Virtual Voices

Virginity is obsolete

Issues

The Washington Post recently put together a list of "Twelve Things the World Should Toss Out." Compiled by various contributors to the newspaper, it was intended as a kind of clever discussion of spring-cleaning on a global scale.

Among the suggestions for the scrap heap of history were tactical nukes, the Congressional Budget Office, exit polls, and virginity. Yes, virginity.

Washington Post blogger Jessica Valenti, who is also author of The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, cited a few reasons for her suggestion.

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"It's fine to have some way of demarcating sexual initiation," she wrote, "but old-school definitions of purity aren't it; they're more about inflicting shame than celebrating rites of passage. It's time we talked about sex as something healthy and natural."

Ms. Valenti and The Washington Post aren't the only ones talking about virginity as an obsolete concept. Earlier this month, a group called Harvard Queer Students and Allies hosted a conference called "Rethinking Virginity." According to The Harvard Crimson, "Many of the speakers at the panels . . . agreed that sex and virginity are often associated with loss and even shame. They argued for a more positive approach to sexuality."

The Crimson quoted Megara Bell, founder of Partners in Sex Education, as contending, "We don't want to teach that sex is dirty and gross, but suddenly becomes okay in marriage."

Of course, it's hard to talk about sex as healthy when one-in-four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Or when another young person is infected with genital bacteria or a virus every 3.5 seconds, as Dr. Miriam Grossman notes in her book about sex ed, You're Teaching My Child What?

As to shame, who needs religion anyway? It's those darn traditional Judeo-Christian values that are to blame for concepts like shame and guilt, and teachings about sex and marriage. Life would be so much easier without silly notions of right and wrong. We could spend all our time celebrating rites of passage and simply doing what comes naturally.

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein

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