Consider Virginity

This story appeared, modified, in the Gauntlet on February 6th, 2014. 

Consider, for the following moment, what it means to lose one’s virginity. For some, considering virginity means recalling a pleasant moment, wherein a romantic interest blossomed out of an idyllic and simple time into the beginnings of one’s sexual life. For others, the boundary of virginity has not yet been crossed, and anxiety and ambivalence can be the common sexual state of mind.

Virginity can be seen as a special thing to be maintained. Perhaps sex is entirely unappealing despite the pressures to buy into the sexual game. Yet for many others virginity conjures up memories of worry and fear, perhaps physical, emotional or mental pain and anguish.

Whether one’s earliest sexual experiences were negative, positive, non-existent or somewhere else in the sphere, most of us are made profoundly uncomfortable by openly discussing virginity.

Image

Photo by Michael Grondin

I must admit that I too initially withdrew from this topic, knowing that opening such a door would put me and my sexuality in a vulnerable position. After all, a topic such as virginity touches upon very personal and often sensitive issues. For this reason, I insist upon taking a thorough and meaningful look into what we mean by virginity and its comings and goings.

Considering virginity provides us with an intimate gateway into the intricacies of sexuality. And now, more than ever, do we require such a gateway. Never before have people been so bombarded by images, ideas and ideals of sexuality. Never before have people faced such disorienting and possibly damaging sexual forces through the Internet or commercialism. Never before has sexuality been so thoroughly tied to politics, economics and our collective experience.

Considering virginity and how we relate to it forces us to be vulnerable. But, if we truly wish to grow, and see our passions and desires flow free from the restraints of the media’s shackles — overturning the unspoken traumas that lurk behind every door— then we must confront the issue at its heart. We must go beyond the current understanding of virginity into new and exciting realms where sexuality exists in its heartiest and fullest form.

The traditional description of the so-called loss of virginity is, to its credit, fairly straightforward: the first time that a penis finds itself in a vagina, or the first time a vagina finds itself with a penis in it.

While this description may seem simple and broad enough to constitute the boundaries of virginity, we would be doing all sexual peoples a massive disservice by accepting that description as fully encompassing and accurate.

The first and most clear problem with the traditional description is its hetero-normativity. That is to say, the description is inherently biased towards a heterosexual picture of sexuality. A gay person who has never been with a partner of the opposite sex, but has been with someone of the same sex is considered, under the traditional description, still a virgin.
Transgender, gender ambiguous or hermaphroditic people are also left in a confused and difficult situation if our explanation of virginity is grounded entirely in traditional ideas of mere genitals. It should seem obvious that calling said alternative-sexual types to still be virgins is a painful and incorrect understanding.

The hetero-normative aspects of the traditional description of virginity are made even more apparent when we consider the historical underpinnings of virginity in women. As psychoanalyst Amanda Hon pointed out, “Historically, the hymen has been widely regarded as the ‘anatomical representative of virginity,’ although its existence is conjectural. Virginity has been written about as a physical state long before the hymen was ever discussed in medical literature.”

That is to say, the physical loss of virginity was patriarchally decided upon first, then proved with the hymen’s so-called discovery. And yet, even when the problems of the traditional description is laid out before us, rather than engaging their imaginations, many attempt to simply reform the traditional description, or add enough caveats for it to operate successfully.

Such reformers attempt to expand the traditional definition into a scale of sexual activity: once one has achieved or performed a certain level or certain number of sexual acts they then cross the boundary out of virginity. While this reform of the description may be inclusive enough for most members of the sexually active population, it still leaves us short on too many levels.

First of all, it still leaves us with a description that favours penetration as a marker, since on any scale of sexual activity, penetration remains the easiest point on the scale at which to draw the line.

Take, for example, recent research that analyzed the teen magazine Seventeen, as mentioned by Amanda Hon, wherein girls’ loss of virginity was, “defined as occurring when they have intercourse, while in boys there was some flexibility, allowing them to choose whether to base their virginity status on their achievement of orgasm rather than penile penetration of a vagina.”

This sexual double standard reconfirms a heterosexual, male and phallic bias that leaves all non-straight, non-male-identifying people with penetration as their only option for defining virginity.

