To grow up in an African home, the home doesn’t necessarily have to be situated in Africa. I have come to understand that African parents are one with African culture, and will never leave it behind.
If you are a woman who grew up in an African home, especially a religious one, you probably heard your mum and even your dad tell you keep your virginity. The two most common reasons for “keeping your virginity” as told in African home is, firstly, that your virginity is a gift to your husband and secondly, and admittedly an extension of the first reason, that a respectable woman keeps her virginity.
“ No man wants to marry a woman who has let her sexual urges taken the best of her, she is no longer fresh for her husband”.
Some go further by saying,
“No man wants a second-hand woman.”
The thought of a woman being called secondhand because she is not a virgin, makes my heart ache.
In the past, Yoruba culture had a way of detecting whether a woman was a virgin on the night of her marriage. On her wedding night, the woman would go to her marital bed with a white cloth, and have sex with her husband, with the cloth laid underneath them. The white cloth becoming stained with blood, signified the breaking of her hymen. A stained cloth would bring great joy and honor to her home, with everyone around breaking into dance, none more enthusiastic and happier than her mother. The mother would dance towards her daughter and thank her for not bringing shame to the family.
I will leave you to use your imagination, to figure out what reaction a woman that didn’t come out with a stained cloth received.
It was and perhaps still is commonly said, that a woman who is not a virgin is impure. She is nothing but a hallmark of shame. It’s a good thing that the world has moved on from the use of a white cloth to check a woman’s virginity. But the truth is, an imaginary white cloth is still hanging over the heads of women. Women are still being told by men and other women to keep their virginity, and gift it to their husbands, thus continuing the shaming of women who decide to have sex before marriage.
I once had a conversation with a guy and we playfully came to the topic of virginity. I told him that my future husband doesn’t matter. I meant it in the sense that my choice to be a virgin would not be a gift to him. It would be a gift to myself. It would be a sign of victory for me to conquer something as urgent as my flesh burning with passion. The passion of sexual urges that often comes as a flood, and tries to subdue me.
My virginity has absolutely nothing to do with my husband or my fear of being a subject of ‘shame’, it is about me.
Life is about choosing. Being a woman is about choosing what you do and how you live your life. The same applies to men.
It is unpardonable to tell a woman to give her virginity to her husband as a gift, while men are not expected not to bring the same gift.
Why is virginity attributed to purity? They are not synonymous. Not being a virgin does not make a woman second-hand. It doesn’t make her shameful or less respectable because truth is, there is way more to a woman than her choice to be a virgin or not.
I am not an advocate for pre-marital sex, I am an advocate for women choosing want they want to do with their bodies.
I stand against shaming a woman. I stand against telling a woman what to do with her body especially when society becomes mute when it comes to her equal male counterparts.
My virginity is a gift to myself.
It has nothing to do with a husband.
Words by Mayowa Depo- Oyedokun