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Double standard

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Jane The Virgin, The Institute of Sexology, Indonesian 'virginity' testing, victorian sex myths that won't go away, and more...

Your weekly roundup of virginity-related stories in your world. Want to hear about them right away? Follow us on Facebook where we post daily. Got a story for us to post? Let us know!  

V-Card and Feminist Ryan Gosling

So honored to have our V-Card sharing space with Feminist Ryan Gosling at Sewanee University of the South after my "How To Lose Your Virginity Myths" lecture at the Bairnwick Women's Center Pinnacle Luncheon. Want me to come to your school? More info here.

 

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"There are no “but”s when it comes to women’s humanity. Not “but” you’re lonely, not “but” you’re horny, not “but” you’re nice, not “but” that’s how your grandparents met, not “but” she was naked in your bed. Women are people, and women just get to exist and set boundaries and say no. Always. Any time. Just like you."

Lindy West's essay for the Daily Dot is so powerful in the way it elegantly connects the dots between online harassment, rape culture, pick-up artists, and the way women are socialized to be 'kind' and 'receptive.' It's a must-read.

 

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Among the many reasons to watch the new CW show Jane The Virgin (aside from the amazing Gina Rodriguez) is the show's sex positive and pro-choice messages, which Cosmo points out is a big step forward for the Latina community.

"A TV show can't change everything about how the Latino community talks about sex and reproductive rights, but it's heartening to see one that reflects the change that's already happening. And while Jane's decision may ultimately not have been your decision, it's a decision she was able to make — not her mother's, not her grandmother's, not her boyfriend's. The show hasn't trivialized or moralized abortion talk; it's normalized it."

I especially love the show for the way it portrays real-life abstinence choices, freely made with actual information, as well as the way it confounds the stereotypes around 'older' virginity. OK, at 23, Jane isn't at all old, but you all are sending me older virgin emails at 19. So. Also, I have a special crush on vain but hilarious Telenovela star Rogelio De La Vega played by Jaime Camil. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it here for free!

 

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Turkish textbooks remove diagrams of genitals

Turkish news outlet The Hurriyet Daily News reports that some Turkish schoolbooks have replaced diagrams of genitalia with cute photos of mothers and baby animals. While pictures of baby polar bears definitely help SEO, they have no place in science books. It's just another disturbing instance of Turkey's increasing conservatism under Erdogan, but keep in mind these censored Turkish sex ed texts are not unlike US abstinence programs which erase information about contraception and gay people–when they're not vilifying them, that is. I hope they still have Our Bodies, Ourselves.

 

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The Telegraph reports that women who are trying to join Indonesia's police force are routinely subjected to 'virginity' testing. The women report that

“My group of about 20 girls was asked to enter the hall and was asked to take off our clothes, including our bras and underpants,” a 19-year-old woman told the organisation. “It was humiliating. Only those who had menstruation can keep [wearing] underpants… A female doctor did the virginity test ... the 'two-finger' test."

The story makes a point of asking what virginity has to do with good police work, but fails to mention that any and all so-called virginity tests don't test anything except how retrograde and ignorant the testers are. Aside from that, these tests were supposed to be abolished in Indonesia in 2010–and they are a violations of human rights.

 

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The UK's Wellcome Collection is doing a year-old exhibit on sexuality called “The Institute of Sexology”, which they describe as:

"a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at 'The Institute', the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex."

I love their NSFW video, which makes the study of sex look classy and illicit at the same time, with scads of naked bodies and naughty words. Totally worth the trip to London, in my opinion!

 

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We got vibrators

From Autostraddle's Rebel Girl series, 5 Bad Theories on Gender and Sex From Way Back When That Still Impact us Today, from with the totally bogus universal theory of gender difference, making European women's bodies the 'normal,' and the ongoing pathologization (is that a word?) of female sexuality.

"The American Psychiatric Association didn’t drop the term hysteria until the 1950s, and hysterical neurosis remained there into 1980. The impacts of the mass misdiagnosis are far-reaching: women today are still labeled “crazy,” and it’s a seemingly natural part of our gender roles."

On the plus side, we got vibrators.

 

V-Card Diaries: IP "I really understood sex the first time I 'took' someone's virginity."

Today we're highlighting IP in Toronto, Canada, who whose relationship ended when she told her partner she'd made out with other guys before him. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

17, Female, Toronto

How I define virginity:

I used to define virginity as penis in vagina penetration however that mentality has changed drastically. It wasn't until I had had sex with a number of different people that I began to see how complex it really was.

Here's my story:

The first time I had sex was with another "virgin" and it was special, I feel 100% comfortable with how it happened and I wouldn't change it for the world. However, I really understood sex the first time I "took someone's virginity." I hate using that phrase but I feel like it encompasses what I'm about to say.

I first met this guy at an end of exams party in June. I was instantly attracted to his charisma and confidence. I immediately thought that he was this incredibly experienced, smooth talking, sex god but it turns out he wasn't. I spent almost the entire party talking to him and afterwards he added me on Facebook, however our communication seemed to stop there. He never made the effort to message me and his name would pop up in my news feed and taunt me every so often. We met again by chance at a concert but this time he asked me out as soon as he got home. Our romance progressed very quickly and after two weeks it felt like we had been talking for months. I soon discovered that he was a virgin which took me by surprise, he insisted he had "fooled around" before but something in his voice told me he hadn't.

One night I slept over at his house and making out soon turned into more, we ended up rolling around on his bed naked while he fumbled around trying to figure me out. He didn't have a condom so we couldn't "have sex" and at the time I still thought we hadn't. The week afterwards I had a party and he slept over. We would steal away every so often to make out in my basement and finally when everyone was gone we went upstairs. It felt like things happened in the blink of an eye. I asked if he wanted to, he practically cut me off with a yes, we figured out the condom situation and bam. It happened. Afterwards we lay in bed and started talking.

I mistakingly thought we were not dating at this point but he clearly did. He asked me if I had made out with anyone else and I said yes which warranted a painful silent treatment, followed by a lot of drama. We basically ended the second I told him about the other guy. Now, I think of our first time together as the night I was at his house instead of the night we were at mine. I feel as though that was the time we were the most intimate, which is how I currently define sex.

