Virgin-Shaming and Slut-Shaming in Geek Culture

Ax9mmB_CIAAjABr.jpg-largeAs a woman it is sometimes difficult to deal with all of the judgements you receive on a daily basis, especially when it comes to your sexuality. And geek culture isn’t always helpful when it comes to those issues. Woman must deal with being considered prudes if they aren’t sexually active, and if they are sexually active then they are considered “sluts.” Women are judged for their sexual activities or perceived sexual activities based on how they dress and act. These ideals that are forced on women are reinforced in attitudes that can be found in geek culture.

Glee-Sexy-460Glee did an episode that tried to tackle the issue of promoting sex ed versus promoting abstinence to high school students. The result was simply to shame anyone that chose abstinence over sex. There is nothing wrong with having sex and exploring one’s sexuality, but some people choose to wait for whatever reason. Glee tried to enforce the idea that only uneducated religious people care about abstinence. Furthermore, the writers of Glee seemed to imply that anyone who was pro-abstinence was actually using religion as a smoke screen to hide psychological or personal issues that would make them afraid to have sex.

Well, I have news for Glee: many people choose to be virgins for more than just religious reasons. In fact, many of the people I know who have decided to wait to have sex have are actually doing so for medical reasons. Because of these medical issues, it would be dangerous for them to get pregnant, and even though they know they can practice safe sex, they don’t want to take the risk.

And yes, some people do want to remain virgins for religious reasons and who cares?! It’s their life choice. If a woman chooses to remain a virgin, she isn’t a prude or weirdly religious, she has made her own life choice for probably a variety of reasons. Trying to tell women that they need to be sexually active to be valued is just plain wrong.

Cordelia Chase: Why is it always virgin women who have to do the sacrificing? Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: For purity, I suppose.  Cordelia Chase: This has nothing to do with purity. This is all about dominance, buddy. You can bet if someone ordered a male body part for religious sacrifice, the world would be atheist--like that.

Cordelia Chase: Why is it always virgin women who have to do the sacrificing?
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: For purity, I suppose.
Cordelia Chase: This has nothing to do with purity. This is all about dominance, buddy. You can bet if someone ordered a male body part for religious sacrifice, the world would be atheist–like that.

Virgin shaming is also reinforced by the classic trope of virgin women getting killed or sacrificed for various purposes. Whether it’s Supernatural, Buffy, Angel, or various other shows, the message is clear: if you are a virgin you are going to die. Virgins are almost constantly used for various ritual sacrifices. In one notable episode of Supernatural, a dragon is kidnapping virgin women. In the episode, Dean not only makes fun of many of the women, who are again portrayed as weirdly religious and acting like immature little girls, but he also makes a point to mention how he doesn’t understand why monsters always want virgins, because he prefers women with experience. So basically, if you’re a virgin you get eaten by monsters, but if you are sexually active you can sleep with Dean. Because really, that’s all women are good for, right?

Now of course this trope has been around long before today. It is a product of the whole bullshit idea that a woman’s purity is this special gift to be given away to someone. It’s a way of putting women on a pedestal while still keeping them under the control of men. Male virginity is never stressed or even mentioned. I would probably have less of a problem with this trope if men were included in it, but even if they were, it would still emphasize the purity myth that permeates our society.

The purity myth says that women’s purity is somehow what makes them special and better than women who aren’t virgins. So virgins are held up by society, but also made a commodity for male consumption and called prudes. On the other side of it, sexually active woman are celebrated for being readily sexually available to men, but still called sluts and demeaned because they aren’t virgins.

imagesIn the TV show Heroes, Nikki was an often sexually active woman. She did porn to help pay for her son’s school and sleeps around. Despite often being forced or pressured into sexual activity, she is constantly demeaned for being a “slut” by the male characters around her, whether it’s the men she is sexually active with and even on occasion her own son. Because Nikki is sexually active, it is somehow assumed that that means she is available for all sexual encounters with men whether she wants to or not. Luckily for Nikki, when men try to take advantage of her, her alter-ego Jessica kills them. But even then, Nikki’s sexuality is still seen as something terrible. Her alter-ego is more sexually aggressive and often shown using her sexuality to get what she wants.

This same trope appears in various other media. Comic book women like Catwoman are shown as being sexually aggressive and instead of that being shown as taking control of their sexuality or sex life, it is instead portrayed as some terrible device used to manipulate and control.

2746574-catwoman_18

Catwoman is over this slut-shaming bullshit!

Ultimately, women are boiled down to who they are sexually, unlike male characters. It’s time writers start trying to write well-developed female characters instead of passing judgement on their sexuality.

9 thoughts on “Virgin-Shaming and Slut-Shaming in Geek Culture

  1. Pingback: Theatre Thursdays: Grease is the Word (and the Word is Sexism) | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

    • That’s great that TV Tropes talks about virgin shaming and men. It’s a big issue that definitely affects men and is not acceptable. Men should not be shamed for their sexuality just like women shouldn’t be shamed for their sexuality.

      My post however discusses how slut shaming and virgin shaming affect women specifically. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about men. I just happened to be talking about women here. Maybe you should not derail the conversation and get over yourself. Just a thought.

      • Hold on, you explicitly said that “Male virginity is never stressed or even mentioned”. That’s what Dan was getting at, as it is really not true. I understand that you’re focusing on women’s sexuality, and your article is thought-provoking, but you included a statement that is wrong.

        • Ah, I understand now. In that particular quote I meant men remaining pure by staying virgins is not emphasize in our culture. For men shame around virginity tends to come remaining a virgin. Men are seen as somehow “defective” if they don’t lose their virginity. But for women losing your virginity before marriage seems to equate to losing what makes you human. Women are seen as “worthless” without their virginity, while men are encouraged to lose theirs. Admittedly, I was not very clear in my article and I apologize for any offense I might have caused.

          • I don’t think women are seen as “worthless” without their virginity, since 2/3 of men want a women who is sexual experienced (according to a poll in Australia last year). Men are more often seen as “worthless” if they remain virgins. Match.com did a poll last year, and over 50% of women said they would not even date a virgin man.

            I would say that the SDS is not a double standard, but a different standard. The permissiveness of the surrounding culture also affects how virginity is viewed. Men and women are different, so it makes sense that a single standard would not fit both equally well (i.e. men and women want different things). I would wager that virgin-shaming of men will always exist.

          • I have one issue: your issue with the ‘virgin sacrifice.’ Virgin sacrifices are an extremely old concept, so I feel that they are now a relic of sorts, like witch-burning or were-wolves in films. It’s usually not meant to demonize women, but it casts light upon old traditions. Your replies would be helpful in seeing your side of the argument.

  2. Pingback: Sexualized Saturdays: Captain America & Male Virginity | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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