Dear Sister: On Your Thirteenth Birthday

I can’t believe you are almost thirteen. I remember holding you in my arms when you were a baby. I remember rocking you, smiling at you, cooing to you. I remember your tiny fingers and your dark, soft hair. I remember dressing you, bathing you, cuddling you close. I was always the first to jump up and volunteer to get you up when that sweet plaintive wail came from your cradle.

Thirteen. Wow. You’ve grown so big, so tall and clever. I know what thirteen means. Dad will take you out to dinner and give you a ring. You will put it on your finger and promise him that you will not have sex until the day you marry. I know you will because I did too. And when you say it, you will mean it. I know that. So did I.

But I want you to know something, my sweet little sister. You are worth so much more. Your worth is not defined by what has or has not been in your vagina. Yes I know, hearing that word spoken so openly embarrasses you. I remember. But what I’m saying is important. You have so much to offer the world. You are smart. You have interests. You have talents. Those things matter. In fact, those things matter a whole lot more than the state of your vagina. Yes I know, awkward. But it’s true, and I want you to remember that. You matter.

There’s more, too. It is wrong, what they are telling you. Should you choose not to have sex until your wedding day, your virginity is not the most precious gift you will ever give your husband. In fact, depending on whether or not your husband will come from the same religious and cultural background as you, he may not even see your virginity as a gift at all. And if he doesn’t, don’t hold that against him, okay? The idea that virginity is something of value is “culturally constructed.” That’s just a fancy way of saying “made up.”

There’s something else I want to tell you as well. You probably think that I didn’t have sex until my wedding night. Well, that’s not true. We almost waited until the wedding, but not quite. Yes I know, telling you that is awkward. But I want you to know that they are wrong when they saying that having sex before you get married will damage your relationship. It hasn’t. I don’t regret doing it, and I don’t think it messed up anything at all. In fact, I wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did. I tell you this not to tell you which way of doing things is right and which way is wrong, because that is  up to you and is yours to decide, but simply to give you another perspective.

But the most important thing I want you to know, little sister, is that your body is yours. You get to choose what you want to do with it. You will have people telling you what you can and can’t do with your body, when, and how much, and how far. But you don’t have to listen to them. Your body is yours, and don’t let anyone make you forget that. What you do with it is up to you.  It’s your choice. Own that, and don’t let anyone else make your choices for you.

I’m not going to send this letter to you, little sister, because mom and dad wouldn’t like it. Putting it here is the best I can do. Perhaps someday you will find it, and read it, and then you will know how frequently you are on my mind.

I love you, little sister.

Libby

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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