Jessica Valenti talks virginity on the Today show

Jessica Valenti talks virginity on the Today show

Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing (does anyone besides me think of a sexual term whenever they read that?) and author of anti-virginity book The Purity Myth appeared on the Today show, alongside abstinence advocate and author Lakita Garth. Here is their exchange, where I think it is fair to say that Lakita Garth beat Jessica Valenti to a pulp:

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Valenti’s argument is basically that women shouldn’t factor their sexuality into their feelings of self-worth at all. And to an extent, that’s the truth. A woman shouldn’t have to feel horrible because she had sex with her high school boyfriend. The problem with her argument, though, is that it is at best an idealistic fantasy. How things could or should be does not mean that’s how they are or ever should be. Almost two-thirds of teenagers who have sex wish they hadn’t. And the risks are high, abstinence-only education or not. Most teenagers are savvy enough to understand how pregnancy occurs, how a condom works, and that STDs exist. I mean, really… even if you’d never seen a condom before in your entire life, couldn’t you still figure it out? You don’t need a four-year course to understand how to roll a rubber on. In any case, it typically won’t matter. Teenagers who don’t practice safe sex do it because they don’t want to, because teenagers are irresponsible, and often, sex happens in the heat of the moment and they didn’t have time to plan it out or the willpower to wait until they can get some birth control.

And having sex does make a difference in their lives. Almost 1/4 of sexually active teens are infected with some kind of STD, with 8,000 teens getting infected with an STD daily. Teenage mothers usually have a much tougher life ahead of them, with higher likelihoods of poverty and of being welfare recipients. Teens who have sex early are also more likely to be depressed and/or suicidal. And, despite what feminists may try to claim to smear the so-called “patriarchy”, these statistics go for both boys and girls. There is a difference between the two genders, but boys are clearly affected as well.

As much as Jessica Valenti may try to turn a blind eye to all of these things in the name of sexual empowerment (or whatever the hell it is she’s trying to get out her little crusade), the facts are the facts. And while sure, it would be nice if sex had no effect whatsoever on the self-worth of teenagers, it simply isn’t reality. Getting an STD could be potentially devastating to anyone, but imagine how it would feel to a, say, fourteen-year-old to find out she’s just gotten herpes. Wouldn’t you think it’d be a little difficult for her to not let that affect her self-worth at all, because her sexuality “doesn’t affect that”?

Given the effect that sexual activity has to young girls, why is it that we should turn our eyes the other way and pretend that they’re even remotely ready to handle it? It is so misguided and harmful for these feminists to sit there and tell teenagers that they’re old enough and mature enough to make up their own minds on something that does affect them. Pretending it doesn’t matter isn’t helping them; it’s harming them. And while making girls feel like they’re whores if they have sex certainly isn’t good — it’s terrible, actually — pretending it won’t make a difference if they have sex or not isn’t helping them either.

MSNBC posted an excerpt from The Purity Myth, and it frankly made me pity her. It makes it clear what Valenti’s real motivations are. She says,

My reasons for wanting to write this book aren’t entirely altruistic, however. I was once that teenage girl struggling with the meaning behind my sexuality, and how my own virginity, or lack thereof, reflected whether or not I was a good person. I was the cruelly labeled slut, the burgeoning feminist who knew that something was wrong with a world that could peg me as a bad person for sleeping with a high school boyfriend while ignoring my good heart, sense of humor, and intelligence. Didn’t the intricacies of my character count for anything? The answer, unfortunately, was no, they didn’t. It was a hard lesson to learn, and one that too many young women are dealing with nationwide.

And there you have it.

What Valenti, and countless other feminists, can’t understand is that abstinence is not simply a religious issue, much as they condescendingly sneer about the “religious right”. Teaching your children that sex is something valuable and not to be given away lightly is not necessarily about religion and it’s definitely not about “valuing their hymens” above everything else; it’s about protecting them until they are mature enough to understand the risks they are taking. Parents are supposed to be there to guide their children.

