Sunday, August 21, 2011

The virgin diaries

When I was in the Philippines a few weeks ago, while we were driving from Makati to Las Piñas, I happen to listen to a radio show that caught my attention immediately. The show, like any other typical "Doctor Love" session past the witching hour, had a male caller complain about a certain issue he recently had with his girlfriend. He courted her for more than a year before they became a couple; and they were going strong for the last two years. He loved her simplicity, her shyness - and her "hard-to-get" ways were, in his opinion, worth all his time and efforts. More importantly, what attracted him in the first place was her virginity. She prided herself in the fact that she wanted to wait - and he was more than willing to. 

But like all zealous men in their twenties, he looked forward to taking the relationship to the next level and even though she rejected his advances quite a number of times -- after two years together -- she finally gave in. Unmatched, their first time was going to be beautiful. It was going to be spectacular. Yet, instead of it being the new experience he had long hoped for; he was in for a bad surprise -- because right after they had sex, he found out that it was, actually, not such a new experience for her. Indeed, he was not her first. She had been touched before - and this sudden revelation, completely and utterly, destroyed him. 

But as the male caller explained his story, I, like the host of the radio show, could not clearly identify what his real problem was. Undoubtedly, it was wrong for her to lie about her virginity -- and no one in this world would judge the poor guy for being so cross at her. But as he went along, I could not help but sense that he was much more upset about the fact that she was not a virgin than the fact that she hid the truth. Above all, he could not get past the reality that since she was, indeed, not a virgin; then why did she let him wait an eternity for sex? Finally, he seeked advice on whether he should break up with her or not. The host then raised two important questions: "Do you want to break up with her because she lied or because she was not as pure as you thought she was? And if it is the latter, does her non-virginity truly make her less worthy of a woman now?" The caller hesitated for a while before admitting that he contemplated on ending their relationship because of the latter: because she was touched before, and not because she did not tell the truth. He even confessed that if he knew she wasn't a virgin to begin with, he would not have bothered to date her at all. I was furious -- and so was the radio host because she said "Actually, I strongly believe that she should be the one breaking up with you, and not the other way around. You do not deserve her -- or her love since you are judging her based solely on her (non-)virginity. It is like saying that all her other qualities do not count. It was definitely a mistake for her to lie about it -- and whether you forgive her or break up with her because of that false information should be the real issue. Having said that, maybe she did not tell you because she knew you would react the way that you are right now? And she was right - you are being a fool. In the end, did you truly love her or did you fall in love with her virginity?"

One's virginity - surely a person's most precious possession - has always been a very sensitive and long debated subject, especially in more conservative  societies where even discussing it is a huge step. Sex before marriage, contraception and protection, teen pregnancies, sex within cultural and religious differences - these matters related to sex have indeed raised awareness, questions, and eyebrows throughout the ages. As early as our teenage years, we learn that having sex for the first time will be an important happening in our lives -- and it is of course better if we wait for the right person to experience it with. Some people will get to have their fairytale story while many others will think of losing their virginity as a horrendous event.

Without doubt, one's virginity is something that should not be taken lightly and it is a fact that a woman's purity, in comparison to men's, has always seemed more of a serious matter - for women and as it appears, it is at times even more of value for men. It is perhaps a double standard that is arguable and unfair on so many different levels -- but a social truth nonetheless. Moreover, we can concede that this subject is closely connected to what will (eventually) become a woman's sexual and/or romantic history - which will honestly matter for many men when they meet someone. Of course it would be wonderful if one is lucky enough to live his/her true love with one person alone, but we live in world today where opportunities and options have widened. Consequently, women are incontestably more liberal about sex - embracing their sexual prowess as much as men do -- which was not the case only a few decades ago. And so it becomes a reality that a lot of a woman nowadays will have more than one partner in her lifetime -- whether she is proud of that fact or not. The consequences are of course both negative and positive: women gain more experience and confidence, but they are also somehow labelled because of such practice. And so we can ask ourselves: does our sexual history define us? Does it become a factor that will weigh on our dating life? And ultimately, is it right to judge a person because of where he/she has been before?

In the dating scene, many people fear that their history will haunt them because many things in that box could either be shameful, repulsive or even just crazy. And in spite of the fact that we are pushed to believe that we are able to learn from the past, many souls remain persistently judgmental on someone's (sexual and romantic) background. He/she has the history of... makes it seem close to impossible to leave it all behind. But, once again, although it may as well have that major impact -- it simply is not right to let it overshadow our whole being. If a man, like the male caller on that radio show, is not willing to take a bigger chance on a woman just because she's not as untouched as she should have been in his eyes, then he surely is not worth the bother to begin with. The past becomes a part of someone, but it definitely does not make the person. Love is loving it all: qualities, flaws and everything in between. In the end, the thing about virginity is that it symbolizes something new. And when we fall in love, for the first or nth time, aren't we always starting fresh? Of course that is the case -- and some worthy man will know the difference. And like Madonna once said, "I'd been had, I'd been sad and blue. But you made me feel shiny and new. Like a virgin, touched for the very first time."