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.

  • fiftyfifty1

    The good news is that women have recognized the misogyny inherent in the concept of sexual virginity, and we have fought back against it. Now nobody outside of backward cultures or pockets of weird religiosity believes that female virginity is important. Time to do the same with gut virginity!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I never understood the “die and get 72 virgins” thing.

      1) Why would I want to have all those virgins? Heck, why would I want that many anyway? Wouldn’t I just want my wife?
      2) Who are all these virgins that died to be available to dead guys? Sounds pretty gruesome to me.

      It’s a totally messed up concept.

      • rational thinker

        If a man dies of old age I doubt he would have the energy to service all those virgins anyway. Once he has sex with one of those virgins they are of no use to him anymore as they are no longer virgins,

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Which is why eternity would just be easier with your wife and not having to deal with all that nonsense.

          But speaking of “servicing the virgins,” do they need to use birth control? Can virgins in heaven get pregnant?

          • Heidi

            Of course but no birth control allowed. How else are they going to replenish the virgin supply in heaven?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I’m just still trying to work out the math. All 72 virgins are getting pregnant on the first shot? If not, that means there must be non-virginal sex going on.

            Or a lot of virgins dying.

            It’s all so messed up.

          • Griffin

            Yeah, it’s weird. Like when I was 8 and my grandfather died. My grandfather was a stern stiff guy who I did not like but everyone else had him on a high pedestal. We were essentially a family of agnostics/atheists and I didn’t have much exposure to organized religions so when my grandfather died and someone told me grandad ‘would be looking down on me’, I was truly appalled.

            “Wait, what, can grandad see me being naughty now? Can he see when I suck my thumb in private? Oh my god, can he SEE ME NAKED?!!”

            AAAAGH!

            “Wait, what, he’s waiting for me in heaven? WHY? Is he going to tell me off? And what will he look like? Will he be old and desicated because of his cancer, or will he look like a young man? How will I recognize him? Is there a way to avoid meeting him? ‘Cause I didn’t like him when he was alive, I don’t think I want to spend eternity with that cranky old git.”

            “And if there is a heaven, will I meet our dog, who died a year ago and who I think about a lot? NO?! What kind of crap heaven is this?”

            Yeah, the whole thing is very silly when you look closer at it.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            And what will he look like? Will he be old and desicated because of his cancer, or will he look like a young man? How will I recognize him?

            In the most recent edition of The Return of the Jedi***, when Luke sees Annakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda at the end, these days Annakin comes as Hayden Christianson.

            Which makes no sense, because how in the heck is Luke supposed to recognize him? The only Annakin Luke has ever seen is Darth Vader without his mask, who looks nothing like Hayden Christianson.

            The Lego version of Star Wars (Droid Tales) pointed that out. Luke is like, “Hey Ben, Yoda and some guy I don’t know”

            ***You remember when George Lucas originally made the new Star Wars it was because, with modern computers, he could “finally do what he always wanted to do” with the movies. Like, put in an extended version of the stupid cantina scene in Ep IV, and replace the Ewok song at the end of Ep VI. Because, you know, he had to put that original annoying Ewok song in because the computing capability was not sufficient to avoid it.

          • AnnaPDE

            If there is one saving grace for the Special Edition, it’s the new Ewok samba. But I could have lived without that, if he’d left out that pathetic Jabba, the comic relief dangling Jawas, and most importantly, Greedo shooting first.

            On the other hand, do you notice how the prequels, not necessarily on purpose, are a dire warning regarding the importance of a good and accessible public health system and enforced minimum standards for education?
            On the one hand tech and medicine are super advanced. On the other hand, none of this makes its way to the protagonists in the way it should:
            * Anakin is super surprised that Padme is pregnant. They talk about “the child” right up to the end so clearly they didn’t have a single OB appointment. So when she then fantasises about a not-medically-attended waterbirth in a swamp on the low-tech half of Naboo, I can kind of see why Anakin freaks out that it’s dangerous. But does he say “Let’s go to the doctor to work this out?” Nope.
            * What does he do instead? He talks to this super sleazy politician who basically says to him “My master figured out this bringing-dead-people-back thing. But then unfortunately he was killed. By his student.” and Anakin’s grasp of logic isn’t enough to put 2 and 2 together.
            * It only goes downhill from here: Even if Jedi are never taught basic thinking skills, he could at least recognise force lightning, of all things, as a very clear sign of an evil person. But he doesn’t. And still doesn’t get suspicious when said evil person suddenly turns from “I know the secret” to “we’ll find out the secret”, but happily goes off to kill some preschoolers. You’d think that this kind of thing could have been avoided after sitting through a basic history or ethics class…

            Had Anakin and Padme simply gone to the doctor for run of the mill pregnancy care, they could have easily prevented the rise of the Empire without even trying.

          • StephanieJR

            I’m remembering the Robot Chicken Star Wars, where the doctor (a House parody) just goes ‘She died OF A BROKEN HEART?! What kind of crap is that!’.

          • AnnaPDE

            IKR?!
            They can do a magic put-a-tunnel-over-it C-section, and have the technology for people to recover from horrific injuries and exposure in bacta tanks (aka diaper tanks), but somehow Padme ends up dying because she has the sads over a somewhat dramatic breakup with her always latently creepy husband.

          • Daleth

            He has the Force. He just knows.

          • rational thinker

            Good question, I don’t know. What I would like to know is do these 72 virgins also come with 72 mother in laws? Cause if they do then that sounds more like hell than heaven.

    • AnnaPDE

      Here‘s Australia’s ex-ex-Prime Minister on this topic:
      https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2010-01-27/abbott-defends-virginity-comments/310704
      Not exactly obscure unfortunately.