Virginity in print.

As it turns out, I am not the only woman who has put her virginity in print.

Another is a woman named Elna Baker, who in 2009 wrote an essay for Glamour called “Yes, I’m a 27-Year-Old Virgin.” But her story and mine are very different. In hers, she wrote of frequent close calls in beds with men and the Mormon roots that repeatedly compelled her to stop just short of sex.

And in 2011, Baker wrote a follow-up essay for Glamour. It’s called “Guess What? I’m Not a Virgin Anymore!”

Both essays are charming. Both are well written. And I have a few things to say in response to snippets of both. Read on.

From what Baker wrote before she had sex:

1. …everything I knew about sex I learned in church. I remember a Sunday school class on chastity when I was 13. The teacher walked into the classroom and slammed a tray of cookies onto the table with a loud clank.

“Does anyone want a cookie?” she asked in an aggressive tone. We perked up in our seats. Chastity class was always easier to endure when the teacher brought food, but something was amiss. Upon further inspection, the cookies were half-eaten, broken and sprinkled with dirt. “Anyone?” When no one answered, she nodded emphatically and said, “That’s right, no one wants a dirty, half-eaten cookie.” And that, my friends, is how I learned not to have sex.

For Baker’s Sunday school teacher to call what she taught “chastity” is unfortunate. Chastity is “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. … Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. … The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.”* Dirty cookies are irrelevant to chastity. They’re frankly irrelevant to abstinence, too.

2. Although my virginity was a disadvantage, I stayed hopeful about dating.  … Right there on the floor of the yoga studio, despite everything my parents and religion taught me, I decided to change the rules. I, Elna Baker, could have premarital sex. My criteria were pretty simple: It had to be with someone I trusted (no one-night stands). Most important, I would not cave to pressure from anyone. I had to make the decision for myself.

Over the next year, instead of just kissing sitting up, I started kissing lying down (the gateway drug to sex). And my dating life actually improved. By not taking sex off the table right away, I made it past the four-week mark in relationships with several different guys.

That guys won’t date you for more than a month because you’re saving sex does not mean virginity is a disadvantage. It means you’re dating the wrong guys. (And convinced, perhaps, that no other kind of guy exists.)

From what Baker wrote after she had sex: 

1. I thought it would help to go public about my virginity in a magazine; it ended up turning me into a reluctant spokesperson for abstinence. There were perks—the supportive e-mails I got from strangers were moving—but because I was so out there about it, Google soon became my biggest cock block. Guys would look me up and just think, No way. And to be honest, I had grown used to the fascination, disgust and confusion my virginity elicited in men.

So it’s a bad thing that guys who can’t handle your virginity don’t want to date you? Because I prefer that they don’t try.

2. And then it really hit me: I wasn’t a virgin anymore. That part of my identity was gone, and I had to face the fact that, at 28, I had no idea who I was.

This – virginity as part of identity – is a sad side effect of being taught abstinence outside of the context of chastity. Chastity is a way of life livable by people who are single, married or celibate. Chastity as part of identity is safe, because chastity never ends.

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Click here to read what Baker wrote before she had sex.

Click here to read what she wrote afterward.

Click here to read what I most recently put in print about virginity.