The Dangerous Cost of Idealizing Female Virginity. {Adult} ~ Trista Hendren

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Why We Should Empower Girls to Embrace their Sexuality Instead.

Growing up in the church, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would wait until my wedding night to lose my virginity.

The summer I came home from my first year away at college, a man attempted to rape me.

Luckily, he was approximately my size and I was able to fight him off. The thought that fueled my strength was, “I am not going to lose my virginity this way.”

While he didn’t manage to get my shorts off during the fight, he was able to rub himself off between my breasts. It was a sweaty battle, ending with him ejaculating all over me. The smell of strong body odor still brings me back to that day in ways I would rather not remember.

Nearly 20 years later, I have finally allowed myself to be angry. I now believe that rape is a form of social control of women that is systematically overlooked.

Current U.S. rape statistics tell us that 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18. 15 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. Girls ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

And 97 percent of rapists will never spend one day in jail.

I have always thought if we started castrating rapists, we would have fewer rapes.

Somehow, the male genitalia is so sacred, that option is thought extreme. And yet, the fact that one in six women is raped is not extreme.

As June Jordan aptly wrote, “What in the hell is everybody being reasonable about?” If women can be raped at any given moment, how can we tell girls they should remain virgins?

The threat of rape alone is enough to scare most women into submission. We grow up terrified of being raped and that terror stays with us throughout our lives. It influences our decisions about nearly everything.

The constant threat of rape keeps women from fully embracing ourselves and, most importantly, our sexuality.

We place a premium on women who are virgins although we do not protect them. We say we do, but what we actually do is place restrictions on women as though they have control over whether or not they are raped.

We shame women for being overtly sexual and we shame rape victims, whether they are virgins or not. So why shouldn’t women just enjoy their sexuality freely and openly?

For a long time I was proud that I held out on giving up my virginity until my twenties.

In retrospect, I know for a fact that I would have enjoyed losing my virginity a whole lot more with my high school sweetheart than the stoned guy I did lose it with many years later.

I would also venture to say that had I lost my virginity earlier, I would have left the confines of the patriarchal church much earlier. That is to say, I would have realized my own power sooner, and known that much of what I had been taught was a lie.

There is not one verse in the Bible where Jesus says, “Hold on to your virginity.”

Although the commonly misunderstood use of the word virgin before Mary’s name certainly has been used to mind-fuck women for centuries. As told in Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself: Embracing Your Wisdom and Wholeness, virgin actually originally meant “woman, complete in herself, owned by no man, creator of her own destiny.”

I now know that children are born sexual.

They begin touching themselves very early on. What most parents do is shame the child in some way so that they don’t do it publicly and embarrass the parent. What if we allowed, even encouraged, our children to explore their bodies in peace?

We often talk about virginity as if it were a prize to be won by someone else. What we fail to teach our daughters is that our sexuality is the prize—and it is our prize.

The purpose of sex is to connect at the deepest level and pleasure each other.

If sex is one-sided, as it often is for the woman initially, she is better off with a good dildo or another woman. When we talk primarily about sex being between a man and a woman, it leaves a lot of things off the table.

I much prefer buying teen girls dildos so they can learn to have orgasms on their own rather than primping them to service men. Many girls are now freely giving blow jobs or having anal sex so they can keep their virginity. Who benefits from this choice?

We scare girls about what could happen if they dress like they are asking for it or walk in the wrong part of town. However, it is usually the men who know us who rape us. Approximately 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

How many parents talk to their sons about what rape is?

This definition is important. Boys must grow up knowing that sex must always be 100 percent mutual. They must learn that their sexual pleasure is equal to, and not more important than, their female counterparts.

We have fewer restrictions on boys because they have fewer repercussions from early sexual activity. If men had equal responsibility for parenting perhaps we would be equally as protective of our sons.

As a mother who has both a son and a daughter, I have often been frustrated in talking to parents who have only boys. For many, it seems that this conversation is not important because it does not relate directly to their kids. However, in my opinion it does.

The empowerment of women benefits everyone.

Studies show that mutual respect has a high correlation to satisfaction in the bedroom for both genders.

I have also known many men whose relationships were ruined because the woman they loved could never enjoy sex or intimacy due to some sort of sexual abuse.

In addition to the obvious trauma during and immediately following a rape, the long-term effects of rape are difficult to overcome.

Victims of sexual assault are:

  •   Three times more likely to suffer from depression.
  •   Six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  •   13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  •   26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  •   Four times more likely to contemplate suicide.

I’d also venture to say that women who have been raped have a much harder time coming to terms with their own sexuality and the sense of joy and pleasure that should go along with it. That is something that is very difficult to quantify.

What is your sexuality worth to you?

Often we hear economics cited as the reason why rape kits are not processed, but what is the cost to the victim for years of therapy? What are the costs of never getting therapy?

Why are victims forced to pay these costs? This is just as crazy as asking them to pay for their own rape kits.

How would you feel if you were flooded with fear during intercourse instead of pleasure?

How would you feel if you could never achieve orgasm?

Why is the rapist’s so-called need for immediate release more important than the victim’s long-term sexual and mental health?

