Written by Lorraine
“By any material reckoning, virginity does not exist. …We invented it. We developed it. We disseminated the idea throughout our cultures, religions, legal systems, bodies of art, and works of scientific knowledge”
Hanne Blank “Virgin: The Untouched History”
Growing up in New York City was tough enough being surrounded by millions of different souls who seem to know who they are, all while you’re slowly discovering yourself. In the process of finding who I was and my own sexual identity, I can still hear my mom, dad, older sister, grandmother, and even my aunties telling me “Boys only want you for one thing: sex”, “Wait until marriage before having sex”, and “You are worth more than what is between your legs”. From that, I always believed there was something pure, innocent, and respectable for being a virgin and holding to your virginity until you are absolutely ready.
Now, the societal pressure to have sex in the sex crazed country is the same for everyone. Exploring your sexuality is completely natural and should be a healthy experience, but sadly most outcomes and the effects of exploring your sexuality are terribly different between genders. When a man has sex for the first time, they instantly become the hot-shot man on campus and their social status among their peers rocket. We all remember American Pie.
Growing up, watching movies where the boys gawked over the known promiscuous girls in their schools and the virgin female character having a makeover in order to be popular SUCKED for my self-esteem. Especially when almost none of them were BLACK. Dionne from Clueless even considered herself a “half virgin” to keep her popular status and boyfriend! It boggled me how female virgins, like myself , are praised and idolized by their parents and loved ones for remaining “pure”, but are stigmatized by men who have misguided ideals about female beauty standards that is highly sexualized, especially for African American women.
My research study explored the historical and cultural construction of virginity, and analyzed the stigma of being a virgin and idealization people have about the social phenomenon of virginity. My study questioned what the problematic effect had on young African American women between the ages of 17-21 living in New York City, and furthered questioned what effect this has on their sexual behaviors and beliefs. I’ve found many interesting things I want to slowly unpack, reveal, explain, and have a open discussion about virginity, sexual exploration, abstinence, and dating in big cities!
Western culture has created a damaging pressure that impacts the lives of women. The idealization of the virgins further created a stigmatization against all women; virgins, non-virgins, “half-virgins”, women who are abstinent, women who are “sexually liberated”, black, white, and women of all colors affiliated under the sexual orientation rainbow. There’s so much pressure to being a young black woman in New York City. We are triumphant, beautiful, and spirited, just as we are hyper-sexualized, fetishized, and made trendy I had the opportunity to collect the stories of individual meanings of virginity, interpret its impact on individual lives and mold them creatively, but my writing is not done. As each woman shares her personal experience of love, sexuality, dating, abuse, racial discrimination, she uncovered the beauty of what it is to be a Black Madonna.
The Virgin Mary...or
an idealized, virtuous and beautiful woman