One of the feminist blogs I follow recently had an interesting post about “how to lose your virginity”. You can find it here : http://feministing.com/2014/04/23/film-how-to-lose-your-virginity/
I’ve long believed that the concept of virginity is a patriarchal one, that virginity is over-rated and that it gives society an excuse to impose a judgement on a woman which has no basis in her self worth. I have a very open attitude with my daughter about sex, and she and I recently discussed this very subject : when is the right time to lose your virginity, and how do you discuss it with your daughter?
I tried to present a balanced perspective – sexuality is intricately linked to emotional well-being, whether it is because it is stigmatised by society, or because of an actual, verifiable link. So I pointed out to her that the decision to have sex should be one she comes to herself, without pressure from a boyfriend, or friends. That there is no “status” which should be attached to the presence or absence of virginity – any more than there should be status attached to whether one has flown in an aeoroplane!
I pointed out that it comes down to personal readiness, that everyone is ready in their own time, and that nobody should judge that readiness.
I pointed out that there are consequences to sex, not least of all pregnancy and STDs, and that, if she wanted to avoid those consequences, I could assist her, with the help of a good gynaecologist.
I also had the discussion about consent – what it is, what it is not, and why it is something that can be WITHDRAWN AT ANY TIME, even mid-act.
This might seem like a lot for an 11yo to take in, but there are 11yos out there falling pregnant, and at least it’s the start of a channel of communication which is completely non-judgemental and absent of any moralistic overtones.
As she grows and matures, we will have more of these conversations. Throughout, I will try to take the “morality” out of sex, and rather to treat it as a subject of personal choice and readiness. I will point out that society imposes its own morality, and that “promiscuity” comes at a price, but that I don’t, personally, believe that that is fair.
I have already told her that I don’t think she should marry the first boy she sleeps with but that, if she does, that’s okay too (provided he is phenomenal in bed). I have told her that lust is a perfectly acceptable phenomenon in boys and girls, and that it’s okay to want people that your friends might find ….different. I’ve kept the lines of communication open in case it should emerge that she is not heterosexual.
Parenting is hard, but it is made so much easier when you simply try to love your child, avoid judgement, and stick to fact, rather than moralising.
Of course, she’ll probably still wind up on a therapist’s couch when she’s 19, explaining how I ruined her life….