Friday, January 15, 2010

How do you define a "good girl" in America

Last night on VH1 News, I saw a program about Virginity in the United States. At first, I wanted to change the channels. I thought it would be some right wing Caucasian home schooled teens talking about the importance of waiting until marriage.

But what I saw was completely different! Very interesting.

To begin with, I came from a generation that basically grew up during the 80's. I was seven in 1980 and I was a junior in high school by 89. I would say my formative years were the 80s.

I remember my parents taking me to church. I remember being given a book called "Where did I come from" when I was about 4. I remember going to a hospital to take a class in puberty/reproduction when I was in the 5th grade thru my Girl Scout class. I remember a Health class that discusses STDs in 9th grade.

I knew you should wait until you were married, but I cannot remember for the life of me anyone "out right" saying that.

I remember as far back, and this is soooo sad, in 5th grade. There was a little girl named Angela. Angela, as far as I could tell, was probably not from the best of homes. She was a mean little thing. But I do remember her telling me she was sleeping with a boy that was in high school.

In 5th grade, I was a little confused. I had the basic concept, and even saw the movie - but for the life of me I could not put two and two together.

In 7th grade, I ended up at a different school from the kids I went to elementary school with. There it only got worse. Soooooo many were sexually active. I remember it took everything I had to put my barbie's away in the 7th grade. I think I would have preferred to keep it innocent. The things I heard from other kid's experiences almost made me want to puke. It was too much information.

By high school, we are talking full-on kids in massive relationships. Part of that required the girl to engage in sexual activity. I cannot tell you how many boyfriends I lost because I would not do things. Oh yes.. it was bad. But I saw, one by one, as really "good" girls subjected themselves to lude behavior. The pressure of it all was too much, I suppose. Wanting to be liked, wanting to keep a boyfriend, etc.

Not me.

If you are wondering what I believe - I think it is important that the person
1. should always be an adult before they make these types of decisions, regardless of religious upbringing. In our society you are deemed an adult when you go off to college.
2. I think you need to take your religious values into play, and realize for some people, there is a belief of very strong consequences.
3. Be smart. Understand birth control.
4. Preferably, wait until marriage.

Obviously I am catholic. We have very strong rules around this. But let's be serious, people will do what they shouldn't do most times. If they are going to choose to make a bad decision - at least wait until they are older, and can use their brains a little clearer.

Now - back to what I saw last night:

Purity Balls.
Guys, this freaked me out. A Purity ball (also known as a father-daughter purity ball or purity wedding) is a formal ball dance event attended by fathers and their daughters.

Purity balls promote virginity until marriage for teenage girls, and are often closely associated with U.S. Christian churches, particularly fundamentalist churches.

Typically, daughters who attend make a virginity pledge; a pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Fathers who attend pledge to protect what they view as their young daughters' purity of mind, body, and soul. Proponents promote a strong father-daughter relationship as a means to affirm what they consider to constitute spiritual and physical purity.

Okay - I am for the whole promise to wait. I am for a ball. I am for father/daughter dances. But I am creeped out by the idea that the Father is pledging to protect her virginity.

So - as I was looking around the net to learn more about this, I found this writer Eve Ensler .

She criticizes purity balls for what she sees as the position of inferiority it puts the daughters in:
"When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity, your sexuality is basically being taken away from you until you sign yet another contract, a marital one...It makes you feel like you’re the least important person in the whole equation. It makes you feel invisible."

Conservative journalist Betsy Hart, while supporting the idea of sexual abstinence prior to marriage, has expressed concerns that the strong focus of purity balls on the concept of virginity may actually sexualize youth, albeit in an unintended way.

During the documentary I saw 4 year old signing (the best that they could) the pledge. Okay - let's refer back to my personal story about how in the 5th grade I could not put two and two together. These girls probably see this as a night they get to dress up as a little princess and daddy says "You're my Girl" - how in the heck does that work???

To the right is a picture of a purity ball. Looks like a mix between a debutante ball for kids and a scene from the Nutcracker. All jokes aside, one of the things these girls do is lay a white rose at the foot of a cross. Pledging that their love is not their own, but for God to possess.

The first virginity pledge program was True Love Waits, started in 1993 by the Southern Baptist Convention, which now claims over 2.5 million pl edgers worldwide in dozens of countries.

A torrent of virginity pledge programs followed.

A later, prominent virginity pledge program was the Silver Ring Thing (SRT), which was the subject of a lawsuit by the ACLU in 2005. SRT presented a two-part program, the first part about abstinence; the second about Born again Christianity.

The ACLU claimed that federal funding given to this program violated the separation of Church and State. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services settled the lawsuit by suspending SRT's federal grant until it submitted a "corrective action plan." In 2006, SRT decided not to seek further federal funding so it could continue its message.

Virginity pledge programs take a variety of stances on the role of religion in the pledge: some use religion to motivate the pledge, putting Biblical quotes on the cards, while others use statistics and arguments to motivate the pledge. Advocacy of virginity pledges is often coupled with support for abstinence-only sex education in public schools. Advocates argue that any other type of sexual education would promote sex outside of marriage, which they hold to be immoral and risky.

