A Canadian based magazine which connects local and global issues concerning sexuality.
In this isssue:
Hymen or Hymyth? The Cult of Virginity
The Commdification of the female sexuality: Sex Tourism in Southeast Asia
Feature: Homosexuality and Sexual Orientation Within in Developing World: A Focus on Africa
Educating Sexual Identity
Plenty of Positions on Pornography
Elsa Barnes Philp
3 Letters to the editor
6 Note on Contributors
7 Hymen or Hymyth? The Cult of Virginity Carolyn Rhynold
9 The Commodification of the Female Sexuality: Sex Tourism in Southeast Asia Mhari Lamarque
10 Sex Sells
11 Homosexuality and Sexual Orientation Within the Developing World: A Focus on Africa Victoria Bumby
12 Expression of Sexuality : Expressions and Inspirations from our readers
13 Educating Sexual Identity Elsa Barnes Philp
14 Plenty of Positions on Pornography Mickella Leclair
16 Our Recommendations
Table of Contents
What is Sexuality?
Sexuality may refer to...
• sexual orientation
• gender identity (how someone identifies themselves in terms of gender)
• sex in biology
•the act of sex
Your article “The commodification of the female sexuality: Sex Tourism in Southeast Asia” revealed a lot to me. I have always viewed prostitution as a last resort employment decision for women and I did not realize that it could be a desired and sought after occupation. I guess I find it hard to truly understand the position of women such as those you discussed in your article; and often find myself associating prostitutes with a form of victimization. Now, after reading this article I understand that prostitution can offer not only more opportunities, but a sense of purpose and new forms of agency for a woman. While pondering this topic, and not really addressed in your article, I’m wondering what the risks are for women who engage in prostitution, both in and out of the tourism industry. What are the STI or HIV/AIDS risks? What about risks of violence or abuse? Also, what kind of level of sex tourism is present here in Canada or elsewhere in the Global North? Would it be supporting our tourism industry as well?
- Allison Felton, Saint John, NB
Letters to the Editor
Homosexuality Within The Developing World
Your article on homosexuality and sexual minorities within the developing world, and more specifically within Africa, I felt was a very interesting feature article. For many people who live within the developed world and already see the discrimination that homosexuals face here without government-involved policies, it was very eye opening for me to read about the types of discrimination that members of sexual minorities face within the developing world. It’s a topic that isn’t very widely talked about, and most people never know about the types of abuse that homosexuals around the world are facing. What I found to be the most overwhelming and demoralizing, was the issue about HIV/AIDS, and how there is such a lack of treatment in general, and even more so if a person is homosexual. I feel that it is very important for people to become more aware about this, in order for there to be improvement regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS. Thank you so much for shedding light on an issue that is not publicly discussed, and especially to those who have never even addressed or acknowledged the subject.
- Finley McDonald, Kimberly, BC.
I don’t normally write to the editor, but had to express that I was completely repulsed by the article written in your last issue regarding sexuality education. I agree that sexuality has become more prominent in our society, but by no means think my daughter and son should be learning about homosexuality, transgender issues in their classroom. The government has no right to promote these lifestyles, and it is only of my concern to educate my children regarding sexual health. They are already bombarded by a lot of external information and I think having them question their sexuality and gender would frankly unnecessarily confuse them. Thus, I find your suggestions to promote sexuality education dispicable.
- Miriam Douglas, Bramford, ON
The piece, Transgender Elders and the Perils of Long-Term Care, written last month about the fear, discrimination and abuse they face really got to me. I understand the risk of homelessness runs high for LGBTQ youth due to nonacceptance at home and nowhere else to go and can only imagine how that struggle continues. Coming from a place of privilege I still find it important that issues such as this are given a spotlight so that awareness is given and others see the need for societal change can occur. No one deserves to be denied medical care, have their privacy violated, or left vulnerable to harassment and mistreatment. Its a complete shame that transgender elders are afraid they will be refused their ability to live consistent with their gender identity after years fighting to be comfortable with it. I can only hope that with more effective cultural competency training, stronger litigation against discriminatory facilities, increased activism both inside and outside nursing homes, and more widespread nondiscrimination laws across the nation, we can reach a point when no elder will dread seeking long-term care.
