When virginity is not a measure of morality
By Staff Reporter
The wedding is in two weeks’ time and Naomi is worried. She is 27 years old and comes from a deeply religious family. Sex before marriage is prohibited.
The family also expects that she will marry from a similarly religious family and that the man will not have had sex, even though it may be difficult to prove virginity in a man.
For the first 20 years of her life, Naomi avoided sex.
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“It was impossible to even imagine indulging in such sinful acts,” she says. Her family took great interest in monitoring her behaviour and always reminded her of the sanctity of her virginity.
“Despite being godly, your virginity is your weapon to winning a man of your dreams, guard it jealously,” her mother told her. Her life was a routine, from school to church and back home. There was a strong network of her mum and dad’s friends everywhere she went and they monitored her like their own child.
At the age of 21, Naomi joined a public university. For the first time she was on her own away from the safety net at the village. She came face to face with the challenges of relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. She became a friend to a number of her college mates. The lifestyles of her friends were different and she always felt lost or left out. At some point she actually thought she was being abnormal by avoiding intimate relationships.
“All my friends had boyfriends and I felt it was time to have one,” she says. Initially she agreed with her boyfriend to keep off sex but as they grew closer, the temptation became too strong.
“I prayed several times to God to deliver me from the temptation but as fate would have it, we ended up having sex a number of times,” she says, her face blank and distant, “I have no regrets anyway, I loved the guy,” she concludes. Their relationship ended when they graduated and the man moved on and married another woman. Naomi also met a new man from a religious family and they had agreed not to have sex till after the wedding. Marriage negotiations had been going on between the two families and a wedding date was set.
During marriage negotiations, Naomi’s mother openly told the man and his family that her daughter was a virgin and that they could check the beddings for proof on their first night together. Blood from a broken hymen was expected. The man’s family was excited at this news and an aunty to the man had been appointed to check the beddings.
Naomi was in my office, desperate for help.
“Doctor, you have to find a solution to this. I have been told that it is possible to do a surgery to repair the broken hymen,” she said, with hope radiating on her face. She had been researching this subject and discovered that a number of women have done it.
I asked Naomi if she had asked the man about his own virginity in the first place. How much did she know of the man’s sexual past? When he met Naomi, was it a virgin he was looking for? Would his feelings change if Naomi was not a virgin after all?
“Doctor I don’t know,” Naomi replied, “What I know is that all this virgin thing has been my own mother’s creation.”
I thought it would be a great idea to know if this man was going to have sex for the first time on his wedding night. We agreed with Naomi that they should undergo pre-marital sex counselling. This would help break the ice around sex as well as set the stage for an exciting first night.
The approach to the counselling was that of people who have never had sex. I started from the basics. To my surprise, the man was quite knowledgeable about sex, much more than Naomi, which prompted me to ask if he had had some previous experience and if he felt at ease to discuss some of it.
“Sir, this is a woman I hope to live with for the rest of my life and I need to be truthful to her; there is one secret I have always wanted to share with her but feared she would leave me,” he said. “The devil tempted me when I was in high school and I made a girl pregnant.”
“Gosh! I can’t believe this,” Naomi responded spontaneously, at which point we looked at each other and found ourselves smiling. They hugged each other for a minute and suddenly Naomi broke down crying.
“Sweetheart, I am not a virgin,” she said, “Will you still love me?” There was long silence. None of them was looking at me anymore. None of them was talking.
Then suddenly the man blurted out: “Your mother is the one talking to everybody about virginity; it has never been my story.”
The couple decided to fly to Zanzibar for their honeymoon on the evening of their wedding. As such the man’s auntie had no chance of inspecting beddings. Virginity or otherwise, the couple believed in being truthful with each other and that is what matters in setting a firm foundation for a loving long term relationship.