Fuck Virginity: Thoughts From a SlutVirgin.
x-posted at the Virgin!Roar: Feminist Virgin Blog Carnival
The term feminist virgin unsettles many, myself included. For starters, it smacks of the empowerment rhetoric appropriated by the Abstinence-Only movement, the pseudo-liberation that rejects the false empowerment of “going wild” in favor of going mild.” Ab-only, arguably our leading contemporary concept of what virginity means, pits itself squarely against feminism. Feminism (particularly 3rd-wave feminism) means raunch culture, it means do-me feminism, — rejecting the patriarchy by bringing on the sex.
I keep wondering why I don’t find this in feminism—even (perhaps especially) in the sex-positive feminism that supports fashion choices from flannel to stillettos, not to mention human rights for virgins and whores. Do I just know particularly awesome sex-possies, who can overlook the fact that—by not just getting laid already–I have failed to get in gear with the new feminist agenda of sex, sex, and more sex?
Feminism is polylithic, so I won’t say this anti-virgin feminism isn’t feminism, that feminism never looks like this, or that feminism can’t look like this. I will merely reiterate that I’ve never known it to. For the most part, the people explaining that feminism is not empowering are – here’s a shocker—not feminists. They’re ab-only advocates who are giving virginity a glittery new makeover for the girl power age and using a fantastically old tactic to do so: Demonize the slut to prop up the virgin. If “feminist” stands in for “slut,” ab-only can affirm girl’s and women’s right to be empowered, while redirecting it into alignment with virginity. It can also write off all the ways that feminism actually empowers people, by reducing a system of thought and activism to a misguided fashion choice. Feminism is excessiveness, so the solution is restraint. Feminism is hook-up culture; abstinence is will power. By defining the problems that women and young people face in terms of the “slut,” Ab-only effectively justifies its virginal solution.
And, in a sense, Ab is right. It is not freedom to align feminism with a commodity model of sexuality. It is not freedom to require sex without intimacy, to require fishnets and mini-skirts, to require exhibitionism. This is what my fellow roar-er, Christine, pointed out in her post: you cannot take issue with our lack of sex-having, while we respect you freely having it. You cannot ask that the expectation of purity be dismissed in favor of an expectation of sluttiness.
The thing is… I’ve never known feminism to ask this, never known feminism to demand I be a slut. And I’ve always known the expectation of sluttiness to co-exist with an expectation of purity, to be the flip-side of a coin that is constantly present. So while Ab is right that demanding sluttiness isn’t any more liberating than demanding purity, it’s wrong to suggest that feminism expects this. And it’s dangerously wrong in suggesting that purity is somehow a more liberating, universal solution than sex. Because while it’s not freedom to demand a commodification model of sex, it’s also not freedom to vilify those for whom sex is a literal commodity. It’s also not freedom to require sex to take place within a relationship—or to require that relationship to be heterosexual, married, and gender-normative. It’s also not freedom to police the meaning of high skirts and low tops, to equate morality with how much leg is shown and whether those legs are kept closed. And when it comes down to it, feminism–in my ongoing experience with it–has yet to mandate that I sell sex or adopt the self-presentation of a Bratz doll. Ab-only, on the other hand, has very much demanded I judge others for those things or be judged myself. It has very literally demanded that I quit being queer, quit supporting birth control, quit questioning traditional gender norms. It has gone so far as to suggest I get back in the kitchen and liberate myself through baking.
Ab-only sets itself up as a solution to the problem of feminism, specifically to the problem of a feminism that has defined itself as all about wild, raunchy sex. But feminism hasn’t defined itself that way. Feminism isn’t sluttiness or virginity; it’s the both and the neither. It’s the knowledge that the virgin is not the solution to the slut and the slut is not the solution to the virgin. The knowledge that virginity is not a problem to be solved—and neither is sex. The problem is the polarity, the requirement that we be this or that, virgin or slut, mild or wild. The constant policing of our failures to live up. The rock and the hard place where our sexuality lives.
When we equate feminism with The Slut, we dismiss the system that has critiqued that very dichotomy. Feminism isn’t the opposite of virginity. It’s the slash in virgin/ whore. It’s the attempt to deconstruct the binary, to forcibly drive a wedge between terms, to create space between them for new understandings of sexuality that erase, blend, and alter the limitations of the poles.
The feminisms I align with make room for that. They understand that culture and cultural politics are inscribed on the body, but do not demand specific bodily choices to display these politics. ‘Having sex” is not a vote cast for a progressive candidate. It doesn’t stand in for activism or social critique. Virgin/ feminists are routinely dismissed by ab-only as too queer, too informed, or too political. Non-virgins often believe in traditional family structures, denounce their right to feel pleasure, or fail to understand their bodies.
In short, our feminism is not defined by what sexually do or don’t do. Repression and liberation do not land in clear-cut categories. Some of the most sex-negative people are having it. Some of the most sex-positive people abstain.
My inbox overflows daily with messages from the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood, and NOW. None of these organizations have ever called on me to fuck someone this weekend or dance naked on a bartop in defense of women’s lib. Like any other misleading claim–that pro-choice means forcing abortions, for instance, or that comprehensive sex ed mandates promiscuity–the conflation of feminism and sex-having actively undermines the goals of the movement—and the rights of the people it serves. Feminism is only serving the devil if you believe women, or sluts, or queers, or whores are the devil. Otherwise? It’s serving us. You and me. The slutvirgins. The human beings.