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Just when oil spills and attempted bombings and flooding start to get me down, I learn about a something really cool that's happening in the world that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I recently learned about a conference that happened at Harvard a little big ago called Rethinking Virginity.Rethinking what now? That's right, virginity. And it's high time it got some re-thinking. Just what would a conference like that talk about? Well, here's what the organizers had to say:
Half a century after the sexual revolution, the concept of virginity remains as contentious as ever. While the sexual abstinence movement preaches in classrooms and college campus the dangers of premarital sex and ?hooking up?, feminists decry scare tactics and ?slut-shaming?. What are the religious, legal, and economic origins behind ideas of sexual purity? How does queer sexuality complicate the equation? Is a sex-positive vision of abstinence possible?
To give you an idea of how these questions might be answered, the conference had the following panelsVirginity: A Historical and Cultural PrimerDebunking The Virginity Ideal: The Feminist Response To Slut-Shaming & Sexual Scare TacticsHealthy Sexuality: A Workshop?withPopping The Queer Cherry: Virginity Loss, Marriage Norms, & LGBT IdentityToward A Sex-Positive Vision of AbstinenceLux from our dear friends at Fleshbot participated in the conference, moderating the Debunking The Virginity Ideal panel and speaking on the Popping the Queer Cherry panel. We asked Lux a few questions about the conference - read on to see what she had to say and please, tell us what you think. How would you answer the questions above? Why do you think virginity needs to be re-defined?Q: This conference was described in one article as being "designed to challenge not just the cultural imperative that being a virgin is better but the entire concept of virginity itself." What is problematic about the concept of virginity?A: Well, for one thing, I don't think it's really clear what, exactly, virginity is. Though we all seem to have a general sense of what virginity is, everything from oral and anally proficient "technical" virgins to queer people who are sexually active but "virgins" in the heterosexual sense kind of confuse the issue. And that's not even touching the loaded notion of "purity" that gets saddled on to people who have yet to have sexual contact with another person...Q: You moderated a panel titled Debunking The Virginity Ideal: The Feminist Response To Slut-Shaming & Sexual Scare Tactics. What were some of the most important points that came out in the discussion about the fine line women often have to walk between being seen as "prudes" or "sluts"?A: It's hard to pick just a few! I was particularly interested in the discussion of how slut shaming doesn't always come from the expected sources: feminists and liberals have certainly been known to slut shame (for instance, Tina Fey's takedown of Michelle "Bombshell" McGee on SNL's Weekend Update); I also felt that the discussion of virgin shaming was important, too.Q: When we do sex education at Babeland we know that people define virginity and abstinence very differently. In the panel on queer virginity, what did the panelists say about sex education and queer virginity?A: The panel discussed the tricky notion of defining queer virginity (and, by extension, queer sex) in a heteronormative world. Though sex education was not a major part of the discussion, we did touch on the ways that queer people are largely ignored by the abstinence-until-marriage camp--if you can't legally get married, the implication is clearly that you should never, ever have sex.Q: What do you think having a sex-positive vision of abstinence means? Is there anywhere that is currently doing this well?A: To me, a sex positive vision of abstinence is ultimately a comprehensive sex education program that stresses abstinence as the most effective and age appropriate method for young people. Thankfully, there are many programs that do this kind of education well--and hopefully with the forthcoming funding for comprehensive sex ed, we'll be seeing a whole lot more of them.il-marriage camp--if you can't legally get married, the implication is clearly that you should never, ever have sex.Q: What do you think having a sex-positive vision of abstinence means? Is there anywhere that is currently doing this well?A: To me, a sex positive vision of abstinence is ultimately a comprehensive sex education program that stresses abstinence as the most effective and age appropriate method for young people. Thankfully, there are many programs that do this kind of education well--and hopefully with the forthcoming funding for comprehensive sex ed, we'll be seeing a whole lot more of them.