The Language Of Virginity

It may seem an obvious question, but it is still worth asking why we say that a girl (and sometimes a boy) “loses” virginity – rather than acquires knowledge or experience. There are other locutions for this event, but most if not all imply that something is taken away rather than added. In describing it as an easily curable minor medical condition, Robert Heinlein is not at all typical. Catholics may embroider the concept and talk about virginity as a thing to be treasured and a ticket to salvation, but even the rest of us have been known to switch off our brains and borrow their language of a fatal “loss”. This is odd.

It becomes even odder when “innocence” is used as a synonym. This ought to disturb us, and all the more so when we consider the word’s ambiguity between – or equation of – lack of knowledge and lack of guilt. For we are said to lose our innocence when we find out how the world really works. Gaining sexual experience certainly counts as finding out something about how the world really works, but why is this discovery regarded as negative? Are we to understand that everyone using this language is in reality a kind of Gnostic – that is, believing that the world is a thoroughly evil place? But unlike the old dualists in that they do not want to know the truth. Some Christians are well aware of the Gnostic streak in their religion, calling the world a Vale of Tears, but are probably unaware of just how far they are now taking it; others explicitly call Satan the lord of this world, while others again simply do not realise what they are doing.

If lack of guilt is what we mean by the word “innocence”, what is happening when we call one’s first sexual experience the loss of it? What is guilty about it? Original sin was about disobeying God over that apple-tree, not about having sex. On the one hand it is true that sexual life offers vast scope for manipulation and malice; but on the other hand, are those evils restricted to sexual life? In other words, is it true that virgins never act unethically? Not a chance. I cannot see why sex and the malice should be inherently connected; you can have one or the other or both or neither. We can see manipulation and malice, sometimes to a quite psychopathic degree, in even the smallest children. Some Hollywood films have exploited our consequent unease, but otherwise it seems as if the whole language of the “loss of innocence” is specifically designed to allow us to evade contemplating this enormous truth.

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 17, 2010)

Posted on December 25, 2021 at 13:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: Religion And Sex

Leave a Reply