It almost feels silly to point out that penetration is not the end-all-be-all of sexual activity, and yet such thinking all too often underpins sexual assumptions.

The take-home point, it must be stressed, is that all attempts to create a definition of virginity using carnal descriptors inevitably reveals itself to contain some element that ends up being discriminatory or limiting. This point is made all the more real when we consider situations of sexual abuse. If a person’s first major sexual experience was one of rape, do we still maintain that that person is no longer a virgin? After all, they’ve “gone all the way” at that point, even though it was not their choice to do so.

Yet, our intuitions should be telling us that something in our understanding of virginity is wrong if it leaves the sexually abused and mistreated in the dust, if it leaves us with that sinister virgin-whore dichotomy, if it leaves us in the trash-bin of modern hyper-sexualization. If we hope to maintain any understanding of virginity that cruxes on physical lines, we will be drawn back in to problematic and limiting understandings of virginity.

We need to re-envision virginity to move past these limitations. We must therefore turn to desire, to consent, to passion, to seduction and to dignity which will arouse in us a fuller awareness of virginity and sexuality.

First and foremost, we must drop the whole “losing” or “loss” part of the equation. Virginity is often something special — that cannot be doubted. But, for most of us, virginity has an endpoint that, if we are being sexually respectful of ourselves and others, occurs when it ought to occur, free from the pressures and hold-ups of the oversexualized consumerist game around us.

By calling it a loss we inadvertently buy into the fetishizing of virginity, and miss out on what can be gained on both sides of this supposed virgin/non-virgin divide.

Genuine virginity, then, ends where genuine sexuality begins: at the moment in our lives where, as contemporary philosopher Wolfi Landstreicher put it, we “truly allow the expansiveness of passionate intensity to flower and to pursue it where the twisting vine of desire takes it.” That is to say, virginity is ours to decide.

If my passions, abilities and desires dictate that a certain set of experiences is what constitutes the end of my virginity, then that is that. If my partner has chosen a different set of conditions then that is their choice.

What is more important is that we open up the field of discussion of what each of us expects from the other in sexual interactions. The meaning of virginity and sexuality is a personal decision, and an autonomous understanding of need and desire.

We must realize that, as Slavoj Žižek put it, “True freedom is not a freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between a strawberry cake or a chocolate cake; true freedom overlaps with necessity, one makes a truly free choice when one’s choice puts at stake one’s very existence — one does it because one simply ‘cannot do it otherwise.’ ”

That is to say, our choosing of meaning must not be treated like any average choice one would make while shopping. It is a choice that matters deeply and must be treated as such. One must consider what virginity means to them, since if one does not then social forces and pressures make the decision for better or worse (with a likely tendency towards to latter).

The definition of virginity must not be a closed ordeal. There is no other way to transcend the demands of hyper-sexual modernity, since the sexuality of our present day doesn’t respect our personal trajectories or passions, but instead dictates what it means to be sexual. And, as has been shown, that present-day sexuality is far too often damaging, non-inclusive, reductionist, consumerist, sexist and not in the interests of liberatory attitudes.

Virginity must remain fluid and interactive as to be able to respectfully include the many requests that each person’s sexuality asks of it. Rather than having our understanding of virginity ask us to conform to certain discriminatory and damaging norms, our understanding of virginity must ask of us, as Martha Nussbaum once asked, “What is each person able to do and to be?”

But it must be remembered that such an alternative vision of virginity can only come about if we decide to adopt the struggle for a radical, collective and authentic sexuality. We must decide to shed the sexual anxieties and frustrations that modern hyper-sexualization has burdened us with. We must decide what constitutes or constituted the end of our virginity and where, and how, and why our sexuality has its beginning. We must decide what is or is not meaningful within the many twists and turns of the erotic.

So I ask you again, to consider virginity. Consider what virginity is in the here and now. But most importantly, consider what virginity can be.

Advertisements

Student newspaper terrorist

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on April 12, 2012.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, in September of 2011, the University of Calgary’s independent student newspaper, the Gauntlet, has been held hostage by a lone ultra-left terrorist who goes by the simple pseudonym “Remi.”

