Feminist Rant: What makes a “good girl,” exactly?

WARNING:  This was written in a stream-of-consciousness sort of style, so I didn’t do a lot of editing.  It is a rant, after all.  If you are offended, feel free to let me know why in the comments.  Otherwise, suck it…and yes, I am aware of the patriarchal context of that expression.  It’s just fun to say.  SUCK IT!


It’s a concept I keep coming across, of all places, on the radio.  First there was the Robin Thick song, which I’ll admit I danced to in the car before (and slightly inebriated at a wedding after) really listening to words.  It’s got a kick-ass beat that kind of overpowers all the creepy rapist language.  Then there’s this new song that sounds like Bruno Mars, but I’m too distractible at present to look it up.  I don’t really want to draw more attention to it anyway, but mostly I’m just too lazy.

Both songs are centered on the idea of the desirability of a “good girl.”

But this begs the question, what exactly do you mean by that?  The answer is ambiguous at best.

And THAT got me asking, what about me?  Am I a “good girl”?

In the quite serious, fundamental Christian circles in which I was raised the answer would be no, for a couple of simple reasons:  1) I am not married and have had sex (with TWO partners over my decade of single-adulthood, scandalous!).  2)  I am not a Christian.  That pretty much puts me down for “Where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?” right off the bat.

In more secular circles, however, I have to explain to wide-eyed onlookers WHY my “number” is so low (I’m highly introverted and require emotional intimacy as well as physical, in case you were wondering).  I’ve had friends call me a prude for admitting that I don’t watch porn because it makes me uncomfortable or for hiding my eyes at the occasional, random drunken spurt of nudism amongst my peers.  From that perspective, I’m looking more “good girl” by the minute.

But I swear.  A LOT.  I laugh at crude jokes, and I laugh loudly.  I don’t wear makeup 90% of the time, and my wardrobe tends to be dictated by my own tastes rather than what anyone in the fashion industry has to say about it.  I read Tolkien and Jim Butcher and Jaqueline Carey and Nick Hornby and Jane Austen and whoever else I feel like reading.  I often enjoy a good shoot ‘em up and blow up all the things action movie just as much as a heart-felt romance.

I’ve always known myself to be unconventional, but does that mean I am no longer “good”?

My conclusion on all this self-reflection is that the very idea of a “good girl” is flawed.  Not surprising in a society like ours, where women are held to a ridiculous and impossible standard of beauty, that we are also held to ridiculous and impossible standards of behavior.  We are to be “good”, but not too good.  And like most things in our culture, it all boils down to SEX.

I don’t mean to sound like an angry über feminist here, but I kind of AM an angry über feminist on this particular subject.  I feel like my sex life is my own goddamn business and the business of my partner if I currently have one.  If you ask me about it, I’ll probably tell you; I’m not terribly bashful about it anymore.  But that doesn’t mean that you get to judge me based on whatever standards you hold yourself to.

I’m all for believing whatever you want to believe, but one of my biggest problems with the Christian mindset, so far as my own experience with Christians goes, is the whole idea of “sexual purity” and the emphasis with which the blame for any lack thereof is placed on women.  I to this day remember a lesson in youth group, one of the few times we actually talked about sex, in which we were told the average teenage boy thinks about sex every three seconds.  The guys then got to go around listing off things “girls do” in ordinary, everyday situations that made them think of sex.  The list went on and on, ranging from crossing their legs at the knee to the way a seatbelt in a car rests between a girl’s breasts.  It was one of my first real feminist moments, because I remember pointing out that they were making it sound like the blame was all on us girls; that the guys weren’t responsible for what they did or didn’t do with regard to those thoughts.  Either way, I shouldn’t have to have been self-conscious for the rest of my adolescence while buckling my seat belt (which I was, thanks to that) because I happened to lack a Y chromosome.

This point was skirted over, and the guys were dutifully reminded that they needed to take responsibility for their actions (probably just to shut me up).  But in the end, there was still that “boys will be boys” mentality ever present in our patriarchal society.  Apparently men are hardwired to put their dicks into any unsuspecting hole, and it’s a woman’s job to make sure that hole is not one of hers.

And when we as women fail to maintain that “untouched flower” status, the fundamentalist Christian society makes us feel guilty about it.  And because so much of our society is based in Christian morality, society as a whole devalues us for it, knocking us down a peg for our indiscretion.

