Updated: Jul 14, 2022
I grew up in a religious home raised by a single mother whom as most African mothers do, practically lived her life based on the church and its ideas. I remember being thought at “Sunday school” that I will go to hell if I engage in any sexual activities before marriage. As a child, that was a scary concept for me. I didn’t mind occasionally taking meat from the pot, sneaking to lick milk powder, and lying when I was caught but the thought of going to hell because I lost my virginity to someone who isn’t my husband was terrifying for me.
I always saw the pride on parents’ faces when their post-teenage daughters are virgins. There were even instances where Youth service teachers will ask; Who is a virgin here? Everybody rushes to raise their hand to prove that they’re living according to the church’s word. For the longest time, I was extremely proud of being a virgin, it felt like an achievement and I was scared of “losing” it because well, I’ll go to hell if itwas not for my husband.
Imagine my shock when I grew up to learn that the concept of virginity is a social construct. It is just a term that stems from purity culture; the notion that a woman’s worth is measured by her sexual purity and a lack of sexual life. Women who grow up around a purity culture are sternly thought to abstain from sex before marriage, avoid having sexual thoughts andtalking about sex, dissuaded from exploring their bodies, and are thought that their bodies and how they dress will tempt men so to avoid scandals, they need to dress modestly.
I am not in any way saying these are bad ideas to bring your daughter up on but if the right reasons are not given for why they should do all these, they just end up having self-esteem issues and linking their worth and value as a person to their sexual purity. What purity culture teaches young women is that without their virginity, they offer no value to a man.
I was visibly shaken up, ashamed, and angry at myself for a while after I broke my virginity. I walked around feeling heavy, guilty and even though people weren’t, I had this nagging feeling that everyone knew about it and they are trash-talking me. I thought I was damaged goods. No good man will ever want me. No girl has to feel that way.
Well, scientifically, virginity isn’t a thing even. IT is a construct that has existed since the concept of man to keep women in line. Because sadly, it seems to be more of a big deal for a woman to be a virgin than it is for a man. Men are shamed if they are virgins at a certain age. If all women decide to tie their self-worth into their sexual purity, which ones will men find to prove their masculinity by breaking their ‘virginity’ with.
Purity culture may do some good but what people fail to realize is the repercussions it has on girls who are raised within such strictly religious environments. They grow up with an incredible amount of shame and guilt whenever the topic of sex is brought up. Something so beautiful and natural has been made to be so wrong, unnatural, and evil in their eyes. They spend years trying to stifle their sexuality. This suppression of sexuality does not just affect their expression of sex but they find it difficult to set healthy boundaries, give and receive consent, and understand the importance of a healthy sexual life. This sexual shame and dysfunction can last long into adulthood. Some people never heal, some treat their kids the same way, the cycle continues and there remains a generation of sexually dysfunctional individuals.
If you’re a virgin at whatever age, I hope it is a personal path you’ve chosen I hope it isn’t based on the fear of what society may see you be because there is nothing wrong with being a virgin and not being a virgin. I just pray you haven’t lived your whole life thinking you are assured of a great marriage if you “offer your virginity” to your future husband. You’re only feeding society.
Babe, your virginity isn’t something to be given, lost,or taken away. It is a social construct used to shame, control, and keep women in line with what men want. Your virginity cannot and should not define you. Your worth doesn’t lie in your sexual actions before marriage.