In the mid-1800s, the virgin/whore dichotomy was at its most extreme, which meant one simple social rule: there was a line drawn on the ground, and if you crossed it you were no longer a virgin – you were a ruined woman, a whore. These (slightly) more enlightened times have brought more freedom to women (and men) but paradoxically the rules, for women, are now harder to follow.
This is because there is now another line – you can’t be “frigid” or a virgin. You have to date, you have to have a boyfriend, but at the same time you can’t step over that other line into glorious slutdom. You’re trapped, between the parallel lines.
The contested space between the lines is most overtly expressed in high school. If you’re percieved as too close to one line, you’re frigid, ugly, a lesbian, a snob, a virgin, a girl who can’t get a man. Yet step too close to that other line and you’re a slut, a whore, cheap, easy, a ho, skank, slag, or nasty girl. And the lines aren’t only present in high school; they’re prevalent everywhere.
In offices and families and friendship groups everywhere, women are trying to fit into that little space between the lines. Your colleagues might not yell “Slut!” at you or snicker that you’ll “die a virgin” but they can gossip behind you. Your relatives might moan that you’re still single or frown when you tell them you’ve got a new man (or more than one man). And a lot of us are familiar with the feeling of not being able to keep up with our friends who somehow effortlessly lay man after man, yet wonder how they’ll judge our own behaviour when we finally do get up the nerve to do something adventurous.
For those who are abstinent, there is pressure to “do it the world’s way”. Yet the world which seems so liberal to the abstinents is often judgemental and rejecting to polyamorous or kinky women – or even simply women who regularly have NSA sex.
So, whether you’re abstinent or polyamorous (or both!), maybe it’s time to fly upwards – out of that confined space between the painted lines on the ground. They are only paint, after all.