Virginity Added to List of Sexual Disorders in DSM-5

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No, I’m kidding. Don’t believe everything you read online. The 5th edition of the APA’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” due out in 2013, will include no such entry. But riding back from NY on the train recently, I had a glimpse of what such a future might look like: on the walls of many of the train platforms, there were ads in plain black and red print blaring, “Still a Virgin? For Help Call 888-743-4335.” Some Googling revealed that it was a promo for an upcoming movie called “The Virginity Hit,” co-produced by Will Ferrell. According to the movie’s site, the R-rated movie is “a comedy about three pals documenting the progress of their socially-awkward friend, who tries desperately to lose his virginity.”

It may be true that the “Virginity Hotline” (see here for details about what happens when you call it) and the movie are just for laughs. But they are laughs that require the audience to buy into the idea that there is something pitiable and almost shameful about being a virgin, especially a male virgin. When I first saw the ads, I was relatively sure they were a joke, but what made me pause was the chord of familiarity they struck in me – I had heard this message many times before, especially on campus. The message generally takes the following form: “The only reasons you could have for being a virgin are 1) outdated religious hangups or 2) your incompetence – you tried but no one would take you.” It’s by no means a universal sentiment at Princeton, but I’ve encountered it often enough, especially through my involvement with the Anscombe Society, to be thoroughly tired of it and amazed at how stubbornly people hew to this belief. To see this message reinforced by these movie ads brought the alternate reality of this entry’s title another disturbing step closer.

It’s too soon to come to a final verdict about the intentions behind “Virginity Hit” and the effects it will have on social perceptions of sexuality, since the movie hasn’t been released yet. Perhaps the movie’s directors and actors will have found something different or even insightful to say about virginity by the end of the movie. However, you’ll forgive me for not being terribly optimistic.

Twilight’s Abstinence Advertising

*SPOILER ALERT*: At the risk of stripping all legitimacy from this blog, I am discussing Twilight in this post. Since I allude to the plot, you shouldn’t read this post if you plan on reading Twilight.

Despite the many flaws of the Twilight series, it clearly has some quality which has caused millions of women (myself included) to consume it voraciously. The writing may be mediocre, the adverb smolderingly may be severely overused, but Edward Cullen is just so appealing. And although Stephanie Meyer mentions Edward’s physical perfection an excessive number of times, his primary appeal actually lies in the depth and sincerity of his love for Bella. This love is proven throughout the story by Edward’s restraint: he doesn’t kill Bella, despite his strong physical desire to do so. (Wait, isn’t that sort of like people who abstain from having sex, even when they really want it? Oh yeah…) In this way, Twilight seems like an obvious advertisement for how romantic abstinence can be.

At the same time, there are a number of ways in which Twilight’s message undermines the advantages of abstinence. One of my favorite things about abstinence (and yes, there are many) is the freedom it provides from unnecessary emotional turmoil. By exercising physical restraint, it is easier to maintain more perspective, and thus to better analyze how well you and your partner actually suit one another. The same principle applies to how you speak to your partner. In this arena, Bella and Edward are clearly going all the way. Saying things like You are my life now, and I will destroy myself if you leave me, must have a similar binding effect to great physical intimacy (at least third base) and is equally unwise for 17-year-olds. This is compounded by the fact that Twilight reminds its readers of how wonderful it is to be in love, inadvertently urging them to seek love everywhere they go. (That cute boy who sits next to me in chem class? I might die without him!)

Another issue with the abstinence advertising in Twilight is that the lessons it provides just don’t seem that applicable. Sex has a higher survival rate than having all of your blood sucked out, and it’s unlikely that a given reader is dating a vampire. By promoting temptation and restraint as the key ingredients to a great romance, Stephanie Meyer encourages her readers to cultivate their own desires; when the consequences of succumbing to those desires don’t seem so terrible, real life is likely to lose the constraint which makes Twilight itself such a great story.

Holiday Hiatus and Canadian Article

The Anscombe Society blog will be (and has been) on hiatus for Princeton’s Winter Break.  We would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to getting started again in January.

In addition, I am happy to announce that our very own David Pederson ’12 has been quoted in an article in the Canadian magazine The Interim.  The full article can be found here.

Center coverage in The Daily Princetonian

Only four days into the campaign for a University-sponsored Center for Abstinence and Chastity, The Daily Princetonian today published an article tracking the movement from its roots to this extraordinary week of events.  Stay tuned for videos of these events!

You can find the full article here or after the jump.

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