If there were 683,000 (the average number of rapes per year in the United States) men walking around castrated every year, would we view rape differently?

What if one in four men had lost their manhood? Would rape then be an epidemic worth our concern? Would we talk to our sons more urgently then?

Being attacked caused me to see life with greater clarity. Had my attacker been a larger man, I would not have been able to fight him off. And the same men and church-folk who insisted on my virginity would have been nowhere to be found, either in that fight or later, in finding, jailing and prosecuting him.

I would have become only a statistic.

I believe that daily sexual release is just as critical to us as human beings as food and sleep. I also believe mutual (and consensual) orgasm is a human right. And it is a right that is worth fighting for and demanding for both ourselves and our daughters.

Whereas I had initially thought my greatest asset was my virginity, I now know that my greatest jewel is my unabashed sexuality, which is, as Eve Ensler asserts, mine and mine and mine.

When we stop placing such a high premium on the innocence of girls they won’t be the primary target of rapists. And when we prosecute rape the same way we do petty theft and drug charges, we will drastically slow the frequency of attacks.

I also believe that when women are empowered they are more likely to report a rape.

Had I known what I do now, I would have reported my attacker instead of living with fear, shame and regret. Had I understood my right to claim my sexuality as my own, I would have embraced it fully and enjoyed it sooner.

I hope my daughter loses her virginity blissfully and freely.

I hope it’s after a long, hot summer day filled with flirting and teasing and kissing that ends with a glorious romp under the moon with someone she loves enormously.

I hope she skips home and tells me about it in the morning with a huge smile on her face, proud to have used up every last condom I gave her.

But if she comes to me in tears instead, I won’t ask why but where. As in, “Where the [email protected] is he?

So, please, teach your sons to honor and respect women. And teach your daughters to embrace their sexual power.

When we realize that our sexuality is our own, it cannot be given away or taken from us by anyone. That is the message we should be teaching girls from the start.

Trista Hendren is a Certified Coach with Imagine a Woman International and author of The Girl God.  She is fond of Kundalini Yoga, multiple orgasms and Velomobiles. Trista prefers to be sitting in the sun surrounded by several books, a picnic basket and her children. She lives between Portland, Oregon with her kids and Bergen, Norway with her soon-husband. You can read more about her project with Elisabeth Slettnes at



Editor: Lara Chassin

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anonymous Apr 22, 2013 4:17am

[…] I wrote about this last year, which you can see here. […]

anonymous Oct 10, 2012 11:46pm

Your obsession with sex only perpetuates the problem, and based on your article I find you as a person very "primitive".

Social drop out

anonymous Aug 28, 2012 9:01am

[…] The Dangerous Cost of Idealizing Female Virginity. {Adult} ~ Trista Hendren ( […]

anonymous Jul 24, 2012 12:24pm

I learn a lot from the article and even more from the discussion. What we must continue doing is talking about the subject with an open mind.

anonymous Jul 1, 2012 6:21pm

Oooo, you need an editor. The grammar In this article needs a lot of work. Also, oral and anal sex are both forms of sex. A woman may maintain her hymen with oral and anal sex, but she has hardly maintained her virginity.

    anonymous Jul 1, 2012 7:28pm

    What have you ever done with your life besides trolling articles and writing meaningless comments?

    The grammar In this article needs a lot of work.??? Really? How about your punctuation!

      anonymous Aug 5, 2012 3:58pm

      I am a publisher, Abele. It is my job to be "trolling articles" looking for writers to publish. Good editing is important.

        anonymous Aug 7, 2012 5:04pm

        Hardly believable "TamiC" considering you didn't bother to edit your own sentence before submitting it and started your sentence with "Oooo".


anonymous Jul 1, 2012 7:19am

Hey yoga, it's generally seen as lame/pathetic/etc to upvote your own comments. Just so you know.

    anonymous Jul 1, 2012 11:49am

    Dash — If for some reason you're speaking to me, I didn't do that. It actually can't be done. I only upvote other people's comments, including your own, just to pass on the good vibes. Try it some time? You might benefit from the Spirit of it? Cheers

anonymous Jun 30, 2012 6:17pm

This piece is desperately in need of editing. I am surprised that someone agreed to be listed as an editor.

There's also a lot going on in sexual molestation and trauma these days beyond the well-worn polemics about men as patriarchal oppressors and women as innocent victims.

We have a virtual epidemic of female teachers sexually abusing young men (and women) in school, and of abusing and murdering their own children. (Casey Anthony is only one highly publicized example). We even have women entering the ranks of serial murderers for the first time.

It's really time for a paradigm shift that incorporates the complexity of these transitions as women become more and more "empowered" and fall prey to some of the same ego-based dynamics of power abuse as men – as well as pioneering some twisted dynamics all their own.

You really have come a long way, baby: for better — and for worse. We all need to accept that, but especially women because otherwise we start creating new systems of denial.

One might call this "The Dangerous Cost of Idealizing Feminism."

    anonymous Jun 30, 2012 6:37pm

    As the assaults have mounted to proportions that can no longer be so easily denied, there's been a burgeoning literature on this topic — often called "The Last Taboo."

