Saturday, November 1, 2008

Virgin in a Black Leather Jacket

While in NYC, I saw something that I've never seen before-- the New York-centric portions of the Sunday New York Times. I found this article, called "Big Smirk on Campus", about a college that was considering starting a club for virgins. Yeah. Club for virgins.

As you may know, I'm not crazy about the word "virgin". Even if we tried, I doubt we could ever divorce it from its strong connotations of religiosity and morality. Even though (I would like to think) I possess these things, they have nothing to do with my lack of sexual experience. I'm sure the same is true for many sexual people of a certain age who haven't had sex as well. In my ideal world, virginity would not be so important that it would necessitate its own label. Even so, it bothered me that this article didn't take the proposed virginity club seriously, even though the school paper's editor called it “the biggest story we broke all semester,”. But what bothered me much more than that was the implication (at least, in my reading) that a guy with a leather jacket and a cigarette, obvious signifiers of "cool" for the author, couldn't possibly be a virgin. He couldn't even be virgin-friendly. It begs the questions: How are the college-aged virgins styling themselves these days? Sweater sets? White robes? Well, there's always that asexual guy from Shortland Street who rocked the "Extra Virgin" t-shirt. ("It's not what you think it is!" Smirk! Wink!)

Anyway, the idea that virgins are somehow identifiable isn't unique. I can't find it anymore, but OkCupid once had a "Virgin Game" where you were shown pictures of different users and had to guess who was a virgin. For the record, I tried it and got a fairly low score. Maybe if there was a different word for "virgin", one that had less baggage, the idea that people could somehow "tell" would be less scary. (Right up there with actually being one.) Last night, thinking of this topic, I tried to spot out virgins on the train I was riding. As you might expect, it was an impossible task. Virgins are among us, and they look just like you and me! The horror!


Anonymous said...

The idea of the cool virgin seems simultaneously awesome and dangerous to me. It's awesome when it's people who self-identify as virgins realizing they have every right to be/ dress cool. But it's dangerous once it becomes a commodity marketed, the way clothes are marketed, to police people's choices. I know someone who's doing her dissertation on purity balls, and that's what this reminds me of: the attempt to push people into committing to abstain from sexuality in a very concrete, externally enforced way.

For instance, all organizations at my school are supposed to provide a way for students to leave the organization (for officers to step down and members to quit, etc.) I can see that process being highly dramatic in a chastity club at a religious school. Do you have to drop out when you're no longer a virgin? Who decides who's allowed to join? What happens when someone says they're a virgin and joins the club, and someone else insists they're not? Who defines virginity?

Basically, I hate the word virgin, too. It's a socially constructed concept based on whether or not a person has engaged in "sexual activity" (whatever that means). But I think the idea of a virginity club *is* ridiculous, moreso than the idea of, say, an abstinence club, which at least refers to a tangible decision, rather than something as murky as "virginity." That said, even an abstinence club would bother me. I think people deserve support in their choices -- sexual and otherwise -- but I worry that dynamics within a group like that and between that group and the rest of a campus would be a bit of a mess.

I guess what I'm saying is, as much as I'd like to take it seriously, this is a far stretch from an asexuality club, for instance. From my perspective, "asexual" is an identifier. "Virgin" is a fantasy.

Ily said...

You're right, that's why the club doesn't actually exist-- no one can figure out the logistics of it. Some schools do have abstinence clubs, though, which I have to agree sound a little odd. But then again, I don't know what it would be like to be sexual and attempting abstinence. If a club composed of virgins had existed at my college, I don't think I would have joined it, since I can't imagine such a group, in our cultural climate, consisting of many other people besides those who are abstinent for religious reasons (not like there's anything fundamentally wrong with that, but I wouldn't fit in). But even if that wasn't the case, the concept of "virginity" isn't something I'm jazzed about promoting. Because of what you said-- the concept is so tied to these strange things like purity balls. I remember, long before I discovered asexuality, reading an article on a woman who was an "accidental virgin", and that did make me feel that there were other people "like me", who thought they had more interesting things to do than pursue sex. I remember feeling very relieved when I read that-- I think I'll have to try to dig it up for a future post...

The Impossible K said...

Oh, are you referring to this test?
I played it before and I got a low score too. Although I don't think I'm as against the term "virgin" as you an Willendork, I do have a problem with people assuming religion or morality is the root of it. Like you said, it has nothing to do with my lack of sexual experience. Even the suggestion bothers me- it's just another way of saying I'm repressed, isn't it? If anything, I've spent most my life repressing my asexuality by going on dates and acting "straight"- whatever that means... :P

azzura said...

Oh, happiness. I have no idea how I stumbled across your blog, but I'm so glad I did... It makes me gloriously happy that you wrote about this.