Before she goes on her first date with a boy, she will be told, “boys are after one thing.” She will grow to expect sexual tension and pressure for sexual intercourse from her male counterparts. And the reminder that “good girls keep their legs closed” will reinforce the pressure to limit her contact with boys under the guise that her worth as a young lady is steeped in abstinence.
This social concept determines the value of a girl based on her level of sexual activity. The less sex she has, the more desirable she is as a woman… even though this contradicts the message that men want a “sexy” woman. As she works to find the balance between prude and vixen, she will be simultaneously burdened as the gatekeeper of sexual purity for herself and others. Not only must she relinquish her sexual desires to be deemed a “good girl”, she is obligated to thwart the sexual responses of the opposite sex. It becomes her responsibility to ensure that boys and men do not become sexually aroused by her presence.
She will be reminded that her anatomy is a problem, distraction, and temptation to some. As her body evolves, the presence of fuller breasts and hips are accompanied with shame as she’s told to cover up and “act like a lady.” But acting like a lady should not equate to carrying shame for one’s anatomy. She is not inappropriate or promiscuous for wearing shorts or a tank top. The acceptance of her own body is not a sign that she determines her worth by the attention she receives from the male gaze.
But stricter dress codes and dating guidelines (set under the veil of protection), reinforce an ideal that her body and sexuality is an issue. The idea that she can protect herself from all unwelcomed sexual advances, based on a dress code, exonerates the male sex of responsibility for self-control, boundaries, and respect. In lieu of open conversations about appropriate boundaries, consent, and healthy touch, society encourages sexual domination and exploration in the male sex, while simultaneously shaming women for being sexual beings.
At some point, there must be education for both sexes about consent and sexual purity. While there is beauty in abstinence, the worth of women should not be based on virginal status. There is beauty and safety in healthy boundaries and consensual sex for women and men.
Engaging in these conversations alleviates the shame of sex, not only the act, but the shame of sexual organs.The presence of breasts and a vagina do not make her a temptress, simply human. Every woman deserves the right to claim her body without shame and guilt. Her worth is not based upon her virginity.