Valentines Day has rose as the rose among youth in Cambodia. When most affections of love are safeguarded far away from public spaces, this imported loving day opens up for public and almost obligatory stories and affections of love in Cambodia (and elsewhere) among youth. What begun as sweet and innocent roses and text messages has in recent years turn into the day for young couples (not yet married) to have sex, checking into guest houses to indulge in intimacy and privacy. And to lose virginity*, frankly speaking, most mean that women have penetrating sex with a man for the first time. . So, its not all youth who is main actor in the story of The Valentine and the Virgin that Phnom Penh post writes about. The men, the boyfriends, are rarely subjected to this story of loss since their sexuality, or their virginity, is not sacred to their identity and not neither to their first (sexual) love. Sure, my critique may fall hard here. But boys and mens sexuality in Cambodia are subjects to entirely different norms and expectations then women’s.
In the article the voices of the supposed virgins themselves are non-existing. An ANZ costumer service consultant says that “girls might regret making a decision too soon”. Again, the girls might regret it, but hey, they also might enjoy the sex, or they might feel forced to do it, or just curious about what its all about. Seeking and exploring ones own sexuality, or maybe just to get a sneak peak at the boy. More relevant concerns, then the one above states, would be if and how they enjoy sex; are they practicing safer sex; what are their feelings and concerns before and after; is the sex (and the relationship as a whole) based on mutual respect and a feeling of “good” rather then “shame” (which is produced if the statement above are to dictate the concerns and discussion)?
The nations protection of women’s sexuality take many shapes, the battle of protecting girls virginity has lead to a new law (trying to) regulate valentines emerging promiscuity. ”In response to the popularity of guest house discounts on Valentine’s Day, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Tourism set a regulatory law stating that Cambodian citizens under the age of 18 are not allowed to rent any rooms without the permission of an adult.”. Oh my buddha, is my soley response at this stage. Maybe the ministry of Health and Women’s Issues set a different law and load the guest houses with an endless supply of condom, lubricant and some flyers about respectful relations and sexuality?! Sadly I don’t think they will. I would though!
*Beside this conversation there should be another which talk about virginity and sexual (and love) relations beyond a penetrative and heterosexual one. Sex is not only about “putting something into something” but of so much more. The (first) sexual experience between men, between women, between men and women, between men/women and transgender are more interesting if we see beyond penetration. Sex is about so much more, about touching the whole body in a sexual way, feeling with hands and other parts of out body, about orgasms, about kisses, about tingling feelings, about arousal, about good feelings and about respect. Then, sex, and especially the first time, is not a matter of loss and loosing (virginity) but of gaining pleasures, exiting experiences and good feelings.
Fear no valentine, for what I am concerned, it could be valentine every day. Our concern here should be more directed onto the conditions and expectations of sex and sexuality within society. But “virginity”… it could check out and come back no more!