Having sex with someone encompasses so much more then just penetration, it deals with so much more. Anytime you feel intimately connected with your partner you are having sex, regardless of what anyone else defines it as.

Dear Young Men: Don't get hung up on the V-Word

Two great articles speaking directly to men about virginity and sexuality. We ladies cover this topic a lot on the blog, and I also enjoyed sharing similar ideas in an interview for an upcoming documentary on male virginity. Unfortunately, we ladies sometimes get a bit of pushback when we weigh in on this topic, but luckily, here's the same straight dope from a couple of actual dudes. So listen up and seriously, read the whole stories at the links. They are both super smart. From "Dear young men: The old stereotypes of what it is to be a 'man' are a load of rubbish" in The Independent

At about age 14, boys feel like they have to start bullshitting about their sexual exploits in order to survive. The pressure on these kids is just too great for them to speak frankly about it. Ignore what everyone says about their sex lives. They are lying, all of them, at least a little.

Forget the word “virgin” as a descriptor for both yourself and others. It’s an archaic, irrelevant word, meant to stigmatise and shame people. It oversells a person’s first sex act as some grand, transformational experience, which supposedly vindicates a young man and spoils a young woman. It’s an obsolete, religious, judgmental word. Let’s leave  it behind.

From "The Problem With Male Virginity" in Paging Dr. Nerdlove

Your value doesn’t come from who you have or haven’t slept with. It doesn’t come from where you fall on the bell-curve of starting sexual activity, whether you were precocious or a late bloomer. Your value as a person comes from how you act and how you make others feel. It’s about what you bring to the table as a whole person, not how many vaginas you’ve managed to talk your way into.

Don’t spend your time focused on getting laid for the first time, spend your time on becoming a better person. Cultivate an amazing life. Learn to connect with people, to build relationships. Don’t throw your hands in the air and just assume you’re uniquely cursed, work to fix things. Practice your social skills – getting good with women, getting good with people, is a skill that you can learn. Yes, you may have problems. You may have circumstances in your life that make things harder for you. But harder isn’t impossible, no matter how daunting it may seem.

h/t to our virginspotters @OliveMercies and @j_aallan !

V-Card Diaries: Stephanie "Abstinence-only sex ed made me feel worthless and used up, but when I initiated sex with my (now) husband, I felt like I had claimed my sexuality."

*Trigger warning for sexual assault* Today we're highlighting Stephanie in upstate New York, who never felt like she'd had a chance to have a virginity. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

26, Female, Married, Upstate NY

How I define virginity:

The church I went to defined it as any sexual contact. I don't like the term. I prefer sexual awakening, more spiritual than physical.

Here's my story:

I was digitally penetrated as a very young child and raped at age 13. I felt like I never had a virginity. The church and abstinence-only sex ed. made me feel worthless and used up. I never had a chance. I grudgingly gave into sex at 16 with a boyfriend, but it wasn't until a few years later when I initiated sex with my best friend (now husband) that I felt like I had claimed my sexuality.

On the lies we tell young men about sex

Whisper Male Virgin

Whisper Male Virgin

I was interviewed by Fusion for an article on the toxic cultural forces that tell guys to lose their virginity as soon as possible–and to feel like utter losers if they don't. It's based on the male virgin section of a secret-sharing site called Whisper, which is cool on one hand because it allows these guys (gay, straight and bi) to be honest about their feelings about wanting sex or not, but also feels a little like a sex work matchmaking service for  losing it.

I spoke to the reporter about the lack of honest conversation about sexuality, the dearth of actual sex ed and the huge vacuum this leaves for young people just when they're trying to make sense of their sexual feelings. When the vacuum gets filled with sexist, judgmental and usually inaccurate pop culture, porn and abstinence-until-marriage classes about what 'real men' are supposed to be like, it's no wonder 17-year-old guys think life is over because they haven't yet had intercourse. I've said this before, and I said it in the article: I believe that becoming sexual is a long and gradual process. It's not some race to the finish line where the money-shot is the end goal.

The same day I was interviewed, I saw this quote from Cory Silverberg at About:Sexuality, with a collection of articles on delayed ejaculation and erectile disfunction in young men:

"The stories we tell each other and ourselves about men and sex are all pretty bleak.  They want sex all the time but never want to talk about it. They are ready any moment but are sexually callous.  They are fundamentally aggressive.  On and on it goes, and it's no wonder that men are so messed up about sex when you think about the options presented to them.  And what do they do when the problem they are having doesn't fit neatly into the options they have?"

A lack of understanding about sexuality doesn't just harm the guys themselves, it also affects their partners. Here's a disturbing study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine about young men's attitudes towards having anal sex with female partners. While some women participated enthusiastically in receiving anal sex, the majority felt coerced:

"The researchers found that many young women who did engage in anal sex found the experiences painful and full of pressure. They seemed to occur in sexual climate in which the concept of mutuality wasn’t highlighted enough amongst teenagers, for reasons that ranged from a lack of open dialogue and education to young men attempting to mimic what they see in porn."

Ah, mutuality...Guys receiving anal sex from their female partners. What a concept!

Guys, what do you think? Where are you getting your messages about sex and how to 'be a man.' What can we do to change the conversation about sexuality and masculinity?

V-Card Diaries: Sally "In Lebanon, people raise their girls on the idea that they can not be sexual beings the way boys are."

Today we're highlighting Sally in Lebanon, who gets a reaction like a 'you're a hooker' if she talks about sex in front of boys. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

Hello, my name is Sally. I'm from Lebanon, in the Middle East. I am a 19-year-old female.

How I define virginity:

Virginity is overrated. Especially for girls, people raise their girls on the idea that they can not be sexual beings the way boys are. Virginity for me is meaningless. I still didn't have sex though but I will soon, but I look at other older females that have sexual desires they can't obtain because of the whole traditions and religious crap.

Here's my story:

I 'm an atheist but I come from a Muslim background. My country is well known for it's diversity ( we have around 18 sects). And apparently all of them still think Virginity is a sacred thing, including the new generation. Even masturbation. I doubt if more than 20% of the population knows about it. When I talk about sex in front of boys they tend to give me some sort of you're a hooker or why are you so reckless with your life, they TRY to make me believe that Virginity is like doing drugs or even worse.

