by Amanda Leduc

It’s Friday night, and I’m in fourth date territory. Nice Young Man and I have laughed over tortellini and held hands during a walk down Edinburgh streets; now, he’s in my apartment and we’re doing touchy subjects over tea.

“About what you said earlier,” he says.  “The sex thing – is it really true?”

“Well,” I say, “yes.”

“So you haven’t had sex.”

“No.  I haven’t.”

“Is it a religious thing?”

“Not really.”  If anything, this makes the situation worse.  He shuffles his wine glass from hand to hand, and nods.  And then we move on to other things, because he’s uncomfortable and this is old news to me.  His kiss at the end of the night is strangely respectful, as though I’ve become someone he did not expect.  And as I close the door behind him, this is how I feel:  exotic and frightening, like some dwindling type of endangered species.

Had he wanted to discuss it further, I could have said any number of things. I’ve had oral sex! I could have shouted. I’ve gotten naked with men AND women, I’ve kissed, I’ve stripped, I’ve fondled – I’ve done almost everything. I could have pointed out that according to the Catholic Church, I did away with my virginity the first time I masturbated.

Don’t think I’m inexperienced just because I haven’t had sex! I wanted to yell down the stairs.  But by that time he was gone, and there it was:  the same old stigma.  I am a successful, talented, not-un-attractive woman in her twenties.  But as soon as I say virgin, I become an entirely different person.

It’s a tricky thing, this word.  We use the term so casually in daily conversation that it’s easy to forget how loaded the concept is, how fraught with tension.  How it remains a uniquely female issue despite advancements in sexuality and gender understanding.  I can stand in my apartment and see my virginity as the ultimate symbol of twenty-first century female independence, but it is an issue at once emblematic of and utterly beyond my experience.  “Virgins,” says the poet Philip Ayres, “are like the silver finny Race/Of slippery kind.”[i] Slippery silver fish indeed; yet they remain, as always, a volatile thread in the sexual history of the world.


*


From the Vestals to the Blessed and beyond, virgins have captivated us for thousands of years.  Virgins have been sacrificed to God, have given birth to God, and remain a symbol of child-like innocence in cultures all over the world.  They’ve been used to foretell the future, were valuable bargaining chips in marriage, and even today are used to cure sexually transmitted diseases.  (FYI:  It doesn’t work.)  Today they are somewhat less mystical but no less fascinating, and all the more so because virginity, in many ways, is as much a history of lie-detecting as it is a history of sex.

Historically, ‘virgin’ (from the Latin virgo, meaning ‘young woman’ or ‘girl’) denotes a person who has not engaged in penetrative sexual intercourse.[ii] But the process of determining virginity is hopelessly inexact – the hymen, that traditional symbol of maidenhead, can rupture or stay intact regardless of intercourse, and, conversely, there are no physical markers for male virginity.    Doctors and priests have grappled with this issue for millennia; short of asking a person (and expecting them to tell the truth), there is still no way to know for sure whether one is a virgin or not.

Often, in order to avoid these issues, families married their daughters off before the age of puberty.  In the Western world, the Middle Ages saw an increase in this practice due to some unusual medical advice:  doctors of this time often cautioned against virginity, as it was believed that a woman’s menstrual blood built up in her body over time and could only be released through sexual intercourse.[iii] Eager to appease both medics and future in-laws, parents married daughters off as early as possible, in order that they be rid of both the complications of built-up menstrual blood and the sticky business of heir succession.  A woman who was a virgin on her wedding night could not be bringing an illegitimate child into a union – a man, who could not conceive, did not have to deal with this problem, and thus virginity became a uniquely female concern.