    Some courageous female social scientists, defying feminist orthodoxy, have really broken new ground in this area.

    Just a couple of hundreds of refreshing examples (and these are old)

    Criminologists and social scientists are way ahead of the popular media on this, but the popular media, most major magazines, their editorial line on gender issues, is dominated by the "old" feminist paradigm, in part because of who the editors themselves are.

    And that's probably also true of EJ, frankly.

      anonymous Jul 1, 2012 11:57am

      2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control finding that women are responsible for 56% of "mental, emotional and sexual abuse" in America.

      I think what's happening in a lot of the society today is that people's everyday lived experience of who they are having trouble with is running up against established or received "orthodoxy," much of which is "feminist."

      One of my newest friends is a young lady who was recounting that she'd been raped when she was 9 by the school's 17 year old valedictorian who was also her older sister's buddy. Naturally I assumed that the abuser was a dude. Wrong, Female.

      Why didn't she report it? No one would believe me. My sister would hate me. I'd be trashed at school. Sound familiar? I just heard this oh, a week ago.

      It's really becoming very common – scarily so. Many feminist women don't want to hear it – and the researchers find themselves constantly under attack.

      I am not taking away from anyone's pain about being abused by a man – but it's really time to get real people. Mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and female employers and teachers are abusers, too, and not just in very small numbers anymore.

      Here is one of the better known journalistic stories, based on an interview with a survivor.

        anonymous Jul 1, 2012 12:11pm

        I would say idealized virginity is one version of the problem ,perhaps, but I think that's a very old-fashioned view.

        The real problem now – the sexualization of children, really poor female role models in the society at large (Britney Spears, etc.) and rampant pornography use, with women now using and distributing porn in near equal numbers (often extolling its virtues)

        Also, so many of the female abusers are younger, often single/divorced mothers in their 20s and 30s who can't handle the strain of being mothers

        Again, time to shift the paradigm. Every time researchers have sponsored a hotline/call in show for people who have been abused sexually by women they are inundated with callers, totally swamped, by people who say they have never said anything about it.

        Men and women are equal opportunity abusers – and care-givers, too. Really time to grow up about this, and leave the ideological crutches at the door. You have to reach every body in need, assuming that's really your goal.


anonymous Jun 30, 2012 11:49am

Thanks for your article. I often see parents, my parents included, who are overly protective of their daughters and do not reason with or even encourage their sons to have many girlfriends and sex early. I ended up with two, say, "borderline" cases. Once, someone had sex with me while I was sleeping. The other time someone emotionally blackmailed me. After the first time I went to a lady from University who talked me through this and who prepared me to talk to the guy. After a few weeks I was ok again. The second time is now 8 years ago and I still have problems with my sexuality. The interesting point here is that the protectiveness of my parents had not helped at all. I did not have the guts to show that guy the door, because I had not learned to set boundaries. I was so hungry for love, I thought, maybe that guy can give me at least some? I want to teach my kids, no matter if girl or boy, that they are worthy of love and that they need to set their boundaries. I want them to respect themselves and others.

I am telling you honestly, I was once in bed with a young man who decided that he did not want intercourse. His way of telling me was not really clear. However I should have respected his careful words instead of trying to make him change his mind again and again. I am feeling bad about this today. Maybe I can understand a little bit how it is for a young man with no experience and overwhelming hormones if a girl is naked and right there. It is SO important to talk this through and to tell boys and girls what is ok and what is not. I tell you, I hate those facebook posts telling "If a girl says … she means …" Sometimes I just want to write a looong comment explaining the importance of someone's words. I also hate those sitcom scenes where someone is asking for something, the other person says "no" but the "no" is just ignored??!! It is just a word???!!!

anonymous Jun 30, 2012 9:27am

Thank you for saying what needs to be heard!

anonymous Jun 30, 2012 7:37am


anonymous Jun 29, 2012 11:45pm


anonymous Jun 29, 2012 9:17pm

I love you! You are so correct! I was terrified of being raped. Growing up in the 70's, the movies had so many scenes in them showing that. So what happens when you fear something – it happens! At least it was with someone I knew and it wasn't horribly violent. It's such a public shame that most people don't tell someone or at least try to prosecute. I silently suffered and am finally over it. But the younger girls dating in high school are regularly forced to give oral sex and jack monsters off. Your mouth eventually opens when something is jammed in it and your head is being pounded on it like someone palming a basketball. Even if you bite, they don't care. I should have bitten harder. I love sex and now I am in charge in who I have it with, I never stopped loving orgasms but hate that 1 out of every four women I talk to have been raped. We just are too ashamed to report it.

anonymous Jun 29, 2012 6:27pm

Thank you Trista. I am trained to be a volunteer advocate in the ER for sexual assault and domestic violence victims and I can tell you that I have been there with all age groups and heard so many stories. I believe that all women carry some level of the energy of rape in their body just from growing up in the patriarchal culture. As you mentioned, change will only come with the conscious socialization of boys and girls and an honest look at the power structure in the culture.

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