To end, I’ll let one of the Feministing commenters speak for herself on the issue. It alone speaks volumes about their mindset when it comes to sexuality, abstinence, and teenagers. Not only do they dislike the idea of parents valuing abstinence, they don’t even want to allow the discussion.

yikes, the hosts! i am grateful you had the opportunity to talk about your book (and yay for the banner!) but it’s unfortunate the producers or whomever felt the need to have the “other side” represented. i don’t watch the today show hardly ever, but i’d guess most author guests don’t have to defend their book against an opponent?

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  • Bob says:

    Well, they do have a point – abstinence education has been a complete failure. Better sexual education is a much better idea.

    An even BETTER idea is for PARENTS to be more involved in their lives. Teaching only one side or the other obviously isn’t working, but trying to force abstinence isn’t working, and hasn’t worked. If it did work at all (ever!) we wouldn’t have any drug problem. or crime. Or violence. Fact is, people are people, and we’re all humans. Informed decisions are a better idea.

    Another thing they always leave out – our rise in teen pregnancies can also be directly linked to the huge increase in Hispanics in the United States. The facts continue to show that cities with growing number of Hispanics also have the fastest growing teen pregnancy rates. So we also have a social issue from an entirely different culture to deal with. Blacks & Hispanics have had the highest teen pregnancy rates by far, and the stats show this year after year.

  • Shaniquequa says:

    I believe blacks and hispanics are only growing in teen pregnancy because I’ve been to a black school and a white school. In blacks schools they don’t really teach teens about protecting themselves while they do at white schools.

    But honestly I slighty disagree with the statement where sex does change a teenager. I lost my virginity at 15 but it was through rape. Of course there was nothing I could do about it, it was gone. But when I started adventuring into sex, I am really glad I did because sex does feel good and it’s a really good stress reliver. I don’t see why sex is so seen in a negative light.

    Also I’m 17 now. Never been pregnant and never had an STD. I’m on birth control and I’ve always praticed using condoms. And I get tested on a daily basis. Way sex has changed me to probably be more responsible and to be wiser for some of the situations I’ve dealt with.

    And you must not know too much about the feminist movement and sexuality. My teacher is a major feminist and she’s against teenagers having sex if they aren’t ready. She just doesn’t believe in putting an age on it either because not every teen is the same. Like I can be ready at 17 but my 19 year old friend probably isn’t. And many feminists believe in encouraging girls that sexuality is okay but also to not be an idiot with it and only do it when you understand what can happen out of it. At least that’s the lecture I’ve gotten from most feminists.

    And I wouldn’t say abstinent are religous but they are sexist. I remember abstinence classes telling girls like me that we couldn’t show too much skin because boys are dumb and they only think about sex so you can’t blame them if they force sex on you (I don’t know who was more insulted, the guys or the girls). They tell you girls only have sex for attention and they only flirt because they have nothing else to give (even I thought flirting was a natural thing especially amoung teenagers). Plus they don’t teach about protection so when kids don’t listen (and it’s natural for them not too) they go out and have sex without realizing that they need a condom and pregnancy gets higher. Or they’re taught that if they have sex they don’t have sex respect and then they end up feeling crappy when they do. I remember at 14, I was really horny all the time and my hormons were kicking and I felt bad for having those feeling until I realized they were normal. Abstinence classes have a lot of bad in it and I can speak on that because I’ve been in them.

    But Cassy I really think you should buy the book before you judge it. I haven’t read it myself but I really want too so I won’t comment on Jessica Valenti’s views on purity except the fact that I know she has nothing against virginity. She just doesn’t want girls who have sex to feel punished either.

    And no one says anything about teenage boys having sex at all.

  • CaptDMO says:

    Yep, seventeen seems about right for the post by Shaniquequa.
    How fortunate for girls of that age in NH that can now get
    a “morning (or two, or three)after” magic “pill” over the counter, without the potential “interference” from those pesky meddlesome parents that some folks seem to dismiss, have had the opportunity to at least hear about “The Summer of Love”, and all the pitfalls that befell THOSE independent, liberated, and empowered, folk that are now parents and grandparents.

