Yesterday, Jill sent this link to a Friendly Atheist post about so-called purity balls, in which teen girls pledge abstinence until marriage and their daddies sign pledges to be their “authority and protection in the area of purity”.
Although this is an extreme example, I think this actually exemplifies the attitude our society holds concerning female sexuality, or at least how it has traditionally been seen. Girls are expected to police their bodies from the “unwanted” advances of male sexuality. Girls are treated and talked to as though they have (or should have) no sexual needs or desires. Boys are treated as though it is inevitable that their sexuality will become uncontrollable at some point, like little pimply teenaged sex monsters.
I remember numerous instances in my teenage years when my dad would tell me to be careful around boys because “they only want one thing” and would do just about anything to get it, and he should know because he’s a man. My first reaction to this now is to wonder if that’s really how my dad sees himself. If so, that makes me sad.
I don’t think these little talks ever really sank in for me. The picture he painted just didn’t match what I was experiencing in my life. I went out with probably a dozen guys between age 16 and 20, and found myself in a few situations that would have given my dad a heart attack. I never felt pressured to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. All of them were respectful, and none of them pushed. Things progressed naturally with mutually initiated steps. I maintained my virginity (does it seem funny to anyone else to say you “lost your virginity”? It seems to me that I gained something) until I met my husband at age 20, and if there was any pushing happening at that point, it came from me.
Of course I realize that my experience can only speak for itself, and not for anyone else’s experiences. Maybe I just happened to run into the dozen or so guys that aren’t sex-crazed assholes, or maybe things are changing or have changed, and society’s attitude needs to be updated.
Let’s start being realistic about this and teach boys and girls to respect themselves, their bodies, and each other. Let’s tell them the truth about healthy sexuality, and stop allowing them to wallow in ignorant self-loathing or feel compelled to act out needlessly repressed sexuality in inappropriate or unhealthy ways.