With the advent of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the divergence of ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ virginity emerged.  Prior to the eighteenth century it was believed that both men and woman partook equally in sexual pleasure – after this time, it became an accepted notion that women did not enjoy sex and were to approach it as an unpleasant but necessary duty.[iv] The Catholic Church, in its continued veneration of the Blessed Virgin, had no small part to play in this scheme; women who chose to remain virgins were seen by the Church as overcoming their ‘base’ womanly nature, while women who married and had children fulfilled a need in society but nevertheless sat on the lowest rung of the spiritual ladder.  Conversely, women who remained virgins ‘by default’ – the spinsters, the awkward old aunts who couldn’t inherit the farm – were shunned by both Church and society alike.[v] The refusal to consecrate their virginity was a rebuke to the Church, the refusal to marry a rebuke to the patriarchal order of the day. Male virgins, by contrast, were not talked about in such a manner – if indeed they were talked about at all.

Yet as time went on and increasing numbers of Protestant sects began to weaken the power of the Catholic Church, different ideas on virginity arose in the Western public sphere.  The Puritans in particular took issue with the idea of virginity and celibacy as being superior to the sexual life, often because such ideals were best attained when men and women locked themselves away from the very world with which they were supposed to engage.[vi] Instead, they advocated an ‘inner conscience’ that would allow men and women alike to both suppress and enjoy their sensual natures when the time arose.  But the more vocal Baptist institutions that sprang up in the American South continued to advocate on behalf of virginity, arguing that in a world debased by sensual pleasure, the only way for a man or woman to reach heaven was to suppress their earthly desires and focus their energies instead on God.  Celibacy was encouraged, but virginity was exemplary – only in this case was it possible for a person to return to God wholly as He had initially intended.[vii]

The latter twentieth century, of course, saw a radical shift where sexuality was concerned.  The Sexual Revolution and the advent of birth control saw woman’s release from the cycle of childbearing, and the gradual pull away from the Church, in all its manifestations, saw the sexuality debate become not so much a spiritual as personal concern.  Yet this, oddly enough, managed to make the virginity question even more prominent.  Somewhat easier to define when it was linked to penetrative intercourse, virginity gained a new nuance when questions of oral sex and masturbation were thrown into the fray.  Did the intimacy of oral sex trump the fact that there was no penetration, as such, in the activity?  Was masturbation with a dildo sex precisely because there was penetration involved?  What of homosexual and lesbian relationships – deviancy or legitimate sexual encounters?

And as the twentieth century wound down and the sexual free-for-all of the Western world increased, the elusiveness of virginity — both as a stubbornly unpinnable term and as a phenomenon practiced by decreasing amounts of people – nevertheless increased in appeal.  Once nothingbecame taboo in the Western sexual sphere, virginity became the only sexual subculture left with the power to shock.


*


The ‘Silver Ring Thing’, begun in Arizona in 1996, is one of the fastest growing abstinence programs in the US.[viii] In 2004, the movement launched in the UK; since its inception, more than 20,000 teens and young adults in Britain have pledged abstinence until marriage.[ix] The program actively embraces the notion of a ‘second virginity’, so as to encourage sexually active teens into a re-evaluation of their sexual lifestyle.  The program has two components:  a 2.5 hour live action show that incorporates music, personal testimony, and special effects; and a DVD set of Bible-study sessions on sexual decision making.  In the twelve years that the program has been running, the Silver Ring Thing has brought its message to over 250,000 people around the world.[x] The program aims to be about self-empowerment, about giving young people the power to make unusual and strengthening sexual decisions.  In a culture that is rapidly becoming deadened to the power of sexual suggestion, programs like SRT strive to preserve what they see as the sanctity of sexual activity, to fight against the norm of mainstream sexual culture.

Other likeminded programs  – predominantly Christian-based – have begun to proliferate in Western societies.  In the American South, Chastity Balls are becoming increasingly popular.  Girls, some of them as young as 10, attend the balls with their fathers as ‘dates’.  They dress up, experience all of the pampering of a bride on her wedding day, and then exchange vows with their fathers, promising to preserve their chastity until marriage.  The fathers, in turn, promise to ‘safeguard’ their daughters’ virginity.

