talking about virginity with therese shechter of “how to lose your virginity!”


hey gURLs!

I love talking about virginity. The fact is that it’s so complex and has such an interesting “historical role in U.S. culture” with some serious”power to mold a gurl’s self-image and self-worth,” so how could I not? I’m not alone. I talked chastity and cherry-poppin’ with the documentary filmmaker Therese Shechter, who’s making a movie called “How To Lose Your Virginity.”

She, too, has an obsession with the myths and facts of virginity, and talks to everyone remotely in the sex field to get a full perspective of how virginity is viewed,kept and lost in America. That means abstinence advocates, hymen specialists, sex educators, porn producers and teenage gurls, all to “dig beneath the no-win double-message of our hook-up culture that cynically encourages virginity but sells promiscuity.” We decided to just sit down and chat, and she dishes on Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Britney Spears and how they are directly involved with how you view your virginity.

Therese: Let’s start with something simple like how do you define virginity. Which actually isn’t at all simple, so never mind.

Me: I defined virginity in previous posts on gURL (“The gURL Guide To Virginity Through History“), and there’s so little consensus on the definition of sex that it’s surprising that anyone attributes any significance to their “purity.” There are a lot of people who still think (incorrectly) that you can “test” for a girl’s virginity. But guys just don’t have the same anatomy, so they don’t have to deal with the same crap.

Therese: Right. Checking the condition of someone’s hymen gives you as much information about someone’s sex life as checking the tip of someone’s penis. None. Why is it that guys and gURLs are judged differently for the same behavior?

I think the even more interesting thing is that girls are fetishized. Male sexuality isn’t commodified in the same way.

| Is 13 too young to lose your virginity? Tell us here. |

It’s true. We talk about giving away your “precious gift,” like your virgin status is really all you have to offer someone. When Taylor Swift sings in her song “Fifteen” that her

"fifteen" wasn't about taylor's bff, selena!

friend ‘gave everything she had’ to a boy, it means she gave him her virginity, doesn’t it? And it ended badly because, well, if all you have is your virginity, then you’re left kinda worthless.That was EVERYTHING SHE HAD! Really, she has nothing else of value to offer this world? Like being a kind person or being good at math, or being able to run really fast? There are a lot of very excellent reasons to wait to have sex, but the fact that your virginity is the only thing of value you have to offer the world is NOT one of them. (I collect first-person stories about people’s “first time” on The American Virgin, the blog for the documentary.)

It’s interesting that you never hear boys lamenting about how they lost it to the wrong person. Male virginity loss is celebrated in our culture as a rite of passage — look at American Pie, The Virginity Hit, and all the other movies devoted to teenage boys trying to have sex for the first time. Why is there such a double standard, and what are some of the ways this affects gURLs?

| Do you think Miley dresses too sexy for 17? Tell us here! |

We’re doing things like dressing and acting a certain way because we think it’ll impress guys and help us fit into this world we didn’t make. Instead of really thinking about

it's time to demolish double standards!

what we want. And how we want to live in this world. And if we’re talking about sex, that covers so many issues we deal with! Like feeling like you HAVE TO have sex with your boyfriend, even if you don’t feel ready, so he doesn’t break up with you. Or the opposite which is you want to experiment with sex, but you’ll get called a slut all overschool if someone finds out, even if the guy you did it with is considered a stud for doing the same thing. So can we step out of that no-win situation?

I think the solution might be to stop proclaiming one type of the lifestyle or sexuality as “The Way” to love/personal fulfillment. Obviously neither scenario you propose ideal. And in both situations, women don’t have any control over sex. There’s so much external pressure, how do you do any internal reflection on what you actually want? And for young celebs growing up in the spotlight and selling albums or movie tickets with their brand power, it’s an even more high pressure situation.

I often wonder about the way Miley went from sweet young role model to making videos that some people consider way too sexual. Is she an artist experimenting with her identity, or did one of her managers decide she would sell more records if she dropped her good-girl image and became a lot more provocative? On one hand, gURLs are told to be ‘good’ and stay pure, but on the other, to also look super hot like they’re always ready for sex.

Britney Spears did it with great success. It wouldn’t be the first or last time a “good girl” went “bad.” But this kind of rebellion seems really manufactured, doesn’t it? It’s not particularly revolutionary to be sliding up and down stripper poles, after all. Now, if she started cross-dressing or doing something that’s actually transgressive, that’d be a different story…

Stripper poles
? Not revolutionary. Turning yourself into an object for guys to look at? Not revolutionary. Letting someone else tell you what sexy means? Not revolutionary.

So why do we see the same boring images all the time?

Because we want to feel attractive, get the attention of people we’re interested in. And sometimes it feels like the easiest way to do that is what we see girls doing on TV or in videos. But turning yourself into a stripper is basically saying ‘All I have to offer is my body. My smart thoughts and serious feelings and dumb jokes and awesome skateboard moves (or whatever) aren’t really worth anything.”

But of course, completely desexualizing ourselves and putting on chastity belts isn’t the answer either. Not if we do it because we’re told that no man will want to be our husband otherwise.

Whether I’m valuable because I put out, or valuable because I’ve pledged not to, my value is still all about sex. But if the ONLY way to get a guy’s attention is through sex, he’s not really the guy I want to hang with.

And I think THAT just about sums it up! Now, we need to hear from you!

Do you determine your value by your sexual status? Whether you’re a virgin or not, is that something that holds high value to you? Does it hold too high of value? Not enough?

Let’s talk.

And don’t forget to send me your questions on virginity, your health, relationships, whatever!


more ways to get gURLy:

Posted in: Discuss, Health, Sex & Relationships, Virginity
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  • Pingback: Are Kids Waiting Longer to Have Sex? « Moms in Babeland()

  • elle

    Just posting the comments from this topic at the chicktionary


    Sarastanstar [Moderator] 4 days ago

    I wonder about that Taylor Swift song.. if only because, when I heard it I wasn't sure if she was talking about her friend's virginity. The girl that she's singing about (her best friend) is actually in the video, and since country has such a strong christian base, I wonder if she had meant that, if the girl would have allowed her to sing about it.

    Not that has anything to do with the rest of the article

    flickeringICE [Moderator] 3 days ago in reply to Sarastanstar

    This bugs me too, I remember Sady Doyle making the same assumption in her post about the video for this song and I was like, eh, I don't know…I feel like I've heard the "gave everything I had" line a million times in pop songs and thought it was a little more encompassing than "in the bedroom."

    In the video it almost looks like he breaks up with her because she won't have sex with him.

    Of course, it doesn't really matter what she *meant* so much as what everyone *thinks* she meant.

    • Lena Chen

      Given that it's her song, Taylor's really the only one who can say whether the song is about losing one's virginity. But regardless, the sentiment that virginity is a measure of a woman's value is a pretty common one and not limited to a pop song. Perhaps Taylor didn't mean that virginity was "everything" that her friend had; that doesn't change the fact that a lot of individuals — including church leaders and health educators who work with young people — express this thought everyday. In the long-run, that's probably much more damaging than anything you hear on the radio.