Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Not So Mary Virgin

The ‘We’ in Virginity…

There are fables of virginity in many cultures. I would write 'all,' but I'm afraid that would be a gross generalization; one that I can't vouch for. So, let's just lead with - there are fables of virginity in many cultures. Virginity is so freaking valued sometimes that it's taken to completely different realms; women become Goddesses by virtue of forgoing the use of some organs of their bodies. I could vex on about the nexus between property law and inheritance, de-racination and racial purity, religions, myths, medicine and contraception, intended and un-intended patriarchal reproduction of the State or Nation State, the phenomenon of the animated womb, but I'm going to stick to the personal. The personal, I can talk about.

This body is mine, but everything and everyone has had me believing so many different things about it for so long. All this, all of it...the way I'm supposed to be; conduct myself in public and private; everything was already in place before I took my very first breath.

I came out into this world where the most basic level of social existence is determined by my hardware. Let's say the word, right? Here we go, I'm going to type the letters now and it is going to spell that word.


My mother would be so scandalized (then she'd say it to scandalize me in return), but that's part of why it's important to say it. 'It' is not my favourite word, not by far. But, it's just a word, along with 'ovaries', 'Fallopian tube', 'menstruation', 'tampon', 'bra' etc. Something drives us to whisper most of these and I don't see why that should be. You got it, you...don't flaunt it, but you can say the word. No, saying them isn't feminist or cool or what have you. They are words and unless used in a lewd context, they mean what they mean and that's about it. It's the same for men too, women don't have the corner market on shame, but we've been dealing in the trade a little longer or perhaps just are situated in it in more obvious ways. Twenty four years of existence is not enough to decode what all these ways are, but as the years go by, I'm beginning to get a clearer picture. It's important to demystify this stuff once in a while and I'm sure that the moment I'm done writing this, the thought will be locked in a vault somewhere, taking shallow breaths and waiting to be pulled out and dusted off and taken for a twirl again. But, the old Derridian anxiety persists... the anxiety that everything I say only exists in the moment of utterance and then it's gone, but aaah! What if I write it down?! And so, I did. But, in ten, twenty, thirty years or even right will mean different things to different people.

Difference is a beautiful bitch! Or non-specif, geneder-less swear word.

What was I saying? Right, so...virginity; a gnarly subject for myth, legends and unfortunately reality. Why gnarly? Because, believe it or not, how virginity is written on to the body of a woman (in this case a middle class Urban Indian woman) can be just as violent as the expectation of the promise of sex can be. It always has to mean something...being a virgin, not being a virgin. That's how it is here sometimes. I mean, people aren't going around asking random strangers on the road and on public transport - "Excuse me miss? Have you had sex?"..."No?!"..."How about with yourself??" That doesn't happen. But everything, as my father says, is a product of "Sthan, Kaal and Paatra" (translation: place, time and the individual); that's how I see myself too. A twenty four year old, Bengali woman, living in New-Delhi, India, with an Anglophile education; a far-placed subject of a British colonial past and the current psycho-social refugee of the Cocacolonization infused nation and most importantly and inescapably so (I have to love it & I can't help but hate it), a citizen of my family (family, historians will have us know, is the cornerstone of any state); with one foot in the quicksand of garbled-traditions and the other in this fallacious-misinterpreted-misappropriated idea of the modern...I stand everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Plagued by an absence demanding a presence and all that is present is precariously shifting.

Where is all this coming from? What is all this feeding into? And what the flaming fudge does it have to do with virginity, specifically mine? For me, it all boils down to this little day-old anecdote.

I crashed at one of my best friends' place after having attended a marathon concert (all music all day, lots of booze and smoking and some smoking up - I did none of those things and lived on O.J all day because I didn't want to...I'm not a supposed prude, I'm allergic to cigarette smoke and I didn't feel like a drink). We came back to her place well after midnight and got to talking. Most of it was nonsense, but some of it still stuck with me after a marathon sleep-session; a tiredness induced whopping 10 hours!

My friend has had sex. She's had a fair bit of it by her own account. She's had it when she was part of a couple and she's had it casually when she was unattached. She is not a slut (I actually believe that no one is). She is a brilliant, bright and vivacious woman who knows what good sex feels like and so on occasion she wants it; she finds a willing partner who will be respectful (or so we would hope) and then her needs are sated. It's not dirty or scandalous, although, I'd imagine it would have to be sexy for her...or them? I guess...let's just get back to the topic at hand.

I on the other hand, am a raging virgin. I'm so much a virgin that people can (apparently) tell I'm a virgin. I've come to a point in my life where I feel like I have to write about my raging virginity. We were discussing precisely this. She'd started dating a guy who had been chasing her for nigh a year and a half. 
So...they dated, but then she saw that he was like some Indian men - obsessed with their mommies, armed with double standards and ideas of propriety; the entire combination let to them parting ways.


Because she wasn't the type of girl you could take home to your mother. She wasn't someone who'd make a good wife. The things he loved about her? Her honesty, her openness, her joy, warmth, the fact that she would treat her male friends the same as her female friends...that she felt like a 'bro' (I guess), that she spoke her mind; the things that let him become a part of her universe, they became points of contention when they were finally together. He became jealous and possessive, asking her to drop all male company. And, I've been told that, that is apparently what often will happen with some Indian men or I guess some men in general. How is that fair?

Now my friend might go for an arranged marriage. Her 'choices' will be evaluated; people will look into if she has been involved with other men. If she's had sex before; the men that come to meet with her, her prospective mate will be curious about it, try and pry it out of her in conversation or ask her directly. It's a question often asked of women and seldom asked of men (and by seldom I mean almost never). Virginity (sadly) gives us desired cultural capital.

This friend is often hit on by other guys in that social circle. Word travels, men kiss 'n tell all the time. "She's sexy...she's enjoyed sex with someone, so logic dictates that she might as well enjoy sex with me."

Men will often imagine they are in love with us and that is dangerous.

I might have to go into an arranged marriage too. That happens here just as sure as you butter your morning toast (that was an awkward as heck simile, my apologies). But, my friend said, I'm lucky. I haven't had sex or dated a whole hell of a lot. I've barely even had a kiss! I'm incapable of a casual anything (or at least till date I've been incapable of it). I'm a rare commodity in the 'marriage market.' She said that men often think something along the lines of "if she's had sex before, casually, then she'll do it again." But, the fact that you wouldn't (usually) want casual sex or have a reason to have it when you're in love and committed to someone, escapes them. So, when it comes to me, a raging virgin, this school of thought careens into a world where the guy who 'gets' me will have won a penile duel with every man out there who couldn't get to me first...*sigh* all those nameless, faceless men he beat. So...if I haven't done it before, then I won't do it again? I'm somehow less liable to cheat too!

Well, gentlemen, I am a virgin...and so much more curious about sex by virtue of not having had it. How will that thought fair, I wonder? How do I feel about being liked or loved, in part, for my virginity or being understood as this desire-less, supposedly pristine woman; a product still in its original packaging. Frankly, the thought of being liked for my virginity is disturbing and a little disgusting. That kind of virginity is neo-mythical.

I do hope to have sex eventually...and definitely before my virginity becomes... vintage.

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