If you haven’t read “The Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris, you should.
There’s this one chapter about the virgin martyrs. She does this whole exploration of what virginity means. One thing I noticed:
Based on what she says, the virgin martyrs are all women. This implies that somehow, somebody decided that virginity in women is more important than virginity in men.
This criticism does connect to a point she spells out quite nicely. She picks up on the work of a radical feminist in pointing out that what have this knuckle-headed view of virginity. The knucklehead view is that virginity is a physical state, and probably more importantly, virginity is a state of lacking something. To be a little more precise, to be a virgin is to be lacking in having had the experience of having intercourse.
One of the biggest reasons that this view is problematic is that it is awfully close to the idea that someone who is a virgin is incomplete; someone who is currently a virgin is awaiting sexual contact to be made complete and whole.
I’ve heard some people refer to non-Christians as pre-Christians. While I don’t have a problem with this, I do have a problem with a parallell idea… It’s an idea that’s hard to express because we don’t actually have a word for somebody who has experienced sexual intercourse. (Married doesn’t cut it; we could theoretically be married and never have had sex, more significantly, many people are not married but have had sex.)
Norris spells out a ramification of all this that I find amazing. That ramification is this:
If we view virginity the way that the world does, we are relying on other humans to define an important aspect of who we are. If being a virgin is viewed as some sort-of condition that requires a cure, then some other person either will or won’t “cure” us.
A question as important as this should not be settled by some other flawed person. Our most basic identity ought to be rooted in God.
The voice of the world whispers this retort to this whole line of thinking. This voice of the world says, “Well, o.k., but let’s be serious. If someone hasn’t engaged in intercourse, there is an experience that they have not had. Aren’t they somehow incomplete… Isn’t there something they are missing out on?”
The problem with this attempt at justifying how the world sees virginity is that it misses something. What it misses is this:
Those of us who are married are lacking the experience of being celibate for long periods of our adult life. It could just as fairly be argued that we are the ones who are incomplete.
This position leads to the same question I ended my last past on. ” If virginity is more than just a negative condition, what precisely is it?” Obviously, I didn’t get there in this post, though I thought I was going to when I wrote that earlier post. So I figured I’d share this, as I think it’s a necessary stopping point on the exploration of just what virginity is.