Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pop Culture Virgin

Today I saw a twelve year-old dressed like a slutty thirty-something, complete with belt-sized denim mini-skirt, tube-top, gratuitous amounts of make-up and... an abstinence bracelet on her wrist.

It was enough to make me triple-take so hard I tweaked my neck.

She wasn't alone either. There was her Dad, and her Mom, and her little sister, and even an older brother! Such a sweet little family -- all apparently condoning her blatant tween sexuality.

It made me think about how the strange obsession with virginity in pop culture has become somewhat disgusting. The father-daughter elektra-complex purity balls, the abstinence pledge bracelets (neatly commercialized via the Disney channel), and let's not forget the high-profile pop-icons of chastity like Miley Cyrus, Jordin Sparks, and The Jonas Brothers, who simultaneously prostitute themselves while pledging chastity.

The inherent hypocrisy is almost laughable, if it weren't all so serious. Miley Cyrus pole dances on stage but tells kids to wait to have sex. Jordin Sparks wants the guy she marries to know she waited her whole life for him. And don't even get me started on the Jonas Brothers... They prey on tween-crushes like a bad imitation of The Osmonds, and yet say they've all taken "the pledge" (jargon for abstinence). It's basically one big facade of virginity selling itself to get attention and make money.

I watched a lovely little documentary on VH1 with my girlfriend that neatly illuminated the lengths to which this creeptacular trend has gone. Everywhere in our culture you see signs of sex, especially in girls younger and younger, yet somehow they're still encouraged to remain virgins.

Basically the message goes like this: sex is something very dirty, dangerous -- and you should only save it for someone you love!

Well, if that isn't the most confusing thing EVER. And if I can't wrap my head around it, how do you expect kids to?

Answer: they don't.

Instead, they engage in riskier and riskier sexual behavior, compounded by their own guilt and fear of repercussions from family, friends, and other social networks.

Want some facts to back up these assertions? Let me lay down some sites for you to go check:

1. [NSRC article from SFSU]
2. [Washington Post]
3.[New West]
4. [Medical News Today]
5. [The Seattle Times]

So not only does abstinence not work, it also makes teens more likely to engage in oral and anal sex! Because, as you know, in the twisted logic of kids kept deliberately ignorant, anal sex isn't really sex. Until they get HIV.

Yes, this can really happen. And it does. Every day.

Sadly, these statistics and stories get lost in the culture wars perpetuated by the Christian Right against an America that they see quickly moving in a direction they don't approve of. The "moral majority" is alive and well apparently -- and they're extremely pissed-off.

As for the questionable fascination with virginity, I can only pin it down to another form of fetishization and outright objectification. Virginity sells because in our highly sexualized culture it has become a rare commodity. Yes, virginity is treated as something bankable, as if it were a concrete resource instead of a vague physiological ambiguity.

But what is really worrisome are these father-daughter balls where a daughter pledges to remain true to her father as the owner of his daughter's virginity! Even crazier is often the father is compared as a representation of the daughter's father in heaven. Yes, Daddy's little girl is being indoctrinated to think of him as God. A God who also maintains a nearly incestuous hold on her sexuality.

Read this article, and watch some of these videos. It's enough to make me give every "Christian" the side-eye.

[Father-Daughter Purity Balls]


18 footnotes:

Mira said...

First of all, let me tell you I'm against this whole abstinence programs and purity rings. I'm not against people deciding when they want (or don't want) to have sex, but programs obviously don't work, and you are right- virginity is seen as commodity (which is sick).

As someone outside US, I must admit I find the whole idea of abstinence programs and purity rings confusing and against stereotypical idea of America prevalent in my culture. So imagine my surprise when I learned about abstinence programs and purity rings!

They do make sense in a way, though. Obviously they are made as an attempt to reduce STDs and teen pregnancy. But they don't work. Education is what these kids need!

As for virgin girls in slutty clothes, that is no surprise to me. Most of the girls I knew who dressed like that were stating they were either virgins or having only one boyfriend in a long term relationship.

Zek J. Evets said...

again mira, we're on the same page. but with one difference -- i don't think the pledges and abstinence programs are to reduce STDs or pregnancy. i mean, i believe that's part of it, but i think the real reason -- the fundamental reason -- is because of a faith-based system that isn't based on logic, rationale, or even facts.

however, i'm curious about the "stereotypical idea of america". are we considered usually promiscuous? because that's certainly not our heritage -- this country was founded by puritans!

Mira said...

Hmmm... I might not fully understand the importance of religion in America. My culture is still not as religious (socialism ended yesterday), despite the fact we (ex-Yugoslavians) were recently killing each others because of religious and ethnic differences.

