Secrets and Lies

Understanding the identity-warping nature of secrets and lies.

The Virgin Sodomite

Hello young lovers, wherever you are.

The other day I was shredding old files, and happened upon a couple of cases which brought home the health hazards of compensating for the sexual taboos we still hold so dearly in these United States.

One involved that of an attractive and bright college woman who was admitted to the hospital with fevers and chills. She denied being sexually active, using illegal drugs or ever having undergone a blood transfusion. As part of her fever work-up, however, she was found to be HIV positive. I still remember the tears flowing down her face as she explained that she was a virgin, but had had anal intercourse with a classmate.

Another case involved a young woman admitted to the hospital with disseminated gonorrhea. A gynecological evaluation confirmed her protestations of virginity. Finally, after much consternation led to more careful questioning, I learned that she had recently performed fellatio upon a friend.

The specific medical lessons of these examples (namely, that anal sex is a particularly effective means of HIV transmission due to the lack of moisture and increased incidence of lacerations, and that oral sex is an effective means of transmitting other sexually transmitted diseases) aside, these encounters speak volumes about the need for a clear and consistent definition of virginity, abstinence and sex that account for heterosexual and non-heterosexual experiences.

"Virgin" is almost universally viewed as an identity status, and thus given the link between identity and sexual behavior, it follows that individuals seek out different labels for the same sexual acts in order to justify their own sexual behaviors. The explicit delineation of sexual acts may be difficult in our society, but this eyes-wide-shut understanding of "sex" and "abstinence" is exactly what has led to unprotected oral and anal sex, and an increased risk of sexually transmitted illness. A study published last year in the journal "Contraception" found that almost 15% of college females considered anal intercourse consistent with virginity; 67% of college females considered performing oral sex consistent with virginity.

Those who avoid confronting the definitions of virginity, abstinence and sex are, consciously or not, also avoiding the moral questions of their psychological and social milieu which are causing them to rationalize the nature of sexual activity in the first place. Just imagine the difficulty the Holy Ghost would have in these modern times: He would have to administer a 20-page questionnaire in order to find the likes of the Virgin Mary.

Sylvia Plath said it best in the poem, "Virgin in a Tree":

"Green virgins consecrating limb and lip
To chastity's service...".


Secrets and Lies