photo of Peggy Payne.

Peggy Payne is the author of three novels on the intersection of sex and spirituality: “Cobalt Blue,” “Sister India” and “Revelation.”courtesy Peggy Payne

(RNS) In her first televised interview in more than a decade, Monica Lewinsky (who needs no introduction) says she was “a virgin to humiliation” at the time she made highly explicit world news about her White House trysts with then-President Bill Clinton.

Lewinsky may have coined a new term here in this National Geographic documentary on the 1990s. (And if she’s trying to change the subject for which she is so unfortunately known, this was not a good choice of words.)

The word virgin, in addition to its usual meaning, uses sexual inexperience as a metaphor for a state of being unviolated, untainted, innocent, clean. That association is damaging. It suggests that sex is bad, that it’s always a violation. I think most can agree that this is not true.

The concept of virgin birth — which occurs in more than one religion — does not argue for sex being a bad idea, though it can easily be taken that way; such an event can instead simply show that the child’s father is divine. In addition, Catholic doctrine of Immaculate Conception does not mean that the birth came about by a “cleaner” method than the usual biological one; this is instead a belief in Mary as a person born without sin.

It’s important to recognize that sex is not necessarily the occasion for one’s loss of innocence. I’m convinced that that loss comes with first experience of a matter close to the heart going terribly and irrevocably wrong. That’s the shattering moment when childhood is over and wariness sets in.

Yes, sex can bring that about. But surely sex also leads to joy, at least as often. It seems to me inarguable that erotic passion (and the means of making babies) does not always sully or make unclean or take a destructive course.

Lewinsky seemed to me something of an innocent at the time the news broke, whatever her previous sexual experience had been; she was young, hopeful, reckless, unhesitating. After the Starr report spilled the intimate details of her sexual contact with Clinton, she was no longer an innocent.

I don’t believe this was caused by the sexual activity itself. Instead, it was because something close to her heart went terribly destructively permanently wrong and there was no place in the world to escape that fact.

I have sympathy for Monica Lewinsky and it’s not because I have a particularly tolerant nature. I can’t think of anyone but onetime presidential candidate John Edwards who has paid more for a sexual indiscretion. To wear a scarlet letter is nothing compared with what those two have lost through their dalliances. Lewinsky in particular suffered on a public stage what she described as “violation after violation.”

I don’t believe sex caused loss of innocence in her life; it was the repeated and detailed worldwide exposure of her most intimate life and the damage that these violations of personal privacy did. I’m not interested here in blaming those who wrote about her or those who read about her private life. I’d just like to argue that sex does not deserve the blame.

(Peggy Payne is the author of three novels on the intersection of sex and spirituality: “Cobalt Blue,” “Revelation” and “Sister India.” Her website is



  1. I haven’t seen the interview but I am not sure that you had to make your point contrasted with Monica Lewinsky’s statement. Your your point is well made but I like the phrase she used and it seems me to go hand in hand with what you’re saying.

  2. Thanks, Larry M. I didn’t intend to contrast with Lewinsky’s statement; I too feel her situation supports what I’m arguing here.

    My only criticism of her statement is that her choice of words brings sex again to mind in connection with her name. And I think she doesn’t want to be identified in only that way.

  3. Her marketing team advised her to use the word virginity. She needs to up her personal cash flow, so she’s jumping out there again hoping we remember her.

  4. @Peggy,

    “A virgin birth….can instead simply show that the child’s father is divine”

    Or more likely, it shows that the ignorant MALE authors of the Bible
    were mortally terrified of the female and her bloody birth canal.

    In fact, it is a constant vicious message of the Bible
    that women are worthless except as incubators of MALE children.


    2:22 Eve created from Adam’s rib.
    3:16 Eve cursed with painful childbirth and domination by husband.
    4:19 Man marries two wives.
    12:13-19 Abraham prostitutes wife.
    19:1-8 Rape virgin daughters instead of male angels.
    19:26 Lot’s wife turned into pillar of salt for disobeying god.
    19:30-38 Lot impregnates his two daughters while drunk.
    20:2-12 Abraham prostitutes wife – again.
    25:1-6 Keeping many concubines is OK.
    20:17 Wife as property.
    21:4 Wife and children belong to master.
    21:7-11 OK to sell daughters. Female slaves can be used for sex. Polygamy permitted. Unwanted female slaves can be set “free” without payment of money.
    22:18 Kill witches.

    12:1-8 Childbirth unclean, Women need to make atonement after childbirth.
    15:19-32 Menstruating women are unclean.
    20:10-16 Death penalty for homosexuality and various sexual transgressions.
    21:7 Priests must not marry prostitutes or divorcees.
    21:9 Burn daughters.
    21:13-14 Priest must marry virgin, not “used” woman.

    1:2 Census lists only men – women do not count.
    5:11-31 Fidelity test for women only.
    30:1-16 Woman’s vow invalid unless approved by her father or husband.
    31:17-18 Kill all except virgins. Keep virgins for yourselves.
    12 Miriam punished for rebuking Moses.

