Interestingly, research shows that economic independence of women has a direct impact on pre-marital sex, as measured by the defloration age and the frequency of sexual activities before marriage. In societies where females are not so emancipated, i.e., necessitate rela­ti­vely high investment from men, women gain a lot from being married. This condition renders promiscuity much riskier, simultaneously intensifying the competition for a do­mes­­­tic partner. Consequently, rivals have a much stronger incentive to keep their virtue, which, in turn, lowers the incidence of fornication. Conversely, luxuria is no luxury for young ladies in control of their own economic fate. As the pressure to fulfil potential mates’ prerequisites is not so heavy for them, they enjoy much more freedom, and can there­fore indulge in carnal pleasure earlier in their lives.[1]

On the other hand, it is quite understandable for men to expect female passivity and mora­lity – if they can afford it. The natural disposition of males to systematically attach a certain value to virginity can be observed around the world, even though differences across cultures can be observed. Not every society displays the same level of attention to this matter. In coun­tries such as China (including Taiwan), Japan, India, Indonesia, or Iran, for instance, people lay great emphasis on pureness when it comes to choosing a partner for life. At the other end of the spectrum, the French, Dutch, Scandinavians, or Germans tend to think that chastity is prac­tically meaningless in a prospective mate. Similarly, in the United States, this prere­quisite is more important to college students in Texas than to their counterparts in Califor­nia. Furthermore, the insistence on sexual morality in this country seems to have eroded over the last fifty years, an evolution apparently linked to the advent of artificial contra­ception. While men viewed this factor as virtually essential in the 1930s, ranking it as the 10th most valued quality in a damsel, it only came in 17th place in the late 1980s.[2]

Such puritanism or sexual favouritism toward maidens may look archaic to some readers, but in order to understand where we are coming from, one needs to look back no further than the Victorian era, i.e., from 1837 to 1901. At that time, society was governed by a strict code of moral values that repressed sexuality and its pleasant derivatives. Male homo­sexua­lity was prohibited, while the law downrightly negated the existence of lesbianism. As sheer nudity could provoke arousal, it was equally frowned upon. Women who wanted to take a swim at the beach were invited to do so in bathing machines near the premises. People in mixed or polite society would prefer to employ the term “limb” rather than “leg”, simply because the latter was deemed out-of-line. So was chicken “breast”, which ought to be cal­led a “bosom”. According to some historians, prudery was taken so far as to cover tables and pianos with embroidery or crinolines in order to conceal the furni­ture’s “legs” and thus to avert any kind of frenzy of lust and shame. Casual contact between boys and girls at unsu­pervised social events was not supposed to happen. Once a young man had chosen a demoiselle to court, he had to request an audience with her family and seek their approval. If permission was granted and the encounter took place, a chaperon would escort them for the whole duration of the rendezvous. One possible next stage in the suit consisted in a cus­tom called “bundling”, which allowed an unmarried couple to occupy the same bed without undressing. Wrapped in separate blankets, or sometimes segregated by a board (meant to obstruct inappropriate contact), they were asked to converse through the night with the mis­sion to better know one another before a probable marriage.

Although rules are much laxer nowadays, one should still bear in mind another reason why the loss of virginity remains a highly sensitive topic to girls. Let us not forget that their first act of sexual intercourse usually goes along with at least some degree of physical discom­fort. The tearing of the hymen itself (which can be compared to a layer of skin ripping inside the body), as well as the resulting vaginal bleeding, may have traumatising effects on some of them. A woman’s uncertainty about having chosen the right partner for this life-chan­ging occasion can contribute to a further exacerbating her irritation. As this happening marks the sexualisation of her entire being and thus end of innocence, integrity, or purity, she knows that nothing will be the same again. While virginity has been associated with the notions of virtue, honour and worth, losing it is still considered by many to be an important personal milestone. Hence, a young lady certainly has the right to treat her virginity as her own private holy grail, and to warn every admirer, every suitor, every Prince Charming that “none shall pass” and that she is ready to defend her reputation by all means. If she has saved herself for someone special to her, it is a gift that no one should take lightly. In order to protect her from emotional pain, or at least confusion, her first man would be well advised to be very careful with his rosebud, and to take to heart the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”[3] So if he is gentle, respects her, takes his time, makes sure that she is ready, she will know that she made the right decision and will remember him all her life.

Related proverbs and citations:

男人不是好东西

nán rén bù shì hăo dōng xī

Men are not a good thing.

All men are creeps.

生米已成熟饭

shēng mĭ yĭ chéng shóu fàn

The raw rice has been cooked to meal.

All has been made and could not be reversed.



Notes

[1]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 69

[2]    Ibid., p. 68

[3]    Original: “Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

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