Chastity Balls speak both positively and negatively about modern father-daughter relationships; on the one hand, pro-Ball speakers tout them as part of an increase in quality father-daughter time, which has direct links to the self-esteem of young women – studies have shown that women who enjoy strong and loving relationships with their fathers are more confident and well adjusted than those who do not.  Conversely, “… in a sexual landscape without any rules, girls lacking male approval are more often taken advantage of.”[xi] Yet the spectre of a daughter signing her sexual life into the care of dear old Dad hearkens back to centuries of patriarchal domination, the very thing that the sexual revolution supposedly raged against.  “When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity,” writes Eve Ensler, “your sexuality is basically being taken away from you until you sign yet another contract, a marital one.”[xii]

This, of course, is assuming that the pledges these girls make remain unbroken – many pledges don’t, despite how heartfelt they might be at the time.  Studies are beginning to show that pledgers, on average, begin sexual activity a mere eighteen months or so later than those who make no such promises.[xiii] And even those who don’t engage in sexual intercourse manage to find trouble; virginity pledges often play heavily on the ambiguities inherent in the definition of what makes a virgin.  Thus, many pledgers deem it okay to engage in oral sex, mutual masturbation, or other activities that do not involve intercourse, but nevertheless invite sexually transmitted diseases.

Personally, I find the notion of a daughter signing a sexual contract with her father somewhat chilling.  Nor do I like the thought of these men venerating the ideal of a virginal woman-child, honorable though their intentions may be.  Even female advocates of the Chastity Ball make me nervous; as Anke Bernau, author of Virgins: a Cultural History, points out, “[t]his call for a return to an idealized childhood purity … in the name of female empowerment, seems to me odd and troubling.”[xiv] All of this continues to perpetuate the idea that virginity is a peculiarly female concern.  There are no Chastity Balls for sons, no grand events where young men get to dress up in tuxedos and pledge their own abstinence — to their mothers, presumably, the instinctive oddness of which leads me to think that on some level, we still regard a father’s dominant role over the women in his household as normal.  A father-daughter contract is odd but still acceptable – a mother-son contract is just plain weird.

Which is interesting, especially when you examine the literature available on premarital virginity in men.  Thanks to such faith-based organizations as Promise Keepers USA, male virginity has gained increased exposure in the last few years. Yet even here, a shame/pride dichotomy persists:  men who make virginity pledges see them as opportunities for self-empowerment, while men who remain virgins ‘by default’ often view the prospect with a great deal of embarrassment.  “[Premarital virginity] in men over the age of twenty is often a reflection of severe love-shyness and … interpersonal skill defects,” states a study by Dr. Brian G. Gilmartin, a former Professor of Sociology at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.[xv] Though now somewhat outdated, the study found interesting correlations between virginity and male self esteem:  in 1987, 77% of university-aged male virgins fell below the 50th percentile on national self-confidence norms, compared to only 34% of men who were engaged in sexual activity.[xvi]

Today… most studies are showing that for single men (beyond the age of 19), there is a positive relationship between monogamous premarital sexual experience and level of self esteem.  This … is found to be a good deal stronger for single males than for single females – because sexual experience is usually a good deal more important to the emotional needs and to the value system of single men than it is to single women.[xvii]

This leaves me somewhat skeptical.  While I wholeheartedly agree that monogamous premarital sexual experiences can be uplifting for both men and women, I question the claim that sexual experience is more important to the emotional needs of men.  This seems nothing more than a slightly modernized version of the ‘sow your oats’ mentality, where men need to have sexual experience under their belts in order to be seen as socially acceptable.  Does the lack of Chastity Balls for men then play into this idea, however unconsciously?  Does it, paradoxically, exacerbate the problem by excluding the son from an important rite of passage for the evangelical community, thereby giving the message that his virginity is not as important a thing to maintain?  The resources seem to tip overwhelmingly in favour of the traditional innocent female ideal – male virginity, by contrast, would seem to be hoped for but not entirely essential. We must put energy into protecting our girls, these movements seem to stress. For boys will be boys, at the end of the day.

