Why don’t we talk about sexual double standards in the South?

Where a woman’s virginity is equivalent with ‘virtue’

“It’s best to wait until after you’re married.”

When I think back to my mom sitting me down to give me “the talk” about sex as a 12-year-old, that’s the phrase that always stands out.

At the time, I had just went on with my giggly carefree 12-year-old life, happy that the dreaded “talk” was over, and shoved sex as far out of my thoughts as possible.

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12-year-old me

Flash forward five years, and my “sacred” innocence was still intact. I was in my first serious relationship with what seemed like a true southern gentleman. He always opened the car door for me, gave me flowers, and we even danced some nights away under the Texan stars. It didn’t take long before things got physical between us, but he told me he’d only have sex with me if he thought I’d one day be his wife.

Now, determining “the one” is a lot of pressure for a 17-year old. But, I went along with it. I would listen to my ex-boyfriend talk about how sorry he felt for girls’ future husbands if they had slept around. Looking back now, I realize that was really hypocritical considering my ex wasn’t even a virgin himself and had slept around.

Unfortunately, being a girl, society somehow expects me to keep my legs crossed until marriage while he can go around sticking it into anything he wants like society allows him to do. Talk about double standards.

First of all, a woman’s worth should never be characterized by how many people she’s slept with. Let me repeat. Never! Second of all, if my future significant other is all that concerned about how many people I’ve slept with, they aren’t going to be a significant other of mine.

A woman should be free to do whatever she wants with her body without fearing society will see her unfit for a long term partner. Unfortunately, however, my ex is not alone in this misogynistic way of thinking. This type of thinking is still alive and thriving in the United States, especially below the Mason-Dixon where parochialism is particularly prominent. It has even started to take over this year’s election. Society tells guys it’s not only OK to sleep around, but they can even have “locker room talk” about it, whereas women are shamed for it.

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Long story short, I did have sex, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t feel as though anything had been “taken” from me. However, that soon changed when my boyfriend began to use it as a way to manipulate me. Something changed in him, and he acted as though he owned me, that I had signed my soul away to him after having sex and would never leave him now.

Clearly, I realized this guy wasn’t “the one” for me. I knew I needed to end it, but societal norms crept in, and the thought of possibly being deemed unworthy by future partners because I had already “eaten the forbidden fruit” tormented me. What made it even worse was being asked things like, “You didn’t give him your virtue, did you?” I hung my head in shame.

Now, however, I see that acting on my sexual desires is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is so much wrong with how society defines virtue for a woman. “Virtue” is defined as “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.” Having sex should not be the equivalent of losing your moral excellence, goodness, and righteousness let alone “giving” it away to the person you had sex with.

You are still a virtuous person regardless of your sexual experience and talking about virginity like it’s been stolen from you is wrong if the decision to have sex was consensual.

Me and my mom

Me and my mom

My story isn’t alone. Being a girl, I see incidences of this societal double standard all too often. I see it when a friend cries on my shoulder, feeling worthless, after having lost her virginity, I see it when another friend tells me she’s ready to have sex with her boyfriend of 2 years, but can’t bring herself to do it- afraid of the guilt that may follow, and I even see it scrolling through my Facebook wall when a girl I studied abroad with publishes an article about being told by a guy she slept with that she wasn’t “pure” enough to be relationship material when the guy wasn’t so “pure” himself. Then watching her article as it was ripped to shreds in the comments section by strangers saying in a derogatory manner that they wouldn’t want to date a girl who’s slept around either, but it’s okay if guys do. Common, really?

Let’s change the norm. Let’s erase the double standard. Society shouldn’t shame women for their sexual history and praise men’s sexual endeavors. So if waiting empowers you, do it. If having sex empowers you, do it. But let’s stop defining a woman’s worth by something as petty as her sexual life.

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