-Rochelle Pickrem, Bar Harbour, ME
Reflecting on Virginity
Your article on virginity really spoke to me. It’s something I had not really considered the significance of before, but now I realize how much bearing the ‘cult of virginity’ has on my society. I am a 21 year old who “lost my virginity” when I was 16. Many of my friends lost it sooner than me, and I felt pressure from them to lost it as soon as possible. There were even parties that I felt too uncomfortable to attend that were made for hooking up with dudes and losing your virginity. The guys provided all-you-can-drink alcohol and would treat the girls as nice as possible, until they got what they wanted and would give all the girls cab fare and get rid of them. It was so weird to me that so many girls were willingly going to these parties to lose their virginities and feel better and more “cool”. I gave into the pressure to lose it and hooked up with a guy friend of mine. He told all our friends that I was “bad in bed” and I couldn’t even explain the shame and humiliation I had felt. I hate that all this pressure is placed on “being a virgin”, its either a bad thing or a good thing, and it differs. To me, it shouldn’t be regarded this way. If a girl wants to have sex, then do it. And if you don’t want to have sex, then don’t do it. I wish it were as simple as that. Your article made me realize now that I’m not alone in feeling so strange about virginity. It is a social construction born out of fear of sexuality. All of this pressure is insane!
-Stefanie, Phoenix, AZ
Reflections from our readers
It is at the core of our values to challenge the status quo and explore boundaries concerning the structures of society. Sexuality reflects every aspect of society; these articles touch on topics of sociohistorical, sociopolitical, and economic importance. Sexuality has historically been silenced and oppressed and its lasting effects still permeates in present day.
With this magazine, we expose the roots of oppression ingrained in modern thought surrounding sexuality. We aim to promote a dialogue between the subjects discussed with the readers. The purpose of these shared experiences are to relate and promote awareness of the subject matter. Through awareness and empowerment, we will no longer accept this silence.
Victoria Bumby was born and raised in Canada. She obtained her BA in International Development Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, followed by her MA. With an interest in doing work within HIV/AIDS education and gender equality, once graduated, she volunteered with Canadian Cooperative Association in Malawi as an HIV/AIDS education intern. She is currently working in Malawi where she continues her work with HIV/AIDS support projects, with hopes of soon completing her PhD in International Development.
Mhari Lamarque is an International Development student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Passionate about development issues and gender equity, she participates in development issues at both the local and global level. She is excited and enthusiastic about writing for Sex You Ality and hopes that this proves to be the beginning of a lifelong journey in promotion of social justice.
Elsa Barnes Philp is a fourth-year undergraduate student, studying International Development Studies and Environment, Sustainability and Society at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS. She has really enjoyed writing for Sex-You-ality and wishes the topics discussed could be more accessible to the public. She is very passionate about gender issues, and spends a lot of her spare time trying to connect with young adolescent girls who often struggle to fit into this hypersexualized world.
Note on Contributors
Mickella LeClair is a 21 year old, 3rd year university student from a small city in South Western Ontario. She is majoring in International Development Studies, a decision influenced by a strong drive to learn about and rectify inequality. Her passion for social justice has led her into pursuing a life of activism and grassroots mobilization. She is interested in using this magazine as a tool to incite change and enlighten and engage others.
Carolyn Rhynold is a 23 year old, 3rd year University student hailing from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. She began her post-secondary education in Toronto studying Fashion Design. While working in the Fashion Industry she noted the prevalent gender imbalance of power which resulted in a significant amount of self-loathing predominant in women she worked with. She wanted to try and understand where this came from, and what she could do to combat it. She left that program and began her degree at Dalhousie University studying International Development and Gender & Women’s Studies.
Who writes for you
The significant emphasis placed on virginity has permeated our notions of what it means to be regarded as ‘morally pure’ in Western culture. The definition of virginity can be varied among cultures, but it is generally defined as the state of being prior to the first time one engages in sexual intercourse. Despite popular belief, virginity fundamentally cannot be medically or physically proven (Bernau, 2007, 1). Yet virginity has been regarded as an important state of being that one should cherish and protect, and even strive for. It has grown symbolic and representational of humility, innocence, pleasure, and youth. It has been mystified, commodified, and heavily relevant to desirability for marriage. Virginity has dictated sexual behaviours since our earliest notions of what it means. It has shifted and morphed but always remained globally prominent. And yet if this intangible state of being cannot be proved, why is it so important to our sexuality and what has its impact been on women in North America?
