There’s a virgin at Harvard.
Unusual, perhaps, but still, no big whoop, right?
Wrong! It’s such a big whoop that the New York Times Magazine has run a story on her. In order to vaguely sort of ridicule her. Because no matter what a woman does in this world, it’s the wrong fucking thing. Especially if she’s doin’ it at an Ivy League school.
Not that I give a crap about “virginity.” I’m sex-neutral, yo. But only a moron could fail to perceive that, from the default Dude Nation perspective, no matter what a woman’s sexual history, she’s fair game for open contempt. Women who don’t embrace porn culture are “anti-sex,” and women who do are “sluts,” and the treacherous territory in the middle is meticulously policed, with punishments for slight deviations readily meted out, by whatever micro-culture happens to control their lady-parts.
Sure, there are moments when the performance of either virginity or pornulation might occasion a pat on the head from the dominant class, but these evanescent little successes are fugitive in nature. Male appetites for madonnas vs. whores shift like the sands of time. Women who struggle to strike a balance — getting a boob job one minute, having their “virginity” surgically reinstated the next, all the while hurtling towards the inevitable ignominy of crone-dom — get sucked into the Femininity Hole, never to be human again.
But I digress.
The gist of the NYT story is this: Janie Fredell is saving it for godly heterosexual marriage. And lard help us, she’s part of a trend!
College is a hottt, sweaty, pornified hook-up culture, discovered the horrified young Fredell when she betook herself to Cambridge MA from Colorado Springs, the podunkian cradle of her youthful chastity. The Harvard boys were, she observed with a keen eye, “uncouth and socially inept.” Further study led her to conclude that there exists a “double standard which devalues women for their sexual pasts and glorifies men for theirs.”
Accoutered with so useful a piece of intelligence, Fredell might have taken any of several routes. Needless to say, she omitted to turn to radical feminism. Instead she joined a gang of Catholics called True Love Revolution, which promotes, “for reasons entirely secular,” abstinence from premarital boinking. She didn’t stop there. She decided to stand up for her “lifestyle,” which had become the subject of much campus mockery, by adopting a public persona: the Campus Virgin. In a widely publicized debate, she took on one of the Campus Sluts, a fellow student who writes a popular sex blog (is there such a thing as an un popular sex blog?), but to the disappointment of spectators, it was a non-starter when the event failed to devolve into a catfight.
The rest of the piece is a sort of history of organized Ivy League celibacy, punctuated with unintentionally comical appearances by Fredell’s male co-virgin (he secretly yearns for Fredell) and the obligatory comparisons between Fredell and the sex blogger (these comparisons are confined to the porn-quotient of each woman’s outfit, and the disparity in their attitudes toward food. The stereotype-confirming message? Fredell is uptight because she wears modest jeans and won’t eat a dessert she clearly desires, whereas the sex blogger, who hoovered up “every crumb [...] including a ginger cake with cream-cheese frosting and raspberry compote,” while wearing a miniskirt and stilettos, demonstrates a laudable joie de vivre).
Anyway, Fredell’s solution to the problem of the aforementioned double standard is a) to promote chastity until marriage (but only heterosexual marriage; homos have to abstain forever) and b) — you guessed it — to call herself a feminist.
Aside from both the anti-homo bigotry and the misappropriation of the term “feminist,” this is my problem with the conclusion reached by Janie Fredell (the discerning reader will observe that it is precisely the same problem I have with funfeminism):
You can’t get out of the sex class just by saying you’re out of it. Saying “no” to uncouth boys in preparation for heterosexual marriage (heterosexual marriage is the basic unit of patriarchy) and calling it “empowering” is no different from saying “yes” to uncouth boys in preparation for a BDSM three-way and calling that “empowering.” In trying to liberate themselves from what they have rationally identified as the constraints of the sex class mandate, both the virgin and the sex blogger actually capitulate by continuing to define themselves in terms of sex (Fredell even aligns herself with pornulists when she describes virginity as “extremely alluring”). Note that control of the concept of sex is not up to either of them. That pleasure falls strictly within the purview of the male-dominated social order. Thus, in a patriarchy, all sex, gay or straight, marital, pre-, or abstained-from, is dudesex.
That’s the thing about patriarchy. It does the defining, not you. That’s what makes it the dominant paradigm. You can abstain from sex, you can fuck your way across the universe, you can be a stone butch dyke with a utility belt, you can get your boobs amputated and your uterus ripped out, you can be sex-neutral in your own crackpot mind, you can be ugly or hawt, you can be the Democrats’ presidential nominee, you can even age out of desirability, but you will always be defined in terms of, and used according to, that which the dominant culture describes as your essence: sex. Or, as you are alternately defined: a receptacle for the perpetuation of male supremacy.