I am a huge supporter of virginity; anyone who knows me knows that. It is honourable, healthy, and it comes with a freedom that God intended for His children to enjoy. The problem is, this freedom was not meant for girls alone. When society turns virginity into something to be celebrated in a woman – and the absence of it a thing to disdain and hold her in contempt for – and then turns around to hail boys for sowing their wild oats, we can clearly see what virginity has become; one more tool in patriarchy’s kit.
Let me tell a story first: I stepped out of the salon feeling light and happy, so it was easy to be knocked off my feet when the first compliment opened the door for a barrage of more compliments, oohs and aahs. Almost two years relaxer-free, I had finally found an excellent natural hair stylist not far from my house, and she had just finished pampering and twisting my hair expertly. As such, the admiration did not come as a surprise, and I was smiling self-effacingly until one woman said to another in Yoruba, “It’s virgin hair, abi?”
Now, there is nothing virginal about me, so I was a bit taken aback. I think of my hair as “natural hair” and hearing it called “virgin hair” was a surprise. Virgin hair is hair that has never been relaxed. Granted, there was not a strand of relaxed hair on my head – I had cut off the processed ends a year ago – but the fact that I had ever relaxed my hair before made me feel unqualified for “virgin hair”, and the thought stayed with me all the way home.
You see, once upon a time I used to worship virginity. I had a view of it that was so unhealthy, that it took losing it to make me realize my idolatry. I had planned to “keep it for my husband so that he will respect me” and so, though I started dating from secondary school, I left University holding on to it. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. I went for NYSC and fell in love with an incredible person and, a few weeks before passing out parade, I figured that none of these yeye church boys could ever be worth it anyway, so I might as well bestow it upon this amazing man, since I could not accept his marriage proposal (another matter).
I returned home a shadow of myself. I finally understood what Kore must have felt after her lord husband Hades seduced her and made her Persephone. The loss of identity was overwhelming. Virgin no more! My conversations with God, which once gave me so much joy, were practically non-existent. When my BFF (who was still a virgin) visited, she looked at me and said, “In your mind now, God thinks less of you, and your prayers are no longer passing the ceiling, abi?” I wouldn’t have said it in those words, but it was true. I had not only tied a huge chunk of my self-worth to my hymen, I had also based God’s love for me partly on it. My loving mother promised speedier answers to my prayers because of it, after all.
By the time my best friend left I had learnt things I should have known; that God loved me as much as He did before I had sex; that nothing I felt or hoped to feel for any man would ever be strong enough to deserve my purity and I needed to reexamine my motives and make sure it was God I was honouring with my sexuality; and most importantly, I realised though I had always encouraged people who desired secondary virginity to go for it, I had never actually believed in it. It was somehow inferior to my “original” virginity. The time had come to practice the grace that I preached, and there I was feeling “you’ve lost it, you’ve lost it abeg, don’t deceive yourself.” I eventually decided to give secondary virginity a shot, and it remains one of the best decisions of my life. I didn’t do it for my future husband; I did it for my God and for myself.
We also tend to think that getting married is the end of all our sexual temptations and struggles. At least we can breathe easy in church because the sexual sin preaching will finally no longer concern us. However, anyone who isn’t interested in merely playing church knows that sexual sins are many, and intercourse with someone you aren’t married to is just one of them. I wonder if people say at confession, “I was thinking of another man while my husband made love to me.” Purity goes way beyond virginity.
Yes, I’ve retouched my hair before, but right now it’s all natural and I’m working hard to keep it that way, so the next time someone calls it “virgin hair” I won’t cringe. That’s what it is.