Breastfeeding and the ideology of gut “virginity”

Sexual abstinence word cloud

There is no such thing as virginity. It is not a physiological concept. It is a social construct that reflects an obsession with female purity, virtue and honor. It is deeply misogynist.

There is no such thing as gut virginity, either. It is not a physiological concept but a social construct that reflects lactivists’ obsession with infant purity and maternal virtue and honor.

It’s a tactic for controlling women’s behavior.

Lactivists have created and promoted the notion of gut virginity for the same reason that men created the notion of female virginity. It’s a tactic for controlling women’s behavior. The lactivist insistence on harm from formula supplementation — any amount, at any time, for any reason — was fabricated to keep women from using formula.

Consider sexual virginity:

There is nothing physiologically different in a man who has had his first sexual intercourse and one who has not. In women, there can be a minor physiological change, the tearing of the hymen, but many women do not experience that. Nevertheless, the hymen has come to represent the concept of virginity although there are many ways to have sex without changing it. There are even cosmetic surgeries that aim to recreate the semblance of a hymen to allow women to claim spurious virginity.

There is no such thing as virginity in the animal kingdom. Some members of a species are sexually mature and receptive; they have sex. Others are not; they don’t have sex. There is no self-imposed waiting period between becoming sexually mature and engaging in sex. There is no purity, virtue or honor being protected by abstinence.

Virginity isn’t physiological, it’s transactional. It is a way for men to characterize the products on offer in the marriage market. Women’s virginity is prized by men because it prevents cuckholding, reflects the masculine horror of raising another man’s child as his own, asserts ownership over women and allows fathers and prospective grooms to evaluate the “worth” of a woman.

How about gut “virginity”?

There’s nothing physiologically different in a baby who has had formula. There are no macroscopic or microscopic changes to any aspect of its body.

But wait! What about the microbiome?

The microbiome, the bacterial content of the infant gut, is a subject about which we know very little beyond the fact that it is exists. We have literally no idea what proportion of what organisms the infant microbiome is supposed to contain. We have literally no idea of the significance of individual variation: does it reflect a substantive difference or merely a diversity of normal like eye color or hair color. We have literally no idea whether any differences in the infant microbiome between breastfed and bottlefed infants has any impact on anything, let alone short term or long term health.

No matter. The infant gut microbiome in gut “virginity” has come to play the role of the hymen in sexual virginity. It is viewed as a marker of an infant’s “purity” and a mother’s honor and value. Both serve the same purpose; it’s a method of controlling women’s behavior. Hence it is referenced and mythologized in the same way as sexual virginity.

The young women who has sex just one is forever defiled and she has “lost” her virginity. The baby who gets “just one bottle” of formula is forever impure and has lost its gut virginity.

Both concepts are self-serving fictions.

A woman’s virtue is not in her vagina. It is in her intellect, character and talents. Whether or not she is a sexual virgin tells us nothing meaningful about her or her worth.

A mother’s virtue is not in her breasts. It is in her caring and emotional connection to her infant. Whether or not her baby is a formula virgin tells us nothing about her, her worth or her love for her child.

Yesterday I wrote about a new paper in which breastfeeding researchers were forced to acknowledge risks and complications they have denied for years.

Yet despite the litany of life threatening risks, despite the fact that judicious formula supplementation improves the odds of exclusive breastfeeding and despite the fact that a study of formula supplementation followed by exclusive breastfeeding showed no difference in the gut microbiome, the breastfeeding researchers still recoil from formula in horror.

That’s because the “virgin gut” isn’t really about breastfeeding and babies; it — like the concept of sexual virginity — is about controlling women.