Middle eastern man tends to believe that his wife MUST be a virgin (even though he sleeps with tons) and if he really loves a woman but she's not a virgin, he won't marry her! Or if he wanted to, his parents ( which play a big role in a typical Arab man's life) will hammer his head till they force him to dump her. Not to mention that some tend to kill the female who loses her Virginity because her virginity represents the whole family (yep those still exists which really annoys me). So why an innocent soul who just wanted to discover herself would be murdered because of a f*cking hymen ?!!

Women feel less guilty about losing their virginity, but is that the conversation we need to be having?

Note: Another story on this study just came out, so we're reposting this response.  

Image via Rise, Rebel, Resist tumblr

As someone who's been working for years to bust mythologies and change the conversation around virginity, I give a serious hooray for reducing guilt around first intercourse for women. Writing about a new study,  Salon reports in "Science: Losing your virginity isn’t as awkward as it was 20 years ago":

"According to a study from the University of Illinois, young adults have felt better and better about their first-time sexual experiences for the past 23 years, with the difference between men’s and women’s emotional responses to early sexual intercourse decreasing over time."

And this:

"The researchers discovered that gender differences in response to virginity loss diminished greatly over time, which they suspect might be “because of a reduction, in general, of social regulation of female sexuality and in the double standard” of sexual expression for each gender."

It's no surprise that women are feeling less guilt and shame around becoming sexual. They have more agency to choose how, when and why they'll become sexual. (Thank you, Feminism) Women know more than they ever did about their bodies and how to get pleasure from the experience (Thank you Scarleteen and the other fantastic online resources). And maybe, just maybe, the guys are paying more attention to women's pleasure as well. (Thank you again, Feminism).

But, as writer Jenny Kutner points out:

"It’s important to note, though, that men do still exhibit more positive responses and experience more pleasure than women — also because of the “reduction” in the policing of women’s bodies and not its complete obliteration."

Reduction, not obliteration, and I'd argue in the last 8 years, some significant increases. There's the $1.5 billion worth of inaccurate, sexist shaming  from Abstinence-Until Marriage programs, and the near constant stream of slut-shamingrape cases dismissed or hushed up, and legislative attacks on women's reproductive rights and resources. Young women are also facing more pressure to have sex (call it prude-shaming?) and then get a steaming pile of mixed messages like the always-popular 'be sexy but don't have sex."

Even comprehensive sex classes don't talk much about how both women and men can get pleasure from sex, or how to ask for and respect consent. A woman having pre-marital sex may be more acceptable than in the past, but so is having your own bank account and keeping your last name.

One thing that continues to be frustrating is using intercourse as the sexual benchmark for these studies. Why are we measuring the start of sexuality by a penis going into a vagina? First,  it's a heterosexual framework, leaving out a chunk of the sex-having population. But also, our V-Card Diaries story collection is full of young women writing that everything they did pre-intercourse was pleasurable, but intercourse itself was a let down.

No surprise: that's not how most women orgasm, especially when they're first starting to have sex. But the study insists on measuring women's pleasure by how much they enjoyed intercourse, and then they're actually surprised that it's so low. Please let's stop selling intercourse the big sexual prize for women and recognize there are lots of ways to have sex that don't involve a penis in a vagina. 

The progress is great, but we need to keep working to change the conversation about women, virginity and sex to one that's not only non-judgmental, but also recognizes diverse sexual experiences, and puts consent and pleasure at the top of the must-have list.

MagicWand

[Get more graphics and gifs here]

"Jane The Virgin" is coming this Fall

[Update: The show premieres Oct 13th, 2014 on the CW]

The new comedy series Jane The Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telenovela  Juana la Virgen, is debuting on the CW. I've never seen the orginal, but from the clips on the site, it seems to be the story of a teenage girl who is accidentally artificially inseminated, and hilarity and slut-shaming ensue.

The vibe is very Ugly Betty, another telenovela remake that I really liked*, so that's promising. Bonus points for the clip above, in which they seem to be making fun of the offensive abstinence parlor games that equate dirty pieces of tape, chewed up gum and dirty toothbrushes with a young lady's destroyed virtue (even though, weirdly, the actress who plays the grandmother does not seem to be in on the joke). Here's hoping they bust a bunch of virginity myths and it's not all just one long virgin/whore joke.

h/t to virginspotter Myra Batchelder

*What's the amazing America Ferrara up to these days? I loved her in one of my favorite films Real Women Have Curves, which has hilarious and awesome virginity loss and body image story lines.

Some depressing thoughts about evangelical men and purity pledges:

"The church, and the men that I interviewed, don’t believe that women would need a space to talk through these issues. They believe that men are highly sexual beings and they have "natural urges" that need to be controlled, but they don’t believe that women have that natural desire to be sexually active. Women are the providers of sexual activity for their husbands."

From "What Happens When Evangelical Virgin Men Get Married? This Secular Female Sociologist Found Out," and interview with sociologist Sarah Diefendorf at The New Republic.

While some evangelical churches encourage a pleasurable sex life for both partners, this one apparently does not. What a sad way to start a marriage, thinking your wife's duty is to become a sexual vessel to satisfy you and keep your beastly urges in check. Equally sad, Diefendorf reports that while the men have support groups of peers to deal with issues around masturbation, porn and masculinity prior to marriage, this support stops dead on their wedding day.

Women feel less guilty about losing their virginity, but is that the conversation we need to be having?

 

Image via Rise, Rebel, Resist tumblr

As someone who's been working for years to bust mythologies and change the conversation around virginity, I give a serious hooray for reducing guilt around first intercourse for women. Writing about a new study,  Salon reports in "Science: Losing your virginity isn’t as awkward as it was 20 years ago":

"According to a study from the University of Illinois, young adults have felt better and better about their first-time sexual experiences for the past 23 years, with the difference between men’s and women’s emotional responses to early sexual intercourse decreasing over time."

And this:

"The researchers discovered that gender differences in response to virginity loss diminished greatly over time, which they suspect might be “because of a reduction, in general, of social regulation of female sexuality and in the double standard” of sexual expression for each gender."