This lies at the front of the current debate raging in the United States over the ‘abstinence-only’ sexual education programs.  Approved by Clinton in 1994 but now synonymous with the George W. Bush political agenda,[xviii] the programs have drawn support from the ‘religious right’ of America and heckles from nearly everyone else, who decry them as impossibly old-fashioned and out of touch with the needs of the teenage populace.  “[T]he idea that teens will remain celibate until they marry — and that they don’t need information about sex — says much more about the values and fantasies of the people who are promoting these policies than it does about teens.”[xix]

Values and fantasies, indeed.  In a culture as sexually charged as contemporary Western society, the abstinence appeal holds true precisely because it is the opposite of the mainstream.  Once again, we are drawn back to the image of the young, the virginal, the unspoilt, as something to be venerated.  Even the aggressive sexual nature of today’s media has its part to play in this – you don’t see bikini-clad middle-aged women prancing around on television.  Instead, we see young women put on display and paraded for the world to see.  In keeping with this demand for youthfulness, there are now a myriad of cosmetic procedures that women can undergo to make aging vaginas look as nubile as those of their 14-year-old counterparts, the most popular of which, hymenoplasty, repairs a ruptured hymen. [xx]

The implications of such surgeries are eerily fascinating.  Hymenoplasty is in a sense no different from female circumcision or other types of genital mutilation – it is subject to the same cultural pressures and whims as its darker counterparts, albeit perhaps not to the same degree.  And the debate that such a statement inevitably raises (“You can’t compare plastic surgery to mutilation,” one angry acquaintance told me.  “They’re entirely separate things.”) only serves to strengthen the issue.  “The implication [here] is that the concept of ‘individual choice’ – representative of Western ideals – is somehow not cultural … other cultures demand unreasonably that women be virgins on their wedding night; we just happen to like to idea for entirely personal reasons.”[xxi]

A dangerous implication, no doubt, and yet nevertheless an implication that crops up continually in the wider cultural debate.  Virginity, regardless of culture, has always been an issue of female oppression.  And yet it is easy for Western culture to gloss over this fact – to see Judaeo-Christian ideas on virginity as, somehow, more liberating than other cultural ideas on the same.  What Western woman, when faced with the spectre of the Islamic idea of heaven, would not become uneasy?

Each time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin . . . each chosen one [ie Muslim] will marry seventy [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas.[xxii]

Interesting, the above quotation is not found in the Qur’an – it comes from a fifteenth century Islamic theologian, Imam Al-Suyuti, whose words were nevertheless hugely influential.  One need only look at the current aspect of the Islamic martyr to see how virginity continues to exert its power; misinterpreted or not, fundamentalists believe that virgins – and their nubile, appetizing vaginas – await them in heaven.  We can look at this concept and find it, as Bernau notes, an affront to the Western idea of choice – but Islamic women now enjoy the results of hymenoplasty just as much (arguably even more, because of the combined cultural/religious pressures) as Western women.  And if the end result is the same – this veneration of youth, this return to childlike purity – what then does that say for our Western ideals of ‘choice’?  We live in an age synonymous with terrorism, a constant culture of fear that is in many ways perpetuated and influenced by this virginity ideal.  We are captivated by the idea that virginity is somehow it – the ticket to heaven, the way to earthly gratification.  The answer and the reward all at once.

Thus, in the sense that hymenoplasty and other procedures can give a woman the chance to ‘restart’ her sexual life, virginity has become as much of a commodity as sex.  And why not?  Britney Spears came to the attention of the world as the personification of the virginal-but-naughty-Catholic schoolgirl, and oddly enough abstinence-only programs project the same idea.  By idealizing the innocent virginal state and refusing to equip young people with the necessary emotional and practical tools for safe sex, abstinence programs merely walk hand-in-hand with our media in perpetuating the idea that women, at some point, fall subject to the whim of men.