The founding member of the terrorist network the Coalition for a Revolutionary Alberta Society, Remi has single-handedly managed to capture and control the Gauntlet’s nine section editors, as well as countless numbers of the paper’s volunteers. Adopting the title of “opinions editor,” Remi has transformed the previously arch-conservative student newspaper—once the springboard for Canadian right-wing heroes such as Ezra Levant and Stephen Harper—into an ideological tool for a terrorist message of “pro-autonomy” and “pro-dignity,” ideas that are clearly dangerous to the health of sensitive Albertan minds.

Having precipitated several violent incidents on the university campus, Canadian security and peace enforcement agencies having been pooling their resources to capture, kill and end the strife he has caused.

‘Remi,’ as he is known to allies and enemies alike, commandeered the student newspaper on September 3, 2011, and seized the title of “opinions editor.” The opinions section previous to Remi’s takeover maintained a small but humble position near the back of the weekly  issue of the Gauntlet. While maintaining his reign of terror over the paper’s real editors and volunteers, Remi has successfully expanded the opinions section to take up most of the paper, and through the section he bombards University of Calgary students with a weekly barrage of horrifyingly new ideas. As student Emily Hamilton, member of the Delta Upsilon Mu sorority observed, “The newspaper [the Gauntlet], like, used to be, like, totally fair and balanced, like the Calgary Sun is. Now it’s basically like mostly opinions from that hipster fag Remi or whatever his name is.”

As of the March 28, 2012 issue of the Gauntlet, a total of 300 students have claimed serious injury after having been exposed to an issue of one of Remi’s signature articles or illustrations.
One political science student Sam Bloom, remembers all too well how he obtained his injuries.
“I was walking down the hallway just leaving professor Flanagan’s class, and I saw the Gauntlet. I used to read it all the time. It was way better in my day. But I hesitated picking it up because it had something I totally didn’t like on the cover,” Said Bloom. “I flipped it open and it was just ultra-leftist filth everywhere. Some of the art was even communist looking. Then I started to read this article by that boy Remi. There were words that I didn’t like, like ‘passion,’ ‘vitality of life,’ ‘apparatus’ and ‘wherefore.’ I barely got through the first paragraph when I felt this terrible pain fill my head. Next thing you know I’m in the hospital for an entire day. I wasn’t even allowed to go to ThursDen that night. Like what the fuck. Remi is so pathetic and stupid.”


No one has yet to successfully discover the identity of “Remi,” although the Canadian Security Intelligence Service believes Remi’s gender is of a male-like variety, as one Gauntlet hostage reported as having seen, “A large phallic-like object,” which supposedly came out of Remi’s pants once during a  visit to a bathroom. Remi’s elaborate use of disguise, including a tangled mess of hair, crafty and distracting glasses and a penchant for shadows has allowed him to avoid recognition. It is thought that Remi is capable of producing fake newsmedia as a tool for deception, as well as writing about himself in the third person (generally considered an extremely masturbatory act) as to dumbfound and irritate his detractors.

The Coalition for a Revolutionary Alberta Society was, according to the group’s website, founded by Remi in late 1988, apparently not long after “Remi’s” supposed birth. Since that time both Remi and cras have grown considerably and have forged powerful relationships with various terrorist groups. Yet Remi has retained his anonymity since day one. Even fellow terrorists involved in Remi’s terrorist ‘Front’ or affiliated groups in his terror network apparently know nothing relevant about the ultra-leftist’s identity or origins.
In late 2011, members of the West Albertan Nationalist Guerrillas and the Socialist and Anarchist Coalition who had participated in terrorist acts of “discussion of political alternatives” alongside Remi’s CRAS, were apprehended by the Royal Canadian Peace Enforcement Agency and were subsequently coerced into revealing details behind their terrorist network. The coercion undergone by members of WANG and SAC revealed startling information about the level of penetration perpetrated by the terrorist connections here in Alberta and abroad, but failed to reveal anything significant about Remi. Even Remi’s Facebook profile is incredibly vague and misleading, claiming that Remi is, “In a relationship” and “Likes” such topics as “reading” and “music.”