It's no surprise that women are feeling less guilt and shame around becoming sexual. They have more agency to choose how, when and why they'll become sexual. (Thank you, Feminism) Women know more than they ever did about their bodies and how to get pleasure from the experience (Thank you Scarleteen and the other fantastic online resources). And maybe, just maybe, the guys are paying more attention to women's pleasure as well. (Thank you again, Feminism).

But, as writer Jenny Kutner points out:

"It’s important to note, though, that men do still exhibit more positive responses and experience more pleasure than women — also because of the “reduction” in the policing of women’s bodies and not its complete obliteration."

Reduction, not obliteration, and I'd argue in the last 8 years, some significant increases. There's the $1.5 billion worth of inaccurate, sexist shaming  from Abstinence-Until Marriage programs, and the near constant stream of slut-shamingrape cases dismissed or hushed up, and legislative attacks on women's reproductive rights and resources. Young women are also facing more pressure to have sex (call it prude-shaming?) and then get a steaming pile of mixed messages like the always-popular 'be sexy but don't have sex."

Even comprehensive sex classes don't talk much about how both women and men can get pleasure from sex, or how to ask for and respect consent. A woman having pre-marital sex may be more acceptable than in the past, but so is having your own bank account and keeping your last name.

One thing that continues to be frustrating is using intercourse as the sexual benchmark for these studies. Why are we measuring the start of sexuality by a penis going into a vagina? First,  it's a heterosexual framework, leaving out a chunk of the sex-having population. But also, our V-Card Diaries story collection is full of young women writing that everything they did pre-intercourse was pleasurable, but intercourse itself was a let down.

No surprise: that's not how most women orgasm, especially when they're first starting to have sex. But the study insists on measuring women's pleasure by how much they enjoyed intercourse, and then they're actually surprised that it's so low. Please let's stop selling intercourse the big sexual prize for women and recognize there are lots of ways to have sex that don't involve a penis in a vagina. 

The progress is great, but we need to keep working to change the conversation about women, virginity and sex to one that's not only non-judgmental, but also recognizes diverse sexual experiences, and puts consent and pleasure at the top of the must-have list.

MagicWand

[Get more graphics and gifs here]

V-Card Diaries: Cheeky Charmer "I thought I had tempted my rapist by showing skin. I was eleven years old."

Today we're highlighting Cheeky Charmer in Pennsylvania. She blamed herself for a rape that happened at a young age based on teachings from a week-long Christian purity seminar. She now knows that her choice to have sex or not does not define her worth. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

I'm a 22-year-old female from Pennsylvania.

How I define virginity:

 It's a life long journey of finding identity through new experiences.

Here's my story:

I was raped. I don't say that to be pitied; save your flowers and sympathy for someone who needs them.  I say it so that you understand my story. When I was eleven I was innocently lying in bed and someone I trusted and loved dearly took away the part of me that I valued.

The week after it happened I attended a retreat called Pure Freedom; a seminar to help Christian girls seek out God through pledging abstinence. We were given assessments, books, and tests to measure how “modest” we were. The whole weekend was devoted to the new transformative meaning of that word “modesty.” We were informed how our clothing would appear to men. They told us that men cannot help themselves because they have the fight or flight system in their bodies that causes arousal by a woman who bears skin or wears tight clothing. The whole day was spent learning techniques on how to wear modest, God-approved clothing. We took tests on what we watch, what we say to men, and how we dress, and we were given clothing tricks to assist men in their journey to Godliness. We were responsible for men’s relationship with God based on how we carried ourselves.

The speaker stood in front of an audience of five hundred girls and told us that modesty wasn’t just about what you wear but how you carry yourself, how you talk to other men, and what you do with other men. We were told that God wanted us to wait until we were married based on what the Bible said. We were told not to be the “hoe of the universe” by engaging in sex before marriage.

The whole week I couldn’t help but think that I was what caused my rapist to attack me. This Pure Freedom was actually what felt like a prison; guilt swelled like a balloon about to burst. I realized that I had tempted my rapist. I was wearing only a bra and underwear that night and it was my fault. I remember thinking that God was punishing me for showing skin that night.  It was only natural for a man to see my skin and be aroused. The rape was entirely my fault, and God was punishing me for what I had done. I was eleven years old and I was carrying this burden for a decade.

After ten years of believing this myth, I made the conscious effort to take ownership of my sexuality; it never belonged to this organization that brainwashed me into thinking that my value was in my virginity, my clothing, and my future husband. My value does not have a scale that is virgin or slut. God loves me whether I have sex or not. I am not an object: I am a woman with the right to choose when, where, and who I have sex with. My sexuality cannot be bought by people who make young girls feel inadequate to sell a book and a T-shirt. I was raped and that doesn’t define who will love me. My virginity is mine and I define what it means; it does not define my value.

I Was A Dress Code Harlot

dresscode [Poster via thecatsmeow90]

Ah, dress codes. A week doesn't go by without news about sixth graders being condemned for wearing shorts or female reporters being kicked out of court rooms for going sleeveless or nursing students being told to cover up so as not to distract from the learning environment. Even though I'm already a rising junior at an art school and don't really have to worry about a specific dress code (except to look ~*~super fly~*~ of course), it’s still something I think about when I hear stories from my younger sister and her friends.

Looking back at my high school’s dress code, it's clear how sexist the rules were. Even though there was no specific reference to “female students,” the focus on cleavage, skirt lengths, and cami width was obviously gendered. Trans* girls had it even rougher; their dress code violations were for performing an “act that shocks social conscience,” or in other words, wearing skirts or dresses (exact phrase from the old handbook...sad, but true). Appallingly, my school’s handbook considered  repeat dress code violations of the same caliber as dealing drugs, bullying, and committing arson.

Photos of my "slutty" high school self

One of the biggest enforcers of this policy when I was in high school was my chemistry teacher. (Hi, Ms. Esselman!) Her favorite phrase: “modest is hottest.” I think she spent more time scouting for teen cleavage than bullying or drug use. Unfortunately, I was one of those teen cleavage offenders. Above are of some of the outfits that got me in trouble. It wasn’t always intentional, though; as a girl who, um, filled out at a pretty early age, sometimes the most basic boatneck t-shirt became slutty.

