425 South Sixth Avenue, 616, 616 East Lincoln Avenue, A.C. Green, Abuse, Black Masculinity, Boyz n the Hood (1991), Cuba Gooding Jr., Dating, Evangelical Christianity, Falsehoods, Feminism, HBO, Hypermasculinity, Insecure (2016- ), Molestation, Obaa Boni, Patriarchy, Pitt, Relationships, Sensuality, Sexism, Sexuality, Tré, Virginity, Womanism, Yvonne Orji
Yvonne Orji, one of the lead actors from the HBO series Insecure, has revealed the fact that she is a thirty-three year-old virgin in recent weeks. But Orji has in fact spoken about her virginity several times over the past year, something I was surprised to learn (that she had spoken so much about it, not the fact of it). Some folks on social media have applauded Orji’s stance on her sexuality, while others like womanist Obaa Boni derided Orji’s adherence to her virginity as “patriarchal.”
Let me first say that there’s nothing wrong with virginity, celibacy, or promiscuity. So as long as it’s transparent, healthy, and done with a full understanding of why one has moved in a certain direction sexually. The problem is, people often do the wrong things for the right reasons and the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Especially in a world where gratuitous sensuality is everywhere, fake-sex-porn is ubiquitous, and social norms remain hostile and puritanical. This is especially so in the US, where the distance between healthy sexuality and where many Americans are with their sexuality is about the same as between a racism-less society and the virulent racism that is truly all-American.
I was once Yvonne Orji, believing that maintaining my virginity kept me in a state of purity, if not in a physical sense, then certainly in a spiritual one. There were several reasons beyond “being pure in God’s eyes,” or saving myself for the right person, though, that I emphasized my virginity.
My top two reasons were practical ones. As the second of six kids growing up at 616 in Mount Vernon (my Mom remarried and had my younger brothers and sister between the time I was nine-and-a-half and fourteen-and-a-half years old), I didn’t want to become a father, especially a teenage father. Like Tré from Boyz n the Hood (1991), I didn’t want to be stereotypically Black and male, to make a baby when I had no means to take care of it, to impregnate another person when I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to thirty. Also, STDs scared the crap out of me, especially AIDS. I was smart enough even at fifteen to know that AIDS wasn’t a “gay disease,” that it could infect anyone, especially anyone without protection.
But the fact was, I had lost pieces of my virginity long before I tried to find a state of purity. I had already been sexually molested before I hit my seventh birthday. Any number of teenage girls at 616 had attempted to come on to me before I had started my first day of high school. Heck, my father had hired a prostitute to get rid of my penetrative virginity the month of my seventeenth birthday!
Beyond that, masturbation from the time I was thirteen, porn mags between birthdays seventeen and nineteen, the occasional date at Pitt, where kisses, petting, and touching was involved. I had pretty much lost my sexual virginity by the time I was nineteen, and yet I didn’t really know how to be me sexually at all. So when I finally did start hooking up with folks for purely sexual purposes, it was an emotionally messy dance, between religious guilt, occasional actual pleasure, and lots of frustration in between. It wasn’t until I was twenty-four where I felt fully comfortable with myself sexually, and even then, I had another decade of pseudo-evangelical, patriarchal, and puritanical bullshit to get over.
Which is why I rarely gave anyone any advice about what to do or how to be on the sexual side of relationships before my mid-thirties, especially when asked. Have sex at fifteen with a partner of the same age whom cares about and respects you? Sounds fine. Stay celibate for ten years? Okay. Have fuck buddies for a couple of years? Sure! Remain a virgin like former NBA player A. C. Green until you turn thirty-eight? Whatevs!
My Black masculinity shouldn’t have been defined by evangelical White Christian notions of virgin purity, any more than it should’ve been by how frequently I penetrated a woman. My relationship with God should’ve never been about some fucked up notion of sexual purity. It is way too easy to let Western culture screw each of us up, with the result that it will take way too many years to find our sexual equilibrium. For so many, that day of balance between sexual freedom and mature responsibility will never come.
Just realize that being a virgin doesn’t make one special, and having a regular rotation of trusted sexual partners doesn’t make one a slut or a stud. As a culture, we are both obese and anorexic when it comes to sexuality and sexual activity. We imagine it too much, do it too little, and often do it incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. No wonder America is such an angry place, with so many believing in an angry God!