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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing


Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun


Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Ideas
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry


2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Myths
Graduation


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence


Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Jail-Baiting
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Retro-Shame
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido


Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

Pondering Porn

with Ann Regentin

Auctioning off What?

 

Ann Regentin

A young woman named Natalie Dylan recently decided to auction off her virginity to pay for college, and it looks like it will work. I have no idea what the status of this auction will be by the time this goes to print, but as of this writing, the current price was $3.7 million.

Wow. Yup, that will pay for college, and grad school, too, even in these days of overinflated tuition and fees.

My first inclination, when I read about this, was a shrug and a yawn, not because it’s done all the time, but because I know the news well enough to know that it’s almost never done. Dog bites man, you know? Even the mainstream news will carry these Jerry Springeresque stories from time to time because they sell papers and drive traffic. We like to rubberneck. We’re weird that way.

Then I started wondering what it was we were rubbernecking at, at least in this case, and a generalized web search brought up a lot of different perspectives. Some declared that she was too ugly to fuck for free, much less for $3.7 million. Others thought she was a fraud, that no woman her age who looked that good could possibly be a virgin. Some thought she was no better than a woman who could be had for a cigarette. Others thought it was a great scam. It got me thinking about the nature of virginity. What does it mean to be a virgin? Especially in the current cultural environment, which reveres both chastity and sluttiness? What are we talking about when we say “virginity”?

The definition I grew up with was that a virgin had never had heterosexual, penetrative intercourse, an approach less problematic at a time when oral probably came just before or even slightly after intercourse, and a place where homosexuality was never spoken of. Yes, I was a country girl, it was the 80s, and it wasn't so much that we were unaware of the possibility of uncommitted oral sex as it was that we weren't expected to engage in it. The sexual revolution skipped my small town, although part of the problem may have been its size. Everyone knew everyone else’s business, so if you didn't want it discussed in the boys’ locker room, you didn't do it.

Regarding virginity, there was a physical membrane involved if you were a woman, although we knew that it might be absent. Sports and tampon use were the most frequently cited potential deflowerers of the local virgins, but I suspect fingers, hairbrush handles, candles and similar objects inserted for recreational use maybe have been more frequent culprits than anyone liked to admit.

What we weren't told and should have been was that in some women, the hymen is so thick or closed that sex isn't possible without inflicting injury. Two women I knew required surgery, one before attempting sex and one, unfortunately, afterward. Sadly, extreme pain and bleeding at first intercourse is so taken for granted that we don't think to do a quick check in the first pelvic exam to make sure that it doesn't happen like this.

We have a problem now. We’re good on the part where the absence of a hymen doesn't mean much, but we’re still dubious about young women and sex. I'm not talking about the under-18s, but young adults, the 18 - 25 demographic. They have hormones, but they also have eyes and ears, and while the desire is there, they understand the barrage of disapproval both adults and peers can level at transgressors.

What to do? Oral, anal and mutual masturbation come to mind, but that only stigmatizes a girl even worse. She’s a fake virgin, because even though she hasn't had sex, her innocence is long gone.

Okay, so what’s innocence? A lack of knowledge of sex? That gets even more dubious than the absence of a hymen, because again, if that’s the case, then millions of young girls are deflowering themselves with their mothers’ romance collections, never mind those who are tainted by sex education. If you teach a girl the nuts and bolts of the birds and bees, are you destroying her innocence, making her one of those dreaded technical virgins?

And what about those girls who, for one reason or another, didn't remain physically and emotionally pure, those coping with rape and child sexual abuse, or those who experimented with high school boyfriends? Can they be reborn as virgins if they repent of their earlier sins? Or is that just as contemptible as doing “everything but”, whether or not it was voluntary? And why do we consider all of this to be sins?

In light of the myriad of possible expressions of youthful, female sexuality what, exactly, is worth $3.7 million dollars anyway? Celebrity-style bragging rights? It’s not just that virginity as a state of mind is a bit strange. Even going back to the physical state leaves us in a weird place.

It all revolves around this bit of skin that might or might not survive into adulthood. Where does it come from? And what does it mean?

In some areas, it seems to mean that a man has a real, quality woman, unlike all of those tainted whores you find wherever you go, and I'm not talking about any one, particular place with that. A lot of people in a lot of places cling to the virgin/whore complex, thus cherish the virgin. To them, perhaps, it’s God’s way of letting a man know for sure that he has something special.

Where that menbrane comes from is a lot easier. The human body is designed on a single template, and for the first six weeks of gestation, shows no differentiation between male and female.

As the fetus grows, the little nub called the genital tubercle becomes a penis or clitoris, and the genital swellings below become the labia or a scrotum. In a male, the scrotum develops a line down the center called the perineal raphe, reminiscent of a seam. In a female, there is a hymen.