*


Ultimately, all of this combines to make the question of virginity even more fascinating, and even more difficult.  It cannot (most of the time) be successfully taught in schools, is more often than not associated with stuffy and patriarchal religious institutions (while remaining a persistently female issue), and yet it continues to operate as a tantalizing alternative to the expectations of our modern culture.  In an age where half-naked women are the norm on prime-time TV, the ongoing fascination with virginity hints at a type of mystique, of allure, that somehow manages to go beyond anything we can bare on television.

Candace Bushnell and Darren Star, creators of the famed HBO series Sex and the City, took Bushnell’s column for the New York City Observer and immortalized it in the sassy, sexy series about four Manhattan women who romp their way through New York City’s men.  The show was hailed by critics everywhere as a triumph for the modern woman – a testament to how women have finally leveled the sexual playing field.  Yet Bushnell herself, in summing up the sentiment of her column, seems to have a slightly different take on the idea:  “If you’re a successful single woman in this city, you have two choices: you can beat your head against the wall trying to find a relationship, or you can say ‘screw it’ and just go out and have sex like a man.” [xxiii]

Inherent in here is the idea that women equate sex with relationships, while men are somehow capable of having the former while skipping the latter entirely.    It’s another dressed up version of the idea that women should save sex for marriage, (read: committed relationship), while men can sow their oats wherever they please.  And the fact that the women in the show seek to undermine the men by becoming them doesn’t eliminate the problem – it exacerbates it.


The glittering lights of Manhattan that served as backdrops for Edith Wharton’s bodice-heaving trysts are still glowing – but the stage is empty.  No one has breakfast at Tiffany’s, and no one has affairs to remember – instead, we have breakfast at 7am and affairs we try to forget as quickly as possible.  How did we get into this mess?[xxiv]

Of course, insightful though Bushnell’s words may be, nothing talked of in this passage is actually real from Wharton’s novels to the iconic romantic films of Hollywood, Western culture has managed to conflate romance, sex, and independence into one big fetishized web. Sex and the City, while not ‘real’ in that sense, either, does ring somewhat true insofar as the title character, Carrie Bradshaw, acts as a kind of alter ego for Bushnell’s own experience of the New York dating scene.  The show is therefore supposedly honest in its portrayal of women who refuse to capitulate to the hopelessly codependent female cliché.  But why does it then follow them doggedly through heartbreak after heartbreak, as they discover that casual sex is neither as free nor as easy as it seems?  Carrie Bradshaw spends six seasons pining after the elusive Mr. Big, no matter how much ‘uncomplicated’ sex she’s having.  And what, ultimately, does that say about this final act of female emancipation?  “[T]he new single girl pathos seems more like a plea to be unliberated, and fast.  These [women] really do just want to get married; they just don’t want to look quite so naïve about it.”[xxv]

So even this hallmark of feminine independence misses the mark, it would appear.  Women in the Western world have broken free of centuries of oppressive patriarchal ideas on sexuality and have discovered, strangely enough, that life on the other side is neither as idyllic nor as easy as anticipated.  (“It’s getting boring,” says a friend of mine.  “The sex is fine, but I want someone who will pay for dinner every time.  Is that so hard?”)  If the abstinence-only front has failed in its mission, so too has its opposite, this veneration of sexuality that swings too far on the other side of the pendulum.

The problem, I think, is that there is no moderation in either case – if you’re a virgin, you’re inexperienced, and if, like Bushnell’s creations, you choose the sexual side of things, you leave nothing to be desired.  There seems no room in here for virgins who manage to be sexy (though they do exist), or for people that have sexually fulfilling lifestyles and still manage to maintain some type of mystique (though these people exist, too).  The dichotomy of pride and shame so prevalent in traditional shame societies is present in our Western world, just in an inverted format:  instead of being shamed at the prospect of sex, now we have shame when there is no sex in the picture.

