Virginity Is Not Morality

I don’t know what will happen to Brett Kavanaugh over the next few days. The Supreme Court nominee continues to vigorously deny accusations that he sexually assaulted one woman and exposed himself to another while he was in high school and college. It’s possible that he could be confirmed to the court as early as the end of this week. The senators in charge of his confirmation do not seem inclined to investigate the allegations with any vigor and I assume they’ll keep pushing until this man is on the court.

In any case, enough has been written about the merits of the women’s allegations and about Kavanaugh’s history as a prep school terror. You can draw your own conclusions about right and wrong and the veracity of these claims, but I am intrigued by one specific detail from Kavanaugh’s denials. In an unprecedented interview with Fox News, Kavanaugh says he was a virgin in high school and college. He offers up this fact as if it is proof of his innocence. But virginity doesn’t prove a thing.

A person can be sexually aggressive and violent without ever having sex. In fact, there’s an entire (terrifying) community built around this fact. Incels (involuntary celibates) are men who want to have sex, but can’t seem to build the relationships that lead to sex. They blame women for their frustration. According to the incels, women are shallow, stupid, and attracted only to hyper-masculine jocks. It’s our fault they’re lonely.

Some of these men (probably most of them) just complain about their lack of companionship, but some of them have turned their dissatisfaction into a terrorist movement. One of them killed 10 people by driving into a crowd in Toronto earlier this year after posting about an incel rebellion. Another shot and killed 14 people in Santa Barbara in 2014 after writing a manifesto about how women don’t want to sleep with a nice guy like him. These men don’t like women much, but they feel entitled to their bodies.

Brett Kavanaugh is no incel; he is married with children. But his protestations of virginity as proof of innocence reinforce this dangerous idea. The incels complain that women don’t want them because they are too nice, too gentlemanly. Kavanaugh, in pointing to his teen virginity, is sending the same message. He is saying: I was such a nice guy I didn’t even have sex. But sexlessness does not equate to being a nice guy. Trust me.

Every woman has encountered some man who complains about how women say they want nice guys, but really they only want jerks. The implication is that the guy doing the complaining is too nice and that’s why he’s alone. What we rarely say to these men is that we don’t reject them because they are nice; we reject them because they scare us. They are too needy, too pushy, too convinced that they are better than everyone else. That sort of certainty can be terrifying. Because if a guy believes he is always right; then we will always be wrong.

In America, we either prize virginity or we scorn it. Girls are supposed to be chaste. Boys are supposed to pursue sex. We’ve established a power struggle in which someone always has to be the loser. If a girl has sex too young or too often, she’s a slut. If a boy doesn’t have enough sex or any sex, he’s shamed by his peers. It’s ridiculous.

Whether Kavanaugh was a virgin at age 17 or age 20 or age 30 is irrelevant. Virginity has nothing to do with morality. It is no alibi for assault. And it has nothing to do with Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court. That he seems to believe otherwise is one more strike against him.

Tiffany Quay Tyson
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