Virgin or Whore: Why Not Both?

Posted in   The MamaSutra   on  December 19, 2018 by  Lanae minutes remaining

Virgin or Whore. Saint or Temptress. Madonna or Eve. Maiden or Crone.

Society spends a lot of time on these labels. Lots of women blindly accept and even perpetuate these binary categories. Typically, one is revered while the other is shamed. This serves to isolate us, and we sometimes unknowingly allow separation despite the loneliness and disconnection we feel as a result. And it sucks.

Virgin Smirgin

An example

Let me share a story that happened recently. A boy in my 14-year old Cindy’s class told her via social media that my other daughter Marcia (16) was a “slut”. Cindy shared the post with Marcia – her response? Unaffected, Marcia said,

who cares

“…and? What’s his point?”

I overheard this, and my jaw hit the floor. If that were 16-year-old me, I would have run all the scenarios in my head on how to prove him wrong! Bent over backward to show however I could that I was not, in fact, a slut. Instead, my daughter was Teflon. She refused to be shamed. And it was a beautiful thing.

The shame and separation extend into our communities. As it is now, we don’t live in communal spaces. We live in houses, apartments, condos. Mostly, we are isolated from each other. In charge of our individual homesteads. But consider this: Women need each other. Sometimes for guidance, sometimes for support, sometimes for wisdom. It’s scary to be separated. Maybe that’s why some of us look to the men in our lives to protect us?

Women work together well. We work well especially when we aren’t catty towards each other. Or backbiting with words that hurt. These things serve to keep us separate too.

The one-view, patriarchal beauty standards established for us to be one kind of beautiful to men keep us separate too. Such a limited definition when in reality every woman is gorgeous. Don’t believe me? Spend a day at a clothing optional, women-only spa and see for yourself. Truly beautiful and real.

And. Not Or.

All this separation. But what if it was okay for women to be both?  ”AND.” Not Or. I recognize that I’m a much more complex person than just any one label. Every woman I know is. Mother, Boss, Caregiver, Lover, Chauffeur, Chef, Troublemaker, Peacekeeper to name a few. In reality, women play so many roles, and all of them are essential. I accept that not everyone will like or even see every side of me, but I hate to be told that some parts of me are not okay to show others. That feels stifling. Yet I lived that way for years.

Keeping it all hidden is tough. These vulnerable sides of us that have to stay in the shadows can be hurt too. Keeping things in the dark, we feel alone. We think we are different, but we aren’t. There are more similarities than difference. Some examples? We…

  • love our families – whether by blood or simply chosen,
  • work hard to provide the best we can for our loved ones, 
  • put in long hours to get the job done, whether that’s staying up all night to nurse a sick child or finishing up a project for work,
  • ache when our loved ones feel pain,
  • mourn the loss of those close to us,
  • and sometimes we dance and celebrate the wins of others as well.

When we do go it alone, we put up a tough outer shell as a defense. We put up masks ourselves to keep each other separate too. But I have witnessed – recently in a class that I taught at a women’s county jail – in times of deep emotional pain, these previously “hard” women rally together to hug and console the sister who needs to be comforted. It’s who we are!

I used to hate that “it takes a village” thing. It felt counter to my “I can do it myself” independent woman thing. But it took me years to understand asking for help didn’t make me less of a do-it-myself-er (full disclosure, I do still struggle with asking for help). It just robbed others of the pleasure of helping and gifting of their talents.

It’s not anyone’s job to apply labels to others. Man, do I hate that. If we want a name, we can use it ourselves, and we can reject those labels put on us from others that we don’t identify with. Looking back now, I would tell 16-year old me to “ignore the labels, find your people, they will accept you without judgment, and be your authentic self now.” This includes embracing all the AND’s.

We could cast off the shackles of labels and shame to embrace who we are. And we could contribute to keeping ourselves connected instead of separate from each other.

And. Not or.

That’s the way we will move forward.

Xxoo

The MamaSutra

P.S., Ready to take things to the next level? The MamaSutra offers coaching around sex, love, dating, relationships, and parenting. See here for setting up an initial consultation.

About the Author Lanae

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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