So my first idea is that those purity rings are a desperate attempt to stop teen pregnancy and HIV and that they have a practical purpose. After all, they are a modern phenomena, aren't they? And it's not like premarital sex didn't exist a few decades ago, right?

So I do believe it's better to teach these kids about birth control than to keep them in the dark, so to speak, because many would have sex anyway so they at least should know how to protect themselves!

But I guess religion does play an important role. Maybe even the most important, I don't know. So are people becoming more religious than they were before? Also, I notice it's not about all Americans- Christians are usually the ones who promote these purity rings and abstinence pledges. But again: why now, and not a few decades ago?

however, i'm curious about the "stereotypical idea of america". are we considered usually promiscuous?

Yes, Americans are seen as extremely promiscuous and "wild". I udnerstand that doesn't make much sense, and although everybody laughs here about American fear of naked bodies in movies, for example (which is never seen as a big deal in Europe), people (at least in my part of the world) see Americans as wild. So imagine our surprise when somebody actually visits America! A friend of mine who spent a year in Texas when she was 18 met many girls who said they were saving themselves for marriage... Which is unheard of in my culture.

Anonymous said...


I agree about the stereotypes of Americans as promiscuous--especially blonde White girls (though sometimes just White girls in general, since they are who people saw as "definitely American". People often thought I was African, Latina, South American, etc.). People will try to take advantage of American girls as "loose", and many of them (especially college-age) are easily flattered and way too trusting.

Zek J. Evets said...

@mira: i'd never known american girls were thought of as "loose"! i always thought it was european (especially french) girl that were supposed to be promiscuous, haha.

@jasmin: think it's easy to be flattered when around someone new who's reasonably attractive. the trusting part comes from -- i believe -- and over-developed sense of privilege and arrogance. young (mostly white and american) girls tend to believe they're not only invincible, but also think nobody would ever have a reason to mess with them. (i laugh at the thought!)

Anonymous said...

the trusting part comes from -- i believe -- and over-developed sense of privilege and arrogance.

Very true. I had to give a girl I studied abroad with a "come to Jesus" talk when she wanted to dump her boyfriend and run off with some guy she met a week before we to come back to the US. She thought his poetry was "really sweet" even though all of his in-person conversation tended to focus on how much he wanted to sleep with her.

Mira said...

I did hear about the promiscuous French girls stereotype, and Italian ones. But I think it's more about their men, really. They approach on the street without a problem and often won't take no for an answer. Which still doesn't mean they are more promiscuous- they just might have a different approach.

But I think the part of othering always includes a stereotype about loose women. So in that sense, women of your own group are seen as moral while those of others (especially "enemies") are seen as promiscuous. In reality, there's no such thing as a more or less promiscuous groups, imo.

Zek J. Evets said...

@mira: you're probably right about that. i wonder if there's a theory in my study of anthropology to explain this use of "othering" via stereotyping "others" (in this case other women) as less moral with regards to sexual promiscuity.

Post Modern (lack of) Culture said...

Wow. A 12 year old child has to declare she's abstinent? When I was 12 the thought of having sex with a guy never even entered my mind and nor the reverse, the thought that I add to make a virginity statement at 12 for goodness sake! I was busy riding my bike and playing neighborhood pranks and screaming on roller coasters and just having a fun kid life.

What's happening to our kids?

Zek J. Evets said...

@postmodern: i have no idea. our culture is seems to be getting crazier everyday... but of course that could just be life.

Mira said...

I don't think they really believe all 12 year old kids have sex; I believe they want to make them take abstinence pledges while they are still too young to think about having sex.

While 12 year olds are not physically kids anymore, mentally they are (well, most of them), so they want to make them take abstinence vow while they still don't understand what they were doing.

I certainly know I didn't even think of the boys at the age of 12, but I am certain nobody would make me sign or promise abstinence at the age of 16 (and I didn't have a boyfriend at the time). Still, I knew what it meant in a way I didn't know at the age of 12.

On the other hand, maybe none of this matters, maybe today's kids are really having sex at the age of 12.

Anonymous said...

Whoa there buddy. Hold on Zek. I'm not a crazy fanatic or anything, and the purity balls and rings are actually something new and recent.

Yeah, these things can make us look bad, but it really is a response to the Sexual Revolution and its continued influence in America.

Zek J. Evets said...


I'm not going to judge whether people should or should not have sex. That is a personal choice that everyone needs to make for themselves. But if you want to market it, commercialize it, and sell YOUR reason for not having sex to other people... then I believe I am justified in questioning it.

This seems less like a response to the sexual revolution (which most of these kids have never heard of) and more of a reaction to the changing American demographic. Sex is no longer considered dirty, or immoral. Safe sex can be practiced without having to hide it.

