Mocking Virgins: Sexual Shaming, Not Christian Marginalization

Via my anonymous askbox:

Y do peopel say that christians aren’t marginalized in any way???? you can go to anyone and say that you believe in marriage before having sex and everyone will look at you like you’re crazy!! can you guys stop saying that we aren’t marginalized? yes in the past we had more power but not anymre

I’ll admit that my first instinct was to call the whole thing a [sic] and move on, but thanks to having recently seen the wonderful How to Lose Your Virginity, I found myself relating to the question-asker. The movie had brought to mind, for the first time in years, just how awful it was to be a never-been-kissed virgin in college.

One of the young women in the documentary was quoted on the marked contrast in terms of attitudes towards sex in high school versus in college. When she was in high school, the kids who had sex were considered anomalous and, accordingly, were the subjects of speculation, gossip, and rumors.  One summer later, when she entered college, she found that attitudes had shifted entirely: the virgins were the gossiped-about anomalies and everyone assumed that everyone else was having lots of sex. As she pointed out, a single seasonal break between academic years was hardly enough time to go from mostly-virgins to mostly-sexperts.

What she said resonated deeply with me. When I first started my post-secondary academic career, I was still a practicing, scarf-wearing Muslim. This meant that I hadn’t hugged or shaken hands with my own first cousins in 7 years, let alone held hands with or kissed a boy. My sexual inexperience didn’t prove to be a problem until I started working at a campus job where the majority of our time was spent waiting. As we were not permitted to surf the Internet or read during all that downtime, our office chatter often veered into rather personal inquiries.

Take a wild guess as to what we, a group of 17-to-21-years olds, ended up talking about.

To my chagrin, my virginity became my defining trait to my coworkers. If I was passionate about some matter or other, it was because I was a virgin; my older coworkers asserted to me that I would stop being so “intense” after I “worked it out” via sexual activity.* If I laughed at or made a sexual joke, it would be met with a mocking “ohhhhhh yeah, Heina knows, right?” My insight on human relationships that had nothing to do with sex was considered worthless because I hadn’t done the horizontal tango.

It got to the point where I considered lying to them about it, but I knew that I’d start sounding like the 40-Year-Old Virgin if I were pressed for details. For a spell, I tried to make Virgin Pride a thing.

Someone who feels that by not giving into their lusts, they are doing something good for themselves and for society. People who feel this emotion aren’t social outcasts, losers, or romantically inept. In today’s society, losing one’s virginity is quite an easy task, with hookers, booty calls, and fuck buddies so easily available — it’s resisting temptation that’s hard.

By protecting themselves from STDs, unwanted pregnancies, emotional damage, and needless regrets, many people who hold off on sex until marriage feel some measure of virgin pride.

– Virgin Pride, Urban Dictionary

Yes, really. I wrote that.** Of course, “Virgin Pride” went the way of “fetch“.

Regina George from Mean Girls saying 'It's Not Going to Happen'

Not too long after I wrote that entry, unrelated to the entry, I lost my faith. A bit later, highly related to my apostasy, I gained my first sexual experience. Eager to leave Islam way the heck behind me, I stopped thinking or caring about the way in which my old coworkers had treated me. It was awful to be shamed for my sexual choices, even when that choice is to not have sex at all. I don’t agree with those who do so in the slightest.

However, shaming virgins does not represent a form of oppression that is directed at Christians. Not only are Christians hardly the only people who don’t have sex before marriage, plenty of Christians have premarital sex. The majority of Christians do, in fact, have sex before marriage — according to a 2009 survey, a whopping 80% of them. That’s only 8% lower than the overall population’s percentage of young people who have premarital sex. Given that many Christian abstinence-promoting movements seem to inadvertently encourage sexual activity that isn’t penis-in-vagina sex, it’s safe to say that even the 20% of young Christians who say they didn’t have premarital “sex” probably engaged in some kind of sexual activity before marriage.

And, if I recall correctly, the coworker who told me sex would calm me down proudly told me all about how she went to church every Sunday. Christians are just as capable of shaming virgins as non-Christians.

So, to the question asker, I say this: Though your reasons for not having sex might be religious, the reason you’re being teased about it is because people are awful to those who make unconventional sexual choices. You’re being marginalized because you are part of a sexual minority, not for being a Christian. If you really think that Christians don’t have power, you might want to check out Dispatches From the Culture War for some insight and examples into the ways in which your coreligionists exercise alarmingly great power in the United States.

