consent

Virginity is a patriarchal construct

virginity testing man

(Originally posted here)

It’s difficult to call but I often wonder about the worst places to be a woman on earth. It’s easy enough to point the finger at those oddballs who don’t look like us but there are some issues that pop up wherever one might be based. For some inexplicable reason a woman’s worth is based on the thin membrane near the entrance to her vagina. Some people are born without a hymen, and for those people I fear the worst. How do they prove they haven’t engaged in premarital sex?

An Islamic college in Australia is under investigation for excluding girls from running competitions because it may damage their hymens. They call this ‘losing your virginity’. Do they have a similar ruling on tampons, or is that an icky women’s subject no one wishes to discuss? This concept of losing something taboo isn’t necessarily Islamic in nature, we use this phrase all over the world to indicate that a person has finally had sex and cannot be classed a virgin anymore, or ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ as many cultures in the east and the west seem to suggest with all the focus on virginity, and slags; women who choose to sleep around in the same way men feel entitled to do so. Men are not judged in the same way when they have sex for the first time. The female partner, even if she is more experienced, will not be taking his virginity in the same way patriarchy takes virginity from women. This is a construct. Males are not taking anything, if anything, they are throwing their own genitalia into the mix.

For patriarchy to maintain power and control, through shame and judgment, they applied destructive emotions to an act to make it seem unequal, to place a value on a human body part that will dictate the level of respect you afford not only the person it belongs to but all the members of their family. Bizarre, no? This is why I brought up the example regarding those born without a hymen, just like there are some assigned male infants born without foreskins, are these people born untouchables, impure and unchaste? Have they been sent here with instructions on how to treat them as people unworthy of honour, being as there is nothing to ‘break’ or ‘take’? Perhaps it is permissible for such people to run to their hearts content, safe in the knowledge their genitals will not be torn asunder from the strain of a relay race.

Rules and regulations on what is deemed acceptable behaviour for females, posited by males is a time honoured tradition that is as batshit as it sounds, especially when considering the dishonest notions applied to our bodies. In some cultures, the hymen is irrelevant compared to the ‘gaping sleeve’ a vagina poses. To protect these women’s honour, they are butchered and stitched together again, leading to infertility and fatality for many. These arbitrary cultural practices are borne from the same twisted minds (not God) that blame women for being temptresses and witches for beguiling rapists into committing sin, by ‘taking’ and ‘breaking’ a thing they believe controls them, and their access to honour in a man’s world. It has no place in the 21st century when so many of us are standing up for the rights to our own bodies; rejecting the controls patriarchy and in some cases the state, has on our bodies. Why is it anyone else’s business what sits inside your pants?

Perversion and deviance in young people isn’t something you can prevent by being a perverted deviant in your beliefs about vaginas you have no business poking around in. Perversely, by administering a virginity check, a practice employed even by the British Home Office in the late 70s, you are actually ‘taking’ and ‘breaking virginity’ as it is defined in your head. It is the people with designs on the contents of your pants who maintain patriarchy and allow for rapists to rape, and get away with it. For as long as we place the burden of chastity and decency on a tag of skin, we allow for violence against women to flourish.

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The patriarchal media and its victims

It’s hard being a victim. The very word implies submission to a violent or aggressive act, one in which we were overpowered and controlled. It makes us feel helpless and vulnerable. Being a victim or coming across as one leaves us open to further victimisation. And so we prefer to say we are survivors. We were able to overcome the horrific circumstances that threatened to shut us down and because we have survived we deserve praise for our resilience and ability to rise up. To do this, we need recognition. Firstly to recognise for ourselves that we fought hard and that it wasn’t our fault. Our clothing is not to blame, nor our looks or the time of day. Secondly, that our supporters believe us and in doing so protect us from further harm, defining the line for what is acceptable, ensuring that we do not begin to believe the lies our media and politicians spin in order to control our movements and associations.

A sex scandal is what happens when a supposedly happily married media ‘personality’ cheats on their long suffering, eternally loyal partner. Why it is any of our business, I won’t pretend to understand but for the sake of a comparison, that is how it reads to me (and I hope for most people). My aversion to the phrase aside, I strongly object to those words being used to describe CHILD ABUSE/STATUTORY RAPE (where patriarchy calls the underage victim willing and ‘older than their years’). In one article exposing the child abuse/sexual violence perpetrated by the voice of Elmo (yes, really), he is described as having ‘sexual relationships’ with underage ‘accusers’. Minors cannot consent to ‘sexual relationships’.

NON CONSENSUAL SEX IS RAPE.

(You can read the article here http://huff.to/WMoubA)

The writer of this article calls it underage sex and suggests the voice of Elmo continues to experience ‘misfortune’ as a result of the allegations. Hey Elmo, it really is bad luck that you’ve been caught abusing children. Maybe if we tarnish your young victims with the sort of language that implies something sexual happened but they’re only making it known now cos they want to see you go down, you’ll be spared a proper punishment and the victims will be ridiculed instead.

What do Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Jimmy Savile and Elmo have in common? They have raped and abused and violated women and children without their consent. In the British press, they are all allegedly involved in ‘sex scandals’. There are numerous attempts on behalf of the patriarchal press and media to silence the victims by giving a platform to the perpetrators (‘I’m not an abuser and that’s the end of that. Now give me money’) and using language to convince you of their innocence. Victims do not want to be associated with a sex scandal. It is sordid and implies they were actively involved in some way. By implicating the victims and suggesting that they are in some way to blame, patriarchy ensures that survivors remain victimised. It creates a barrier for other victims to speak out too. It normalises abuse by rebranding it as just sex and the ‘accusers’ as jilted lovers or scroungers after their 15 minutes. Just like the many women who believe partners have more rights to their bodies than they themselves do (wish I’d been there when patriarchy invented this one) even when she doesn’t feel like it, the message we are consistently given is that there are levels of rape and your rape isn’t even rape rape. In fact rape rape is extremely rare so in this way patriarchy has convinced you that sexual violence against women just isn’t even a thing (what rape culture?).

