Feminism | Posted by Carmen M on 08/24/2012

“You’re A Virgin? I Really Respect You For That.”

virginity does not equal purity

As you get older, more and more of your peers have sex. I’m currently 19 and know plenty of people who haven’t had sex. But because of the media’s stereotypical portrayal of young people as raging sex addicts, many people my age exaggerate about their sexual experience either to impress others or just to appear as if they’re “keeping up”.

But honestly, I don’t want to rant about people my age and sex. Frankly, I don’t care whether or not you have or haven’t had sex. I lost my virginity in February during a one night stand. I was 18. I know the social repercussions of being a virgin (a ‘late bloomer’) as well as the repercussions of being a slut. What I want to rant about is society’s reaction to people who are still virgins after an acceptable age (usually over the age of 18). There has been one reaction that has particularly driven me crazy, and it usually goes like this:

Girl: I’m a virgin.

Guy: Really? You know I really respect you for respecting yourself like that.

WHAT!?!?!? So you wouldn’t respect her if she had sex? Or if she had sex with loads of guys? But how many is too many? Not to mention the implication here that if you do have sex you’re not respecting yourself, which is beyond the realms of nonsensical to me. Sex –a biological necessity, a natural impulse –should have no relation to self-respect, and yet it does in this culture.

Just because a girl has had sex doesn’t mean she disrespects herself. People also need to realize that virginity does not equal purity. Sex is a personal thing, as are the reasons why people do and do not have it. It doesn’t mean a single thing (like having or not having self-respect) for everybody.

I think often times guys (and sometimes even other girls) think they are complimenting girls by saying they respect them because they haven’t had sex when in fact they are slut shaming them and it needs to stop.

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  • Jamie K @ at 8:13 pm, August 25th, 2012

    I think you’re overthinking this a bit–when I hear a guy tell a girl he respects her for being a virgin, I see it as an acknowledgement of a shared value, in this case, virginity. You say that the implication is that he also believes the opposite, that girls who ARE sexually active aren’t deserving of respect. But I don’t think that’s the case. It’s like when I meet someone else that doesn’t smoke, I often remark that it’s awfully cool of them to not smoke. I don’t hate smokers–it’s just something that they do. But I appreciate people that have a reason for not doing so as well.

    TL;DR Not all men and women have the same values, but when you meet someone that does, it’s just another thing to bond over.

  • Kristina @ at 9:52 am, August 28th, 2012

    I do not think you are over thinking this at all. I completely agree that making a back handed comment like “I respect you for respecting your body” is an implication that other women don’t respect their bodies. He isn’t saying that he respects her decision to be a virgin in a society that sheds so much attention on sex, he’s saying that he respects her because she is respecting her body. Women who engage in sexual activity also respect their bodies… but from the perception of our greater society they are making immoral decisions and disregarding their self respect.

  • Natasha @ at 3:01 pm, August 28th, 2012

    I’m worried that you’re overeager to defend people having sex. While I consider myself a very sex-positive person, you seem to be saying that it is impossible to use sex to disrespect yourself. I disagree. There are many reasons to have sex ranging from love or enjoyment, to vengeance or to impress your peers. Sex is a wonderful thing, but it is very intimate and having it for the wrong reasons can be a method of disrespecting yourself and your sexual partner(s).

  • Kalinda @ at 1:28 pm, September 5th, 2012

    Why would you assume that because anyone would make that comment that they would NOT respect someone who has had sex. That’s kind of a weird jump. You do know that respect means “value”, right? That’s like saying you cannot value both turnips AND chocolate, because they are different things.

    Guess what? Most guys I know (who just happen to have a decent moral compass) don’t respect themselves if they have sex arbitrarily. So if someone, even another guy, says they are a virgin, it is respected as a choice to keep their body safe from even accidental sexually transmitted diseases. That is respect for their body. Why should it be a problem if someone wants to acknowledge that fact?

  • David @ at 3:44 am, September 6th, 2012

    What strikes me the most is that everyone

    As a guy you either get reactions like “you couldn’t get any, well a loser like you should start looking for the ugly ones…”. Girls try to protect you by rapidly changing the subjet whenever this matter comes up, they are a 100% sure that just talking about sex must be horrible for you. Sometimes I also had the impression, that they are in a weird way trying to avoid being held responsible for your lack of sex and thus change the subject.
    Later, when the “loser” assumption seemed unplausible due to my general appearance I guess, I got the same reactions that girls get.

    Nobody even thinks that this could be not such a big deal for you. No, either you’re a loser or a saint, no other explanation possible.

    The truth is, I’m just a little picky. Not in the sense that I’m looking directly for a long relationship, not that I’m religious or anything. It just has to feel right which it rarely does (and even then it still has to feel right for her ;) . In the meantime, it felt right a couple of times (which began a little later than for you Julie). But don’t even try to explain that situation to anybody. They will try to jump to one of the acceptable conclusions “loser or saint” (I guess “slut or saint” for a girl) and interrupt you as soon as they made their choice.

    @Kalinda: It’s an issue because there are some cases in between being a virgin and not caring about anything (diseases etc.)

  • David @ at 3:45 am, September 6th, 2012

    Oops forgot to finish one sentence. It needs to be :

    “What strikes me the most is that everyone thinks in extremes. At least most people I know”

  • el32 @ at 10:41 pm, September 6th, 2012

    @Kalinda

    I think the problem here is sexualization, i.e. yb saying “You are a virgin, I respect that.” it seems that you judge the person by whether she had sex or not. Of course that implies that you would not value her as much if she opted for the opposite.

    Also the last argument is quite a fallacy. While it is true that you cannot get purely sexually transmitted diseases by not having sex, there are alternative effective means against STDs (such as condoms) even when having sex. Your argument sounds quite conservative (i.e. no sex is the best choice for not getting sick).

  • simon @ at 6:36 am, January 26th, 2013

    According to these scientific studies, women who get married when they are not virgins (ie. they had premarital sex), have a higher risk of divorce. So I guess there’s a real good reason for guys preferring virgins:

    http://socialpathology.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/sexual-partner-divorce-risk.html

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