Throughout my time in high school I was forced to swap my shorts for sweatpants from the lost-and-found box, wear a sweatshirt to cover my shoulders and cleavage on a hot day, and adjust my bra straps so they weren’t showing. It was incredibly humiliating to be called out for dress code, particularly because it demonstrated that your teachers were looking at you “that way,” and so each day I crossed my fingers before class that I would go unnoticed. Kind of hard when you’re trying to actively participate in the classroom, though.

Speaking up is an important way to be involved, demonstrate that you’re smart, and interact with the class material, but it’s also a good way for a teacher to notice that you’re wearing shorts because of the 90 degree weather outside. A lot of women in my class were forced to choose between speaking up in class and being called out for “immodest dress” or staying silent and potentially avoiding reprimand. Many people may wonder, “So why not fully cover yourself and avoid getting in trouble?” Well, we could always wear burqas, but then our scandalous ankles might show!

But here's the real issue with this line of thinking: It forces women to address a situation they are not in control of–namely, the way other people perceive and interact with their bodies–instead of addressing the origin of the issue itself. Female bodies are neither inherently sexual nor exist for guys to look at, exposed shoulders do not warrant disrespect, and the female body is not shameful.

Fortunately for my harlot self’s sake, Ms. Esselman took it easier on me once I finally wedged my way into her heart. I worked hard in class and stayed afterward to ask questions and participated often despite the threat of being sent to the office to change. Instead of shouting at me like she did with most of the other young women in the class, she just made a very excessive gesture at me to cover up. Still incredibly awkward, but much more bearable. She never learned that what she was doing was sexist, though; I think she allowed herself to see me as a person rather than as a sexual object, which made it easier to interact with me like like a human being. Some might think that was an improvement, but it still didn’t alter the current system in place.

There has been more backlash against school dress codes recently, but most schools aren't interested in altering their policies anytime soon. Going back to visit old teachers is still stressful. As I walk through my old halls, occasionally I’ll get a questioning up-and-down glance from an administrator, and I’ll attempt to telepathically convey, “Hello, yes, I am a grown-ass woman and no longer attend this school. Please do not stop me because I am having none of it.”

Think your dress code might be sexist? Here's a handy dandy guide to help you out.

Moriah is a student at RISD and a summer intern at Trixie Films. You can read more about her here.

All the Lonely People: The conversation we should be having about men and virginity

If you read this blog, you know how important issues like identity and community are to us, including those of self-identified older virgins. In light of the killings at UCSB, and the torrent of misogynist hate speech 22-year-old Elliot Rodger left behind, I think there is an important conversation to be had that includes men and virginity right now. But it's not the one about the poor sex-and-love-starved virgin male (And by the way, there are many 22-year-olds who haven't become sexually active yet) Many of his rants were made on behalf of "incels" (involuntary celibates) with whom he identified but also despised. Before this weekend, most people had never heard about the incel community, but I know there are incel-identified folks in our audience as well as contributors to The V-Card Diaries. I also know the original community is a welcoming female-inclusive space far removed from the hateful rhetoric of Rodger and his ilk. (Tracy Clark-Flory did a great story focusing on that community's hate speech so I won't link to them here).

I wrote a story for Nerve as a way of framing the conversation about men, virginity and shame. I think it's important to point out that many adult virgins of all genders (who don't want to be virgins) feel some shame or frustration about their situation. It's how they deal with it and who they blame for it that makes all the difference. I'm grateful to the members of the You're Not Alone incel board for their participation and assistance in this story, and to our intern Alexa Cucopulos for her amazing research.

Here's an excerpt of the story:

“In a society where sexuality is always in our faces, if you don’t have the tools or access, or aren’t comfortable establishing intimacy it’s going to isolate you from social environments,” explains Dr. Burgess. “You don’t want to talk to your family or friends for fear of being teased or ostracized, and that’s why these incel groups have become especially valuable.”

So, why did the misogynistic groups proliferate, leaving the more introspective and female-friendly groups like You’re Not Alone, and other sites like the sub-reddits Forever Alone and Forever Alone Women, feeling like outliers?

Society still defines sex by intercourse and ejaculation, and masculinity by the tally of those sexual conquests. Men who buy into this mythology end up feeling both entitled to it, and frustrated at not getting their due. When they can’t fulfill their expected masculine roles, they blame women for not giving them what they think they deserve, instead of examining themselves and the mythology they were raised with [...]

I can only speculate that these men already had misogynistic and entitled ideas about the women they felt they were owed, and began to take advantage of the growing echo chamber and megaphone of the Internet, looking for kinship in spaces that reflected their attitudes back at them"

Please read the full story and leave your comments here.

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Pervy prom dads, more Purity TV, Sex lies for guys,and 7 penises in my soda

   IMG_20140510_190019-768x1024 You may have already seen this amazing post from a teenager named Clare popping up everywhere online. It's powerful not just because the story she tells is so hideously sexist, but because more and more, young people are standing up and calling bullshit on Purity Police attacks on their bodies, freedom and moral value.

Fabulous home-schooled teen Clare tells the world about getting kicked out of her prom for wearing a too-short dress (at left, even though it adhered to the prom's dress code) and dancing provocatively (even though she wasn't even dancing). And she is pretty clear on what the problem really was.

"We were also a little grossed out by all the dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves. We weren’t dancing, but swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves, when Mrs. D again approached me, and gestured me off the dance floor...and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts."

How many times have we heard this same old bullshit song: Girls are responsible for keeping guys from thinking impure thoughts. And guys are so 'visual' that they get driven mad by the sight of a girl's knees and just can't control themselves. And it's a girl's fault if guys are driven so mad by whatever the girl is supposedly doing or wearing, they rape them in a fit of clothing-induced sexual frenzy. We hear it every fucking day, when a woman is blamed for causing herself to get raped. Instead of policing everything women do because boys just can't control themselves, why don't we just blindfold the boys, or better yet lock them up at home. They're the ones who have control issues, not the girls.

Or as Clare so succinctly puts it:

"Goddamn I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager."

Seriously, read the whole thing here!

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Ah, Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs, spreading bad logic and shame since 1996.

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Actual Craig’s List ad from this week.

