Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode #5: Tampons vs. Virgins

This is a guest column by Sex + Cookies 2.0, whose advisers include Feministe contributor Echo Zen and students who’ve been pushing sex-positivity since before Tumblr made it cool. We’re stoked to be Feministe’s first relationship vloggers.

Note: For technical reasons, Episode #5 is being posted out of order, after Episode #6.

Teddy bears, feminist videogames, and tampons. Today’s episode of Feministe’s vlog is on virginity, but also features more Rilakkuma and Chell. And if you’re wondering what the heck we’re talking about, well, let’s say we’ve done a facelift to show we read your comments and knew it was time for a change…

TRANSCRIPT

So, whilst we were playing Portal, someone sent in a question which went like this…

“How come I can stick a tampon in myself, and still be considered a virgin? I understand a non-virgin is someone who’s had a penis penetrating a vagina before. But if penetration is that important, how is being penetrated by a tampon any different? It’s like sexuality only counts when it’s involving penises or something.”

Well, you seem to have figured out the definition for virginity is both arbitrary and confusing.

When tampons were introduced in the 1930s, members of the Catholic priesthood were predictably opposed. They claimed tampons would break your vagina’s hymen, and encourage you to touch yourself. And by touch, we mean fingering your dirty, sinful vagina.

So, even in the good ol’ days, stupid grownups assumed breaking your hymen would impact your virginity. Nowadays, if you try Googling a medical description for virginity, you’ll notice two things.

First, everyday stuff like biking, dancing, menstruating, or otherwise acting like a normal human being can break your hymen. So it’s impossible to test if you’re a virgin just by checking your hymen. Second, if there’s no way to test if someone’s a virgin, then there’s no medical definition for virginity either.

Virginity is a strictly cultural idea, not a scientific one, so virginity can only exist as long as folks believe in it.

Because you’re right, why should your virginity depend on our culture’s worship of ****ing penises? What about lesbians?

If you have sex with hundreds of women, but never with men, are you still a virgin? Some may say no, any sex makes you a non-virgin. But if you have sex with yourself by using your fingers, does that mean you lost your virginity to your fingers?

Yes, virginity is confusing, so ultimately only you can decide what virginity means to you. In the meantime, keep sticking those tampons in yourself if you’re okay with it.

Since this project started, we’ve covered mostly “safe” topics, in the sense that most of them don’t attract many rape threats or trolls. Whilst misogynists may rage at how mandating consent for sex is an attack on manhood, they simply lack the critical thinking to debate (or care) if all lesbians are virgins, or whether consent is useful to teach to serial rapists.

But this will change with future episodes. Some students have been pushing us to cover more divisive, un-safe topics, especially rape myths where even feminists sometimes may have missed fascinating details. For instance, most of us know skirts don’t cause rape – but did you know there’s evidence conservative clothing may actually lead to more rape? We’ll analyse that in an upcoming episode.

Now to address some questions on your mind…

1) Yep, we mispronounced “Feministe”. It should sound French, like “femin-eest”, and people even commented about that for our previous episode – but we’d recorded narration for this episode by then. It’ll be fixed by next episode.

2) According to Jill’s stats, 15 times more humans read our episode transcripts than actually watch episodes. So clearly people weren’t kidding in the comments on how the vlog was becoming less engaging. So we revamped the visuals to rectify that – and also to have an excuse to play more videogames. And speaking of games, we promise we’ll only ever play videogames that intersect with feminism somehow, by featuring feminist characters or themes. As SkyTracer pointed out, the list of qualifying games is vanishingly short – but hey, we’re up for the challenge. Any suggestions on what to play next are welcome! After all, the reason we featured “Portal” in this episode was Willemina suggested it. See, comments do shape the future!

3) Finally, Fat Steve has offered to take on narration duties for future episodes, since the current narrator hasn’t been up to par. We want to know if the narrator sounds any better this time around or by the next episode – if not, we’ll shift over to Steve in 2014.

Hope everyone did well on their final exams!


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55 Responses to Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode #5: Tampons vs. Virgins

  1. Fat Steve says:

    Good work, and I do think your narrator has upped his game (I’m not just saying that to get out of a promise ;P – my offer still stands!)

    • Echo Zen says:

      It’s funny you should say the narrator sounds better already, because this was before he really got his act together for the sixth episode and put “more conviction” into the recordings! Well, something I personally dislike is how he still sounds like an authoritative Voice of God, rather than a vlog personality with a human touch, a la Laci Green. Part of it is we can’t students’ faces, but it’s also the detached, impersonal format of the vlog, which is still not to my liking. I plan to discuss that when I upload and post their seventh episode…

      (BTW, since you do this for a living, I have a question. For the sixth and seventh episodes, we used dynamic range compression to even out the volume of all the narrator’s words. It did help to make the narration easier to edit, but I frankly thought it would make every syllable the same volume, which didn’t happen — some phrases are 1.5 or 3.0 decibels louder or softer than the rest of the sentence, and I’m sure all my settings are right. Do you have the same issue with your own compressor, or are such deviations the norm even after running recordings through a compressor?)