[Nowadays] there is only a scary gamble:  if you say no to enough guys, word may get around and people may start to think you are really weird … [and] once the pressure is on for women to have [sexual experience], a cycle is then set in motion.  More women try to get this experience to fit in … and thus the more likely it becomes that the inexperienced woman will, in fact, be left alone.[xxvi]


*


All of which is to say, really, that if you’re a twenty-seven-year-old virgin – even one that likes sex toys – and you don’t have any ties to a particular abstinence tradition, the situation gets very murky indeed.  True:  abstinence started as a tradition, good little Catholic girl that I was, but gradually it became not so much about waiting for marriage as it was about waiting for the right person.  Which seems, on the surface, a reasonable enough request.  But sometimes it makes me nervous.  Just as in the case of the spinster aunts, the older you get, the less appeal virgin seems to have.  A twenty-year-old virgin can be applauded for choosing what seems, today, to be an increasingly unusual path — a twenty-seven-year-old virgin just can’t get any.  It somehow becomes not so much an enticement as a stumbling block – one male friend went so far as to tell me that I should keep the fact of my virginity a secret for as long as possible.  “It’s like finding out that the woman you’re interested in has a kid.”

Another male friend related the following opinion on a woman he used to date:  “Great girl, but a twenty-nine-year-old virgin.  I mean, I respected her a great deal for it, but now she’s thirty-one and her friends are all married and maybe she’ll end up as the woman who lives alone with five cats.”  He was, at the time, blissfully ignorant of my own personal stake in the matter.  I doubt if that knowledge would have changed his opinion – he might have softened his words (independent seems a disturbing euphemism for spinster these days), but the sentiment behind them would still have been the same.

And so, here we are.  In an age that touts itself as both sexually democratic and sexually enlightened, the do or do not of virginity continues to raise debate.  The aspect of virginity as a personal choice would seem the perfect solution to the problem; too bad the social stigmas of our culture cancel this option.  For virginity to truly be respected as a personal choice, there can be no subversive pressures, from either the abstinence or the experience side of the line.  And today, unfortunately, girls are pressured equally by the patriarchy and by the mothers that fought so hard for their sexual freedoms.

[G]irls are having more trouble now than they had thirty years ago … [they] are much more oppressed.  They are coming of age in a more dangerous, sexualized and media saturated culture … the sexual license of the 1990’s inhibits some girls from having the appropriate sexual experiences they want and need.[xxvii]


*


Almost a year ago, fed up and floundering through a particularly difficult stretch of months, I asked a good friend to help me overcome my ‘issue’.  No strings, no expectations, just sex.  I thought, perhaps naively, that our friendship could delve into the situation and come out flying.  We were both at school and due to move our separate ways in two months’ time – what better way to spend the last few weeks together than to augment the friendship with a little kissing and the occasional shag?  I wasn’t asking for romance and roses and a cosmic connection – I wanted sex, a few cuddles, and the mantle of my virginity discarded like the outdated, too-tight clothing it had become.  He was leaving, I was leaving, we had the perfect excuse.  I thought it was an absolute win-win.

(How ironic, the reader is thinking – this from the person who only a few sentences ago decried the women of Sex and the City! Well, what can I say.  For all its elusive, mystical appeal, virginity, like anything, gets boring if you stick with it long enough.)

And then he refused.

He refused rather spectacularly (“Absolutely not. I’m not going to have sex with a twenty-six year old virgin who’s waited this long for it.  No way.”), and somehow it managed to be a nice refusal, but I was crushed.  When you get shot down, you get shot down, and there’s no two ways about it.

“Believe me,” he said, “when I tell you that it’s really not such a big deal.  What you want is someone who will be there for you whenever the sex isn’t in the picture, and you won’t find that chasing bedrooms.  You’ve waited this long – don’t throw it away now.”  He ended with the usual ‘you’ll thank me one day’ line – we laughed together at how awful it sounded, how patronizing.

