Insecure star Yvonne Orji is making headlines again for her candidness about still being a virgin at age 39. Despite her appearance on Chelsea Handler’s Dear Chelsea podcast taking place back in September, the clip is only now going viral after social media users began sharing it widely in recent days. Maria touched on it here.
Unfortunately, the clip made its way into the wrong hands and became a subject of conversation on the Nightcap with Unc and Ocho podcast, which features Shannon Sharpe and Chad Ochocinco. And nothing sours an honest conversation between women quite like the input of some sports bros.
During a podcast episode this week, Chad suggested Shannon needed a woman like Yvonne. He touted her Christian lifestyle and virginity, saying that she’d be “perfect” for Shannon, to which he responded, “I need a sinner,” going on to name an OnlyFans star that was more his speed.
Sure, it was all tongue in cheek and was meant to be the kicker on a mostly-sports podcast. But just as I wrote about Tyler Perry yesterday, here Black men go speaking on and centering themselves in things that really aren’t about them.
Since revealing the fact that she is a virgin back in 2017, Yvonne’s been vocal about her vow to remain one until marriage. She’s previously revealed that she’s open about it, receptive to people’s curiosity and that her decision is a symbol of how grounded in herself she is.
“Before any of the fame happened, I sat down with myself and with God and thought, when I make it, how do you want me to represent you while I’m here?...It was like, OK, I know why I’m here. It’s to make you proud,” she told PEOPLE in 2017.
“People ask about it because they’re curious, or they may not understand,” she continued. “How will they ever get to understand if I don’t talk about it? I can inform your curiosity, as opposed to everyone being in the dark and just sort of creating their own narrative about it.”
While I’m no virgin myself (and haven’t been, for like, years), I absolutely adore this for a plethora of reasons. The first is because she’s owning her choice and educating others about abstinence, the second is because it’s such a departure from the oversexualization of Black women in our society, and lastly, it is a much-needed reminder that Black women, particularly as it pertains to the decisions we make about sex, are not a monolith.
At 31 years old, I’m both totally okay, but also saddened to admit that I was way too young to have lost my virginity when I did. I’ve made videos about this on TikTok and took great comfort, but still sadness, in the fact that I am not the only one woman to find herself in this boat.
I was on the cusp of entering high school before having sex for the first time. As I said, young. And up until sharing those videos on TikTok, I always viewed my experience as consensual, and I still do. But when I shared my experience and people started to suggest that it was actually coercion, I’ve had to reconsider. I never look back on the loss of my virginity and feel like I didn’t have any agency or choice, but I do feel like I was impressionable and more afraid of being dumped than exercising my own sexual agency.
There are so many things I wish I could say to my younger self. “You don’t have to do this,” “He’s a piece of crap,” and, “You’re gonna run into this guy in 15 years and he’s going to have patches on his head and be an extreme conspiracy theorist,” (true story) being some of them.
So when I hear stories like Yvonne’s, it makes me lament how much autonomy I had, even if I didn’t realize it then, and it makes me wonder what, if anything, I would’ve done with it. Maybe I would’ve made the decision to do it anyway. But perhaps I just needed to be presented with an alternative. Back then, it felt like it was only a matter of when I would lose my virginity. If I had seen an older woman, the iconic Yvonne Orji at that, modelling something different, that could’ve been a game changer in my decision-making process.
That’s why I’m so glad to hear her speak so candidly about her virginity. Because there are probably tons of girls like younger me in very unserious relationships with crappy, future balding conspiracy theorists pushing them to have sex, that could benefit from hearing about it.
Growing into your womanhood is tricky because you’re constantly being fed messages that conflict with each other. If you’re a virgin, you’re a loser. But if you have sex you’re a slut. Men lust after women with big breasts but if our shirts show off our cleavage, we’re looking for attention. It’s an impossible thing to navigate, and the fear of having these conversations with people we trust does nothing to help us cut through the noise.
Just as I sat down to write this, I randomly ended up on the OWN network watching a show called Speak Sis. On a panel sat journalist Adrienne Bankert, actress, model and Real Housewives star Garcelle Beauvais, and a few others. The conversation was about Black women’s relationships with sex. It was an open forum in which women from the audience raised their hand to share their anecdotes, with some sharing their past and current experiences. When the topic of virginity came up, one woman became emotional and was called on to speak.
Despite not saying it flat out, the message she was conveying was that she had been molested at some point in her childhood or adolescence and when she tried to tell her family, they didn’t believe her and blamed her for being a “fast girl”. This is why there is that fear of speaking to people you trust about sex.
In the Black community – and perhaps others – a “fast girl” is a term that refers to girls who are wise for their age, or have matured faster in a physical sense than others. Unfortunately, with Black women being so hypersexualized in our society, it’s a very easy stereotype to fall into. And with the physical features of Black women often meaning that we develop wider hips and bigger butts than some other races, the implication is that we are older or more mature than we are in reality, leading us to be treated as adult women, when in reality, we’re still just kids, trying to figure it all out.
It’s important to be mindful of just how closely traditional Black homes are tied to the church, which emphasizes the importance of saving yourself for marriage. Even the sports bros make that connection, with Chad emphasizing to Shannon that Yvonne is a “God-fearing woman”, saying that’s what he needs. Yvonne, too, links her virginity directly to her Christian faith.
But I know tons of Black Christian women that have had sex before marriage. I know tons of Black women that aren’t Christian, or religious at all. Some have had sex, some haven’t. We are not a monolith. And we are not f---ing cars! When Chad asked Shannon whether he had the patience for a woman that’s “pure”, Shannon responded:
"I've never test-driven a car that I've bought," Sharpe said. "I see the car, I want that car, I pick it up."
Throughout history, virginity has been treated as some telltale sign of our devotion to God and our husbands, even though over time, women have done away with all of those implications and started treating it like what it is – an experience that you either can or can’t have, and one that you can stop having after you’ve started it if you so desire. We are exercising the agency that we haven’t always felt like we had. But conversations like this, particularly when they happen among men with not one woman at the table to challenge these ideas with actual anecdotes, are projecting an entirely different meaning of sex onto us. They’re the ones not keeping up, and it shows in the bedroom.
Last year, the sexual wellness industry was valued at over $34 billion. Within the next 10 years, that number is expected to balloon to $76 billion. Much of the pull of this industry is that men and women can obtain similar (or even higher) levels of pleasure without the worry of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. And to be quite frank, the innovation of these companies and these self-pleasure devices have…well, you get the point.
There are no words to quantify just how much a rather traumatic first sexual encounter can complicate your relationships with the rest of the people you have sex with. Even worse, though, it can complicate your relationship with sex in general.
So many of the women on Speak Sis were candid about just how long it took them to view sex as an enjoyable experience in which their pleasure was the intended outcome. So when two men hop on a podcast and centre themselves in the conversation about a woman’s decision to have or not to have sex, it erases the woman in the equation completely.
Yesterday, I wrote about how much Black women are leaning into their soft girl era. We want luxury and enriching experiences and we’re doing away with struggle. And that absolutely pertains to sex. We’re exercising our bodily autonomy, we are having different sexual experiences to figure out what we like and what we don’t, and in the case of Yvonne, we’re not having sex at all. More than ever, we are realizing, in the words of the famous (and newly single) Lori Harvey, that we really are the prize.