The Virgin Diaries: The Sexiness of Abstinence

twilight_vampire_kissOur contributor Katherine Chen, a sophomore English major at Princeton University (check out her personal site here), is penning a series of confessions for EMandLO.com collectively called “The Virgin Diaries.” Here’s her third installment:

These days, every girl between 10 and 50 seems to be obsessed with the Twilight Saga. You’d think it was because a story about an intense love triangle between a teenage girl, a vampire supermodel, and a buff werewolf must have a ton of great animalistic sex in it, right? Wrong. Stephanie Meyer’s four-part story seems to appeal to millions of readers and moviegoers precisely because it doesn’t have any illicit sex in it.

Some movie critics have argued that “Twilight” is the latest form of abstinence-only education — after all, it’s not that Bella and Edward are incapable of having sex; they choose not to until they are married. But there’s no denying that by delaying their gratification they make the moment of their first union so much more meaningful and, yes, special. And that aspect of “Twilight” reflects my own views about virginity and abstinence.

Now before anyone classifies me as a Twihard who dreams about being Bella Swan at night, I just want to set the record straight regarding my feelings about the Twilight Saga: Hate vampires. Hate werewolves. Hate the whole damsel in distress business. And I am not a fan of androgynous good looks. Got it? Okay, we’re moving on.

Virginity has always been a very significant part of who I am. I can’t deny my mother certainly influenced my perspective on sex: she raved about how all my female classmates were sluts and whores just for going out with a boy on Saturday night. But I’ve also had two friends get pregnant and then undergo abortions before they turned 18. The pain and agony they went through by taking a chance on someone they hoped was Mr. Right (who turned out to be Mr. Wrong) did not seem worth it at all. One turned into a total recluse, to the point where her parents were forced to take her out of school. She told me later on that even though she was ashamed of what she had done, it was the gossip and accusations being made at school that truly got to her. My other friend attempted suicide a few times and eventually landed in a hospital after her family threatened to disown her. At one time, these two were the most vibrant, funny, and energetic human beings I knew.

Studies have shown (see here and here) that when women don’t receive the relationship they anticipated after losing their virginity, they feel like their sexual power has been taken away from them. Of course, there is also the emotional and spiritual devastation that comes with feeling deceived, even if that was not the intention of the other party. I believe good sex isn’t just about physical reciprocation, but emotional reciprocation — and that’s not something you can get with a fling or someone as emotionally immature as a student in high school or in college. It may not even be something you can get before the kind of commitment that comes with marriage.

Despite my fairly old school views, I don’t think virginity should be viewed as a treasure, much less a curse or a stigma. The fact that female virginity is so prized among certain (if not all) cultures confirms that women are still viewed as sex objects. I’m not down with that. Nor do I think losing one’s virginity should be considered an automatic rite of passage for young people, like attaining one’s first driver’s license or graduating from high school. When the situation and circumstances are genuinely right, it can happen quite naturally and in its own sweet time, but until then you should have the right to protect your feelings and your body without undergoing external pressures to conform to any arbitrary sexual standards — whether that’s doing it before you hit a certain age to avoid being seen as a freak or not doing it until you get married because of some religious ideology.

Virginity is a one-time thing. You lose it, and you won’t be able to get it back. Stephanie Meyers knows this, which is why it took her four books to get Bella and Edward in bed. Why rush something so sweet? It’s more exciting and ultimately satisfying to take the time to make sure the situation and the person are right for you. Or should I say, right for me.

Katherine Chen

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25 Comments on "The Virgin Diaries: The Sexiness of Abstinence"

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Pushing 30…still a virgin. I have a great job, close with my family, not a social reject and no one is the wiser. I think there is a bit of shame still associated with it, but all in all life is good. Great article.

In responce to audity’s post, different countries have different expectations and social norms for women and men. I’m from Maine where they were the first state to give out birth control to middle school students. I personally believe that it was a great decision because the average age for girls to start having sex is 13, and boys 14, which would be when they are in middle school. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I think oral sex and kissing is not regarded as the same, a kiss is intimate but oral sex is very personal but also reguarded… Read more »
hello, read the article and other comments. i am from an Asian country where virginity is highly esteemed and it is suggested that women must be virgin before wedding. But, tradition and modernity are now having tug of wars as women are getting higher education, coming to seek career and hence getting married in a much late age than their predecessors. So, complications are there. But, still what we try is to remain virgin although some of us might experience kiss or getting embraced. I myself has been kissed or embraced but never allowed anybody to have total physical union… Read more »
This has been a fascinating discussion to read. I love all these different POVs. I do still have issues with the term “lost” virginity. I personally think it’s gift you give someone not something you lose. I see sex itself as a gift you give yourself and another person. Yes, the first time is special but so are many other times you’ll have sex. Why is the focus only put on the first time? True, it can only be your first time once but there are lots of first in our lives. I don’t think any mother will tell you… Read more »

I’m glad I lost my virginity to someone special. I almost lost it to a real moron.

Madamoiselle L

Elizabeth said: “And that’s why I was upset, because I felt like you were attacking the idea that sex can be special and powerful.” Oh, wow, NO. I think sex is one of the most special, powerful, wonderful things one can do in one’s entire life!

I’m glad you understood where I was, though. The info about the concept of virginity not existing in societies were young women are not “sold” to a man is SO telling and so true! What movie was that where the guy goes, “How many cattle for your daughter?” Animal House?

Lisa M.

Yep, I def. read the article more like the way Elizabeth did. I can identify with the writer’s feelings. But like Madmoiselle L pointed out, she’s a virgin…so it’s a relatively limited and one-sided perspective. But no one is entitled to criticize the choices anyone makes about their sexuality because it’s their own body. And I agree with figleaf…she’s not pointing fingers at anyone else…she’s just explaining her own choices and the freedom she can exercise by making those choices for her own personal benefit.

That’s a really interesting factoid about virginity, by the way. Did not know that.