* 9 years and plenty of sex later, I’m still as passionate, intense, and involved as I was at 17 — maybe even more so. Take that, old coworkers!
** A year later, I wrote an entry on the creepiness of Purity Balls. Less than a year after that, I wrote an entry on a sex position my first boyfriend and I invented.

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Mocking Virgins: Sexual Shaming, Not Christian Marginalization
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13 thoughts on “Mocking Virgins: Sexual Shaming, Not Christian Marginalization

  1. 1

    Well, the reason I lost my virginity late (27) was social anxiety and low self-esteem. It was hardly a lifestyle choice, conventional or otherwise. At least religious people in my situation would have had an excuse to hide behind. True, as a straight male I didn’t have to deal with the double standard where I’m either a prude or a slut, but society uses the ability to seduce women as a measure of masculinity, so I just got to be on the wrong side of the loser-stud continuum. Many PUA scam artists make good money exploiting people like me, but at least I didn’t go down that road. I guess that’s why I don’t feel the contempt others feel for PUAs, just pity.

    1. 1.1

      One can feel pity for PuAs’ feelings of inadequacy and also contempt for their misogyny. That’s how I feel, anyway. Not all sad people go on to loathe, revile, and dehumanize half the human race.

  2. 2

    It’s my understanding that many Christians do not consider “sex” to be anything other than penile-vaginal intercourse. So, most of the stuff people do to entertain themselves sexually is considered “not sex”. Hand jobs, oral, and on and on and on.

    This includes anal intercourse. The statistics I saw showed that Christians who took “purity” pledges were much more likely than others to engage in anal intercourse.

    That’s your 20%.

    1. 2.1

      Which is basically what I was trying to say, succinctly, with my link embedded in “Given that many Christian abstinence-promoting movements seem to inadvertently encourage sexual activity that isn’t penis-in-vagina sex, it’s safe to say that even the 20% of young Christians who say they didn’t have premarital “sex” probably engaged in some kind of sexual activity before marriage.” (:

  3. 4

    I notice that once you get to a certain age, people are surprised, but don’t seem to give a shit. They have enough crap in their own lives and don’t want to contribute the same to that of anyone else.

  4. 5

    People need to stop shaming other people for their consensual sexual choices.
    I didn’t exactly start late, neither did I start early, but I had people trying to shame me for the fact that if I need body parts to counter my sexual partners I can use my head.
    It’s fine to discuss reasons and concepts. “No sex* before marriage” is a harmful, horrible concept and it causes a lot of damage, especially with young people rushing off to get married so they can finally have sex instead of heading off to PP to get contraception.

    *however you define “sex”

    1. 5.1

      I was very nearly one of those people. I had it all mapped out in my head: engaged by 17 and a half, married by 18, to a boy I’d meet at the Muslim Students Union at my university, mostly so I could finally have sex.

      Yep, that didn’t happen, thankfully.

  5. 6

    Actually I once helped someone who was using a PUA book — the advice wasn’t really that awful. Maybe it was an exception or maybe it was the “level” of the book he was on, but the task he was following was simply talking to women he didn’t know (I think it was specifically he had to ask for their recommendation on where to buy clothes). Is this a creepy task? I suppose if you’re extraordinarily sensitive it could feel that way: a strange guy asking you how to dress could, by some interpretation, be asking what would make them look good to the particular woman they’re asking. The theory of “insecure men who have trouble talking to women can improve if they simply force themselves through assigned tasks” isn’t a terrible one, and the guy I was helping wasn’t a raving misogynist. Just insecure.

    1. 6.1

      It’s extremely creepy and objectifying to use strangers as tools in some exercise you got out of a book.

      It’s also dishonest. The guy doesn’t really want advise on where to buy clothes. If you ask me a bunch of questions and you don’t really care about the answers you’re being dishonest, the women is being used as some ‘point’ in a ‘confidence building exercise’ in which she is an unwitting participant.

      It also doesn’t look nice to me. If a guy approached me with such a question, I have more important things to do than provide fashion tips to random strangers. It’s wasting my time. In fact, if someone asked me such a question, I’d tell the guy that since he’s probably got clothes on already, he doesn’t need any help finding a place to buy clothes.

  6. 7

    Samgardner

    Is this a creepy task?

    YES!
    It’s fuck creepy and horribly entitled.
    A strange guy walking up to me demanding that I solve his personal problems? That’s godsdamn fucked up.
    If you really, really, really need to practise “talking to women”, go ask for directions.
    But I suppose a PUAs dick would fall off if he had to ask a fiiiiiiiimäl for directions….

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