"Losing your virginity"
We all know I love to talk about words and their "hidden meanings". But I've never really talked about them as a group before. This post is all about words and phrases related to sexual and romantic comings-of-age, and the fact that they use such passive language. Here's a few things that this sort of language implies to me:
- Inevitablility. I don't know where or when, but it's pretty much certain that I will lose my favorite lip gloss. Apparently, your virginity is just as easy to misplace.
- On that note, effortlessness. None of the above concepts imply any work on our part. But if getting kissed is what you're after, sitting around with closed eyes and pursed lips won't do much for you.
- Lack of power. When love comes at you, you may be powerless to stop it. But when the same ideas apply to sex...we have a problem.
Maybe this all seems a little far-fetched. But welcome to my world of words. I've definitely seen these concepts of passivity operating in my own life. When I was younger, I wanted to have a boyfriend. Maybe I could have if I tried, but I never did. I expended no effort on that front whatsoever, sure that it only required being in the right place at the right time. Maybe my lack of attraction to people was a factor. But the idea that romantic relationships were something that you had to pursue never even occured to me. (Even as I knew full well that I needed to pursue friendships.) Until I identified as asexual and started thinking critically about this stuff, I had no empowerment when it came to sex and relationships. Like their language implies, I thought they were things that just happened, far from my control. I'm not saying that you have to question your sexuality in order to be empowered. But if asexuality had never forced me to think differently, I'd probably have the same ideas of sex and romance that I did as a teen.
I'd like to know how these words came to be the way they are. I know that "falling in love", for one, is a "largely Western concept". Are we so wound-up from our Protestant work ethic that we feel the need to hang back and not work so hard on our love lives? Or maybe if we used less euphemistic language, people would think we actually wanted sex-- and our culture still doesn't seem to be quite sure if this is a good idea for young people or not. Maybe these are holdouts from the Victorian era, like fuzzy toilet seat covers. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which I adore, the phrase "falling in love" originates from 1423. However, whether or not the meaning has been the same (the meaning of "making love" has changed, for example) is not mentioned. Maybe the idea of "falling in love" makes it harder to achieve-- and therefore more likely for us to buy products that will make us more desireable. As usual, there are many options, but no answers, at least on my side.
Another interesting thing about these phrases is that they're gender-neutral. I would expect in our double-standard-happy culture for women, delicate flowers that we are, to lose our virginity, while men ruggedly get to have sex for the first time. Apparently, we are all delicate flowers when it comes to this stuff. But in my opinion, we shouldn't have to be.