there who don't demonise normal human behaviour, I also know a good deal about safe sex. When I'm ready, I'll be ready.

So, thank you Feminism, and all forward-thinking groups, for allowing me to be happy with my hymen. And to all those who still think that feminism forces girls to sleep with everything with a pulse - don't let the door hit you on the way out.

*they never intentionally tried to force me into anything, but due to a combination of misguided thinking and a few other things the problem still arose. I'm on good terms with my exes, they ain't bad guys - if anything, they've learned what is and isn't acceptable now. Had I been unable to express myself, however, things would've turned out very differently.


  1. Gweem: what a fantastic piece! I would LOVE to reprint this at Scarleteen (and am so glad we were of help to you!). If you're interested, just drop me a line at hcorinna AT

    - Heather