    I just don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll let others.

    As for the other accolades (one girl’s trash is another’s treasure I suppose)from that site.
    I suspect the poster child woolf’s orland quoted at the end is in for a RUDE awakening when it comes to the assumption of integrity in defending ones “work”, not that folks at that (and simular) “sources” reflect that “academic” meme.
    See: Stephen Glass, James Frey
    and of course, the embarrassing Al Gore.
    the list of False victims goes on of course.

  • CaptDMO says:

    Dang I wish there was preview.
    *sigh* will SOMEBODY please repair the “James Frey” tags above!

  • aharris says:

    Whoever said that “abstinece only” only teaches abstinence? I had abstinence only sex ed. In my school they taught us all about the things that could happen to you through having sex including all the various chances of them happening even if you used various methods of birth control – then they hammered home the point that abstinence if the ONLY way to prevent those things from happening. I always thought that’s what “abstinence only” meant.

    And as far as waiting, when I was younger and dumber, I used to think it wouldn’t matter that I hadn’t waited, and then I met my husband. You have no idea then how much I wished I had waited. It never mattered to him that I hadn’t, but every experience was (and is) so much better with him that I wish he was the only experience I had ever had. If it means nothing to you now, then you will only discover when you meet the right one someday how much it might matter to you then.

  • Dave C says:

    The lenths Jessica Valenti will go through to justify her one night stand with Bill Maher

  • Stephen J. says:

    I think Shaniquequa’s experience does illuminate one of the vital truths about adolescents in general, which is that many individual teenagers are more responsible than the general stereotypical depiction. The problem is that I simply don’t think, and I suspect the stats bear me out on this, that she and those like her are representative of the majority of her peer group.

    Which group do you design a sex ed program for — the responsible minority who can use the teachings properly to have an active but disciplined and safe sex life, or the irresponsible majority who will hear nothing after “You know, it is OK to have sex despite what some pastors say” and lose the one safeguard they had?

    Myself I have to admit that I’d rather see public schools get out of the sex ed game entirely, at least for anything beyond the basic anatomy and biology. I tend to think that it’s the parents’ place to teach sexual morality and what makes for a healthy relationship, not the school’s. If a private school that’s explicitly dedicated to a religious denomination the student already (in theory) shares wants to teach it as part of their overall education of character, that’s different; but if the public school claims it has no philosophical stance on the morality of sex, it shouldn’t teach it, and if it does have a philosophical stance in practice, then it should admit that so parents know what their kids will be getting into.

  • Slamdunk says:

    Good post and video–the video speaks volume.

  • Frank White says:

    Cassey, you are not the only one who thinks of that specific sexual term when you hear the world “feministing”. It sounds like that other word, combined with the word feminine, which makes it sound like a whole new special lady like way to do it. Given that the act in itself is very un ladly like, this just makes it even more hilarious. Now that we got that out of the way, lets talk about hot teens having sex. I don’t care about the ugly ones.

  • Bobv says:

    So have feminists decided that sex no longer equals rape? Or is she advocating voluntary rape? Or is it ok, so long as a man is not involved?

    I wish they’d make up their minds.

  • smg45acp says:

    I would love to find out the sexually active 17 year old girl’s attitude when she is 30.
    When you have a good marriage you look back with regret not saving yourself for your spouse.
    Condoms break, they leak and they do nothing to prevent many types of VD.
    You’re just playing Russian roulette honey. Play long enough and you will lose.
    But you’re 17. You’re bullet-poof ,well you think you are.

    Also, as a practical issue, when you show self-control and restraint prior to marriage your spouse has a lot more trust in you. The logic being that if you can control your self while waiting for them, you can control yourself against temptation after you are married.
    And as anyone that is married knows, marriage is hard work. Marriage can be a very delicate thing to hold together. So anything you can do to help ensure it’s success, you should do it.

