Monday, April 07, 2014

Virgin Toothbrush Looking for A Mate. Or Conservative Views on Premarital Sex.

Do you know what having too many sex partners does to you?  It makes you icky and yucky and disgusting.

Imagine you are a wet lollipop which has fallen on the floor and rolled around in all that dust and grit and pet hairs.  Would anyone like to lick that lollipop now, hmh?

This is a common conservative metaphor when it comes to premarital sex and young women, the idea that you are food and if other people have been salivating on you or nibbling at you then nobody in their right mind would wish to have a monogamous long-run relationship with you.  Some misogynist sites make the point much more nastily, by calling women who have had more than one heterosexual partner cumbuckets.  They have no comparable term for men who have had more than one heterosexual partner.

The most recent example of the use of food metaphors in abstinence education comes from various conservative sex education classes:

According to the Los Angeles Times, teachers in Oxford, Miss., are asking “students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became.” Says Marie Barnard, a public health worker and parent: “They're using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex—that she's been used. … That shouldn't be the lesson we send kids about sex.”


Last year, a school district in Texas instructed teachers to compare people who have had sex to dirty toothbrushes and sticks of gum. “People want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or stick of gum,” the guide read. 
Neither of the quoted cases seem to single out women, which is a reason to rejoice, because now we can all be disgusting hair-and-dirt-covered half-chewed lollipops.  Or lollipops still inside the cellophane wrappers.

Except that this doesn't quite work, because virginity has never been a requirement for men and everybody knows that the dirty lollipop really is the slutty girl.

The food metaphors in abstinence education (and elsewhere) are pretty lamentable, because it turns at least one potential partner in a relationship into a dinner dish and the other one, possibly, into the diner, and when it is applied to only women it reinforces the idea that a woman's value is pretty much in her unopened gift package of sexual and fertility services.

But consider hotel beds.  Consider the eating utensils and glasses and cups we are given at restaurants and coffee bars.  Consider touching door handles in public places.  The metaphors collapse really rapidly, unless one actually sees women's bodies as a type of sexual food, something that can be unwrapped, the lid removed and then heated quickly in the microwave.

Note, also, that none of the metaphors quite work unless one regards sex as inherently filthy and nasty and degrading, as something that leaves its marks on the participants, as something that turns them into used goods.  All this is a tango between the objectification of women's bodies and the simultaneous transfer of sexuality to market-type circumstances.  Love doesn't enter into it.