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Abridged Virgins

[whitespace] flyers Take Two? For a vow, the deflowered can start anew--spiritually and emotionally--by swearing off sex until marriage.



In a late-millennial quest for purity and piety, people are relinquishing non-marital sex and sin to become card-carrying virgins again--and again and again.

By Cecily Barnes

IN SEXUAL LORE, VIRGINS COME in two types--the innocent, disinterested virgin everyone wants but no one can have and the eager, temptress virgin who just can't wait to be naughty. And then there's the virgin who's not the subject of male fantasies: the regular old virgin who simply gives it up in the back of a car with a teenage pal who either is or isn't somebody special. And for those who'd like to take the moment back, the loss of virginity has been irreversible--until now.

Scores of people are taking it back, thanks to a new movement within Christian circles which encourages people to "reclaim their virginity" spiritually and emotionally by making a vow and carrying a little card. Anybody ready to quit having sex now is eligible, including people who've slept around, been divorced or had children.

They're card-carrying virgins. Some are devout Christians wanting to meet God's expectations and do what's right. Others want to raise their self-esteem by erasing past regrettable deeds. Others hope to woo their partner into marriage by withholding sex until the big night. And a select few seek that cherished, untouchable status that has caused virgins to be revered throughout history.

Christian groups, Web sites and, ironically, pregnancy centers throughout Silicon Valley are offering virgin certification for the true bargain of nothing but a promise to zip up the goods until the wedding night, if there is one. Women and men simply take a vow and are handed a certified card, plaque or other token. Poof! Virginity restored.

"While you don't become a virgin again physically, emotionally and for all practical purposes you are," says Linda Winter, a counselor at the Community Pregnancy Center in Los Altos and a one-time secondary virgin. "It's basically a decision they make and then we have little cards that we give out as a reminder."

But all the kinks haven't been worked out yet. Although there are a few organizations dedicated to the cause, a standard procedure hasn't been developed beyond the premise that a vow of abstinence is taken and then the new virgin receives some token of recognition. Women, and less often men, who reclaim virginity through Christian organizations such as the Community Pregnancy Center often do so in order to follow God's plan and maintain their purity until joined in a committed marriage.

But at the Society for the Recapture of Virginity, showcased through a Web site with an open chat, people join for a host of less-than-pure reasons. Testimonials about the desire for purity range from wanting that 'kaboom' of the first time to wanting to erase having done it with "that son-of-a-bitch." Kate writes that she reclaimed her virginity "because the guy who took it from me wouldn't have cared if I was a virgin, a goat or a melon." Another woman wanted to tell her boyfriend she was "a young, innocent virgin." And Nelson writes that the first time was so darn good he wants to revirginize just to experience that again. "Sex has never been the same since," he writes. "I'd rather eat a really good lasagna. But if I were a virgin again, I could experience the thrill of my first time."

People who reclaim through the Society for the Recapture of Virginity receive a framed certificate, a wearable virgin badge and the Virginator, a special ring developed by a software program called the VRS 3000. "The VRS 3000 takes in factual information from the non-virgin, performs complex and rigorous calculations and through a process called virgination finds the algorithm to restore your virginity," the Web site promises.

Supposedly, a microchip embedded in this ring releases harmless radio waves which adjust and correct a person's biorhythms, thus restoring their virginity.

Magical software programs aside, both organizations send out the message that it's never too late to start again. The Christian organizations encourage the new virgins to simply make a vow to God and themselves, and then stick to it.

However, if someone slips up, neither group forbids them from reinstating their virginity time and time again. No limit has been placed on how many times a person can restore purity.

"It's like alcoholism and drug abuse. People slip and you get up and you start again," says Winter. "The unique thing is that God is patient with all of us."

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The cosmetically inclined lust after designer genitalia. As always, L.A. plastic surgeons are happy to help.

True Love Waits, a Christian organization encouraging teens to wait until marriage for sex.

alt.culture's entry on Secondary Virginity.

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SECOND-TIME VIRGINITY may be noble; however, it shares the condition of underwear sold at thrift stores--it's used goods. Virgins are venerated by most of the population not because of their morality, but because their bodies are cherished as the ultimate sexual treat. And once that untouched quality has been lost, nothing, including a simple vow, will return it.