The truth is, women have just as much sex drive as men—or just as little, depending on the individual.  Because I never once masturbated until I was in college, I didn’t know that my own libido was as impressive as some of my male peers…maybe that’s why I was so high-strung all those years.  I didn’t equate the physical feelings I was having to sexual desire, and as such I was fancying myself in love with just about every guy who paid me the least bit of attention.  Really, I was just sexually attracted to them, but I had no meter for telling the difference between that and true emotional attachment until I was already into my adulthood.  Part of that was the way I was raised, part of it was my own naivety, but a lot of it was the shame and guilt instilled in me for even so much as THINKING about sex.  Like most ex-Christians of my acquaintance, I struggled for a long time with my enjoyment of sex, and it took me several years to get past those deep-set feelings of shame and guilt.

I didn’t really mean to turn this into a Christianity-bash, and that is never by any means my intention.  I know there are Christians who are fantastic people just as there are agnostics and atheists that are total jerk-wads about it.  But you have to keep in mind that this is where I’m coming from—most of my ideas about sexuality were formed in that fundamentalist, virgin-until-you’re-married mindset, and it took me a long time to rewire my brain with regard to sex.

My point is, human sexuality is a perfectly natural thing.  No matter how you want to look at it, we’re mammals, therefore we are animals.  And animals mate.  Sometimes indiscriminately.  Sometimes for life.  Sometimes with only one partner at a time, sometimes with multiple partners—separately or simultaneously.  And so long as everyone in the homo sapien sapiens crowd is a consenting adult, it doesn’t really matter what you do.  That was the whole idea, as I see it, of the free love movement.

Apparently, our secular society is all about free love for the guys—men are praised for their “conquests” and shamed for still being a “virgin” at insert-an-age-here.  But in the words of one of my favorite DVDs on my shelf, Easy A, as a girl “people hear you had sex once, and BAM!  You’re a bimbo.”  In some cases this makes a female of our species MORE desirable:  who wants a stuffy little prude of a virgin who doesn’t know what she’s doing?  But as learned from said excellent film, the more a girl “gets around”, the more she is seen as trashy, dirty, and UNdesirable.

And then there’s this whole idea of a “good girl” that still has me puzzled.  It’s like society wants women to walk a fine line between librarian by day and sex kitten by night—“a lady in the streets but a freak in the bed,” if you will—but won’t define the parameters.  How many is too many?  How few are too few?  Does foreplay-only count, or are we talking strictly intercourse?  Is penetration an issue?  Is a girl no longer a “virgin” if she’s been penetrated with a dildo or a vibrator, or even her own fingers?

But the more important questions have little to do with defining what society expects of us, and rather ask WHY they have such idiotic and fickle expectations of women in the first place.  Why does it matter how many people I have or haven’t slept with?  Why is that any of your business?  If you’re my potential partner, why would a high number bother you so long as I’ve been safe about it, have been tested for STDs, and see a gynecologist once a year to make sure everything down there is okay?  If you’re not my potential partner, why do you care anyway?

Why would I be more desirable with a lower “number”?

Is it because you like deflowering and jading young things?  You know who else likes that?  Pedophiles.  And we put them in jail.

The whole idea of a “number” is absurd anyway.  Yeah, I’ve had full-on sexual intercourse with two people ever, but that doesn’t mean I’ve only done it twice.  Both were in a consistent relationship with me at the time, one for more than a year and a half.  I’ve most definitely had sex more times than someone with twenty times my “number” who’s had mostly one-night-stands.

And you know what?  That doesn’t make me any less valuable than a virgin.  In fact, it doesn’t make me any less or any more valuable as a person, no matter how you look at it.

When you base whether or not someone is considered “good” on whether or not they’ve had a penis in their vagina, you reduce that person to an orifice, to nothing but a sexual object existing for the pleasure of men.  And we wonder why rape culture is so prevalent that people can deny its very existence because they’re so entrenched in the language they don’t even see it.  When society places all the responsibility (and thus all the guilt and shame and blame) on a woman for her “purity”, it’s that much easier to say she was asking for it, she shouldn’t have had so much to drink, she shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt, she shouldn’t have, she shouldn’t have, she shouldn’t have.  A woman is expected to be a lady, a saint, and once you get her into bed, an animal.

But guys are just allowed to be guys.  And until the day when girls are just allowed to be girls, I will stand with the über feminists.


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