Not yet a woman?

Britney Spears and the cult of virginity.

Oops. She did it. Britney Spears, formerly America’s Most Famous Virgin, has finally admitted that she is Not That Innocent. After years of playing off her much-publicized virginity and her sexually charged performances, Ms. Spears has finally abandoned one part of her dualistic identity. And maybe this seemingly conflicted young woman can teach American girls a feminist lesson. Whether she is aware of it or not, Ms. Spears once seemed like the polar opposite of a feminist. Her performances sold her body more than her songs. Her lyrics sometimes seemed to speak of sexual violence and domination-‚Hit me, baby’? ‚I’m a Slave 4 U’? Often, Ms. Spears seemed the perfect product of the majority-male music industry, an eminently purchase-able fantasy. Her public claims of virginity only bolstered this impression-her innocence gave her a fascinating power, suggested an untapped sexual potential that was ready to be exploited.

On its most basic level, the cult of virginity contains considerable potential for oppression. It is applied unequally-for men, virginity is a cultural curse; for women, it is a necessity if one is to be a ‚good’ girl. Continued past the age when young women ought to be able to make choices, both sexual and otherwise, for themselves, the idea that women must abstain from sex in order to retain their moral stance in men’s eyes ultimately denies women their sexuality in exchange for objectification.

It is deeply unfair that men gain status through sexual experience while women find their status diminished through even one sexual contact. It is deeply unfair, however trite it may sound, that Ms. Spears, in order to perform as she wanted, felt that she had to present herself as two people-a good little girl who is a sex kitten on the weekends. What an act it must have been.

Feminism, in its original form, argued that women should be equal to men-and while equal work for equal pay, equal opportunity in employment, and other like economic issues seem like achievable and popular goals, we certainly have not advanced very far sexually. A series of billboards in the Boston subways recently pointed out: ‚The average rapist gets five years. The average victim gets life.’ Despite sexual harassment laws, despite the sexual liberation movement, a rape victim still suffers from the loss of her virtue, as if it is she, and not the person who attacked her, who is a criminal. A woman who is sexually active is promiscuous, easy, a slut. A man who is sexually active is admirable. Does the double standard require that much explanation?

Now here is where Ms. Spears comes in. Because in this matter, she appears to have exercised good judgement-she waited to have sex until she was ready, until the right man came along. Madonna said if she taught her daughter self-respect, she wouldn’t have to teach her about men. Ms. Spears can go a step further and teach girls that learning self-respect is more important than learning about men. She is a living example of how allowing, and even encouraging girls to make mature and independent decisions about when to have sex, can be empowering.

In effect, Ms. Spears has a golden opportunity to overcome cultural ideals that say ‚sex = bad, bad girl’ and high-school health classes that preach abstinence. With her massive cultural power, she can let America’s young women know that really, it is okay to have sex, if you’re doing it because you love someone, and because you want to. Sing it, girl.

By Alyssa Rosenberg, Lexington High School


to abandon zaprzestać, porzucać
violence przemoc, gwałtowność
to play off rozgrywać
eminently w większości, przeważnie
to bolster poprawiać
untapped nienaruszony
oppression prześladowanie, ucisk
to retain zachować, zatrzymać
in exchange for w zamian za
to diminish zmniejszać się
trite banalny
achievable osiągalny
sexual harassment molestowanie seksualne
self-respect poczucie własnej wartości
mature dojrzały
to overcome pokonać
to preach głosić