This is one of many examples I could give regarding the way news is reported in a patriarchal system and how it influences society’s attitudes to victims of gender related crime. In as many weeks, 2 perpetrators of domestic homicide murdered their wives before committing suicide. Neither case was reported to involve domestic abuse. There was an emphasis on the behaviour of the murdered woman in the run up to the incident, perhaps she liked a drink and was ‘bubbly’ (read overly friendly/in your face). There were no indications as to the behaviour of the perpetrator except maybe he’d had a spell of depression (sympathy please) and don’t forget what an amazing personality/leader/sportsman he was and what a loss this will be to the world. The language used attempts to invoke sympathy for the abuser; it paints a tragedy not a brutal murder.

It is powerful and influential and they know this.

..Don’t even get me started on child ‘porn’.

The First Obstacle To Equality

“I don’t want to say anything cos they won’t believe me.” A sentiment almost exclusively owned by women. Whether disclosing rape or thinking of telling our pals their boyfriends are womanising scum, we fear repercussions on speaking the truth. There was an incident in which we were victim, we were hurt physically and/or emotionally, we know what happened wasn’t right. Yet it’s instinctive to bottle up and withhold justice for ourselves because we know, society will simply not believe us. What makes us so unbelievable?

Bro code, an unspoken agreement between men that their woman is their property and brothers must not risk the woman coming between them. Yes, she is damn fine and tempting but don’t fall for her, instead, give that big man chest a primal thump and a knowing look; “bros before hoes”. They will believe each other before they believe you, in some misguided solidarity with the brotherhood irrespective of the offender’s track record. Whereas, a woman; her reputation, her previous record says everything there is to know about her morality.

Do women who have had sex always tell lies? Jane Clare Jones asks for the Guardian.

“In the patriarchal playbook, a woman’s moral virtue is synonymous with … well, her virtue. Good women are chaste and pure. And the others – those who express their sexuality in ways not sanctioned by church and state, those who are sexual at all – are quite simply not to be trusted. They seduce and entrap. They’re dirty and diseased. And, above all, they are deceitful and duplicitous. If they want to moralise, they should, as Rogozin told us in his second tweet, put their pants back on. And if they refuse, nothing they say is to be taken seriously or believed by anyone. A simple sexual slur, and, as if by magic, a woman’s word is instantly devalued, divested of authority and discredited.”

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/13/women-sex-lies-pussy-riot-madonna)

This makes sense. Rape victims, sexually assaulted against their will have actually had non-consensual sex. Despite the fact that they did not agree, potentially fighting off the perpetrator with every bit of strength they had, men will instantaneously believe they must have brought it upon themselves. “They love it really.” By the mere fact they own vaginas. If she wasn’t doing a good job of keeping her vagina shut, i.e. sewing it up so it’s not a “gaping pocket” or covering herself so that she looks just like any other Dalek, then she must have been “asking for it”. How patriarchy has twisted the way we view women, their bodies sexualised even when breastfeeding their infants. People are disgusted by the most natural act of them all. Because, well, it’s private, for a husband’s eyes only. Only on humans though, we are more than happy to guzzle back billions of gallons of other animal’s bodily secretions, quite happy to munch on the reproductive efforts of birds. Females, whichever species, are to be gorged on, to satisfy male bellies and sexual urges. It’s their only function. Do you know what human breast milk smells like?..Isn’t it time you found out? Why don’t we talk about it? Is that why breasts are so sexualised? Is it also why we push sugar laden formula milk on people who can’t afford it, because breast milk smells so.. womanly? It smells as it does so that visually impaired newborns can recognise their mothers. It’s NATURAL.

So they forcibly impregnate and take what they can from the female form. Rape it at will. A vessel, it carries through new life, but the womb is pure filth. Full of dirty blood, it smells. In many cultures, they shave off the downy soft hair on small babies, coming as it did from that evil place deep at the core of woman. She must take 40 days’ rest, unwashed and unmade; cleanse herself of all impurity when her time is up. Reintroduce her into society as a born again virgin, God put the baby in there, they have no idea how it came out. Vaginas, they smell bad too. Why don’t we ever talk about semen? It’s not an odourless, colourless gas we can’t see. Boys start off by teasing girls about their periods and how they can “smell when you’re on”. I don’t remember teasing the boys back just feeling utterly ashamed at being afflicted by this curse I thought was going to bypass me, being as I wasn’t like all the other girls…

Nuns. People believe them (unless they too are raped). Mothers who never remarry, sacrificing everything for their broods; they are exalted in my local community. They are however, also called ‘rundhi’ in Punjabi. ‘Rundhi’ means both ‘widower’ and ‘whore’. For a woman without a man (having already experienced sexual intercourse) must be like a whore?

Will you join me in an unspoken celebration of the female form? Not to ogle it and take from it what you want to satisfy your own desires but marvel at its resilience and adaptability, the ability to create life, sewing together all the parts that make a human… Magic, no? And what might it be like to be with a woman who is proud of her body and what it can do too? Not just reproductively but sexually. And if there were more men who knew and appreciated female sexuality, maybe then we’d be happier sharing the truth about when we were violated?

Our bodies are not shameful. Patriarchy is.