With a love for violent “debate” and the use of frightening tactics such as “critical thinking,” Remi has successfully kept the editors and volunteers of the Gauntlet student newspaper hostage. Current Gauntlet editor-in-chief Eric Mathison, who has managed to maintain a level of connection with the outside world, stated in one letter that, “most of the time we are subjected to his [Remi’s] constant discussions of ethics, politics or metaphysics, as well as hour-long diatribes about the proper accents on ‘Slavoj Žižek.’ But he has allowed me to go for the occasional coffee and washroom break, and every now and again my wife is able to bring me in some vegan cupcakes.”

However, not all students or Gauntlet members have been overcome by Remi’s takeover. A post-Trotskyist student organization, a campus-based anarchist association and various pro-human rights activist students have all asserted their solidarity with Remi and CRAS. Additionally, current Gauntlet news editor, Amy Badger, has, according to one hostage mediator, fallen ill with Stockholm Syndrome.
According to Mount Royal University psychologist Evrin Ting-Halvoff, Stockholm Syndrome is “a paradoxical psychological condition where hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, occasionally to the point of defending their captors.” Badger is believed to currently be involving herself in sexual relations with Remi, although this has neither been confirmed nor denied by either party.


The Royal Canadian Peace Enforcement Agency has been unable to infiltrate the Gauntlet and arrest Remi. RCPEA commissioner Dic McIver stated in a recent press conference that, “we, the law enforcement agency of this fine city, have been unable to capture Remi. As it stands, we have been heavily preoccupied with meeting our quotas for speeding tickets, parking violations and agitation of undesirables.”

When questioned as to what changes might aid the RCPEA in their hunt for Remi, McIver claimed that an increase in peace officer funding and powers would enable the organization to “finally rid the city of its unwanted elements,” at which point the capture of Remi, “would become our top priority.”

With the student newspaper under Remi’s control, the ultra-leftist terrorist has been able to offend and horrify the delicate minds of University of Calgary students. With a large proportion of upper-middle class students attending the institution—all of whom are succeeding through their own rugged individualism—the terrorist demands of Remi’s, which include the “proliferation of genuine autonomy” and “respect for the dignity of all people,” have erupted into obscene ideological violence.

No place to study . . . each other

This article appeared in the Gauntlet on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Taylor Family Digital Library opened to considerable fanfare, but its study spaces are absurdly busy, noisy and in short supply. The majority of MacKimmie Tower closed, robbing us of a study place of solace. Coupling these concerns with the record enrolment numbers and the bureaucratic hodgepodging of both the su and campus administration, students are realizing that our campus has woefully inadequate study space. However, there is an equally pressing concern that most students haven’t yet considered: the woefully inadequate lack of sex space.

The studying of sexuality and sex in all of its scholarly manifestations is ubiquitous in the fields of academia. But in our university the having of sex and exploring of sexuality have been denied a constructive outlet. This has condemned campus sex and sexuality to secretive trysts and regretful dorm room encounters.
If our school really wants to achieve “excellence” they need to affirm sexuality and create sexual space. Sex space would undoubtedly reduce the amount of pointless and often painful one-night stands that result from the immature sex rituals of ThursDen. If we had sex space students would waste less of their days and nights ogling their fellow students, searching for a human connection or for a fuck. It’s understood that sex is a wonderful option for stress relief. I’m certain most students don’t need the benefits of stress relief explained to them. With less nights and days wasted, with our focus regained and our stress reduced, grades and emotional well-being would improve. Our burden upon services such as the Wellness Centre would certainly be reduced. The practical element of establishing sexual space would be an incredible adventure that only a closed mind would not appreciate. While there is something to be said of clandestine rendezvouses in empty classrooms, sex space would foster a better relationship to sexuality.

Sexuality is an essential aspect of humanness — it expresses itself in a bountiful plurality of beautiful possibilities. However, perhaps resulting from the hyper-sexualized sexist corporate media, sexuality within our campus has, almost entirely, been relegated to the darkest recesses of our school. Sex space is a possible means by which we can reverse this trend. Our university needs to graduate from its immature understanding of sex — a coital convocation that affirms genuine sexual values.