I can understand (without agreeing to) a religious basis for abstinence, but doing it just because you want to "rebel" against society's standards sounds more like you're doing to make yourself seem cool than because you actually don't want to have sex with someone. (Or someones.)

But again, I only question those who put their reasons out there for all of us to see. If you want to keep it private -- something I fully support -- then it's really none of my business.

Sadly, even though Jordin Sparks likes to say it's none of our business, she also makes A LOT of money from being abstinent and promoting abstinence. And so it has become our business.

Pretty Preeti said...

I come from a culture that has zero tolerance for out of wedlock pregnancy and guess what - we have practically none!

But the entire society reinforces it - we live in multi-generational and extended family homes so there's no privacy. Hotels generally only rent to married couples. Most of the marriages are arranged or assited. Dating is more of a "courtship" than "hookup" and last but not least, there is no government program to pay you if you get pregnant, no WIC or food stamps or anything of the sort.

Abstinence does work in situations where it has cultural and societal backing.

That's why it works in the US in schools that are parochial, the parents and teachers are involved and on board with it and its all reinforced by one's peer group.

It doesn't work in inner city public schools because the family structure, parental involvement, culture, and soceity is completely different.

And that's why in the in-between places such as a suburban public or non-religious private or charter school, it can go both ways - it works for some and not for others.

We shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that what works in one place works in another, OR that what doesn't work in one place won't work in another - it entirely depends on the individuals involved and the society that surrounds them.

Zek J. Evets said...


If it wouldn't be too personal, might I ask where you are from? What country?

I honestly couldn't imagine a place without food stamps, WIC, or other social welfare programs for people... But then again, I probably couldn't imagine a lot of things about living in another country so different from my own.

Of course you're right -- societies with complete backing by the culture, tradition, religion, and social groups in regards t sexual regulation 'n' such work out very well. Unplanned pregnancies are rare in indigenous cultures removed from Western influences. (Not that there are many/any left.)

Yet I am suspicious when you say "practically none", because many groups SAY that, but there are always stories or myths, and just general ignorance surrounding these things that are often used to protect women from being found out, or to make it alright.

But I digress. Abstinence is unrealistic in most first-world countries, just based on practicality. People are going to have sex, and so instead of attempting to curb sex, you need to regulate it with contraceptives and the like. It won't be fool proof, but it'll work until we can think of a better way to control overpopulation, and find methods to solve STD's, as well as deal with the general issues surrounding sex.

Anonymous said...

I was on my highschool dance team when I met this incoming freshman. She wore a purity ring and would get extremely upset if we used God's name in vain. And yet, she loves to talk about all the oral sex she has given and the one time she was sexually handcuffed in the back of a car. All this at the ripe age of 14. It bothers me so much. She told me I was going to hell because my boyfriend and I lost viginity to eachother after we talked about how we were going to be safe and the consiquences of it all. I don't understand people today. You sleep with a guy who you get engaged to and you are a whore, but if you blow the whole east coast you are fine. What has happened to the world today? Kids need to be taught that sex isn't bad as long as you are safe. There is nothing wrong with it if you are ready and know the facts. That's all I have to say to this.

aedwardsss said...

The country was not founded by Puritans. It was settled by Puritans, but the actual FOUNDING of our country was done by Freemasons and Athiests, with a smattering of Lutherin and Catholics, Protestants and many other Religions. Our country is based on freedom and it was the 'free love' movement that encouraged sexual freedom. This is the Religious Right fighting back against the hippie movement of the sixties. Yes, teenage girls should not get pregnant and sex should be something that is introduced slowly, rather than jumped into head-first, but if they take these pledges they'll still end up making the same mistakes they would have at fifteen or sixteen when they're eighteen or twenty-five. Age is no guarantee of maturity. Knowledge is the closest thing that can prevent people from making mistakes.

Zek J. Evets said...


I'm not sure where you learned your American history, but the U.S. as we know it began from the loose confederation of colonies founded at the beginning by Puritans from England who found the protestant faith practiced there not strict enough. They were UBER religious.

Your conspiracy theory that the country was founded by Freemasons and Atheists is kinda funny... except then you use it as part of a justification for the Religious Right attempting to squash social freedom and diversity.

Obviously they haven't been listening to Jesus as much as they claim! =P

Either way, none of that really had much to do with the topic at hand, which you kind of touched on but didn't really delve into.

If age is guarantee of knowledge, then would that serve to justify people having sex WHENEVER, just so long as they were educated first? Basically it sounded like you were advocating for sex-education and people being sexual at whatever age. (Something I partially agree with, to a degree.)

Anyhoo, thanks for your comment.