Unlike the Society for the Recapture of Virginity, the Christian pregnancy centers realistically acknowledge that much as it would be nice, no one can reclaim their physical virginity.

"I think it's more of an emotional virginity, like it's been a long time since I've been connected to someone this way," says Brandi, who reclaimed her virginity before marrying her husband. "It reclaims it to say, I've saved all this up for you."

And certainly virginity carries other benefits, says Winter. Whether first-, second- or sixth-time virgins, people who reclaim will not be having sex unless they are married. This, Winter believes, encourages commitment-fearing men to quit waffling and produce a ring.

"Look at all the people you know who are having sex with a guy, maybe even living with him, and would really like to be married," Winter says. "He's not popping the question, and why should he? He's got everything he wants. I think [virginity] is a great carrot, and I personally think that's how God intended it for men to get over the hurdle of fearing marriage."

Women irritably waiting for that wedding ring have tossed aside The Rules--whereby a woman must never call her suitor, never be seen without makeup and always break into a tantrum if she doesn't get flowers--and are simply crossing their legs and refusing to open them until the wedding night. To sweeten the pot, they're claiming to be virgins even if they're not.

Linda Winter reclaimed her own virginity after divorcing her first husband at age 32. She had saved herself for him, but after the divorce figured she was already deflowered and thus there was no reason not to go all the way with her new boyfriend. But after living and sleeping with him for a short time, Winter changed her mind and reclaimed her virginity.

"When I became abstinent, he respected and admired me so much and asked me to marry him," Winters says. "That's not why I did it, but that was the result."

Her new husband willingly complied with the new hands-off rule until the wedding night.

"I'm not saying we weren't tempted, both of us. But he respected me more for it, and as a result we had a great deal of trust built up," Winters says. "And ultimately, if the guy leaves you because of your decision, is he really worth it?"

When the secondary virginity recruiters travel to local schools, they ask kids to consider this question as well.

DIANE HAYES RUNS the "Save-It" wing of the San Jose Community Pregnancy Center. As part of her educational outreach, she takes groups of reclaimed virgin teens around to different schools to tell their stories. A goal of the visits, Hayes says, is to showcase teens who have opted to "save themselves" because having sex has had a negative effect on their lives.

"A lot of time people are under the impression that once you've given away your virginity you might as well just do whatever, whenever, but that's not true," Hayes says. "We have people who've been sexually active for years and they decide that this isn't making sense."

A few teens in the speaking troupe are genuine virgins and talk about how they want to save themselves for their husband or wife, and hope to marry someone who has also saved themselves. This can be tricky, though.

"We don't want the kids who have been sexually active to feel like they're undesirable. One of the questions they always ask the kids is if they would marry someone who wasn't a virgin," Hayes says. "They usually say they would prefer it [if they were], but they wouldn't discount someone who wasn't. We try to be real careful that they're not like, 'Oh these stuck-up virgins, who the hell do they think they're talking to?' "

Hayes also emphasizes the physical benefits of virginity, including safety from sexually transmitted diseases, unintentional pregnancy and emotional suffering by people too young to be in a sexual relationship.

Brandi, an adult speaker who travels to the high schools, talks mostly about how virginity is a gift that should be cherished and relinquished only to a very special person. She tells her own story of losing her virginity in ninth grade and then living a "promiscuous, party lifestyle" until she reclaimed her virginity at age 23. During the 10 years of indulgence, Brandi became pregnant four times, had three abortions and gave one child up for adoption.

"When you're older and you want to get married, you realize that [giving up your virginity] was so important. It is so valuable and so precious and I had never been told that before," Brandi says. "I wanted to reclaim it because it was worth reclaiming. I try to give them a glimpse of that. I think a lot of them just don't think about it."

Brandi is now married to a man who had remained celibate until their wedding night. And although this night obviously wasn't her first time, she had actively abstained from sex for nearly five years. Emotionally, Brandi says, she was a virgin. She even had a card to prove it.

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From the December 24-30, 1998 issue of Metro.

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