Couldn’t Say It Better

“You can’t let society label you.  Language matters.  What you call something changes how you feel about it.”  This comment was written by Jeanie Linders, the writer and producer of “Menopause: The Musical.”  Those going through menopause might find language describing them as having reached their ‘crone’ years.  What a description!  Apparently one of the definitions of crone is dead flesh.  UCK!  Well, a Kathy Kinney and her best friend wrote a book about the search for the positive side of putting your period behind you.  Queen of Your Own Life”  is the name of it.

From my book:

In any culture, language is the undercurrent that drives the river of public perception.  On the topic of sexual violence, language is the undercurrent that’s been polluted far too long.

One example of the cultural power of language is the narrow way we speak of virginity, thereby defining it narrowly.  If the survivor had never had intercourse with anyone before her rape or molestaton we assume that afterwards she’s no longer a virgin.  She probably believes that too!  Webster seems to confirm this by defining a virgin as “an unmarried woman devoted to religion; an absolutely chaste young woman; a person who has not had sexual intercourse; free of impurity or stain; modest, fresh, unspoiled.” [Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield; G&C Merriam company, 1970) 993]

Isn’t it amazing that the word virginity is used authoritatively with a female connotation?  Have you ever noticed this?  Heritage thinking assumes that virgin is a female.  This is true because in most cultures, the value placed on virginity has been imposed by men on women.  European royalty required proving a newly married woman was a virginity verifying that the hymen was broken by a blood spot left on the bed.   In some middle-eastern cultures, male martyrs are motivated by the promise of access to a heaven filled with virgins.  I assume they expect these virgins to be young and female.  Prevalent in all cultures is the sexist idea that women represent purity by being a virgin, yet men demonstrate masculinity by having several sexual experiences or exploits.  Such attitudes represent the objectification of women who are thought of as property.  In many cultures and throughout history, male socialization has fed upon these ideas, yet we are mostly unaware of it.

It isn’t possible to test for male virginity as it is to test a female (though of course, the hyman can be broken many other ways besides intercourse).  However, both men and women can be physical virgins, but mentally promiscuous.  Virginity lies not just in behavior, but in thought.  Jesus spoke of this to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:25).  Haven’t most of us been tempted in our sexualized culture to embrace sexual fantasies?  Often, we must rely on God to be our strength when we are weak–so who are we to judge someone else’s virginity?

Sexual intimacy was designed by God to be exclusive to a healthy marriage relationship.  God never intended for it to become a power play.  A survivor of sexual violence doesn’t need a marriage partner who will hold whatever happened to her against her, judge her in any way, or hold the position that she is not a virgin because of it.  This isn’t  God’s way of thinking; remember Jesus sees the condition of our heart.  In fact, I was overjoyed to hear about the book  Secret Sex Wars: a Battle Cry For Purity by Robert S. Scott Sr. (published 2008), encouraging men on a recovery track to regain their virginity.

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