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:
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?