Today we're highlighting Annie from New York, who talks about making and then discarding her purity pledge. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:
I'm an 18 year old virgin college freshman from New York.
How do you define virginity?
Honestly? I don't really know. For me personally, I'll lose my virginity when I am in a relationship and have vaginal intercourse with a man, which I think is pretty much the standard view. But I know virginity doesn't really exist in a solid way, and think that each person defines virginity differently, because they define sex differently. Virginity is going to be important for a very, very long time (sadly) but I think that each person owns their virginity individually, and can therefore decide for themselves what it means.
Tell us your story
I went to a week-long Bible Camp for several years, and one of the biggest messages of the week was always about virginity. From the time I was ten or eleven, they started talking to us about virginity, and how important it is to keep it for marriage. They told us we would be broken messes if we ever had sex before marriage. That no one would want us. Of course this was directed mainly at the girls. They cited passages about marriage being when a man "cleaves" into his woman, which sounded kind of terrifying, because all I could think of was meat cleavers. The whole thing was a huge festival of slut-shaming and misogyny, but at the time I had no idea what either of those things even were. Unfortunately, I bought into this completely. I bought a purity ring, which I wore proudly for years. I had a holier-than-thou attitude when my friends started having sex. I don't know exactly what made me so susceptible to this whole thing, except that for some complicated reasons, I was scared of sex from a fairly early age, even before the camp. Then, through the messages from the camp, I become entirely terrified of sex. In addition, I was never the prettiest girl, and because of this, I felt that I couldn't afford to be "dirtied" by having pre-marital sex, because I didn't have enough going for me for anyone to ever really want me if I wasn't pure and whole.
Oddly enough, throughout all of this, I had sexual desires that I never even really tried to repress. I was accepting of it, and dealt with them myself. Somehow that never seemed wrong to me, thankfully, and I think it helped foster a comfort with my body and my sexuality that many girls who go through what I went through (and even those who don't have these experiences) don't discover. But this also made me wonder - how was I ever really going to wait until marriage to experience this thing, this be-all and end-all of worthiness and virtue which everyone was so obsessed with?
Eventually, I started to realize that my mother (who had reacted with horror when I proudly announced my abstinence pledge–she had no idea that the camp was as extreme as it was and I think she felt terribly guilty about it afterwards) was right– none of this was reality-based. Though I didn't call myself a feminist until spring of my senior year in high school, I think I've been one for my entire life, because my viewpoints haven't changed so much as they have been validated by the "feminist" title. I always believed in female independence and autonomy, and wanted to be a strong woman who could take care of herself without anyone’s help.
Also, due to having divorced parents, I was always kind of scared of marriage in the first place. So when my counselor one summer, a girl who was barely over 20, started telling me she was going to get married as "as soon as God drops the right man in [her] lap," I was entirely horrified. But it made me realize something huge: one of the things that the abstinence movement doesn't tell you is that it's not that difficult to wait - because you're not supposed to be waiting that long. You're supposed to be getting married and starting a family as soon as possible. There I was, thinking I was going to have to wait until my late twenties at the earliest to have sex, because I never wanted to get married young, and wondering how in the hell I was going to handle all that sexual frustration, and wondering how all these other people dealt with it, when suddenly I realized that they didn’t deal with it – they just got hitched right away. It changed everything for me.
Two months later, the ring was off. I didn’t suddenly start having some wild sex life – I am still, much to my chagrin, a virgin in (almost?) every sense of the word – but I did realize that I really, really did not have to wait for marriage to have sex. I realized how ridiculous that was, and how terrifyingly cult-like the camp had really been. I have a much healthier relationship with my sexuality these days, and though I still have some residual issues left from what I essentially view as the traumatizing experience of the camp, I know that when I enter into a healthy relationship where I feel safe and comfortable, I will be more than ready to lose my virginity without much fanfare. And I look forward to it each and every day.