Nobody knows what it’s for. There’s so much variation in structure even from birth, from barely there to completely covering the vaginal opening, that it’s impossible to speculate accurately from that. If it’s supposed to be protective, then why do so many girls not have it, or not have enough to make a difference? And why is it usually so fragile that riding a bicycle can do it in without the girl even noticing? In some cases, it’s so flexible that it survives not only intercourse, but childbirth, perhaps not completely intact, but enough so that it’s recognizable.

I've seen a few theories, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that it’s a kind of vestigial perineal raphe. We have these traces of our common origin all over our bodies. Men not only have nipples, they have milk ducts. Those ducts are rarely useful to men and many probably don't even know that they have them, but a woman with a newborn has plenty of reason to be grateful for them. They’re so important that redundancy in men is a better idea than risking their absence in a new mother.

Some think the hymen may fall into the same category. It’s important for the testicles to hang outside the body, but it’s also important for them to have support and protection. A boy whose testicles are exposed is going to have serious problems. Perhaps the mechanism that insures that the scrotum is completely sealed in a male creates a membrane in the female that corresponds, in terms of general usefulness, to male milk ducts. There’s no real reason for a girl to have a hymen and it can even cause trouble sometimes, but a boy’s need for a scrotum means that a certain amount of redundancy is wise.

We seem, as a species, inclined to build a cult out of the hymen, to the point where women are getting surgery before their weddings so they can bleed properly on the bedsheets. Older tricks involve chicken blood, and I have no idea how effective they were, but hymen restoration is a growing business. I also wonder if infibulation developed as a primitive version of it, since the number of women who bleed on first intercourse is smaller than most people think, possibly as few as 30%. Sew a woman’s vaginal almost entirely shut, though, and you’re guaranteed blood and pain on your wedding night.

Do we really believe, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that merely being a virgin on one’s wedding night guarantees things like fidelity and loyalty? Or are we attempting a kind of enforced fidelity by making the first time as miserable for women as possible? Are we trying to make some kind of point about sex here?

Because if so, I have a newsflash: even if the first time hurts, and it doesn't always, once you get that over with, it’s over. After that, anything consensual will range from blissful to ecstatic. Making a big deal about injuring a woman’s genitals with a penis makes more impact, I think, in the mind of the injurer than in that of the injured, especially given that most women get through their first time with little or no pain or bleeding. Not only can the hymen be broken with activity, it thins out and fades away with maturity, opening up on average approximately one millimeter per year of age. The hymen just isn't all that. In most cases, by the time a woman attempts intercourse for the first time, it’s barely there at all.

And perhaps Ms Dylan knows that. Whether someone explained it to her or she figured it out for herself, she knows that one’s first time eventually gets lost in the mists of history. It’s a really big deal only before it happens and for a little while afterward. Eventually, you wake up one day and realize that you’re not really thinking about it anymore. You’re thinking about the most recent time with your current partner, about your grocery list, about your upcoming workday, about anything else at all.

Or perhaps she’s willing to sell herself as a trophy. I don't know. I frankly can't even begin to guess what she’s thinking. Her course of action never occurred to me.

I'm glad, in a way, that this conversation is happening now, because where sex and young women are concerned, we’re reaching new heights of hypocrisy. We seem to want them to show off their tits and asses, grind on the dance floor, and have sex on the third date, all while saving it for marriage, and they shouldn't marry until their late twenties or early thirties.

This makes no sense at all, as I'm not the first to point out, nor am I the first to whine for sanity and middle ground. I also don't think that extreme cases drive good policy. If a woman is seriously hell-bent on selling her virginity, very little can stop her. That, and a second attempt won't have the novelty effect. I don't think another such auction would get the same result. I'm not even sure this one will go through.

I just think it’s important that we pay attention to what she’s selling. It’s not her innocence. An innocent isn't going to come up with this scheme. It’s not virtue, either. There is no reason why she couldn't go through with this and be a faithful partner somewhere down the line, just as there’s no guarantee that a virgin bride will be a loyal wife.

No, she’s selling the opportunity to break her vestigial perineal raphe with a penis, which is strange enough on its own merits. That it’s so far worth $3.7 million is even stranger.

Wonder if he'll think he’s entitled to a refund if she doesn't cry and bleed? And if so, what does this say about what we think about young women and sex?

Ann Regentin
May-June 2009


If you have any comments or insights to share about this column, please drop by Ann's website or send an email to: Ann Regentin

Find Ann Regentin Pondering Porn in 2009 ERWA Archive.

______
© 2009 Ann Regentin. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Author:  Ann Regentin was introduced to erotica at a tender age, when a raid of her mother's bookshelves netted such gems as The Perfumed Garden and Lady Chatterly's Lover. She started writing it during her ninth grade biology class, then dropped it for about twenty years to become a musician, a college student, a cripple, a bookstore clerk, an artist, a model, a mother, a parrot rescuer, and finally a reference writer before coming full circle back to erotica.
Her stories and articles have appeared in a variety of places both online and in print, and she is a Contributing Editor at CleanSheets.com. She lives in the Midwest with her son, two parrots, and an elderly Gibson guitar.
Visit Ann Regentin at: www.annregentin.com



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