Disclaimer: I am not in any way implying that being a virgin isn’t a beautiful thing and a thing of pride, neither am I saying that chastity is not a desired virtue. Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, let’s get on with today’s post.
I was going to title this post- “I am not my hymen” or I am more than my hymen but I decided to tweak the popular Nigerian maxim “virginity is a woman’s pride”. Earlier this month, we celebrated the International Women’s day and there were various programmes held across the world to commemorate the occasion. Coincidentally it’s been twenty years since the Beijing women’s conference of 1995, I remember the conference fueling national discourse for weeks, from TV to radio and print media. I’m not sure the lofty ideals of the conference has resulted to any concrete benefits but that’s not today’s focus.
This post was inspired by a random conversation that took place at my bead making class, three sisters in their early thirties were discussing the breakdown of the marriage of their friend. The lady had been married for less than a year and her husband kicked her out of the house last week. The women had plenty to say about his wickedness, his dead morals and even his poor sexual prowess and the wife was made out to be a living saint. They went on and on about how evil the stronger sex can be (I partially agreed with them). Then one of them raised the trump card, prove that their friend was an angel.
“She was even a virgin!” and they all agreed it was sad and the man was so terrible to leave a woman who’d given him the most precious gift she could give a man. With the rarity of virgins, they rationalised that he should have worshipped the ground she walked on as well as forgiven her every sin because she had “kept herself”. At this point I asked them if being a virgin made a woman the perfect wife, did her virginity cover for her character flaws, inability to love or at the very least tolerate her husband. They launched into a winding lecture on the rarity of virgins in modern times and how such women (notice how they didn’t mention men) should be honoured and even revered. I switched off from their conversation and continued with my project.
However the conversation bothered me for sometime. Remember that the women who were having the conversation are in their thirties and are all mothers to very young children. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that they would pass on this mindset to their children, and we’ll have another generation believing that it is the woman’s prerogative to “keep herself” and the young man does what he wants.
Am I saying that not indulging in pre-marital is archaic or quaint?… No! I’m saying that if we teach our daughters that the value they bring to marriage is sexual, that their brains, hearts and brawn are only secondary to their hymen, then we have not equipped them with the skills they need to function in the institution. Have we taught them that they are not objects or trophies but intelligent, wonderful women and that whatever they choose to do with their bodies, the only person they are accountable to is God. Honouring God by not committing fornication is beautiful, so is avoiding STIs and other unpleasant occurrences by practising abstinence. But teaching our daughters that all they have to do is “keep themselves” and they can sustain a relationship on the strength of their hymen is pure crap. I wouldn’t have thought that such mind numbing theories still float around today if I hadn’t heard that conversation.
Seriously, if the most valuable thing I’m bringing to the partnership called marriage is my unbroken hymen, then my husband is unfortunate indeed. If I don’t learn the basics of maintaining relationships, if the husband and I have no skills in interpersonal relationships then the marriage is dead on arrival.
In a world where sexual intercourse is as casual as a handshake, chastity is a beautiful thing but it is only one of the things a person can be proud of, just like the ability to cook sumptuous meals, run a home on a budget, tolerate situations that would make others go crazy. It is an awesome part of who you are but there’s more to a person than one awesome part….