Virgin Mary

I am sitting here and I can’t help but think of the ‘Virgin Mary’ from high school. Her porcelain skin and blue eyes, the way she holds baby Jesus in such a relaxed manner as if motherhood is the easiest thing in this world. Her stepping on the snake and holding the bible? An apple? Honestly I can’t remember what she is holding. I remember this statue though that dominated the second floor corridor where the Form 3 and 4 classes where. Every day in those two years I passed by Mary. Back then I did not think that she had any influence in my life. You see despite the fact that I was at a catholic school my family and I actually belonged to a protestant church and in our church there were no statues of Mary and wedidn’t have any special songs or prayers for her. So I found the catholic obsession with Mary quite strange and thought she would mean more to me if I was catholic, but alas I was not. Mary was everywhere though, on bracelets, book covers and here in my school corridor waiting for me every single day. I was quite suspicious of Mary, especially on the day that I realised that she was stepping on a snake, because snakes and I are not friends, and she looked so casual about the fact that she was stepping on a snake.

Another thing that I could never really quite get my head around was the idea of her being a ‘Virgin Mother’. To me it just did not make much sense, even back then when I was strong in the belief that she was the mother of God, that she should be a virgin and a mother at the same time. Interestingly, what stressed me the most was not how she had become pregnant because that part seemed quite self- evident. I imagined God placing a baby in her womb without her noticing and bang she was pregnant. Come to think of now that I know a bit more about how babies are made, would it be that God would place a fertilised egg in her or just the sperm? And if it was sperm then was it his? Because that would imply that God has sperm which is just not something that you think of when you think of God. At the end of the day though, Jesus was the ‘Son of God’ so I guess it would have to have been God’s sperm. I digress.

The point is that the being of the baby in her womb is not what plagued the younger version of me the most. What did worry me though was that she as the ‘virgin’ that she was, was going to have to give birth in that state. I had watched enough movies about women who looked like they were on the verge of death whilst giving birth. 

Anyway I did not need to watch any movies to know that it would hurt to push a baby out of you. I had personally not had sex yet but I did know that the first time I used a tampon it was very painful and I also had heard enough stories about the pain that one experiences when you have sex for the first time because your hymen would be ‘ripped apart right in the centre and the pain would leave you scared forever’.

So in my mind I imagined that when Mary gave birth to baby Jesus she had the pain of giving birth plus the additional pain of her hymen breaking. I thought about this in great detail and it really disturbed me for a while because in this scenario it would mean that she would actually lose her virginity to her son which was beyond gross. Another thing I worried about was the question of if it was even possible to break the hymen from the inside? Clearly it had been, but what exactly where the logistics behind it? My reasoning was that a baby’s head did not have the sharp tip of the penis so it might not be able to apply sufficient pressure to break the hymen. I even imagined that baby Jesus might first have to punch the hymen away, then pull his arm back in and then come out head first. This was all very confusing to me and of course the Bible did not give much explanation as to what actually happened in the birth. It was more like ‘then they were in the stable and poof the baby was born’. Funny enough, I never imagined that she could have had sex in the time that she was pregnant because of course she was the ‘virgin Mary’. In line with this, it absolutely blew my mind when I later found out that she actually had other kids besides Jesus after that. So she was not a virgin after all (just like all of us as you are yet to discover)!

As I got older, I still carried these thoughts around at the back of my mind despite the fact that I no longer believed that she had not had sex to conceive Jesus. I thought that Mary was the slickest girl in the streets back then who cheated on her boyfriend and managed to convince him that it was Gods baby. Absolute genius. Despite this thinking though I never got past the image of the ‘Virgin Mary’. The statue that stared me down every day for two years of my teenage life was then in fact very influential in that it created an untarnishable picture of the Virgin Mary in my mind who was an eternal virgin and who I was supposed to aspire to be like. She was a symbol of purity and goodness that was to be emulated by not having sex, at least until you are married, and never if possible. That was the gospel that was taught at our school abstinence, abstinence and some more abstinence.

So the day that I found out that virginity is a myth I was actually quite disappointed. For a large part of my life I had tried to live according to this standard and I had been proud of my virginity. I used to say ‘I can choose to lose my virginity at any point, but those girls who have lost it already can never again be like me’ (which was a lie because it’s not like I had people lining up ready to rip my panties off, but that’s beside the point). Little did I know then that there was nothing to ‘lose’ no hymen to ‘break’ and no ‘deflowering’ that could ever happen to me.

I used to think that the hymen was this seal that covers the vagina that gets torn apart by the great and powerful dick when someone has sex for the first time. 

I thought too that when it breaks then blood gushes out in floods of red and you experience an excruciating pain that guarantees that your virginity has truly and forever left you. Interestingly in this story the dick is strong and powerful (as dicks are) and requires this force to break the robust hymen. However, in other stories the hymen is a very fragile thing that can be broken when cycling, playing hockey or even by a rogue tampon. Gasp! I lived then in a perpetual, if subconscious fear, of losing my virginity and almost quit the swimming team when I heard of the rogue tampon theory.

What I was not told, which would have greatly eased my fears, was that nothing can ‘break’ or ‘take’ your virginity: not a tampon, not a bicycle, not even a dick! A hymen is not a seal that covers your vagina. What it actually is, is much more complex than that. You can imagine it like a scrunchy that can be moved and stretched and has varying sized of openings, because our vaginas, just like everything else on our bodies are individual. Of course this scrunchy may find itself in a new position when someone, for example, has sex (and not only for the first time) leading to a tear (not a break) which can cause some bleeding. Especially if the scrunchy is not wet enough or is too young to be having sex, which may of course lead to a lot of pain. However keep in mind that even if such a tear does occur it is not something that is visible and no doctor, nor parent nor friend can tell by looking at your vagina that you are a virgin or not. And even though we like to think of the hymen as simply an organ on the female body that is socially neutral it is telling (to say the least) that the hymen was named after the goddess of marriage. Yes you read that right, marriage.

So maybe you have heard all of this before or you have learnt something new or you are thinking that this is some sort of conspiracy theory that wants to encourage young people to go out there and just have sex with anyone and everyone. If it’s the latter then you have totally missed the point so let me just reiterate it for you. My intention is to show that virginity is a social notion that is ascribed predominantly to women and entails notions of purity and goodness and that it is a myth. I want it to be heard that there is no ‘breaking’ or ‘losing’ of ‘virginity’ nor ‘deflowering’ that can happen to any girl/woman. My intention is also to show that not every woman/girl will bleed the first time she has sex because vaginas and dicks come in all different shapes and sizes and lube is your friend. This also means that it is possible not to feel any pain the first time you have sex, and it is possible to feel pain even when you have had sex 100 times. It is time to speak up about this so that girls and women stop fearing about losing something that, if we are being perfectly honest, they never had and it is time that society stops obsessively controlling women’s sexuality and minds its own damn business.
And one last thing, could we drop the ‘virgin’ and just call her Mary instead?

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