I’ve heard a number of people claiming that Supreme Court nominee judge Kavanaugh’s recent claim of virginity in the face of sexual assault allegations is laughable or irrelevant. I think it is not. It is social signaling.

Aside from whether someone can be both a virgin and an attempted rapist/sexual assaulter (hint: the answer is yes), I saw too much of this stuff in my background growing up. I have a framework I now view it through.

Claiming to be a virgin (and/or rededicated to purity) and not actually doing so is very performative among men in certain circles. You publicly claim it, most don’t really believe you, but you have still somehow affirmed that virginity before marriage is an ideal you want to be associated with. The lie is seen as indicating your desire for purity rather than making a mockery of it, as a desire for social purity is seen as almost as good as the actual abstinence on a personal level.

This impression of purity as performative gospel leaves a gap, the dominant but fake narrative obscuring a reality that is unspeakable and therefore unspoken and highly damaging to all involved. It can come off as simple hypocrisy and manipulation instead of what it often is, a form of brokenness or desperation, or even a division of the personality based on an impossible truth and and an impossible lie.

It is within this vacuum that perverse incentives crop up for people to tie themselves publicly to a wholesomeness that they do not in fact follow. To further complicate it, they may true believers at the same time as leading these double lives, seeking out and believing in the goodness of such ways, suspicious of and disgusted by those who will not make such promises or who reject the construct as false all together. They may imagine if their badness is so large and hidden, how terrible must someone not willing to at least give it lip service be behaving. When their hollow claims of piety backfire or leak out in perverse ways, they double down, mostly to protect themselves, but also in an attempt to control the behavior of other people. The “I’m dirty, so I’ll tell you you need a shower” setup.

Being a virgin does not actually mean you’re sexually innocent or a nice person, but for a lot of people they are synonymous.

Being a virgin also does not mean you respect yourself or the bodies of others, as all the incel craziness puts into stark relief, but for a lot of people they still indicate that.

Inculcated in this tradition when they were still virgins – boys who had only thought about what they were going to go on to do – they already believed they had been doomed by thoughtcrimes and were ready to both seek and blame access to temptation before they had it.

They grew up having their sexuality entwined so deeply with hatefulness and shame, a virgin/whore complex so heavy in their own misdeeds, before they were even adults, that most could not help but offload it onto women more and more the older they got.

We are publicly told they are gentlemen who have our best interest in mind, but we know what men raised like this and permitted to maintain the facade do in private.

Whether it was conquest, personal growth, a sense of family, or a way to bond with other men, it was always about their needs and not ours. Women used by them in whatever way they see fit, chosen as a prop, scapegoated, and then either done away with or expected to forgive.

The only crime is to speak of it.

On some level they know they have done immense wrong and you can tell by the way they cannot stand eye to eye and simply say to a woman – any woman – “you are a person, deserving of respect.” The reason they can’t do it – have a visceral reaction to the very idea – is because it triggers a replay of all the times they treated women as less than people and with no respect.

They cannot bear the shame, the ignominy, the scarlet letter they carry within themselves, implanted and developed before they ever lost their virginity. So they hatefully give it to any women they can.