Are you Pure? Are you attending a Purity Ball?

Major television company is looking for families who are attending an upcoming Purity Ball. Whether it's your first or tenth time, we would love to hear your story and how you became involved in this powerful and life changing event.

Purity Balls certainly can be a life-changing event. At least according to the young women I meet at college screenings who are coping with being told how dirty and unlovable they are since they had sex. Ever been to a purity ball? Did it change your life?

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16 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Boys about Sex is the follow-up to Policy Mic’s post on the lies we teach girls. Both posts are good for all genders. This one covers penis size, virginity loss, circumcision, sex drives, who comes first and more.

Want to know what’s really creepy about Purity Balls? (Hint: It’s not the photos)

PurityMagnusson Do an internet search for the words 'creepy photos,' and you’ll likely be directed to Purity, Swedish photographer David Magnusson's haunting photo essay of fathers and daughters all dressed up for their Purity Balls. A Purity Ball, if you don't already know, is sort of a father/daughter prom, with the difference being that the girls pledge their virginity to their fathers for safekeeping, so it can be handed over to their husbands on their wedding day. They happen all over the country, although with a bit less frequency than the constant coverage might indicate.

Still, every time news of these events pop up, in photos, or on a recent episode of Nightline on ABC, the non-Purity-Ball-going readership responds with a collective shudder, most often invoking the word 'incestuous' in headlines and comments. Looking at Magnusson's photos, (or my own film) I can see how people may come to that conclusion, but ask one of the dads in the photo and he'll just tell you that you have a really dirty mind and the Balls are beautiful events. Wherever you stand on this issue, getting all weirded out by the images is just a distraction from the truly creepy aspects of events like this (and the culture behind them):

Purity Balls are an invention of the evangelical Christian movement which believes that men should have control over women's bodies and sexual choices. Girls as young as 7 or 8 ritually invoke their father, their future husband and their God during these ceremonies–three male authorities tasked with policing her sex life.

Purity Balls are a throwback to when women were property and unmarried daughters without their virginity were damaged goods no one wanted to buy. The idea of a woman's 'most precious gift' comes from the understanding that she is the gift, valuable as long as she's still wrapped in her original packaging.

Purity Balls focus on female sexuality exclusively. There is no male equivalent of purity balls because young men are sent different messages and held to different standards. Integrity Balls, which are relatively rare, are events for mothers and sons, but the prevailing message for young men is that they shouldn't have sex before marriage because they will ruin a girl's value for her future husband.

Purity Balls assume everyone is heterosexual and interested in marriage. The fact that queer people exist, with their own definition of what constitutes sex or virginity, and their own ideas of who they might want to have sex with or marry, is never discussed or even acknowledged.

Purity Balls are intimately tied to Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs which provide no real sex education, but instead teach that sex before marriage will cause physiological and psychological harm, that contraception doesn't work, and that girls are responsible for controlling boys' sexual urges lest they be branded sluts. To stay a 'virgin,' a young women will often engage in far riskier activities like oral or anal sex, fulfilling the letter–if not the spirit–of their pledge. And since their abstinence classes don’t teach safer sex practices, they’re extremely vulnerable to STDs. These programs been proven ineffective by our own government, despite the fact that they are still being funded by our taxpayer dollars, at over $1.5 billion to date.

Purity Ball culture is enmeshed with political forces that oppose reproductive rights, supporting groups that are fighting to deny women birth control (or at the very least not have insurance cover it) as well as any access to safe and legal abortions. In fact, many Purity Balls are hosted by Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which use deceptive advertising and intake methods to prevent women's access to contraception and abortion. Google recently removed CPC ads that lie about providing abortions because of that deceptive advertising.

Purity Balls have a freak-show quality that distracts us from seeing the very same issues in our own back yards. Policing and controlling women’s bodies is not limited to a bunch of evangelicals, but turn up all over the cultural landscape, from limiting reproductive rights, to telling rape victims they asked for it, to slut-shaming women (but not men) for having too many partners.

Purity Ball reporting often ignores the dilemmas these young women are face. This culture’s core values embody damaging messages about women and sexuality (see above), but there's nothing inherently weird about having a warm relationship with your dad, or looking forward to a dress-up party with your sisters. As photographer Magnusson says:“it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful,” but when you're in the middle of this environment, it's may be very hard to step out of it and call bullshit, even if you find it confusing or unfair. As one woman recently said to me:

“Some of those girls are too young to even realize what they are doing. I made a vow like this when I was only 12 and it didn't quite go as planned. I was guilt-tripped and got really close to being hit when I broke that vow. Virginity doesn't define your worth and I absolutely hate how many girls buy into the lie that once you've lost it, you're basically used goods. I bought into it and went through some terrible times of anxiety and depression.”

At a recent university screening of my film, another young woman who grew up in this culture shared her story. She’s finally starting to get over feeling dirty and worthless because of sex, and the fact that she was ever made to feel this way is the creepiest thing of all.

V-Card Diaries: Mari "Intercourse triggered what I would later come to understand as a serious gender dysphoria episode."

Today we're highlighting Mari in Michigan, a queer trans woman who thinks virginity is an 'absolute bullshit notion' steeped in misogyny. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

I'm a 31, and a queer trans woman from Michigan.

How I define virginity:

I think virginity is an absolute bullshit notion steeped in misogynist notions of female purity and the Christian Right's fear and hatred of the notion of women enjoying sex and having control of their sexuality.

Here's my story:

The first time I had penetrative intercourse was at 17. I wasn't terribly interested in the idea, but I adored my girlfriend of the time, and she was really pressing for it. Eventually, a few weeks before the start of senior year, I gave in- afraid she'd break up with me if I didn't. Like so many teenage sexual experiences, it was clandestine: at her house, in a hurried hour while her parents and sisters were out.

It was over almost before I realized what was happening, and it triggered what I would later come to understand as a serious gender dysphoria episode. I went home and threw-up, then spent hours crying while my best friend held me. It took me years to understand why it felt so wrong.

