“I just don’t believe in [premarital sex]. I want to wait until I’m married to have sex. It’s just a gift I want to give my husband,” said Jones, who is hoping to nab a medal at the London Olympics in July. “But please understand this journey has been hard. There’s virgins out there and I want to let them know that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Jones’ confession came during a line of questioning about why the hurdling star, impossibly pretty, is single. Notably, it’s a question hardly ever asked of male subjects, and it says a lot about our culture that an accomplished athlete — Jones won a silver medal in 2008 — would even feel like she had to justify a choice like this on a show about sports.
TMZ — because you know you’re a big story if you hit TMZ — weighed in by teasing Jones for being a Goody Two-shoes and hinted that she may be dishonest about her sex life. A fan on Twitter wrote to Jones that TMZ had made her seem like a “lying, lonely virgin dork.”
One of the more baffling responses to Jones’ virginity was criticism that she shouldn’t have spoken about how hard it is to maintain… as if NOT having sex in a society super-saturated with messages to have it is somehow easy.
“Griping that it’s so unbelievably difficult to hold off on sex takes away from the message she seems to be trying to send,” wrote a blogger for Jane Dough. “Complaints… won’t inspire others to stay chaste until their wedding night.“
I didn’t get the impression that telling others how to live was the point of Jones’ admission. It was more like, “This is how I’m living.” Jones’ response to the question about her single-ness (because, you know, it’s like a disease that must be diagnosed before it spreads) seemed like a rambling answer when she was caught off-guard. I don’t know one unattached woman who has a good answer for some version of “Why are you single?” no matter how many times she might have been (rudely and invasively) asked.
Like Jones, many astute bloggers picked up that there is no “right” way for a single woman to address her sex life, or lack thereof. In a very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, it seems that celeb women empowered by their sexuality are called vicious names (to police their sexuality and that of others), or they get labeled “prude,” “frigid” or “lesbian,” all labels that have been hurled at Jones since her Real Sports segment aired. Perhaps even worse for women who choose not to have sex, they become defined by their virginity, a private matter that becomes — and stays — a topic of interest until it is lost.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.