The Virginity Purge

By Danielle Yampuler
April 27, 2024

Whoever does it, however it’s done, their fingers will dig deep in my throat so that I can throw up all the aspects of myself that I don’t want to be. Then I will devour my endless insecurity until I find the need to be emptied again.

I lean my head in close. Our hair is touching and I can feel their breath on my ear. It’s warm, wet, but I savor it like it will be the only intimacy I receive all week. They’re saying something, they’re leaning in because I said I couldn’t hear them.

I’m flirting with them — or talking to them. The line is blurred to me. I’m not sure whether I’m attracted to this person, or if I just wanted to see if they’d be attracted to me. Beer is drying on my sleeve where someone accidentally splashed it earlier, and it may stain. I hope their breath does as well. I hope their hair leaves a strand tangled in mine.

I hope this person whose name I will not remember leaves a larger mark than they deserve, just one of the many I will receive tonight. Then I will watch as they fade over the course of the week, and start over at the next party when I feel too clean again.

This is just how it goes. Some nights will end with hands on hips, mouths to lips, others with just a few stains. It doesn’t particularly matter — whoever does it, however it’s done, their fingers will dig deep in my throat so that I can throw up all the aspects of myself that I don’t want to be. Then I will devour my endless insecurity until I find the need to be emptied again.

This is the virginity purge. If virginity is a construct, then this cycle shows that it never leaves. It happens after a breakup, when you enter college—at the beginning of every life phase is the virginity purge. This is a time when you need to get that innocence out of your body, when you need to throw up white lace and garter straps to prove something. Hopefully, it’s to yourself, but it never really is.

It’s painful and it hurts and maybe it’s a bad habit to have, but it’s better than carrying that word with you. Virgin. This idea that, as a virgin, you’re entirely unsullied, ready to be sacrificed. Accompanying it comes a unique vulnerability born from starting over again. One that you thought had been covered permanently, but now stands bare and defenseless.

When you start a new book, you crack its spine; a home is only yours when it’s cluttered. Maybe the same logic applies here.

It doesn’t have to be sex. It just has to leave a stain even peroxide can’t take out. At some point, you’ll begin to question if that really exists, or if every little mark washes out with enough time. This makes the endgame unclear.

I was a liar in elementary school. I think most kids naturally are. I used to tell my friends about fantastical dreams I never had, stories that never happened. I lived off their excitement, the way they’d ask for more. Before I learned the importance of honesty or credibility or any of that other bullshit, I learned two things: everyone loves a good story, and attention is invaluable.

I’m not sure I ever grew out of that way of thinking. I may have learned not to fabricate my stories, but I also learned that the more I do, the more I can deliver back to the people whose attention singularly satisfies me. Maybe that’s why chronicling the purge is practically as fulfilling as the act itself, if not more. Crafting and polishing the tale to be recited in a manner so nonchalant, as if it was never intended to be said.

I practice this recital all the time. It has its own room in my head, where blurred faces listen in awe. They receive my story exactly in the way I wish them to, recognizing that I am telling them that I am a girl people are drawn to, entranced by. This is a girl people desire.

Yet, whenever I try to speak it aloud, the words become painful and never make it past my lips. The recitation is the release, but I can never force it out without feeling the shame.

It’s embarrassing. If the entire reason I purge is to let people know I am capable, why can I never do so? I know a girl who keeps a spreadsheet of all the times she’s had sex. Each row includes who she did it with and whether or not she climaxed (a column filled with entirely “no,” if you’re curious). This is a girl skilled in recitation, and it is as invigorating as it is repulsing. I judge her harshly for the act, and I desperately want to be her.

I catch myself wondering how many of these encounters she truly wanted to have, and how many were done purely to add another row to scroll past with practiced nonchalance. Where did her desires start and her exhibition end?

Then I realize that I don’t know her.

I’m putting every single insecurity and desire I’ve ever had onto her and presuming our brains work the same. The single time I hung out with her, she laid bare her exploits and spreadsheets. I thought she was laying herself bare as well, but now I wonder if she was only displaying a girl she’d meticulously crafted. This prompts me to take my head out of her own and ask whether my entire cycle is a performance, and whether or not the answer even matters. Especially if the exhibition is just as orgasmic as the act itself.

Maybe for me, for her, for every person who’s ever dropped an unsavory story on me, the desire only exists because of the need to be perceived. Maybe sexual desire is uniquely and innately intertwined with a want to be known. Therefore, the verbal exhibitionists’ goal must be to extend the release gained from being seen.

To illustrate, my best friend lost her virginity in a hidden field in one of the richest neighborhoods in Houston. She and her boyfriend had planned it days in advance to ensure nothing would go wrong. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, considering they had to wrap up quickly so that they would not be caught, but that didn’t matter. What mattered is that it was done.

I know this because she told me so on the same day it happened, indulging me in every detail, completing the American ritual — the one that mandates that she, and so many others, become verbal exhibitionists when it comes to sharing the loss of their virginity. It pervades pop culture, no sensual coming-of-age story feels complete without the ritual of spilling wine on yourself just so you can show your friends the irremovable stain. However, this causes me to think about which came first: the stain, or the sex?

It’s a word that’s purely taboo thanks to what it is related to. Virginity. In theory, it should be the cleanest word in the English language, something Western values aspire to: the virgin, who has not yet had… what? And its relation to that word dirties it before it ever had the chance to walk outside.

It is stained, and you, by proxy, were born stained because you were a virgin, meaning you had the capability of not being one anymore. That’s why it always flies back, why it always knocks on your door, even when you flee hometowns and bedrooms you’re no longer allowed in. When that happens, you can cover it in vomit and sweat and sticky stains that smell like nail polish remover.

Or you can remember the time before you truly grasped that word. A time when grass stains were the most of your worries, when you navigated the world with childish wonder because the only thing you were expected to do was explore. 

Return to that time.

When it—the virginity, the shame, yourself—next returns to you, explore it. Cover it in soft touches, in friends you’ll get to know, in love.

The next time breath stains you, realize that you are capable of penning it in with permanent marker. Do so. Only through this acceptance will you be rendered something stained enough to be returned to yourself.

It doesn’t have to be sex. You just have to let it leave a mark.

So, welcome it. Let it in, let it engulf you, the innocence and the ignorance and the fear of never being seen.

Then purge it.

Layout: Yvette Garcia
Photographer: Maddie Lindell
Videographer: Maddie Abdalla
Stylists: Keena Medina & Sadie Bowlin
HMUA: Jaycee Jamison
Model: Mimo Gorman

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