Tuesday 24 February 2009

Thought Picnic: Drawing the line

The lines of virginity sold

I got involved in discussion on AfricanLoft the other day as one of the prolific writers lamented the moral issue of a lady who had decided to sell her virginity [1] like “a cup of lemonade” to pay her way through college.

In spite of the social, moral, ethical and societal issues it raised, I adopted a fiercely pragmatic view of the matter.

By the time I had put in four comments there was a last response by the writer where she asked a most pertinent question – Where do we draw the line?

That question forms the basis of this blog.

The culturally myopic line is being drawn

I believe I had drawn my lines within the comments I made in that blog. The first line I drew was expressing the view that we were in danger of being culturally myopic.

What we might not agree with borne of our breeding, upbringing, experience and religious affiliation is fine for us as individuals but it is not the total knowledge of all circumstance of issues in the world – another line I drew was that I would not subscribe to that kind of enterprise.

However, in drawing my own line, I had to be careful that I was not drawing the lines of someone else – which is where I constructively acquiesced that she had made a commodity of her viginity which for all intents and purposes seemed to have a desirable commercial value.

At the time the blog was written the auction value had risen to $3.7 million [2] – no mean feat at all.

Examining the line of virginity

Other lines were then drawn that no well brought up African woman would auction off her asset in that way, and I drew another line – we also auction our assets which in many cases is our brain power as professional to the highest bidder – the writer did not however acquiesce to that analogy – fair enough.

Where many had drawn the line of this being abominable, the lady had drawn her own lines of exploiting an opportunity which was breathtaking in its execution and worthy of a modicum of appreciation.

Another line suggested she should have her head examined; my line was that it was the veracity of her virginity that needed examining by the lucky bidder who had access to the spoils.

The retorts as other line drawings returned, one commending an alternative view, one appreciating the fact that many women do not get the sophistication of losing their virginity on such a grand scale whilst lamenting the plight of girls, who really do have to hawk off their sexual prowess to make ends meet – the lines were blurring in the stark light of other realities.

A psychological line

Then the lines took a psychological bent when the writer suggested issues about the repercussions of actions we take that could have adverse effects on the parties involved. Then the Puritanical line about issues of integrity and the conservative line of the lady not being the first to go to college in hardship – good lines as they were, I was not persuaded.

Extreme, suggested someone else, but the line of extreme is one we draw for ourselves, we cannot draw that for someone else who thinks it is routine. I would have thought we were all familiar with the saying – One man’s meat is another man’s poison - the lines we draw might not be boundaries for others.

The Bible had been flung in so many violent ways, the pages were falling out with the rage of a pulpit banging preacher on the verge of apoplectic collapse – Sin, Fornication, Prostitution, Judgement, Sex, Rituals and Condemn had entered the picture with the aggressive strokes of a line drawing genius.

Dignity! It matters, but it usually gets mentioned in discussions like this in good-intentioned analysis of others than the close scrutiny of ourselves.

It is an ethical dilemma – a line drawn by one person but presented as one drawn for society which reminds one of a conversation I had with a friend where he opined that some people just have that in-borne tendency to get involved and interfere with every issue – lines just have to be drawn round every issue without restraint. Busy-body is the term we were looking for.

The big money line

Back again on my pragmatic bicycle since I could not afford a high horse, some of the lines I had drawn seemed to have been too faint for some to see – but it was glaring that no one would be paying $3.7 million for “a cup of lemonade” except if it was really special. Some men price virginity for all sorts of good or lewd reasons.

The lines the lady had drawn meant she was on a different trajectory to the ones where we were moralising about her motivation and intentions, for instance, I pooh-poohed the idea of her not being offered a job with the idea that having $3,7 million in her pocket would exclude her from puny judgemental characterisation.

Basically, her lines and our lines were far from congruent and there was a possibility that they were parallel and hence might never cross nor meet.

She has also drawn lines many women might never be able to draw, the one of controlling the means and access to her virginity which I thought was a powerful thing.

Then, despite the lines we had already drawn, her trajectory might well lead to a better narrative than what was exciting our moral sensibilities.

The line of truth

Truth, how true, the truth about other realities we close our eyes to as we blindly draw lines round single issue matters that we project on society as a whole. The explosive fact so far was that at 22 she was still a virgin – that is one really thick line that would be difficult to cross out.

The writer was back in the commentary with the presumed concern for the implications of the lady’s actions and then construing the pragmatic views of the matter as supporting the lady – that emotive line needed striking out.

Light lines and strong lines

More concerned lines followed with the light touch desire that she is forced into repentance after her doings – Gosh! The lines were coming together like she should be sentenced to a convent with the most stringent vows.

I had had enough of the way lines were being drawn around ourselves – if any lines were so particularly disgusted with the line that lady was drawing the only way to bring a new line of thinking to the matter was to launch a Save Natalie’s Virginity campaign.

Move the lines of disconnected Christian concern to the effective work of useful Christian charity by offering the lady a better deal than she already has and in the process preserving her dignity, honour and respect – at least one would assume that is what all these lines are about.

I doubt it though; we are better armchair commentators with the whole knowledge of the law, the right and the Scripture than participants in evoking the change necessary to align a situation to our preconceived, if not bigoted and prejudicial line of thinking.

The line of the world system

Even I found pages of pragmatic example to recite to the learned spiritually superior whose lines were too perfect to be perfected – the failure to realise what the Master said in the days of yore, that, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” Luke 16:8 [3].

My line was that the lady had learnt to work the world system to her advantage – it is called survival – and we should get over it by sticking to our principled lines of Puritanical preservation whilst being open-minded enough to realise that drawing our own lines should not constitute drawing lines round the activities of other free-moral agents.

The lines turned to scribbles of incoherence afterwards but in the end my lines had been drawn and the writer asked again – where do we draw the line?

We draw the line around ourselves concerning our own business and let others draw their own lines, where they meet we engage, where they don’t we agree to disagree but just as we would not allow others to draw their lines around us, so should we not draw lines round others.

That is where we draw the line.


[1] American Girl Offers Virginity for Sale. Big Deal..? | AfricanLoft

[2] Student auctions off virginity for offers of more than £2.5 million - Telegraph

[3] Bible.CC: Luke 16:8 "And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had

Note: I acknowledge that the references I made to the comments in the AfricanLoft blog belong within the context of that blog as the original source.

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