When we say we want women to be free to make their own sexual choices, do we only mean that when the choice is one that we would make for ourselves? When we say that women should have agency over their own bodies, do we mean only if that agency is not influenced by other personal convictions or beliefs? Do we only want women to be free to make their own choices about their bodies when that choice involves sharing it with someone else?
These are all questions I have been asking myself since last week, when a heated debate erupted on Twitter over the virginity of actress Yvonne Orji. The 33-year-old Insecure star has spoken openly about her religious upbringing and how that relates to her decision to remain celibate until marriage.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month, Orji said, “My 17-year-old self was not trying to be waiting, but I got bamboozled by Jesus. And so if this is not your testimony that’s fine, but here’s what you can wait for in a relationship that is still equally as important.”
It is that basis in religion that got Twitter up in arms about Orji’s choice. There were righteous concerns raised that included the history that religion in general has with “requiring” or “demanding” that women remain chaste and pure until their wedding day.
While abstinence is technically preached to both men and women, it is primarily women who are shamed for not practicing it, and that is indeed a patriarchal setup. It is oppressive and it denies women the right to make their own choices; this is true. But as someone rightly pointed out, Orji is 33 years old. At this point, she is clearly choosing her religion.
She is a black comedian and actress working in Hollywood. She has come in contact with a lot of different people, and she has been exposed to a lot of different things. She plays one of the most sexually active characters on Insecure. I doubt Orji is being forced to stay a virgin.
I think she is actively waiting for the “right one,” and I think that’s her choice and that is OK. In that same Los Angeles Times interview, she implied that she’s ready to do the damn thing when she said, “I just thought that was hysterical to be called the face of virginity. Not for long, hopefully. Jesus, where he at?”
I get wanting to defend someone’s right to choose, but in this instance, Orji is choosing. Her choice may not be the one we would make for ourselves, but it is her choice. We can think it’s weird or crazy all day, but we have to let her make that choice.
And it’s as simple as that.
We cannot say we want to empower women to make their own choices for their bodies and then attack those choices when they don’t align with our personal beliefs. I outgrew my Christianity a long time ago and I didn’t wait until I was married, obviously, but that was my choice.
The argument that she is being compelled by religion is in conflict with the choice she is making to practice that religion. There are layers here.
A religious choice influencing a sexual choice means that she is still ultimately making her own choices, and all arguments should stop there.
These are conscious decisions on her part, and we can have all the thoughts in the world on those decisions, but we cannot deny her that agency simply because it is influenced by something we ourselves don’t believe in.
Being a 33-year-old who is not sexually active is a unique thing; we can acknowledge that without stripping Orji of her freedom to make that choice simply because we think it’s weird and not the choice we would make for ourselves.
There are people who criticize me for being nonmonogamous and who think I am a “whore” just going around town passing my sex around like Communion wafers.
I’m not, but even if I were? That would be my choice.
The point is, we don’t need to be out here worrying about the sexual choices of people who are a) not us and b) not our sexual partners.
I have a simple three-item list for living your best life:
- Mind your own business.
- Mind your own money.
- Mind your own pussy.
Oh, and drink water.