I’ve heard enough stories over the last three years to know that the definition of virginity loss cannot be carved into stone. Generally speaking, we use the first instance of penetrative sex to mark this occasion, but since the beginning of time, people have called into question the true nature of virginity loss.
As early as the fourth century, St Augustine bought solace and comfort to those consecrated virgins, raped as an act of war by invading Goths, by using these words to make them feel better: ‘No matter what anyone else does with the body or in the body that a person has no power to avoid without sin on his own part, no blame attaches to the one who suffers it’.
In a roundabout way, St Augustine was probably the first human being to tout about town the idea that virginity could be a concept as opposed to an actual physical fact, something that can reside in the mind just as much as it does in the body. (Quite asides from the fact that he also perpetrated a very blurry line by insinuating that sin was only sin if the victim – usually female - had ‘no power to avoid it’. That was the beginning of a slippery slope if ever I saw one).
As Hanne Blank writes in her fabulous book, Virgin - The Untouched History, ‘the relocation of virginity from the body to the soul was an imperfect solution to the problems of either rape or virginity, but it was also a brilliant stroke of philosophy. After Augustine, both libido and virginity were matters of the conscious self at least as much as they were matters of the body’.
What am I trying to get to here? Well, I am attempting to prepare the ground for an entirely new concept and this week’s guest writer, James Berkon. James is the owner of what he considers to be ‘secondary virginity’, an idea that has cropped up more than once on these pages. The best definition of secondary virginity I have encountered is this:
‘Secondary virginity, or being a ‘born-again’ virgin, is when an individual who has had premarital sex chooses to ‘start again’ and wait until marriage. This decision is not meant to be fuelled by false ideals of what is being chosen, but rather as an acceptance of the past and an attempt to move forward in a new light. In other words, when one chooses to ‘reinvent’ their virginity, they aren't doing so on the pretence of regaining their virginity simply to be able to say they are virgins, but rather to have a clean slate and a fresh start, and to recognize past mistakes and not repeat them in the future.’
I have mixed feelings about this idea. Number one, why should we feel bad about doing something that we were put on this earth to do? Why are we being judged here and who is doing the judging? Number two: is the concept of secondary virginity equally applicable to men as it is to women? Or is this ultimately just another way to try and ‘contain’ women and their sexuality until such time (usually marriage), someone, (usually a man) sees fit? I stand to be corrected on this matter. I hope that men are just as eager to ‘reclaim’ their virginity as I am led to believe that women are.
And number three, having said all that, I have the utmost respect for people who have had sex, a whole bunch of sex even, and then decide, for whatever reason, to forego it until they meet the person that they intend to marry. If people are foregoing sex until marriage for reasons which feel healthy and good for them? I am down with that.
The deal breaker for me though, is that I am not religious and therefore I do not feel judged for my sexual activity. I no longer wish to have pointless sex, i.e. sex that might not be moving towards some kind of loving union, but if I did, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I rest my case, and at the same time, present the case of James, who authors a website on the subject. He is totally up for being quizzed on the subject, so if you would like to send any questions his way, you can email him here:
Secondary Virginity: The Hidden Treasure - By James Berkon
I was sitting outside the dorms, chatting with a close friend of mine. He was telling me about his ex-girlfriend. They had broken up less than a month before. His heart was heavy with what he was trying to tell me. I placed my hand on his shoulder, "AJ, it's alright. You don't have to tell me if you do not want to."
AJ looked up at me, then placed his hands in his face and uttered these words, ‘James, I lost it.’ My heart sank for him. He held back his tears that night, but I knew his heart was bleeding, as many hearts do that have lost their virginity at some point in their past. The rest of the conversation escapes me. I do remember assuring AJ that I understood what had taken place, that I did not condemn him, nor look down upon him for what he and his girlfriend did. Yet, after he had left to go to his off campus apartment that evening I could not help but recall a certain moment which took place in my life a little over three months ago.
I was visiting my sister for the Fourth of July Weekend while she was at her internship for college credit and career placement. While at the resort she was working at, the family and I decided to stop by the pool to cool off from the blast furnace heat. As I walked up the steps that led to the pool and spa area of the resort these words popped into my head, ‘James, what are you going to do if your future spouse is not a virgin?’ I stopped dead in my tracks and did not move for a good few seconds. Then I thought to myself, ‘That's a great question. I don't know.’
