I recently came upon a wonderfully insightful blog post titled Virginity: As a Parent. It’s one of those gems that makes the blogosphere so amazing—a lost written by an ordinary person on a small blog that makes so much sense you just have to share.
Here is a statement for you…
You child’s virginity is none of your business.
How about this way?
Your child’s virginity is NONE of your business.
I had a woman in my life some years ago who, anytime she was talking about her teenager humans, would make sure to brag that she had gotten all three through high school without incidents of alcohol, drugs or sex. Her attitude toward this whole theory baffled me. I always wondered how she knew that that was 100% accurate, for one thing, and also, why that seemed to be her #1 parenting goal.
. . .
My children’s intact virginity is not a merit badge indicating my worth as a parent. . . .
Here is another statement for you…
Your child having a safe place, a non-judgemental, non-opinionated, non-reactionary, soft, fluffy, SAFE place to hear medically accurate, evidenced-based facts, IS your business. Interestingly enough, the only part that you can control begins and ends with you. It is THE only aspect that you can control.
. . .
If we shift from being singularly focused on “virginity” and instead broaden that focus to include happiness, safety, consent, maturity, bodily autonomy, ownership—now we’ve got a good conversation going. Now we’ve got a focus that will extend and carry them into adulthood and the rest of their lives and not end the conversation when they are no longer “virgins”. Sexuality doesn’t stop when contact is made between genitals. . . .
Your child’s virginity, as a singular topic, is none of your business. But your child’s life, health, happiness and safety are.
I love this post—and you should read the whole thing—because the author focuses on giving children a healthy longterm approach to sexuality and points out that the focus on virginity is generally incredibly short term. And it is! I grew up in a virginity-focused family and church, and there was zero information about sexuality after the wedding night. There was no mention of consent, no focus on learning about your own body, and nothing at all about bodily autonomy. My virginity-focused upbringing did nothing to prepare me for my sexual life as an adult, post-virginity.
I’ve written before about how short-sighted it is for parents to focus on getting their children to obey them rather than focusing on teaching their children lifelong skills like communication, compromise, and decision making. In some ways this is similar. After all, “just don’t have sex” may work for children and adolescents—well, at least, it might in theory—it’s not going to do anything for adults who have reached the point where they’re supposed to have sex. After all, when do they learn how to have sex responsibly? When do they learn about bodily autonomy, about consent, and about respecting others’ preferences and limits? When the focus is on virginity, virginity, virginity, the answer is they don’t.
Like a focus on obedience, a focus on virginity is short-sighted and doesn’t actually prepare a young person for adulthood. And that’s a problem, because our job as parents is to prepare our children for adulthood. Whether your child was obedient as a kid isn’t going to matter jack shit if they’re unable to make their own decisions or communicate, cooperate, and compromise with others as adults. And similarly, whether your child remained a virgin until marriage (or high school graduation, or what have you) is so far beyond irrelevant if they grow up to enter abusive sexual relationships because you never taught them about things like consent or bodily autonomy. In many ways our parenting must be future-focused, not present-focused.
Anyway, around the same time I read the above author’s post, I came upon a story titled Bride Presents “Proof of Virginity” to Father on Wedding Night. Yes really.
One woman took saving herself for marriage to another level, and presented her father with a certificate of purity on her wedding day.
. . .
Breyln posted on Instagram, “Dancing with my first love [her father]! I was able to present a certificate of purity to him signed by my doctor that my hymen was still intact. Also the covenant he gave me when I was 13. When you honor God, your life will automatically honor others! I love you daddy.”
. . .
It seems that what mattered to Breyln’s father—and to Breyln—was not whether she learned the skills she will need to engage in healthy (read: non-abusive) sexual relationships throughout her life, but rather whether her hymen was intact. There is something incredibly wrong with the situation when a parent cares more about ensuring that a child does not have sex until marriage than they do about teaching them about things like consent and bodily autonomy.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about encouraging young people to engage in sexual relationships prematurely. I’m simply talking about giving them tools they will be able use their entire lives.
After reading the two items above, I came upon a post titled Screaming Conservative Parents Ignite Chaos at Omaha Metting on Optional Sex-Ed Class.
An Omaha Public Schools parent meeting devolved into shouting and violence when abstinence-only advocates accused district officials of not being upfront about a new sex education curriculum.
According to Jay Irwin, a University of Nebraska at Omaha professor in attendance who wrote a detailed description of what happened, there were about 1,000 people in attendance at the Tuesday night meeting and people opposed to the optional curriculum known as comprehensive sex education, or CSE, wore red stickers. Video from the meeting shows total chaos as parents stand and shout about purity.
. . .
One woman was dubbed “puritymom” after she was filmed during the meeting standing and screaming, “It’s my daughter! My daughter! Who’s going to keep her pure? Nobody! I am! Not OPS! Not OPS!”
Note that the mother mentioned in the last paragraph is focused not on teaching her daughter healthy relationship skills or things like consent or bodily autonomy but rather on keeping her daughter “pure.”
I grew up among people who homeschooled partly to do just this—to keep their children, and especially their daughters, pure. Well you know what? There has been a lot of discussion in the homeschool alumni community over the last few weeks about young female homeschool graduates’ increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse. It seems that raising girls with no understanding of consent or bodily autonomy results in naive young women who are especially vulnerable to predation—who knew, right? Except that this should have been obvious.
Focusing on virginity and purity rather than consent, safety, and bodily autonomy does young people a grave disservice. Young people need to be equipped with tools and information. A simple “don’t” doesn’t give them any of that.
Your child’s virginity is none of your business, but giving them the tools they will need for adulthood absolutely is your business.