      • Fat Steve says:

        (BTW, since you do this for a living, I have a question. For the sixth and seventh episodes, we used dynamic range compression to even out the volume of all the narrator’s words. It did help to make the narration easier to edit, but I frankly thought it would make every syllable the same volume, which didn’t happen — some phrases are 1.5 or 3.0 decibels louder or softer than the rest of the sentence, and I’m sure all my settings are right. Do you have the same issue with your own compressor, or are such deviations the norm even after running recordings through a compressor?)

        Theoretically a compressor should make everything the same volume, but you’re fighting against a loss of quality, so yeah, you always have to balance between dynamics and clarity. I

        • Fat Steve says:

          oops…posted that too soon…

          I was saying…if it’s >3db and you’re using a software based compressor plug in, I would say that sounds like an acceptable range. If you’re using a rack mounted dedicated compressor that costs upward of a grand with a noise gate and limiter, then you might have an issue with quality.

        • Echo Zen says:

          Whew, glad I’m not hearing things or just plain incompetent — these are the kinds of questions I can’t answer through Google because they’re too specialised. And yes, we’re using a cheap, imperfect software compressor, which at the moment sounds preferable to a perfect hardware solution that costs $1,000 US!

  2. >_> As part of that 15-times-people (I think I’ve watched 2/6 at this point), I’d like to say that it’s not your vlog, I just can’t handle watching stuff on my laptop most of the time since it’s too close to my face, and at that distance it’s ridiculously easy for even small flashy things to set off headaches for me.

    • Chataya says:

      I don’t have speakers on my computer, and I can read faster than most narration is done. So ditto, it’s not the blog, just my preference.

      • sidhe3141 says:

        Yeah. Unless the video is about music or there’s an important visual illustration, I usually just go with a transcript because it’s both faster and sticks better with me; and even with the exceptions I like having subtitles.

    • SophiaBlue says:

      For me I just prefer reading transcripts to watching videos in general. I can process the information easier through reading, and I think hearing voices I’m not familiar with in a video makes me very slightly anxious.

    • I don’t have sound at work, which is where I do most of my internet stuff, but I don’t much care for watching videos anyway.

      Except when they’re of kitties, naturally. Even then I don’t bother with sound when I’m at home.

    • AMM says:

      Count me as another reader who prefers transcripts to videos any day of the week. Transcripts I can read at my own pace, on any browser (or text editor), or even print out and read on the train. Videos I can only view at work (my browser at home doesn’t support them, assuming I even have the bandwidth to download them), and are hard to go back and re-read when you realize you must have missed something.

      My company sometimes insists on making us view videos for training or company announcements, and I never retain any of it. (Of course, this may be because there wasn’t any content to retain :-) )

      • My company sometimes insists on making us view videos for training or company announcements, and I never retain any of it. (Of course, this may be because there wasn’t any content to retain :-) )

        Definitely the second option. ;)

    • Jenna says:

      I tend to read the transcripts rather than watch videos whenever I can, because the thing I am using for web surfing does not do videos reliably well. Things crash back to the home screen, etc.
      If the video is for entertainment, I will try(watching the dwarves sing Misty Mountain, or watching Elsa sing in Frozen) but, for information I prefer to read if a transcript is available.

    • Echo Zen says:

      Hmm, all this is immensely useful feedback for the crew. I’ve long suspected the audience here (versus, say, university students) is less able or willing to sit through videos, which still points to lack of a compelling reason to watch, even when speakers or browsers are working. And considering even I prefer transcripts to sitting through videos… it makes me question if a vlog is needed or useful for this project.

      I need to sit with the crew and seriously discuss what the vlog’s video (as opposed to narration) should be used for. Obviously information-driven feminists don’t need video when they can infer everything from transcripts (even if a video were to feature animated graphs or diagrams), so what else can it be used for? An idea I’ve toyed with is doing live commentaries, where we record ourselves talking sex whilst doing something geeky (playing games, etc). At the very least, there should be more connection between what we’re saying and what we’re doing/playing onscreen…

      Or we can go with The Kittehs’ Unpaid Help’s idea and film kittens instead of videogames for the next vlog episode. If enough people say they’d prefer that, I’ll do that next time. Yes, I’m serious.

      • Or we can go with The Kittehs’ Unpaid Help’s idea and film kittens instead of videogames for the next vlog episode. If enough people say they’d prefer that, I’ll do that next time. Yes, I’m serious.

        Wouldn’t work. The naration would get lost in all the KITTENS! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! and cat stories that would follow.

        I’m joking, but I suspect it really would happen!

    • Nanani says:

      Another transcript reader here, not to do with your content.

      I can read faster than any narrator can comprehensibly narrate, and skim for relevant information with text in a way that no current video technology allows, so read wins out over watch.

    • DannyChameleon says:

      I read the transcripts, because I have no retention (seriously, none at all) when watching something, but I do when reading.

  3. Fat Steve says:

    And regarding the content of the vlog itself, I have a friend who says she ‘lost her virginity with a finger,’ meaning her hymen broke from penetration by a finger. However she is the only person I’ve ever known to use the term in this way.