  • Chicago Neocon says:

    Valenti is easy to figure out. She was scorned. She had sex (probably early on) in high school and she was “cruelly labeled a slut.” Her crusade isn’t about legitimizing teenage sex; it’s about getting even. Like most liberals, emotions rule over logic. The self confidence issues she suffered as a teenaged, sexually active girl have continued into her adulthood. Her body language and the way she holds herself and presents herself is a clear give away.

    Contrast that to Mrs Garth sitting next to her. It is easy to see that Garth is a confident and secure person. I wonder why this is?

  • Jay says:

    Now that the experts all agree that abstinence education is a failure because it is so wildly impractical, I think it’s time we apply that lesson to other subjects.

    Like, drunk driving. Cleary, telling kids not to drink and drive is unrealistic and impractical. No matter what their parents or teachers tell them, kids are still going to drink. So instead of this silly “don’t drink and drive” nonsense, we should teach our children “responsible drunk driving”. Namely, we should teach them that when they do drive drunk, they should always wear a seat belt. Classes could teach kids how to buckle up despite the lack of hand-eye co-ordination caused by drunkenness. Etc.

    This would be so much more realistic than a moralistic “always abstain from drunk driving” philosophy.

  • Shaniquequa says:

    My mind at 30 will be the same. I don’t regret my choices in life. I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year, I love him, I’m committed and we have both been tested together. He has no diseases and neither do I and we’re both faithful. And I don’t plan to get married. If it happens, it happens. I also won’t regret anything. I’m glad I’ve had the past relationships I’ve had because you can’t have one relationships and just have the answers to everything. Plus I wouldn’t want my wedding night to have blood all over the sheets. I also doubt my husband will wait till marriage. Most people don’t.

  • Randy says:

    “My mind at 30 will be the same. I don’t regret my choices in life. I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year, I love him, I’m committed and we have both been tested together. He has no diseases and neither do I and we’re both faithful. And I don’t plan to get married. If it happens, it happens. I also won’t regret anything. I’m glad I’ve had the past relationships I’ve had because you can’t have one relationships and just have the answers to everything. Plus I wouldn’t want my wedding night to have blood all over the sheets. I also doubt my husband will wait till marriage. Most people don’t.”

    LOL. That’s 17 year-old sperm dumpster logic alright. Heard it a million times before. Let me tell you something missy. You wanna have sex? Go ahead. Sex is awesome. But I’m pretty selective in the girls I bang and you fall well short of making the cut, even if you’re a 10.

    And I really have to take issue with your “My mind at 30 will be the same” reamrk. Honey, it’s called personal growth. I’m 22 right now and I’m not even remotely the same person I was at 17. If your prophecy comes true and your values do not change over the next 13 years, it means you’re a moron. That’s term we use for 30 year-olds who still act like they’re 17, guys or girls.

    Oh, and your boyfriend won’t last either. Eeven if he is Mr. Perfect, women your age are completely incapable of appreciating what a man does for you, so you’ll probably throw him out on his ass and move on to the next sucker.

  • Shaniquequa says:

    And I’m curious to know why this is only being targetted towards girls? You know someone is having sex with them (if you strictly look at heterosexual culture). So why are we not pointing out sexually active boys too? And why do we care so much about what teenagers are doing all of a sudden. Kids have been having sex in high school when you guys were in high school and even when you’re grandparents were in high school. Why now make it a political issue? Sex in high school is life, it happens, and we need to get over it and move on. Sexually active teens is really the least of our problems (even though teen pregnancy is but we can still teach them how to avoid pregnancy by sex ed and not abstinence since being in high school, I know a kid will only be abstinent if it’s already on their mind).

  • MagicalPat says:

    To add to Jay’s brilliant point above…

    The education system spends an awful lot of time warning kids about the dangers of smoking. You might even say that their policy is ‘abstinence only’ towards tobacco. And yet, each year, thousands of kids start smoking anyway. It seems to me that ‘abstinence only’ is a complete failure. Better education must be the answer!

