Friday, July 08, 2005

Back to the past...or not?   posted by Razib @ 7/08/2005 04:50:00 PM

Rolling Stone has an interesting profile of hip young Christian evangelical virgins in Williamsburg (a trendy arty neighborhood across the river from the East Village). Seeing as how the writer works for Rolling Stone he has a hard time moving beyond the "freak show" mindset, and no doubt there are some misrepresentations going on here of the individuals profiled in the piece.

What struck me is the feeling that the "virgin rebels" who are to a great extent part and parcel of "mainstream" culture (rock music, all night raves, etc.) and simultaneously back-to-the-past rebels might be in specific ways a very new phenomenon which slots into a predictable pattern of generic responses to given circumstances. Let me be specific, one of the young Christians states on the record that "he has friends who had enjoyed anal sex and still call themselves virgins." Call me a freak, but in my circles getting shit-on-your-dick (sorry about being explicit, but I want to keep it real) is a step or two beyond normal intercourse. Something is seriously ass-backwards (sorry) when this is a preparatory act. As I said, the freak show aspect prevents the author of the article from exploring distinctions within the virgin rebel camp, after all, you have one expositor of purity lecturing on how to purge sexual thoughts from wet dreams, while many of the young twenty-somethings seem to have an anything-but-vaginal-intercourse philosophy. But, my impression is that anal sex as an alternative to vaginal intercourse is attested in Latin America and the Middle East, and other "traditional" cultures which put a premium on legalistic virginity. My personal interactions with Christian evangelical friends suggests to me that the example of sodomy-as-the-lesser-sin is a symptom of a problem that crops in personalized evangelical practice in the United States.

I also think that contra the perception that these youth are going back to premodern virtuous norms, in many ways they are blazing into rather new social territory. My logic is that many of these virgins expect to be chaste deep into their twenties, or even further (if you are curious, A.C. Green finally lost his virginity). In many past soceities this is rather old not to be married, and my experience on a personal level is that many of my Mormon and evangelical friends married rather young, so "waiting" wasn't a test of years. Granted, in many societies late marriage (if ever) was normal for the lower orders of society because of the lack of resources to support young families. But these individuals often did not expect to spend years in pre-intercourse chastity in romantic relationships with others (any premarital coitus for women is likely to have been in exploitative circumstances).

Many "conservatives" often accuse the cultural Left of pushing social experiments that destabilize society, but though there is great truth in this, many of the responses of various strands of the evangelical counter-culture are also rather ahistorical exercises in taking principles to their logical conclusions. Rather than espousing chastity, I suspect a more humane and pragmatic course for advocates of traditional values would be to encourage early marriage. Of course, early marriage often leads to early divorce.1 Nature's God offers no easy solutions.

Addendum: Control-f "born-again virgin." I can give props to real virgins who have the fortitude to stick by their guns, but jack-asses who use the term "virgin" as a self-description after dipping their stick in the honey jar first really get on my nerves. Hey, I'm not a thief, I just stole a lot of stuff when I was younger! Sorry, I'm not a Christian, Jesus don't wash away some sins in my book.

1 - Though early divorce is not a problem in many religious Jewish communities...but the key here is community. The article notes the importance of group reinforcement of norms as being crucial to maintaining sexual purity, especially for males, but this is simply very difficult to keep up for long periods of time outside of a few subcultures in this nation.