Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Body Image, Self Esteem and Virginity

One stereotype I've heard about virgins is that virgins are virgins because we don't think we're attractive or "eff"-able (to put it politely). Well, I don't think that my body is hideous, but I pondered this as I read a friend of mine's blog. She talked a little about how she struggled with self-body-hate. Upon becoming sexually active, though, her insecurities about one particular part of her body were gone. It took sex for her to get over (or at least begin getting over) hating her body. Whoa. An extreme solution to a solve-able problem, I think! Although, I guess some wouldn't think sex is such an extreme solution. Rather, some might argue that's the natural, normal solution to low body image.

Then why have I met so many sexually active women who are still insecure about their bodies? Who freak out at the thought of baring their belly to strangers (which I've done as a bellydancer)? Who are shy about trying on a corset at a female-only party? If you have low self esteem before sex, you'll probably have low self esteem after it too, apparently. I think your perception of your beauty, your love for your body, should come from within and not be based on whether or not others want to have sex with you. But I guess that's yet another reason why I'm (still) a virgin. I don't need a guy to fondle me to feel sexy or beautiful.

I tried to find some studies which researched self esteem (or body image) and virginity. Now that I'm no longer a student, access to scholarly articles is difficult. I only found two studies. However, both yielded results which question the idea that virgins have low self esteem or hate their bodies. This excerpt suggested that there was no significant difference in the level of self esteem between sexually active adolescent girls and non sexually active girls. This study, however, basically said the lower the self esteem of younger teenage girls, the more likely they were to become sexually active early. So girls with higher self esteem initiated intercourse later.

By the way, it was the opposite with boys. High self esteem in boys led to earlier initiation of coitus. Perhaps this view of virgins as having low self esteem is based on the male experience, then? Once again, female experience is based on the male experience, but I'll leave that rant to another feminist who can speak to that more precisely than me.

Anyway, contradictory results? Maybe, but based on these two results, I conclude that virgin females, particularly older ones, have either the same amount of self esteem or more compared to the mean self esteem of their nonvirgin peers. So no, we don't think lower of ourselves than the nonvirgins think of themselves. There is more than one reason why virgins remain virgins. Sure, some hate their bodies or don't think their preferred sex will find them sexy. Some just never had the chance. Some are virgins for religious reasons. Some just have a low sex drive. Some are fearful of STD's or pregnancy. Some already feel attractive and don't need external affirmation. Some already have enough body "fun" without the assistance of a partner.

Once again, I'm glad to be in the place I'm in regarding my self esteem and body image. I'm happy I love my body. I don't always like it, and I know it's imperfect, but I love it.

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