Written by Lorraine Bee
The Virgin Mary...
an idealized, virtuous and beautiful woman.
I was always told by my loved ones “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.”. I grew up believing there was something respectable about being a virgin, but as soon as I entered the dating world at the late age of 17 in New York City, I was branded a DUB, TEASE, and UNFUCKABLE literally. When growing up seeing portrayals of virgins in movies, I cringed at the failed attempts at love because no one wanted the girl who was a virgin and not having sex. We’re depicted as socially awkward, typically accessorized with big glasses, and sometimes highly religious. Even iconic Dionne in Clueless only considered herself a “technical” virgin because she has to keep her boyfriend “satisfied” with sexual acts other than intercourse.
In real life, as well as in movies, we know female virgins are supported by their parents for remaining “pure” but are stigmatized by young men who have misguided ideas about female beauty and sexuality. Like in American Pie, which highlights the urgency of high school boys to lose their virginity before college in order for them to become a ‘man’, that would NEVER happen for young women exploring their sexualities in high school. A young woman loses her virginity, and it’s the plot of EASY A, SLUTSHAME CITY, and chaos on a young woman’s high school experience, which can have destructive effects on one’s sexual self-discovery and their self- esteem.
Now the research I found about the stigma of being a female virgin while in college was baffling. What some men think about them in this “hookup” culture we live in by saying “[Virgins] — they’re no fun. Who wants a virgin? Like really? All that work.” truly made me feel a type of way about myself when writing my thesis because I’ve experienced the same dismissal from men while dating.
In a four-part series exploring UC Berkeley's "hookup culture", Shannon Najmabadi explored the debate with female students who expressed the same stigma-orientated belief, viewing indicating virginity as “prudishness or a lack of ability between the sheets.”. Another one student described an experience where she was dismissed and kicked out of the dorm room of a guy she was “hooking up” with after she revealed to him that she was a virgin and added “I think he said this to me verbatim: ‘I’m sorry but you’re just going to have to leave. It’s not you. In my personal experience, girls who are virgins — after they have sex with a guy — they tend to be really clingy and won’t leave him alone,’”. Despite the varying viewpoints and beliefs about virginity, the term "virgin" has become a negative label, and those who are identified as a virgin are stigmatized in certain contexts.
When I look back on the narratives of the Black Madonnas from my thesis, three of which were virgins at the time who and reflected on being ostracized in numerous contexts when engaging with friends and potential dates. One expressed “What am I missing?” when she would hear the stories (while taking notes for future reference *winkwink*) of her friends about and their sexual encounters. Another explained that in any situation most men assumed she was sexually active and were “shocked” but when she revealed she was a virgin making her feel self- conscious about her commitment to remaining abstinent until she finds the right person. Lastly, one of my favorite testimonies quite interestingly expressed she the last considers herself a “half-virgin” because she has engaged in oral and anal sex, further adding, “I am not ready to have full throttle sex,”, referring to penile-vaginal intercourse.
It was said by Hanne Blank in her acclaimed book Virgin that “By any material reckoning, virginity does not exist...We invented it”. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Despite knowing this, the phenomenon and social construct as we know it still has meaning in our society and effect on women, especially Black women. Continuing to write around this, will hopefully create a discussion to change how we talk about issues Black women deal with. Black Madonnas should be worshiped, cherished, appreciated, respected, not stigmatized.