Just The Tip: Virginity in the News with Broad City's Ilana Glazer, Purity creepiness, virginty auctioner revealed, sex myths, and campus rape stats

I've been asking people about this very thing for so many years now, and I've seen a lot of other people try it with mixed results. It's tough to get strangers to talk honestly about sex on camera, but Ilana is really sweet and funny and some of the stories are really touching. I shouldn't have been surprised given her other work, most lately Broad City, the show she created with Abbi Jacobson. It started as a web series about two young and underemployed women in NYC, and was picked up by Comedy Central, with Amy Poehler Exec Producing! If you haven't sampled it yet, do it now.

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There's a photo series all over the internet right now by Swedish photographer David Magnusson called Purity. Everyone is freaking out about how creepy they are. So, yes, purity ball photos can sometimes look incestuous, but know why they're really creepy? They represent a culture where men own these girls' sexuality, purity balls fund CPCs, and their freak-show quality distracts us from all the sexuality bs happening in the rest of the world. Yes, I'm writing about it, so stay tuned.

PS Judy actually spotted this project last year and loved it so much she used it as part of her story "How I went from Purity Pledger to Queer Radical Feminist, thanks to two years of ‘Cotillion’ Classes." Above is the image we used (our favorite) which for some reason they're not including in the galleries online.

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Juliana at Feministing wrote a lovely piece on our film and we especially loved the fact that she watched it with her little sis! Here are two excerpts that meant a lot to us, because they spoke to our goals for the film:

I have a little sister and, like any good feminist, I spend a lot of time making sure that she knows that her worth extends beyond her beauty, her body, and her sexuality. As she is still a teenager, a big topic in her life and that of her peers lately has been virginity. Personally, I don’t think that my sexuality or “virginity” is an object to lose, or give away, and I don’t want her to think that either. That’s why I was so excited to watch How to Lose Your Virginity with her...

..In spite of the fascinating and telling historical context, the true triumph of How to Lose Your Virginity is in how relatable it is. The first time I had sex, I was surprised at how anti-climactic the whole thing was. Watching this film, it was touching to see my experience mirrored back at me."

I think we need to start a See It With Your Sister campaign, pronto!

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3adb6ae4af129bdcbd30348211f44554Over at Policy Mic, we got another shout-out in a story called 17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex, with tackles everything from virginity and hymen myths to period sex to women who watch porn (and illustrated by Ms Ilana Glazer) It warms my mythbusting heart that this exists, so I was pretty shocked at the vehemence with with people were challenging it in the comments.

One of the biggest points of contention was myth #1 "Virginity exists" and hoo boy did people have problems with that one! There were several comments to the effect of 'virginity does too exist and it's real and everyone knows what it is.' Well, everyone does NOT know what it is, and in fact the lack of any concrete definition is what's confused and terrorized women forever (the simple fact that many women don't bleed on penetration has done untold damage)

But for the record, we do think virginity exists, just not in the 'one-magic-moment-when-the-penis-goes-into-the-vagina" way. It exists in many forms, with each new experience and new partner. What doesn't and shouldn't exist is one specific virginity that's used to categorize, judge and police people (mostly women) based on their sexual choices. That's bullshit. And truth be told, that's pretty much what Policy Mic was saying as well, it's just that heading that got people so out of joint.

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Jaclyn Friedman wrote a rather chilling but important article on a new way to select colleges– check the campus rape statistics:

Those precious few who ask at all tend to check a school's reporting numbers, assuming that a low rate of rapes reported on a campus is a good sign. But most of the time the reverse is true: every campus has a rape problem – the ones where students feel comfortable reporting are actually safer campuses.

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Virginity auctioneer Elizabeth Raine, who I wrote about here and here, has decided to show people what she looks like. She was initially concerned about getting kicked out of her med school if people found out who she was, but now says: "I actually didn't like the anonymity. People mistake it for shame." Her top official bid is $550,000 and her auction ends May 7th.You can see more photos and learn more about her at her site.

I really enjoyed deconstructing virginity myths with Liz in our Nerve.com interview, and I hope this whole process doesn't fuck her up. I don't mean because of the sex (although I hope that goes OK as well), but because of the crude attention and News of the Weird nature of virginity auctions.

 

Found some Virginity in the News? Be a Just The Tipster and let us know! Email us, or post to twitter with @virginitymovie in your message.

 

Ask Trixie: How can I make my future husband believe I'm a virgin?

I had sex about 3 years ago and it was only one time and I was 15 years old. I bled a lot and it hurt like 3 days. What will I do to make my future husband to believe I'm a virgin? Do I need to see a doctor to check if I need a surgery or can I just fake blood? I cant sleep at night because I'm scared just thinking about it all the time. –W.

Hi W. –

I’m so sorry you are going through this.

The first and most important thing to know is that no one can prove or show that someone has had intercourse or is not a virgin by any definition. A doctor can’t look at you and tell anything, and many women never bleed, even the first time they have intercourse. These are the facts, no matter what you have been taught. So if a future husband is looking for some kind of proof of virginity, it doesn’t exist. It would be very possible and common to have intercourse for the very first time and never bleed at all (This is how it happened for me, and I’m sure many of the women you know). For more detailed information, you can read my post about bleeding, virginity and hymen surgery here, but I'll discuss some of it here as well.

I will assume by your questions that you live within a culture that puts a high value on virginity for women. While many people claim this kind of thinking protects you and celebrates your purity, it really is a lot more aboutcontrolling your body and telling you what you can and can’t do with it. The idea that you have less value if you’ve had sex is false, unfair and dangerous, especially because I’m betting there isn’t the same requirement for the men. Our favorite sex ed website Scarleteen has received many letters from women in your situation, and also from men who demand ways to prove virginity, and Scarleteen wrote a really good post about virginity and women's bodies.

Finally, the RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) is combating myths about the hymen and virginity and created a PDF book you can download. It includes information about hymen 'reconstruction' which is the surgery you are referring to. Some women are so afraid of not bleeding, that they have this done even if they have never had sex. As RSFU writes, surgery rarely solves any problems, firstly because outcomes vary, and secondly because it helps to maintain a prejudiced view of women and their sexuality.

This may not always be possible, but if there is a female relative or a doctor you can speak to, you can share with them the information I've linked to above and talk through your concerns. It helps to have someone nearby who is there to listen and help.

