What happens when you tell your mom you’re not the virgin she assumed you were? As O.D.D. (Online Dating Diary) Girl found out, hilarity does not ensue.
“You’re a slut who has wasted both her degrees. You’ve ruined your life.”
Those were the very words my mother uttered to me one night in my car after I revealed to her I wasn’t a virgin. Just minutes before, she had asked me about the guy I had been dating for a couple of months — specifically, why I was staying overnight at his place when I could just sleep in my own bed.
Like many traditional Asian mothers, my mom had chosen to believe that her daughter had remained a virgin for all three decades of her life. Most of my friends were puzzled as to why I chose to disclose that detail about my life to my mom, but in that instant, I didn’t want my mom to think that she still had a hold over my virginity — my body was not hers to keep the chastity belt on.
Then it got weird when she demanded that he ask her for permission for me to sleep over. It was as if she needed to hand over my body to him to hold and protect, like one of those traditional Asian marriages, where the groom offers a dowry to the bride’s family, except the dowry was him offering my mom some peace of mind that he would take care of me.
It’s no surprise that my parents never had the talk about the birds and the bees with me (thanks, school and cheesy romance novels). My mom knows that I know about sex because I was the one who talked to my younger brother about practicing safe sex with his girlfriend. But this was the first time that I shared private details about my sex life with my mom. Of course, sharing those details backfired on me (I shouldn’t have been surprised), but I was surprised that she actually slut shamed me. Because I wasn’t a virgin anymore, I became a failure in her eyes.
Slut shaming in society really only extends to women. The word “slut” is so easily tossed around these days. I’ll hear conversations between guys about how a girl “was a slut” because she turned one guy down, but was dating another guy. If a woman chose to have a one-night stand, she’s labeled a slut, and yet men aren’t susceptible to this label because somehow men are lauded for being sexual conquerors. Even worse, women slut shame each other for all sorts of reasons — or even for no good reason at all.
Of course, for my mother, me not being a virgin was not really about me. It was about keeping “face” and honor for a family name within a community — and that’s even more crucial because my community is small. My mom repeatedly talked about how his parents could know our family, and that it would have dire consequences (what they were, she was quite vague) for our future. We’re not royalty, and we don’t have some secret family fortune tied to me being a virgin, so I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. But what made it worse is that the males in my family are freely able to do what they want when it comes to sex.
I’ll admit, it’s hard to change the traditional views of many Asian parents out there. But I’m more concerned about the lack of safe spaces for Asian American girls who grow up in a slut- shaming culture. This idea of what and who is a slut gets passed around from individual to individual, whether it’s from our parents or passing male commentary. We internalize it, and what if, as we get older, we still end up calling our daughters sluts for doing what our sons do? It’s a big issue for women in general, but I think it’s incredibly important for women of color, as we pass on our values and ideals about sexuality and our bodies within our own communities.
So I will say this — I don’t regret telling my mom anything. I think it opens up opportunities for more conversations about topics that may have remained behind closed doors. While I feel my mom’s views haven’t changed overnight, I can say that she doesn’t really think I’m a useless slut who has wasted her degrees anymore.
The other day, I told my mom I was taking an exotic dance class. She wasn’t sure what that was so I bluntly told her, “It’s a stripper dance class, mom. We’re learning stripper dance moves.”
I thought she was going to jump on her slut-shaming tirade, but her response? “That’s nice. Have fun.”
I guess we’re making some progress then. Until next time … — O.D.D. Girl
This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here.