Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Don't Lose Your Virginity, Discard It

I have the biggest fan-crush on Jessica Zalia, author of The Hymenization of Virginity: Examination of Sociolinguistics, Historical Roots and Consequences. It was this trio of well-aimed paragraphs that smote my feminist heart:
Pairing the two word "losing" with "virginity" accomplishes two goals. First, we only lose what we consider valuable (e.g. "I lost the race," "I lost my notebook," or "I am lost."). We also lose things we presume we ought to have kept (e.g. "I lost my temper," or "I lost your phone number.") Coupling "losing" with "virginity" implies that virginity is something of value that we ought to have kept.

Second, pairing "losing" with "virginity" is problematic, since losing is never something we do purposely in any other given situation.[i] After all, we cannot deliberately lose our keys. That is precisely why they are "lost." And even if you intentionally lose a game of chess to your younger sister, you have not truly lost it. Rather, you have forfeited, and this move is an active one. Therefore, to lose anything is passive.

How, then, has this passive verb found its way into our (hopefully) active sexual experiences?
Le sigh. Oh, and another sigh to Feministing for pointing me to Zalia's article in the first place.

UPDATE: Hey, and tip of the hat to Judgesnineteen at Girly Thoughts for cutting through the BS and telling us just what we can do with the whole concept of virginity, writing "How about we discard the entire notion of virginity?" Yeah - we do act as if "there’s a clear line between virginity and whoredom lost virginity" rather than considering sexuality as a spectrum of experiences. So, virginity - let's chuck the whole concept.


Amelia said...

I loved the article I read about The Hymenization of Viriginity, too. I am finding myself becoming more and more fascinated with words and how/why they mean what they do, why they are used, etc.

Great post. I hope other people read this stuff. :)

La Pobre Habladora said...

Hey, if you like thinking about the how/why and impact of language, you'll probably adore Language Log . It isn't explicitly feminist, but it does take on the same sorts of issues as Zalia's article from time to time - and the articles are always well-researched.

Amelia said...

Thanks! I'll add that to my favorites. :)

judgesnineteen said...

I'm so glad you posted this - I study linguistics and really wanted to read this when I saw it on feministing but apparently I forgot all about it until right now.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, I love linguistics too. Two other topics I found really interesting this year were the origins of the terms wench and hussy (which we posted on here)and this discussion in Nature about how languages evolve.

Jessie - Co-President IHRLS said...

I am so flattered to have such fabulous feminists with "fan crushes" on me. Very heart-warming....

Thank you for spreading the word and for raising your powerful voice!


Jessica Zaylia... but you can call me Jessie.