Hearing AJ's account of losing his virginity only served to reaffirm the one question which had been on my mind for most of the summer, ‘What is someone supposed to do when virginity is lost? Are they condemned and cast out? Are they considered different, even isolated for this act? Is one less of a person after that loss? Do past experiences impact future relationships? Is there even the slightest glimmer of hope?’
As time moved on I would speak with my friends about these issues. They would direct me to the need to forgive and forget but this was never enough. I longed for more. Many of my friends who have lost their virginity longed for more as well. We wanted forgiveness and pardon for sure but beyond this we longed for restoration, the permission and the ability to regain what was lost and given away in the past. Aside from the above questions many more followed: What should a man/woman do if their spouse is not a virgin? Is there more than merely forgiveness, the pain and sting of anger, jealousy, bitterness and regret? Is there healing for those who have lost their virginity? Can one be pure again after this loss? Can past encounters be forgotten? Does a future relationship, even a marriage have to suffer the consequences of past choices?
You see, these issues were such a concern to me, not because I had lost my virginity, but I feared the consequences that uncommitted sex brought with it in a committed relationship. Yet, in asking these questions and seemingly questioning the dignity of others, I could not help but point the finger back at myself. ‘Did I really wait for whomever I may marry? Have not I also used women in my past? Didn't I look up hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of women on the Internet? In doing so, didn't I reaffirm their feelings of loss, heartache, and worthlessness?’
Through further reflection I came to the conclusion that no, I did not wait for the woman I would marry. I had cheated her out of what rightfully belonged to her in the first place. I had defiled the gift of myself, which was meant to belong to one person and one alone. I polluted my mind with trash that could potentially cause a rift in a future relationship and impact the intimacy I would share with whomever she may be. I had given my heart away to more people than I could count.
It was in this moment I realized that as much as those who have lost their physical virginity need what many call a ‘Secondary Virginity’, I needed this as well. I needed the chance to start over and be pure once again. I needed to cleanse my mind of the images I had seen for so many years. I needed to stop the sexual activity and learn to love others and live out the language of the body in truth. I needed to reclaim the pieces of my heart I had lost in the past so they could be made new and eventually given to the one who deserved them the most. I needed to regain the gift of self so I could be a gift to others and truly give myself in marriage.
Little did I know that in less than a year I would be given this gift and it was far greater than I could have ever imagined.
Fast forward one year to finals period. I was getting out of class after finishing my third of five finals. I felt confident, yet with school as with life, grades many times are up in the air. As I was walking back to the dorm I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders; for the first time ever in my life. I felt free. I felt new. I felt renewed and given back a sense of self, a true sense of personhood. I was made new. I had my life back. I was given the gift of self back. It was amazing. These words echoed through the depths of my heart, ‘Forget your past.’ The past which was filled with such bitter loss and heartache was no more. What I had done had lost its power over me. The images from the past....gone. Almost as if they were erased from my memory. My heart which felt so divided, so beat up, so defiled was restored. I felt as if I had everything to give to my friends. My body, which consequently feels a sense of shame and defilement after casual sexual encounters was pure, the feelings of shame and dirtiness were no more.
This, my friend, was beyond all belief. To say it was surreal would do this gift great and profound injustice. It was beyond anything you could imagine that was surreal. This, my friend, was perfect. I could not have imagined this gift of a ‘Secondary Virginity’ to be anything better. It is far more than just waiting for marriage. It is more than a period of abstinence. It is more than finding pure ways to share love with others. These are all a part of it, but ‘Secondary Virginity’ is just that, a second chance at virginity. Another chance at the gift of self which was once thought to be lost forever. A second chance at finding your heart once again and being able to give the gift of your heart to those you love. It is a second chance to redeem the memories of the past so they may lose their sting and power over you. It is another chance to give the gift of a purified body, even though physical virginity is lacking. It is in short another chance at life, at love and at discovering your true self.
A hidden treasure indeed.