I was really honored to be part of the Rethinking Virginity Conference at Harvard on Monday. We spent an entire day talking about the meaning and importance of virginity, through panels on history, slut-shaming, queer virginity and sex-positive abstinence. (Simplistic Summary: Everyone should be allowed to have sex or not have sex any damn way the please with mutual consent and good health, and without judgment or shame.)
Because I write and think and take video about virginity every day of my recent life, I decided to take a curatorial role for this one. So here's a collection of fantastic posts several of my co-panelists wrote. The links with short excerpts follow, but they're so awesome please do yourself a favor and read them in their entirety:
Rethinking Virginity—And Examining Our Assumptions About Sex, Jezebel (by panelist Lux Alptraum)
"The experience of one's first sexual relationship (however you define that) is significant enough to transcend gender, sexuality, and identity. In fact, in a queer space, loss of virginity can sometimes be more significant, as its that first sexual experience that solidifies an identity that might initially have been considered "questioning" or "curious."
“Queer Sex Doesn’t Count” And Nine Other Myths Uncovered- And Debunked- at the Harvard “Rethinking Virginity” Conference, Feministing (by panelist Lori Adelman)
"Valuing virginity puts girls and women at risk of violence, abuse, and assault by members of a society that believes a woman's worth lies in her sexual behavior. [...]From forced child marriage, female genital cutting, and breast ironing to slut-shaming to the deliberate withholding of information on reproductive and sexual health, the emphasis on preserving virginity has pernicious consequences for girls in the West and beyond. I can do without that kind of "protection" thanks very much."
"Slut Panel" postmortem: Shame, shame, go away Feministing (by panelist Chloe Angyal)
"It becomes obvious that the slut label isn't just about controlling how much sex women have: It's about controlling how we dress, how we walk, how we talk, how we dance, how much we drink, who we talk to, how we feel about our own desires and so on and so on. And crossing the invisible, culturally-determined "slut line" in any of these arenas is enough to earn you a label that, no matter how much we denounce and detest it, no matter how well we understand its purpose and its perniciousness, somehow manages to seep into our brains and eat away at our certainty and self-assurance.
Despite how easy it is to be labeled a slut, it's possible, one could imagine, if you try really hard, to avoid being tarred with the slut brush. If you dress properly and never drink too much and don't flirt and don't have sex and never think a sexual thought ever, you could probably escape the shame-fest, right? Wrong! Because, as Therese has discovered as she's traveled around the country talking to people about virginity, the same culture that scorns women for being sexual also scorns them for not being sexual! Just as you can be slut-shamed, you can be prude-shamed or virgin-shamed! Shame for everyone!"
SEXIST BEATDOWN: La Cage Aux Miley Edition Tiger Beatdown (by panelist Sady Doyle with The Sexist's Amanda Hess)
"Yes, truly, when people are more angry and disturbed by the fact that Bombshell McGee slept with another lady’s husband than they are by the fact that she might be a motherfucking Nazi, Something Is Wrong With Our Society. But there was at least one common occasion for slut-shaming (and virgin-shaming! Because THAT IS A DEAL TOO, we learned) that we did not discuss. It is:
Being a beloved squeaky-clean tween pop sensation who decides it is time to Reinvent Her Image and Be An Adult Now and releases a sextacular music video as a statement to that effect, possibly involving a Goth-inflected bird costume incorporating a single thigh-high boot.
So: That Miley video! Did you see it? Did you hear the hoopla about it? Did you ever wonder what it means for How We At Once Fetishize and Fear and Seek to Control the Sexuality of the Young Women Today? "