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America's Relationship with Sex a.k.a. Slut-Shaming or Virgin-Shaming

America's Relationship with Sex a.k.a. Slut-Shaming or Virgin-Shaming

     Whether it’s through the people around us or through the media, we, as women, are constantly given conflicting pressures about whether to have or to not have sex. And sometimes it seems like no matter what we do with our bodies, someone will always be there to criticize us. 

     Slut-shaming is the act of making a person feel inferior for their sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations. Virgin-shaming is the opposite. It’s the act of making a person feel inferior for not participating in sexual behaviors. And both acts of shaming are prevalent in our American society (and around the world). But no matter how you were raised, it’s hard to ignore that there are deep pockets of the US which are strict and religious, educating their youth with impassioned sermons about abstinence. And regardless of the part of the US you live in, it’s hard to deny that the US advertises with sex every way they can. 

     Disclaimer: I was raised by Middle Eastern parents in the Bible Belt of America, so my view might be different from where you live. Being raised by immigrant parents made the concept of premarital sex a big no-no. And from my pool of friends, I’ve noticed that most people who experience shame for being sexually active are first-generation Americans. So, I can relate to how family culture can make you feel like you shouldn’t have sex. My upbringing led me to believe as a kid that babies were made if people just hug in bed. My high school didn’t have a sex education class, instead, we were given one brief chapter about sex in my required health course. I’ve had more talks about HIVs/AIDs in my middle school than talks about safe sex in my high school. 

     It feels like many people in Southern USA are telling you not to have sex. Your church, temple, or mosque might say premarital sex is a sin. While checking up on their daughters, dads can’t help but ask, “You’re not doing anything else with your boyfriend, right?” Or if you have Middle Eastern parents it’s more like, “You don’t have a boyfriend, right?” 

     Not to mention our school system teaches us the best form of sex is to not have sex at all. “Abstinence is the best contraceptive.” Best? Best implies that you’ve been given information about other options (teaching kids how to put a condom on a banana doesn’t count as a full sex-ed course). But I, personally, had to figure those other options out on my own, without my sorry excuse for a sex-ed class, without my parents, and without a reliable source (regardless of how much I thought my friends knew more than me in high school). Some parents think that not speaking about sex protects their child from “the dangers of sex,” but it only makes them more vulnerable and less knowledgeable about their own bodies.

     The repressed system of shaming people who are sexually active may lead to:

  • Some girls making their parents cry when they want to go on the pill (if they choose to tell them at all). They’ll tell their daughter, “Don’t tell anyone you’re on the pill. Especially people in the family.” 
  • Married couples feeling ashamed to have sex. People can’t magically turn a switch in their brains and suddenly think sex is completely natural if society has been defining sex as shameful up until marriage. As a result, some people have a challenging time enjoying or even having the healthy sex life they wish they could have. 
  • Writing a woman off when she says she was sexually assaulted because, “Oh, she sleeps around. It was bound to happen to her.” 
  • People making sex into a technical sport, like girls who want to be a virgin until marriage so they do anal instead. Or some pre-marital couples who have done just about every sexual act other than penis-vagina penetration, and they will shame other couples who have done that.
  • A lack of our schools’ sex education. If society shames sex, then, of course, all our schools are going to teach us is abstinence is the answer. All I was taught were the technical terms of what works while tiptoeing around one of the biggest aspects of sex: pleasure. Why is sexual pleasure a shameful thing?

     It's damaging being told that something which is natural - is wrong and shameful. 

     On the other hand, a virgin feels the same kind of pressure, which is hard to believe if you live in the Bible Belt like me. But, it’s impossible to escape the pressure to have sex. Every song on the radio, every 5th post on Instagram, and every leading actress in a movie is oozing sex appeal. Your friends are bragging when they “get some” and every other sitcom ends with two bros high-fiving after they’ve succeeded in another conquest of the female body. So, it’s hard not to feel ashamed when you haven’t “lost your V-card.” Or at least feel like you should be quiet about it. Just laugh and nod whenever they start talking about their awkward sex stories, and hopefully, they won’t suspect a thing. 

     While the shame that goes with being sexually active usually comes from an older generation, religious beliefs, and the government, virgin shaming usually starts from the media, seeps into developing brains which results in a whole generation with a skewed view on the reality of sex.

     Maybe you haven’t found the right person. Maybe you really want to wait until the right time. Or maybe you don’t want to have sex ever. All those options are completely valid, but it can make virgins feel inferior and it leads to things like:

  • People having sex just to get it over with. 
  • A society that teaches men to use women as a form of currency to elevate their status and popularity. i.e. the more women you sleep with, the cooler you are. 
  • Women emasculating men when they find out they’re virgins, like, “Aww, that’s so cute!” or “Aww, you’re still a baby!” 
  • Some fraternities making it a requirement for its members to prove they aren’t a virgin to join. 

     It’s important to note that slut-shaming and virgin-shaming collide in our lives every day making us conflicted, especially as women. Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé telling women to embrace their sexuality and really give it to their men, and when a woman goes home from her hookup’s house the next morning, she's performing "the walk of shame".

     Where is the balance between slut-shaming and virgin shaming, and how do we find it to come to terms with natural sexuality? 

     If all you’re thinking about right now is whether the author of this post is a virgin or not, you’re missing the point.

     As a society, we have to stop worrying what everyone else is doing with their bodies. As long as it’s safe, then have as much sex as you want (notice I didn’t say consensual sex, because that goes without saying. Non-consensual sex isn’t sex at all. It’s rape). And if you don’t want to have sex or don’t feel ready yet, then that’s fine too. Everyone is going to try to tell you how to live your life, so make sure while you’re hearing all of society’s voices around you, you listen to your own voice and do what makes you most comfortable while staying safe.

by Sarah Haidar

Follow Sarah:

Instagram: @thewritinglion_official

Website: thewritinglionblog.wordpress.com

 

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