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How America’s Obsession With Virginity Has Sexualized Young Women

Actress Sue Lyon eats a lollipop as Dolores "Lolita" Haze in a scene from <em>Lolita</em>, the 1962 film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel. Nabokov made sumptuous use of food in his writing, and the acoustic affinity between Lolita and lollipops is no coincidence.

Sexualization of women has been a social construct prevalent since the development of the human race. Women were seen solely as vessels for reproduction and with the spread of Christianity, were expected to be well behaved, moral servants to their husbands. To be an object of sex was the only thing women had going for them, thus being an untouched virgin made them more valuable, as a brand new car would be more valuable than a used one.  But women are more than the objects that the Christian virginity movement influences society to think they are. They do not deserved to be sexualized before they reach adulthood because of their inexperience or slut-shamed due to the natural sexual behaviors that make them experienced. If principles of Christianity are enforced into society in the United States, then women will continue to be sexualized.

Historically, the women’s rights movement in America was an uphill battle. Change was slow; women did not get the right to vote until the 20th century! Feminist attitudes were present among females since America came to be and this community continues to exist today. Currently, more women are seeking higher education than ever before. With the increase of women on college campuses, the amount of sexual assaults and rapes on these campuses have alarmingly risen. According to Time magazine, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted on a college campus. Even more shocking, “The broader term sexual assault used in the 1-in-5 statistic includes rape along with other forms of unwanted sexual contact, such as forced fondling or kissing — but more than half the assaults reported meet the strict definition of rape. Nearly three-quarters of those victims were incapacitated, underscoring the role of alcohol in campus assaults.”   Naturally, these statistics have inspired attempts for change, yet very few victims report the assaults to law enforcement. Most victims of rape know their attackers and thus are unsure whether harm was intended. However, the date rapists often create the opportunity for a rape, unbeknownst to the woman. In the Bible, it is stated that women must submit themselves to their husbands as they would to God. This implicates that men are gods compared to women and that they have a right to sexual intercourse, even if women do not give their consent. Comparatively, the anti-feminist mindset contributed to by Bible teachings still continues to exist in today’s society and on college campuses.

In addition, the desire of women to be sexually attractive to men has some not-so-pretty ties to the teachings of Christianity. Historically, women strived to be seen as beautiful in order to obtain riches and financial support from a potential husband. It has already been established that women were subjugated to men in the bible, only being seen as possible genes for reproduction. As a consequence, American women in today’s society are constantly striving to be beautiful enough to attract males.“As journalist Ariel Levy pointed out in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, ‘hot’ is not the same as ‘beautiful’ or ‘attractive’: It is a narrow, commercialized vision of sexiness that, when applied to women, can be reduced to two words: ‘f*ckable’ and ‘sellable.’ No coincidence, Levy added, that this is ‘the literal job criteria for stars of the sex industry.’ And maybe no coincidence that young people are growing up with far more access to porn than ever before. Which means their early ideas about sex are drawn from fiction that has largely been produced for male masturbation.” Women’s looks are seen as important only to the purpose of a male’s satisfaction. This stems to back to the Christian principles of women having an obligation to give their husband sex whenever he wanted it. In an interview by Christianity Today, it is stated that “[Pornography] takes power away from women as a group, because it provides men with another sexual outlet.” This statement blatantly admits that a woman’s sole power comes from her ability to be sexually satisfying to her partner. After all, women were used by men for their genes for reproduction and notable age gaps between men and women were prevalent. The concept of a young, innocent virgin was sought after and still is today. A study of two colleges in 2014 revealed that almost half of the female students attending were entirely hairless. Women need to be ultimately hairless to attract men, a characteristic similar to that of an infant.

Without question, premarital sex is forbidden in Christianity. However, in their efforts to make virgins look more appealing to men to protect their virtue of purity, chastity has become increasingly rare, thus backfiring.“So many young adult Christians are making peace with premarital sex – some because they wish to, but many because they feel they have little choice, that to delay sex puts the relationship at risk. That’s how male-centered romantic relationships have become.” Without intimacy, relationships are harder to maintain due to urges driven by males to pursue other women who will readily give sex to them. Premarital sex is prohibited for both males and females, but there is an irrefutable double standard in today’s society that makes a girl who had premarital sex less moral than a guy who had it. The Christian community has slowly started to accept the prevalence of premarital sex and it is nearly not as scandalous as it was centuries ago. However, they still continue to be judgmental towards promiscuous women which is creating a confusing divide between what is acceptable and unacceptable. Another possible explanation for the influx of premarital promiscuity in women is the sex ratio theory. “The basic notion in the sex ratio theory is that, the higher the ratio of men to women, the more women have the power to get what they want in heterosexual partnerships. Or, equivalently, the lower the ratio of men to women, the more men have the power to get what they want in such partnerships.” The surplus of women seeking higher education at universities has created less power for women in relationships they develop. This has caused women to compromise their Christian values and have sex in order to attract and keep a male partner. Women have to compete with one another for a male’s attention. Because of the ratio, women are both pressured into being promiscuous and being slut-shamed by the Christian influenced American society.

In short, although women have more rights in today’s society than the time the Christian bible was written, Christianity still subjugates women to men through the sexualization of virginity in young women. Giving sex to a partner is still viewed as a power that women hold against men and what they look like is heavily judged at all times in order to be good enough for a male’s attention. Although American society has one of the most prominent feminist movements, there is still a long way to go until women are no longer harmed by sexualization.

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Rachel Martin
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Rachel is 17 years old and lives in Troy, Michigan. She writes songs professionally and fights for social justice in her free time. She is a feminist, a makeup enthusiast, and a lover of puppies.


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