I have encountered a handful of teenagers who are wearing these virginity rings or Purity rings.

They originated in the United States in the 1990s among Christian-affiliated sexual abstinence groups.

Wearing a purity ring is typically accompanied by a religious vow to practice abstinence until marriage.

David Bario, a reporter in the Chicago Tribune, Rutland Herald, and several other news websites wrote:"Under the Bush administration, organizations that promote abstinence and encourage teens to sign virginity pledges or wear purity rings have received federal grants.
The Silver Ring Thing, a subsidiary of a Pennsylvania Evangelical Church, has received more than $1 million from the government to promote abstinence and to sell its rings in the United States and abroad."

Wow. And conservatives are complaining about how the democrats/liberals are spending their dollars on health care. I would much rather my money be spent on giving someone the help they need versus a ring to "promise" to abstain from sex.

Well.. back to the question - how do you define a good girl? What about the girls who decide to wait, just because they see their virginity as a valuable commodity. Take for instance -Natalie Dylan. Do you guys remember hearing about her?

Just so you know, Natalie Dylan is the pseudonym of a 22-year-old student from San Diego, California, who rose to fame in September 2008, when she announced on the Howard Stern Show that she would auction off her virginity online, and that the act would be consummated at the Moonlite BunnyRanch in Nevada.

Dylan retained the right to choose the winner of the auction regardless of who is the highest bidder. She also admitted that she's still concerned about the prospect of spending a night with a stranger. As such, and according to plan, she has been getting to know the men who are bidding and having email conversations with them.
Dennis Hof, the owner of the brothel, is to receive half of the winning bid.
Here is a picture of Natalie Dylan. She took some racy pics of herself with the help of the brothel owner. Interesting way to promote her "virginity."

Apparently the bid made it all of the way up to 3.7 millions dollars by an Australian guy. He paid the 250,000$ deposit - but then decided to reconcile with his wife, so he left Natalie keep the 250,000 - and went about his way.

PS - She never attended graduate school.

Since she launched the auction, Dylan has faced a steady stream of criticism from women and allegations from men over the validity of her virginity claims. She said she is prepared to undergo a medical hymen examination to prove her chastity and has already passed two lie detector tests.

She also said "I am a sexual person and I've had sexual encounters - both casual and with a boyfriend. But I've abstained from sexual intercourse."

Some religious legal groups are objecting to the sexual sale, saying they are concerned that its influence may reach beyond the borders of Nevada, where prostitution is legal. However, according to specialists, there is no basis for the federal government to stop the auction. "It's a First Amendment issue. You can advertise goods or services that are illegal where they're advertised but legal where they're performed."

Again - what is the value of virginity???

I turned to Wikipedia for some help. But for the most part, what I found was the state of virginity often has special significance, usually as something to be respected or valued. Sure.. we get that. But this is especially true in societies where there are traditional or religious views associating sexual exclusiveness with marriage.

Female virginity is closely interwoven with personal or even family honor in many cultures, especially those known as shame societies, in which the loss of virginity before marriage is a matter of deep shame.

For example, among the Bantu of South Africa, virginity testing or even the suturing of the labia majora (called infibulation) has been commonplace.

Traditionally, Kenuzi girls (of the Sudan) are married before puberty by adult men who inspect them manually for virginity . Female circumcision is later performed at puberty to ensure chastity.

History evidences laws and customs that required a man who seduced or raped a virgin to take responsibility for the consequences of his offense by marrying the girl or by paying compensation to her father on her behalf.

In some countries until the late 20th century, if a man did not marry a woman whose virginity he had taken, the woman was allowed to sue the man for money, in some languages named "wreath money".

Some historians and anthropologists note that many societies that place a high value on virginity before marriage, before the sexual revolution, actually have a large amount of premarital sexual activity that does not involve vaginal penetration: for example, oral sex, anal sex and mutual masturbation.

This is considered by some people "technical" virginity, as vaginal intercourse has not occurred but the participants are sexually active.

In recent years, "technical" virginity has become popular among teenagers.

In 1999, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which examines the definition of sex based on a 1991 random sample of 599 college students from 29 states found that sixty percent said oral-genital contact did not constitute having sex.

According to a study published in 2001 in The Journal of Sex Research, over half of respondents considered that virginity could only be lost through having consensual sex.

There are anthropological reasons for the view that vaginal penetration, especially on the part of the woman, is especially indicative of a change in status, a threshold irrevocably crossed, the most incontrovertible "loss of virginity".

What can we say to all of this? I simply don't know. I am so glad I do not have any kids to have to make these decisions with, or to even help them understand. But I have a niece, and I want her to grow up with values and self respect. Don't make the mistakes so many people of my generation did. Don't get caught up in the need for attention and false value.

Wow - all from a silly cable television piece I saw last night. Geez..... ;-)

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