Many theories surrounding the evidence of virginity rest on the hymen, which is a small fold of skin at the entrance of the vagina. It is thought that during penetration for the first time, the hymen tears and the female will bleed. However, the hymen has been proved to tear during many other activities, and some females might not even possess one in the first place. Some hymens also do not tear the first time, or do not bleed at all. This is insufficient proof for universally proving virginity (Bernau, 2007, 2). Yet such a strong emphasis is placed on this belief that in the 1970’s a cosmetic procedure that involved pre-cutting the hymen gained popularity. It was thought that this procedure would make sex more comfortable and less painful for newlyweds engaging in intercourse for the first time. Around this decade, sexuality was becoming more prominent in Western youth culture. There was a tension between conservative views on sexuality, and a youth culture engaging more often in premarital sex. Although the 1970’s and ‘80’s were a time of sexual experimentation, virginity was still regarded by women as something to be protected and cherished. Men generally regarded virginity with disdain, and a hindrance to their sexual pleasure as women tended to want their first times to be with someone special and a meaningful experience based on romantic love (Carpenter, 2002, 346).
Hymen or Hymyth?
The Cult of Virginity
By Carolyn Rhynold
“Shaming young women for being sexual is nothing new, but it’s curious to observe how the expectation of purity gets played out through the women who are supposed to epitomize the feminine ideal: the “desirable” virgin. After all, we rarely see women who aren’t conventionally beautiful idolized for their abstinence. And no matter how “good” you are otherwise –- even if you’re the all-American beauty queen –– if you’re not virginal, you’re shamed. The desirable virgin is sexy but not sexual. She’s young, white, and skinny…”Virgin” is a designation for those who meet a certain standard of what women, especially younger women, are supposed to look like. As for how these young women are supposed to act? A blank slate at best.” –Jessica Valenti, the Purity Myth
As views on sexuality changed, so did the cosmetic procedures. The procedures are undergone with a hope to “re- tighten” the vagina as a perceived avenue to become more desirable. A quick search of the internet leads to a website called “labiadoctor.com” offering “expert vaginal tightening” and “vaginal rejuvenation”. Although some women undergo the procedure to reconstruct their vaginas after child birth, many women undergo this process to regain desirability and a "virgin" appeal. Why have hetero-normative views on sexuality been so prevalent as to lead women to go under the knife?
Berneau (2007) states, “The anxiety that one often finds in writings on virginity is rooted in both misanthropic and misogynist views. Human beings were fallen creatures, and women in particular were not to be trusted. Stories of feigned virginity appear wherever the cultural places a great value on purity and reveal a fear that there is no secure way of policing this elusive state of being” (37). Socio-historically women have been marginalized while men are given power, and this is represented in sexuality. This “given” has dictated that men have control over women as property while women are taught to use their sexuality, the scarce resource they have available to them, for their advantage and a brief moment of power over men (Berger, 1973, 667). This is problematic for many reasons, as it repeats the oppressive cycle of women treated as a commodity to be bought and sold, and leads to the internalization of women as second class citizens. Carpenter (2002) notes, “…most young men felt empowered by virginity loss, whereas young women reported exercising sexual agency only rarely, and then primarily through negative means, such as restraining their partners or themselves or ridiculing male sexual performance. Young women who first have sex with other women appear to enjoy greater control over their experiences than women whose first partners are men…” (Carpenter, 2002, 347) This is insightful as it relates this pejorative view of virginity to gender powered imbalances. The negative connotations of virginity are structured within hetero-normative sexual roles.
Ad advertisement for a movie about virginity loss.
The language used in Western culture surrounding virginity is almost always regarded as a loss, or something that can be taken away, or purchased. It is common to find someone ask, “When did you lose your virginity?” rather than, “When did you gain sexual pleasure?” even if they do not mean to perpetuate this oppressive view of sexuality, the language used inherently regards virginity as something to be lost, and not gained. In present day, virginity still has a significant emphasis for young people even though studies show women enact more sexual agency than decades before. Virginity can still vary from individual as to whether they view it as a positive or negative attribute, but all of these views come with pressure. Pressure to keep your virginity as something to be valued, or pressure to “get rid of it” as a hindrance to your true adulthood. There is a constant tension between sexual desire and sexual restraint. In order to live a healthy sexual life, women must be able to express their sexual agency in a shame free manner however they choose to act. Virginity remains an indicator of gender power imbalances in our culture. Until people feel comfortable enough to discuss their own sexuality in an open, judgement free zone, the conceptualization of virginity will remain an elusive concept that can serve to hinder sexual agency for all genders.
Did you know?
A 22 year-old woman from San Diego put her virginity for sale on the internet for the price of $3.7 million to the highest bidder in 2009. There were 10,000 bidders.
Following suite, An 18 year-old in Great Britain auctioned off her virginity on the internet for 10,000 euros to an Italian Business man.
Exerpts of the Objectification of Female Sexuality in Advertisements