Some more on virginity

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.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Some more on virginity”

  1. argh! I’m still holding my breath on the “doables” of virginity (even though I’m married).

    Can’t wait to see how this progresses, I love what’s here so far.


  2. Archimandrite Vasileios, a monk-writer of the Holy Mountain whose works I particularly cherish, wrote a short book entitled “Monastic Life as True Marriage.” You might find it interesting reading in view of your current topic.
    Here’s a link to give you a taste of what he writes about:

    You can probably order a copy of this book online somewhere. If I had a copy I’d send it to you, but I gave my last copy away some years back.

    Keep it deep, brother, and even deeper.


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