I love The 40 Year-Old Virgin for the same reason Shoshanna Shapiro quickly became my favorite character on Girls: not because of her personal virginphobia, but because in a world threatened with terrorism, hunger, and the pending threat of Obamacare, virginity remains one of the greatest crises of our time.
Thanks to the goddess feminist revolt of the sexy sixties, bedroom activities have risen to the top of the pops when it comes to ratings-driven conversation. As a result, virgins have become stigmatized as uncool goods. It’s no wonder, then, that pop culture-obsessed Shoshanna is neurotic enough to spend an entire season trying her best to lose her virginity so she can catch up to her “adventurous” female counterparts like Jessa (who came to the states for an abortion) and Hannah (who has recently been diagnosed with HPV).
How did feminism come to embrace promiscuity as a form of empowerment? Is the “adventurous” woman treating her HPV really happier than the biblical feminist who resisted the culture and waited until marriage to have sex?
To the goddess feminist, sex is power; just ask Dr. Linda Savage, author of Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality and purveyor of Goddess Therapy. To sex therapists like Savage, female sexuality and spirituality are intrinsically intertwined, their power expressed through pagan rituals that mystify and idolize reproductive ability. Contrary to modern concepts of contraception, most pagan cultures emulated by the goddess movement have as many fertility goddesses as they do virgin goddesses. The two concepts often go hand-in-hand, as in Greek culture, where the virgin goddess Artemis was also worshipped in terms of reproduction, despite being the head of a virgin cult:
When young girls reached puberty they were initiated into her cult, but when they decided to marry, which Artemis was not against, they were asked to lay in front of the altar all the paraphernalia of their virginity, toys, dolls and locks of their hair, they then left the domain of the virgin goddess.
Today’s goddesses won’t admit this, of course, but their argument that women have the “right” to their own bodies presumes the idea that, somehow, the physical act of sex was implicitly paired with the psychological act of stealing a woman’s identity: an idea less rooted in the concept of modern manhood than it is in the ancient Greek concept of womanhood. Ironically, for the Greeks, a girl didn’t just give up childhood when she chose to marry; she physically and intellectually gave up her own female identity:
This relationship between Apollo and His priestess echoes a widely held belief about ancient Greek women and their husbands: Not only did a woman belong to her husband, but his essence permeated her. His influence entered her during sex, and so every word she spoke was his word channeled through her. This basic concept also applies to the ancient Greek understanding of men and women in general. Men were considered purely projective (as their penis spews forth their essence, so must their mouths when we apply vertical symmetry) and women were considered purely receptive. Furthermore, a woman’s individuality is somehow contaminated by a man’s spirit during intercourse. Once he spills his essence into her, everything she says and does has his essence in it.
Goddess feminism thought they trumped patriarchy when they declared power over the bedroom. Instead, by embracing the pagan patriarchal notion that women lose all sense of identity when they have sex, goddess feminists rendered themselves powerless to do much beyond become an “essence buffet” in the quest of fulfilling a woman’s spiritual responsibility to reproduce.
Biblical feminists never embraced the idea that a man’s “essence” took over a woman’s intellect. However, we also don’t deny scientific fact: condoms or not, sexual partners leave their mark behind. While Shoshanna anxiously ponders her virginity, Hannah’s latent fear of AIDS resurfaces. Googling “the stuff that comes up the sides of condoms,” Hannah decides it’s time for a visit to the doctor, where her PAP test reveals a woman’s worst nightmare: HPV.
According to the CDC, “approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with Human Papilloma Virus. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.” Not only can HPV lead to cervical cancer, it can be transmitted from pregnant mother to child; as a result, that child may develop warts in her throat one or multiple times her life. Despite what Michael Douglas’s press agents wish you to believe, men are at risk for developing cancer from HPV as well. In case you were wondering, “HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.”
In a sickeningly ironic twist, Shoshanna anxiously awaits the ridding of her virginity burden, while Hannah lays on the altar of goddess feminism, sacrificing her own health and the health of potential children and partners in the name of “adventure.” How empowered can you possibly be when you are bound by an illness with uncontrollable potential ramifications?
Biblically speaking, God is straightforward enough about the joy of sex to have made pleasuring your wife one of the wife’s three basic marital rights as well as a commandment for husbands. In fact, he is supposed to both watch for the head’s up that she’s ready and offer sex without her even having to ask. Sex between a husband and wife should never be about power or performed in anger because, quite frankly, it is a sacred act.
Virginity is a standard in the Torah, not a stigma; it is a sign of loyalty to the covenant of marriage. Just as every physical commandment has a spiritual implication, so the marriage covenant is the physical embodiment of God’s covenant with Israel. This principle is exemplified in the book of Hosea, wherein God commands the prophet, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” The prophet follows through, marrying Gomer and having children with her despite the fact that she continues to prostitute herself. Turning Hosea’s life into a metaphor of warning for Israel, God explains:
My people perish for lack of knowledge …for the spirit of whoring makes them err, they go off whoring, deserting their God. …Yes, a people without understanding will come to ruin.
Ruin, for the whoring Israelites, involves the consequences of their acts falling back on their own heads. We aren’t talking fire and brimstone, here; we’re talking common sense. For the Israelites, that translated into being conquered by foreign powers they considered to be allies; for girls seeking empowerment through promiscuity, that means contracting any number of life-threatening diseases.
Yet, according to goddess culture, when it comes to sex, the healthy chick is the loser in the scenario. At least she is according to the critics of Girls, who can’t understand Shoshanna’s virginal nature. Or, as one writer at HuffPo put it, “Encountering a 20-something of that persuasion in New York City is akin to seeing a unicorn prance up Fifth Avenue (with President Obama on its back, shooting rainbows from his hands).” Wisely, Girls elects to withhold judgement, viewing virginity as another passing fact of female life. In trying to reassure Shoshanna that she is not a loser, Hannah observes that one day Shoshanna won’t have to worry about her virginity any more, while Hannah will have her HPV forever.
Her sad line reminded me of a similar observation of Israel in Hosea: “They became as loathsome as the thing they loved.” Of course, true to biblical precedent, redemption comes for Israel at the end of the book, and it sounds and feels a lot better than the goddess write-off of, “Oh, well.”