But once I got over the initial sting of rejection, the gift of what he’d said started to sink in.  When I made the virginity decision all those years ago – even the technical, non-Catholic definition I eventually ended up espousing – it was ultimately about self-respect, about wanting to be in complete control of my sexual identity and my sexual choices.  And that doesn’t get boring.  Sure, it’s not an easy path.  If my friend had responded differently, I wouldn’t be writing this article today.  The conversation with Nice Young Man would have turned out differently, and perhaps I’d be the new Carrie Bradshaw, making up for lost time – but somehow I doubt it.  (As it happens, the virginity talk wasn’t a dealbreaker — Nice Young Man called the next day.)  If nothing else, virginity has taught me that respect is special precisely because it’s becoming so rare.  Virgins don’t get it as much as they should, but sexually active people don’t often get it, either.  Perhaps this is what these fathers (and mothers!) should be safeguarding for all of their children: the right to virginity and the right to a sexual life, and the chance to make that kind of choice in an environment where respect has not itself become an endangered word.


Amanda Leduc is a Canadian novelist and journalist currently based in Edinburgh.  She has published short stories and journalism across Canada, the US, and the UK, and her first novel, Instructions for an Inexperienced Lover, was short-listed for the 2008 Daily Mail First Novel Award.  (It can be found at www.completelynovel.com.)  She works too many jobs and writes in almost all of her spare time.  She is afraid of turtles.



[i] Philip Ayres, ‘Love a Ticklish Game’. Emblems of Love, In four Languages. (London: Hen & Overton, 1683), 90.

[ii] ‘Virginity: Etymology.’ Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin [accessed March 1, 2008]

[iii] Anke Bernau, Virgins: A Cultural History (London: Granta Books, 2007), 9-10.

[iv] Bernau, Virgins. 24-26.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Bernau, Virgins. 54.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] ‘What is SRT?’  The Silver Ring Thing. http://www.silverringthing.com/whatissrt.asp [accessed March 5, 2008]

[ix] ‘Statistics’.  The Silver Ring Thing. http://www.silverringthing.com/statistics.asp [accessed March 5, 2008]

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Wendy Shalit. A Return to Modesty (New York: Touchstone, 1999), 7.

[xii] Eve Ensler, as quoted by Jennifer Baumgartner in ‘Would you Pledge your Virginity to your Father?’ Glamour.com. 7 February 2007. http://www.glamour.com/news/articles/2007/01/purityballs07feb?currentPage=1 [accessed March 1, 2008]

[xiii] Bernau, Virgins. 181.

[xiv] Bernau, Virgins. 153.

[xv] Dr. Brian G. Gilmartin. Shyness & Love:  Causes, Consequences, and Treatment (New York: University Press of America, Inc., 1987), 17.

[xvi] Gilmartin, Shyness & Love. 17.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Jennifer Medina.  “New York Just Says No to Abstinence Funding,” The New York Times, 27 September 2007.

[xix] Arthur Caplan.  “Abstinence Only Sex-Ed Defies Common Sense.” MSNBC.com. 23 October 2005. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9504871/ [accessed March 6, 2008]

[xx] Bernau, Virgins. 26.

[xxi] Bernau, Virgins. 28.

[xxii] Ibn Warraq.  “Virgins?  What Virgins?” The Guardian. 12 January 2002.

[xxiii] Candace Bushnell.  “Loving Mr. Big:  New York’s Last Seduction,” The New York City Observer, April 24, 1995.

[xxiv] Candace Bushnell.  “My Unsentimental Education:  Love in Manhattan?  I Don’t Think So,” The New York City Observer, May 24, 2007.

[xxv] Stacey D’Erasmo.  ‘The Way We Live Now:  8-29-99; Single File,” The New York Times Magazine, 29 August 1999.

[xxvi] Shalit, A Return. 227.

[xxvii] Shalit, A Return. 7.

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