The holidays happened and I apologize to you readers (if you’re still out there) that I haven’t posted in a while (thank you for reading!). I hope your New Year and holiday season was full of love and fun.
Now, I’m an atheist. A non-believer in the sense that I don’t hold stock in any kind of higher power, god, force in the universe…what have you. I was raised Catholic, but don’t practice any religion. I’m fine with people that do have a faith they find important to their lives, as long as they aren’t using it as a way to attempt to hurt or shame others (which happens way too frequently I think). Despite my non-beliefs, I still really dig Christmas and it kind of makes me a hypocrite when I wish my loved ones a, “Merry Christmas” but the parties, the drinking, the food, visiting family and friends is the just too good to pass up.
Being a dutiful daughter this year, I agreed to attend the Christmas Eve service at the United Church my mother is a part of. For probably the millionth time in my life, I listened to the story of the Virgin Mary and Joseph looking for room at the inn, the baby Jesus in the manger, the Three Kings… blah blah blah… which was punctuated by my four year old niece whispering, “Two more songs and then we can go open presents!” I was with her on that.
My mind drifted away during the reading, I started to think about how fantastical this story really is and how shitty it must have been for Mary. Think about it: a fourteen-year-old girl who has never had sex awaiting her pending marriage is visited by an angel in the middle of the night who’s like, “You’ve been chosen to have the son of god.” Then bam, she’s pregnant. Then she has to explain to her fiancé, who at first is all like, “Imma dismiss her quietly” (instead of stoning her for being a hussy, I guess?) He doesn’t believe her and how lonely and sad she must have felt. He doesn’t get on board until an angel talks to him and is all like, “Nah, don’t do that. She’s got god inside of her.” So then he decides to stick with her. Then, they have to travel for a really long time and she’s riding a donkey at nine months pregnant, then there’s no room at the inn and has to have her baby in a stable full of animals, and everyone is like, “Look how magnificent this baby is.” I would be thinking, “Look how fucking resilient this teenage girl is.”
This poor girl who’s never had a chance to even know her body by the way of sex or intimacy goes through literally one of the most painful experiences she’s ever had, and she didn’t even get the chance to have the fun that goes along with conceiving a child? Shit, that is one huge undertaking. Her virginity is so important to the story that it’s now permanently part of her name, the Virgin Mary. Not the Strong Mary, or Resourceful Mary, or Dedicated Mary, the virgin part is what defines her. I couldn’t help thinking with my pervy brain, did she just never have sex with her husband after the baby was born? What is it about virginity that bears such importance?
I’ve mentioned this before, I attended Catholic School, and since I could remember this idea of virginity as pure and righteous and sex as a means to procreation was the party line. In high school we were inundated with the message that you only had sex once you were married and if you didn’t wait, you were sinning. The virgin/whore dichotomy was pretty set in stone.
But what sex meant in a heteronormative Christian context was a very clear cut P in V action, and for many this is the marker for losing one’s V card. Needless to say, this doesn’t cover homosexual sex and as Dan Savage points out in his commenting on the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities, then his husband would be a ‘virgin’ too.
I can understand why these folks look for these kind of loopholes (no pun intended—but you should watch this hilarious video full of glorious puns on the subject).
I was an awkward teenager and completely nervous about boys and even though I actually never had sex during this time, I developed a pretty strong attitude that all this fuss about staying a virgin was out of the question for me, and I really didn’t understand why god would care so much about what I did with my vagina.
Then I went away to university and frosh week was basically someone handing you a condom every four minutes. I was still pretty nervous about dating and just didn’t do it. Then the next year rolled around and all my friends seemed to be having sex. Then I, ironically enough, started working at The Condom Shack, a sex boutique.
Yes, I was a virgin working at a sex store. I felt almost like I’d skipped a step somewhere, selling dildos, lubes, condoms, oils, having never really used them myself. The women I worked with were tenacious and knowledgeable and I really did get an education. I was given a sense of empowerment about how to protect my body from pregnancy, able to explain the inner working of products that could (and would) give me pleasure, and a voyeuristic glimpse into the sex lives of many, many people.
But this started a panic in me. Shouldn’t I have sex? It looks like everyone else is having it. It was the complete opposite pressure that I had felt in school. It was a confusing time, and again, the P in V was the ultimate thing. It was like I was living a lie, and in my panic and conflicting ideas I just kind of, got it over with. I was dating someone for a while and it just… happened. He wasn’t a bad guy, but after I felt like it was supposed to have more decorum, more of a feeling like a milestone had passed. I’d felt so much pressure from either side about it and now that it was over I wasn’t even sure if I felt different.
I didn’t have the tools to really negotiate what it is I wanted from sex. It took some experience and growing up to really figure out what it was about being a “virgin” that really bothered me, that I am many things and that this is not the be all an end all of my existence. Now I can honestly say that sex is not something I “get out of the way” and that I have a lot of love and respect for myself and have a healthy sex positive attitude. I even proudly call myself a slut for crying out loud.
I can only hope that Mary, if only the way that I finish this grand tale in my mind, was able to move past this label of being a virginal woman in her own mind, and that she could be a mother, wife, woman, and sexual being. Maybe even after Jesus’ went off to “spread the word” her and Joseph were able to find a room at an inn all to themselves.