I started a post about surrogate families earlier today but I had to leave it and when I came back, I had lost interest so I am returning to Proust and his list of questions. The selected question for today is kind of an odd one, I think.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
I considered this question before and discarded it because I couldn’t find a definition of the word virtue that would help me narrow down what might be the most overrated one. The common (and first) definition of virtue is a noun meaning having or being of high morality. That kind of leaves things wide open for a variety of interpretations.
But for the purpose of this essay, I am going to say that the most overrated virtue, in my opinion – which is the one that matters here – is virginity, for lack of a more fitting term (my gut reaction to the question was “virtue is the most overrated virtue” but I thought that might get a little confusing).
Here is where some of my readers might learn things about me they didn’t necessarily want to know (I’m not going to get pornographic, by any means, or even detailed but perhaps more …blunt…in my philosophies than some might be comfortable with) so take this statement as your chance to back out.
Moving forward in 3…2…
Staying? Okay, then, here we go.
I am a feminist. I am a feminist in the most accurate form of the term. I believe in equality of the sexes, not equality when it iss convenient for me or equality when it aligns with my personal beliefs. To that end, I am also an unapologetically sexual person. I have a healthy sexual appetite and am not terribly concerned who knows about it. I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about it in public or with causal acquaintances or at the dinner table but I don’t believe there is any reason to be ashamed of it, either. Just…choosing my battles, so to speak.
That is not to say that I believe everyone, everywhere should be having ALL THE SEX. As much as I don’t believe in being ashamed of my own sexual appetite, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with someone who doesn’t possess the same inclination. As long as you are not hyper sexual because you have chosen not to be hyper sexual, not because someone told you you shouldn’t be.
I think that society, generally speaking, worries too much about what happens in the privacy of a bedroom.
There are things we do in our lives that we maybe should feel shame for – stealing candy from children, making fun of elderly or disabled people. And there are sexual acts that we should feel shame for – sleeping with your sister’s husband, but that’s kind of a different conversation. The things two (or three or four…whatever finds your lost remote) consenting adults* do with one another in the privacy of their bedroom** should be of no concern to anyone but them.
But for some reason, they are. It seems like every other day there is another politician or religious leader (or both) trying to push through some kind of new law about sex. Banning oral sex, banning same sex marriage, banning adult toy stores… Why should any of this matter to anyone? Furthermore, in most cases, the question becomes who is going to enforce these strange laws?
And if it isn’t someone lobbying for sexually shaming legislation, one public figure is chastising another public figure (usually women but not always) for being “promiscuous” or “prudish,” depending on which side of the conversation you come in on. If you buy birth control, you must be promiscuous. If you have an abortion, you should have been more careful with your promiscuity and maybe tried using birth control. A woman who buys her own condoms is promiscuous but a woman who is too shy to buy her own condoms is a prude. A man who buys his own condoms gets an “atta boy!” but if he lets the woman buy them… well, honestly, I don’t know what society thinks of a man who lets the woman buy the condoms… Anyone? Bueller? I kind of assume society still believes it’s the man’s responsibility to have the condoms and if he doesn’t, then the sex doesn’t happen?
My point is sex is really the one thing we do in our lives that has literally no effect on anyone else, in the world (save for our partner or partners, as the case may be…unless you’re masturbating in which case, by all means, go nuts, just not in a movie theater or the bathroom at work). The choices we make in the bedroom (should) have no bearing on how we are valued by society. As a feminist, I support women buying condoms (have done so myself) and having them on hand when the time comes to use them rather than relying on the man to have them. I support a woman’s right to pursue sexual gratification in any and every way society deems acceptable for a man. I support everyone’s right to say no, regardless of how many times they said yes before, regardless of their reason why and if they will say yes again tomorrow. I support everyone’s right to explore their sexuality with different partners or to save themselves for marriage. I support your right to abstain, even if you didn’t before and I support your right to give up your abstinence for either Mr./Ms. Right or Mr./Ms. Right Now, without having to explain yourself to anyone.
Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to be virginal and pure or that you have to be weak and meek in the bedroom. Speak up, tell him (or her) what you want, what you like, what you don’t like. Enjoy the act. Enjoy being with your partner, whether in a committed relationship, a casual fling, or a one-night stand. Seek out sexual gratification.
Or don’t. But if you don’t, don’t for the right reasons. Don’t because it is your decision, not because your mother (grandmother, aunt, whoever) told you sexual pleasure is for the man and the woman’s job is to 1. satisfy her man and 2. make babies. Don’t but not because your church told you it was wrong to be sexual outside of marriage. Don’t but not because society tells you only sluts initiate sex. If you don’t, don’t but don’t for the right reasons.
Being a man doesn’t mean you are required to sow your wild oats. If saving yourself for marriage is what feels right to you, then don’t let The Boys emasculate you for that decision (which is none of their business, why are you telling them about it, anyway?!). If being dominated is what turns your crank, then find a woman who enjoys being on top (so to speak; just as much control can be exerted from the lower position). If you don’t want to go to bed on the first date, don’t. Even if she wants to (in that case, you should have a real conversation but that’s another post for another day).
Regardless of whether you are male or female, your choices are your choices and no one, no one should make you feel like your choices are something to be ashamed of. You be you and let others worry about themselves.
* “Consenting adults” is not a noun phrase referring exclusively to people “over the age of 18.” Each state (in the U.S.) has its own laws regarding “age of consent” which is just a fancy way of saying when the legal guys think a person is old enough to make decisions about their sexuality (ish…there’s more to it but for the purposes of this conversation, we’ll just use that as a functional definition). It’s actually younger than 18 in some states. Research and find out what applies to your situation (if you are under 18 and reading this…)
** “Bedroom” here is a blanket term for anywhere two “consenting adults” choose to …ahem, consent… legally, of course. Park benches, mall fountains, public swimming pools do not count in this case. Choosing to get freaky in the fountain at the mall is clearly inappropriate and someone should tell you the reasons why that was a poor decision.