Summer is coming, hide the virgins!

As the weather heats up, so do abstinence advocates over chastity.

Published June 8, 2009 7:20PM (EDT)

Sun, sweat and stretches of bronzed skin -- there's no denying summer gets people thinking about sex. Most of us relish this sunscreen-slicked sensuality, but for some abstinence advocates, it presents the specter of young and unmarried bodies rolling in the sheets. It's chastity's yearly trial by fire. Recently, the seasonal panic has reliably yielded a crop of articles about the horrors of hookup culture and, sure enough, as the warmest months approach, it's clear this year will be no exception.

NPR reports on the decades-old trend with the cutting edge of a retirement community's resident-written newsletter: Apparently, "hooking up" means kissing, petting and having intimacies without any commitment! On the other end of the age spectrum, Cosmopolitan has a feature in its July issue about women in their early twenties who are still virgins. (Breaking news alert: College virgins do exist.) But the casual sex panic really begins with The National Review's infamous Kathryn Jean Lopez, who got worked up over Cosmo's reportage. Now, some snark is reasonable, given the non-news at hand, but that isn't the bee in Lopez's bonnet. She's irritated because the article's pure protagonists are "on the brink" of giving in to peer pressure and handing over their "v card," as the glossy calls it.

Like a conservative in shining armor, Lopez comes to the rescue of these distressed damsels. In all seriousness, she suggests a role model: a sixth-grade girl -- who probably hasn't even gone through puberty yet. She trots out little Hannah, an abstinence-only grade school student in Newark, New Jersey, who says she's learned she has "the right to say no to sex and drugs ... to respect myself and the ones around me ... to have trust, faith, and self-esteem." That is a wonderful thing, truly. One day, though, she might learn how fragile "self-esteem" is when it's built on an ability to police her own (and even more so others') sexuality; maybe, too, she'll realize that the respect those abstinence classes speak of doesn't come from inside (where it really matters), but from the outside (where it shouldn't).

The most impressive thing about Lopez's purity proscription, though, is that it reveals a straightforward illustration of abstinence advocates' true female ideal: a virginal, prepubescent girl.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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