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here

V-Card Diaries: Miss Wrong "He continuously texted me saying if I was pregnant, I would be ruining his life."

Today we're highlighting Miss Wrong in Jerome, Idaho, who regrets that she had sex for the first time with a guy who turned out to be a horrible jerk. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

Hello, I'm a female. Currently 16 almost, 17. From Jerome, Idaho.

How I define virginity:

A virgin is a young woman characterized by absence of sexual experience.

Here's my story:

My parents have always told me and my brothers that virginity is like a treasure. Boys will do whatever they can to get to the treasure. My mom always said to take very good care of it. Because once it's gone, it's gone. And there won't be a way to go back. She tells us to wait till marriage because that's how God wants it. I always understood and wanted to save my v-card till marriage.

Until I met a guy named Miguel. He came into my life so suddenly. Within months I was in love with him. We went on dates, and he was so respectful. Let's just say, he was perfect! I wanted him to be my first. I remember saying "He's the one, I know it." Little did I know I was so wrong. He did end up being my first. But he was a complete jerk to me right after that had happened. He texted me the morning after saying he didn't want anything to do with me anymore. My heart was shattered! I cried for days, then months. Nothing could give me back my treasure! I hated myself for being so stupid. How could I have been so dumb, I thought.

A month later I realized I had missed my period. I decided to text him. Another wrong decision on my part. I told him about my missed period, and said I could be pregnant. He started texting me the worst, telling me he didn't love me, and that he didn't want me to be the mother of his kids. It made me feel even more worse. A week later he texted me asking if I had received my period, and nothing. He then decided to buy the morning after pill, or plan B pill. I denied to take it. But he continuously texted me saying if I was pregnant and continued to be I would be ruining his life. After so many texts I was done. I told him to bring it to me. I took it and it was all over.

Until this day I regret not listening to my mom. I wish I would've waited till marriage. I now have a boyfriend and he knows about my past and we do not have sex. I'm waiting till marriage. I think I should've the first time. I just want to let all you other young girls know that it may seem right at the moment, but afterwards it's the worst feeling ever. Don't get pressured by all those girls having sex. Save the v-card till marriage! Be that unicorn in this world! I promise you won't regret it!

Just The Tip! Virginity in the News about lab-grown vaginas, more rape culture, selling virgins, dirty toothbrushes and something funny.

lab-rezSo, this is cool: Scientists are growing vaginas in a lab made from patients' vulvar tissue. This is a big deal for women with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus either underdevelop or fail to develop at all. It's so far been tested on four teenagers, ages 13 to 18 at the time of their surgery, and all are now reporting full function and good sexual sensation. Although the article doesn't mention it, I wonder how this could work for trans women,  who would presumably need to get donated starter cells. Cory Silverberg explains some of the fascinating science here.

I was particularly interested in this because of a really great V-Card Diaries submission we received a while back from Erinn, who has MRKH, and wrote about rethinking her definition of virginity loss if she had no vagina.

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AURape

Rape Culture grows right out of Virginity Culture, which gives women no sexual autonomy, sees their bodies as the property of men, but also tells them they are responsible for any sexual activity directed at them, including sexual assault.

The latest Rape Culture scandal erupted at American University with the release of emails between member of psuedo-frat Epsilon Iota. Click through for some of the 70 conversations reported by Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel, but please consider it completely covered with trigger warnings. The unrelenting tidal wave of casual talk about raping 'bitches' at our colleges is sickening and overwhelming. What the f**k is wrong with these guys????

It's hard to be a dedicated rape-culture denier when shit like this pops up on such a regular basis. And yet they're out full force telling The Fratergate AU that they're picking on poor innocent frat boys. The curators of this blog are trying to force AU to deal with the situation and take disciplinary action against the frat. They're doing a good job remaining calm in the face of all the frat-boys-will-be-frat-boys commentary.

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Cambodia - Selling daughter's virginity

In other depressing news (with more trigger warnings), Cambodia's 'Virginity' trade is what happens when extreme poverty, male power and myths about virgins collide. Marie Claire wrote about the deeply disturbing reality of parents selling their young daughters to brothels due to economic hardship, something happening all over Asia.

"The virgin trade thrives partly due to a cultural myth. "Many older Asian men believe sex with virgins gives them magical powers to stay young and prevent illness," she explains. "There is an endless number of destitute families for the trade to prey on, and the rule of law is very weak." Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and the buying and selling of sex are illegal in Cambodia. However, because of official corruption and substandard police resources, no one has ever been convicted of purchasing virgins in Cambodia's courts."

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The Atlantic wrote a story about later-life virginity loss. I'm glad 'older virginity' is being discussed, but it still focused too much on one P-in-V moment instead of a pretty long and diverse process of becoming sexual. Not counting anything before intercourse is really narrow, especially because it's not the way lots of people have sex. But it's so hard to change deeply-ingrained ideas about what 'counts.' Also most of the subjects were religious, furthering that older-virgin myth as well.

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What do Peppermint Patties have to do with abstinence?In our film, Shelby Knox talks about her pastor's abstinence classes and being told having sex before marriage makes you a dirty toothbrush (prospective husbands supposedly wanting their toothbrushes, and vaginas, sealed in their orginial packaging.) Amanda Hess writes about the flawed internal logic of this handy Abstinence Parlor Trick of comparing a girl's sexuality to all sorts of chewed-up things:

Passing around a piece of chocolate is an evocative image, but it doesn’t ultimately make much sense as a sexual metaphor. Sure, nobody wants to eat a dirty piece of candy, but why is anyone passing around an unwrapped chocolate anyway? You just eat it, and then it’s gone, so I’m not sure what the problem is.

And clean toothbrushes are great, but do you really want to use that same toothbrush for the rest of your life? Doctors recommend replacing it every three to four months. And about that pristine stick of gum we keep hearing about: If having sex with a woman leaves her like a chewed-up gob of polymer, why would you ever want to have sex with a woman more than one time, ever? Much less marry her? Marriage sounds disgusting!

Sexist, unscientific and scare-mongering curriculums of this kind have been adopted by 60% of Mississippi schools.

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For some much-needed comic relief and palate-cleansing, watch this really funny monologue by Julia Sweeney about talking to her young daughter about sex.