  4. ldouglas says:

    Great blog post! Um… I wish I had something more substantial to add, but nope, just really liked this one.

  5. Kate says:

    Just writing to say that as a deaf woman I really appreciate the transcripts. So few websites actually think to post transcripts that I’m always a little surprised–and quite gratified–when someone does. So coming from someone who doesn’t have much choice on the matter of videos and transcripts: Thanks.

  6. tinfoil hattie says:

    Aren’t “hymens” rather a myth? Or at least, not a consistent part of female anatomy?

    • Donna L says:

      Well, I know I never had one!

    • I guess if I didn’t have a hymen, I had….some…thing….there? I dunno.

    • Chataya says:

      The hymen as a mystical barrier guarding female virginity is a myth. It is an anatomical structure, but it’s a ring of tissue that thins and stretches during puberty and various activities. The whole bloody sheets thing is just another part of purity culture designed to punish women for having sex, it doesn’t have to happen.

    • EG says:

      I’m pretty sure I never had one. Or if I did, it’s still there, which seems unlikely.

    • Li says:

      Scarletteen has an excellent write-up(with diagrams) on this point for anyone interested.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Thanks, Li! Excellent info. And I like “vaginal corona” much better!

        • Fat Steve says:

          …I like “vaginal corona” much better!

          Yes, it does seem unfair that ‘men’ has to be inserted even into a word describing that.

        • Li says:

          Yes, it does seem unfair that ‘men’ has to be inserted even into a word describing that.

          This is a derail, but hymen comes from the greek for membrane (and appears in terms like hymenoptera, the order of insects that includes ants and wasps). It has nothing etymologically to do with the English word “men” apart from using the letters.

      • Donna L says:

        For some reason, Scarleteen is blocked from access where I work. I’ll look at it tonight; I’m curious.

      • Echo Zen says:

        Perhaps your workplace frowns on informing girls about their dirty, sinful female sexuality. My local library seems to take the same position, based on their filters…

    • Li says:

      The whole “hymen breaking” thing is particularly ironic because penises *do* have a piece of tissue that can break during sex and which once broken stays broken – the frenulum.

  7. Rhiannon says:

    True story: I’m an American living in Mexico and it is next to impossible to find tampons here because of the whole culturally Catholic sentiment that they’re not for Nice Girls.

    I don’t know if many people here actually believe that a virgin who uses tampons is no longer “pure” or if it’s just a general sentiment that penetration by anything but your husband’s sacred wang is bad and wrong, but the few times I managed to find the single dusty box of Tampax among the shelves and shelves of pads, I got such a stinkeye from the cashier that I was surprised they didn’t get on the overhead and announce “Price check on the Godless American Whore-plugs.”

    • Andie says:

      I’m definitely going to refer to tampons as my Godless American Whore-Plugs from now on.

    • I am so going to mention my husband’s sacred wang to him tonight. His expression should be priceless.

    • (BFing) Sarah says:

      I know quite a few people (not Catholic, actually, but the children of immigrants) that see tampons as dirty and won’t use them. Not a virginity thing, but worried that germs will transfer and cause infection and whatnot. I feel like the fear that is put into you when you first start your period can really stay with you. If you are told that toilet germs that are on your fingers will give you an infection if you use a tampon, maybe that worry stays with you? I don’t know. I feel sad that so many people are missing out on the freedom of tampons. I don’t think I could function very well without…

      • I was vaguely told as a teenager that tampons hurt to wear because they’re inserted. (Unlike penises which I was totally supposed to be able to handle Because Nature? wat?) Which is a crock of shit. Of course, it’s not a crock of shit for ME in particular, because I’m the lucky lucky person whose body reacts to tampons by cramping violently after a little while, but of course no one who told me that bullshit knew that about me, so…

      • EG says:

        I was always told to wash my hands before putting one in. I figure that if that makes my hands safe enough to eat with…

      • The couple of times I’ve tried tampons they hurt like blazes. I didn’t get any anti-tampon messages at all as a kid; indeed they told us how to use them at high school (and this was in the 1970s). I don’t miss not being able to use them. Yes, pads are a damn nuisance (more for me because 24/7 wearing pants causes chafing) but I’d never feel confident that a tampon wouldn’t leak anyway.

  8. AMM says:

    Apropos of this:

    Anne Theriault has a post on virginity as social construct at her blog, The Belle Jar

  9. The whole business of defining virginity made me think of how I’m in two minds about my own state (TMI about to happen, be warned!).

    In any earthly sense I’m virgin. For me, a couple of unsuccessful and goddamn painful attempts at using tampons don’t mean anything; neither does the horrible once-only, incompleted pap smear by a fucking douchecanoe of a doctor (“I didn’t think any woman in this country would be a virgin at your age” – I was 26). I have had no sexual contact with anyone, and minimal interest in masturbation, least of all involving penetration with anything.

    BUT

    My beloved lives in Spirit and I have ample and frequent memories of making love there. Those memories are of things as real and physical as anything that happens on this plane. So no, I don’t think of myself as virgin, not at all. (I don’t think it’s the sacred wang principle carrying over, either! :P )

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