Virgin births: not just for teen Jewish girls hanging out in Bethlehem barns anymore. According to research, almost 1% of American women claim that they, too were unpenetrated by the peen of a man when they became pregnant.
According to the findings of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and published under the title "Like A Virgin (Mother)," among the 7,870 women followed over the course of the multi-year study, 0.8% of them claimed that they became pregnant without having sex. This doesn't include women who became pregnant via in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination; these are women who gave birth the old fashioned way and were like *shrug! SERIOUSLY GUYS I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENED!"
But this research doesn't mean the US is teeming with proto-Jesuses just waiting for their palm parade to Jerusalem; it shows that self-reported studies often feature mucho lying and self-delusion, sometimes in the name of self-preservation. Getting pregnant without sex is virtually scientifically impossible, yet dozens of women in the study (who were teens when the research began) swear up and down that their babies happened sans man. This is the biological equivalent of claiming that your glass of drinking water spontaneously began boiling itself without the presence of heat. I mean, maybe it's Unsolved Mysteries-possible, but it's highly doubtful that 0.8% of all glasses of water boil themselves. Come on.
Of course, big fibs like "I was a virgin when I gave birth" don't just happen in a vacuum because girls lie (although an idiot might take that away from this study). Researchers found a depressing — albeit predictable— correlation between women who claimed they became pregnant without sex and women who had signed "chastity pledges." There was also a correlation between those who claimed they were virgins when they gave birth and those whose parents never talked to them about sex or didn't know how to use condoms.
The "virgin moms" with little or no knowledge of what sex is or what sex does were also likely to replicate the process with their own magical children. From the Globe & Mail,
The 45 self-described virgins who reported having become pregnant and the 36 who gave birth were also more likely than nonvirgins to say their parents never or rarely talked to them about sex and birth control. About 28 per cent of the "virgin" mothers' parents (who were also interviewed) indicated they didn't have enough knowledge to discuss sex and contraception with their daughters, compared to 5 per cent of the parents of girls who became pregnant and said they had had intercourse.
And there's a darker element that this study may have overlooked as well — sexual abuse. The average age that the women who claimed to be virgins gave birth was 19.3, as opposed to over 21 for non-self-proclaimed virgins; younger people — men or women — are less economically independent than older people and may rely on preserving the illusion of their "purity" to appease parents. There's also a possibility that victims of sexual abuse don't consider their abuse "sex," and thus consider their virginity "intact." Victims of abuse may be interested in protecting their abusers, especially if their abusers are older and more powerful.
No matter what the root cause for the surprisingly widespread phenomenon of claiming "virgin birth," we can take away two important lessons: first, that universal, comprehensive sex education is, and always will be, incredibly necessary in the interest of both public health and private happiness, and second: we need to can it with the virginity fetishizing.