Thursday, July 2, 2009

Virginity misconceptions

RH Reality Check has an interview with Jessica Valenti about the role of virginity in society. The cultural criticism part of the interview addresses a complex reality with many layers, but addressing some simple facts I think she may misunderstand the evidence to some degree:

1. The social science says that sexual initiation is important, both the age and circumstances. The age of sexual initiation is associated with concrete negative health outcomes, such as increased likelihood of STDs, pregnancy, less likelihood of using condom even in subsequent relationships. In many cases women, disproportionately African-American, have early sexual initiation within coercive relationships, often with men over 18.

2. Girls and women are more vulnerable than men in many sexual contexts: getting a woman pregnant can cause financial hardship to men, but women have more immediate consequences and educational/advancement consequences. Transmission rates of STDs to women are higher than to men for many diseases. While men are more likely to have symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea, these diseases are more likely to have lasting consequences for women than for men, the combination of which means that a woman might have lasting consequences without ever knowing. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is more common and more severe for women than for men.

As a female statistician who was a physics major in college, I know about sexism. On the other hand, there are some gender differences that are real. I also supported Larry Summers in that debacle.

3. My impression is that virginity is a concept that Evangelical Christianity applies to both men and women, and is concerned with both equally. That's not as much my area, but it's been my impression.


Anonymous said...

My name is Caity Balch. I am a Journalism student at the University of Oregon. I am currently writing a research paper on government funding of abstinence education. I was wondering if I might be able to conduct a phone or email interview with you for my paper, or if you can recommend anyone that you think would be a reliable source. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Janet said...

Hi Caity. Happy to talk. You didn't leave any contact information, but you're welcome to email me at janet dot rosenbaum at gmail.