  • Shaniquequa says:

    I’m not saying my mind will think the same way. I’m just not going to regret anything when I’m 30 because my logic in life is to live without regrets. If you do than you’re just dwelling on the past which you should never do. I only know this because life is about making mistakes and learning from them. And I’m selective too with who I have sex with. I don’t go out and bang any person I see. Ask anyone I’m extremely strict and I can judge a person in 5 minutes and see if I want to deal with them and trust me, it’s no most of the time, even if they are the hottest person I’ve seen in my lifetime I can already answer that I wouldn’t want that person. And really Randy, why would it be necessary that I couldn’t bang you? Like I truly give a fuck, now I can’t live…..

    And who are you to say my boyfriend and I won’t last because I can’t appreciate him? I agree to an extent. We probably won’t last because most high school relationships don’t but I have hope in us because I love him so much. He’s the only person I truly care about. I would take a bullet for him (even though he says he wouldn’t let me). I cry at the thought of not being without him (and I’m usually independent and feel I don’t need a man). And yes I appreciate every single thing he does for me. And who are you to say at my age, you can’t appreciate someone. I know women in their 30’s that can’t appreciate a man so age to an extent is just a number. On top of that majority of the women my age haven’t been through what I’ve been through. I’ve been through one person treating me badly to the next which probably can explain why I don’t trust people when I first see them and stick to it. But it does teach me to be appreciative towards something if it’s a good thing for me which is my boyfriend who has literally saved my life one too many times for me not to realize he’s perfect.

  • Tessa says:

    “LOL. That’s 17 year-old sperm dumpster logic alright. Heard it a million times before. Let me tell you something missy. You wanna have sex? Go ahead. Sex is awesome. But I’m pretty selective in the girls I bang and you fall well short of making the cut, even if you’re a 10.”

    Are you seriously calling a girl you don’t know a “sperm dumpster”? How incredibly rude and thoughtless. You obviously think you’re awesome because you only “bang” hot girls — clearly sex is an important moral, emotional commitment for you — yet this girl is worthless because she’s had sex with someone she cares about? 17 IS an adult. I’m sure you had legitimate feelings and desires when you were 17! A lot of people under 17 might not feel comfortable having sex; a lot of people OVER 17 might not feel comfortable having sex. Nothing magical happens at the arbitrary age of 18. It’s a personal choice to have sex, and Jessica Valenti’s whole point is not “Go out and have lots of unprotected sex!”, it’s “If you feel comfortable having sex with someone, you shouldn’t be judged for it.”

    Shaniquequa, I support you 110%. The sexism and racism in these comments is disheartening.

  • JJ says:

    Jessica Valenti is not saying that people should have sex with as many people as possible; she is merely saying that we should not judge women upon whether or not they have had sex. If we trust them to know what is right for them, they would feel less pressure to either have sex or to not have sex. Jessica doesn’t want to promote promiscuous OR chaste standards for women; she wants them to be able to decide for themselves what is right without anyone saying that their decision reflects upon their character. Ridicule is a common reaction no matter what they choose: Lakita was made fun of for being a virgin, and Jessica was ridiculed for having sex with her boyfriend. Both are grossly unfair.

  • RogerCfromSD says:

    Jessica Valenti’s argument that we can “teach women to value themselves without focusing on their sexuality” is one of the most contradictory views around.

    In a hypersexualized society, where liberals push sex on to children, it is impossible to divorce one’s sense of self from their sexuality.

    Men are men and women are women. They are different. From puberty on, all men think about is sex. From the Sixties on, all women have been told is, “Screw around as much as men to prove you are equal and just as in control of your life. In fact, to hell with fetuses, it’s YOUR body and your choice!”

    Men are physically-stronger than women. In some cases many times so. Is control over men by using the vagina a way to compensate or rebel against this fact of nature? It seems to be, by the way women like Ms. Valenti take sides on issues.

    I don’t feel the need to start a site called, “Masculisting” because I am secure in who I am as a man and human being.

    Feminists who argue against abstinence only sex ed programs should be happy there are even any sex ed programs for children at all.

    As far as I’m concerned, those are private, personal discussions to be held between pre-teens/teens and their parents.

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