    20:14 Take women, livestock as plunder.
    22:13-21 Stone non-virgin bride.
    22:23-24 Stone rapist and rape victim.
    22:28 Rape victim must marry rapist; rape victim’s father compensated for depreciation of his property.
    25:11-12 Cut woman’s hand for touching foe’s penis.
    24:1-5 Man can “send” wife from HIS house. Man must not marry “used” woman.
    28:18 The FRUIT of your womb will be cursed – eclectic “pro-life” verse!

    5:30 Women are spoils of war.
    14:20 Samson gives wife to another man.
    16:1 Samson visits prostitute.
    CH 19 Concubine pack-raped and butchered.
    21:10-12 Slaughtered all inc. women and children. Saved virgins for wives.
    21:21 Abducted girls for wives.

    1 SAMUEL
    15:2-3 Attack Amalekites, kill men, women, children and livestock.
    22:19 Kill all inc. infants and livestock.
    21:4-5 Men avoid defilement with women.
    2 SAMUEL
    5:13 David took many wives and concubines.
    CH 13 Ammon rapes his own sister.
    16:21-22 Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines.
    6:20-23 Mischal punished with bareness.

    1 KINGS
    11:3 Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

    2 KINGS
    9:30-37 Brutal murder of Jezebel.

    15:13 Put to death unbelievers.
    11:21 Hoards of wives and concubines.

    CH 1-2 Queen Vashti dethroned for disobedience; setting “bad” example to all other women.

    51:5 Sinful since conception.
    127:3 Sons are heritage from god.
    137:9 Seizes infants and dashes them against rocks.

    CH 5 Beware of wicked women!
    CH 7 More of the above.
    6:24 As above.
    31:3 Do not waste strength on women.

    3:16-26 Lord punishes haughty women.
    4:4 Filthy women.
    13:16 Ravish wives, dash infants.
    19:16 Will be like women! (insult to Egyptians)

    9:6-7 Slaughter all including children.
    CH 16 Prostitutes, stoning, promiscuity…
    CH 23 Tale of two adulterous sisters – reads like the script of a pornographic film. I bet you weren’t told this story at Sunday school!

    13:16 Rip pregnant women, dash little ones. (Another “pro-life” verse!)

    3:4… wanton lust of a harlot… prostitution… witchcraft.
    3:5 I will lift your skirts over your face!
    3:13… Your troops are all women. (insult to Nineveh)

    5:32 Husband can divorce wife for adultery. Can wife divorce husband for the same?
    CH 25 Sexist tale of ten virgins.

    2:22 Mary must be purified after birth of Jesus.
    2:49 Jesus rebukes his mother.

    11:2-10… Woman created for man.
    14:34 Women must be silent in churches.

    5:22-24 Wives must submit to husbands in everything.

    3:18 Wives submit to husbands.
    3:22 Slaves must obey masters in everything.

    2:11-15 Woman must not have authority – she must be silent. Women can be saved with childbearing.
    5:9-10 Widows should be faithful to husband and must wash saints’ feet.

    1 PETER
    2:18 Slaves submit to masters, even masters who are harsh.
    3:1 Wives submit.
    3:5-6 Sarah calls husband master.

    CH 17 Destroy great prostitute.
    14:4…they did not DEFILE themselves with women but kept themselves pure

    There are too many to mention.
    Religion is first an assault on women and sex – as Hobby Lobby has proven.

    • “There are too many to mention.”

      Then why mention them at all?

      I do have a question: did you research this list on your own? And if not, why didn’t you attribute who did the work behind it? And if it were a woman who listed these, are we to assume Atheist Max is also an opportunist who assaults, or rather, steals from women for his own edification?

      • @Todd,

        “Why mention them at all?”

        Because Faith is over-rated in our society. In truth it is disgusting and it quickly reveals itself to be inhuman when subjected to any test of any kind.

        Religion is ignorant, revolting nonsense. And it leads to needless killing and suffering – especially for women.

        That is why.
        Some of us care about people. Perhaps you don’t.

      • If you advocate use of this despicable bible
        as anything other than cultural nonsense from antiquity which it is,
        You perpetuate such horrors as these:


        “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
        …LOT SAID, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:4-8)

        Ancient nonsense.
        Worthless in every way except as a disgusting bauble from antiquity.

      • Todd, Max didn’t have to do much research on the list of bible endorsed misogyny…he just READ the bible like I did! Maybe you should do the same. Unlike the majority of christians, almost all atheists I know have actually studied or read the entire bible (many became atheists as a result). You demanded Max to attribute who’s behind the work of that list. Well, Max kindly listed all applicable bible verses for your convenience. Now go read your damn ancient book…the list is self-evident. Good grief!

  5. If you indeed read the bible and this is all you studied and taught, being atheist is defiantly a joke. It takes halves and pieces of the bible to promote an idea that’s totally ignorant at this point. Lewinsky defiled a marriage along with CLINTON both were wrong morally and spiritually there was no rightness in it. She wasn’t naive because we all knew he was married. Now to the atheist isn’t it time you guys look at it our way CHRISTIANS. If GOD never existed than neither would CHRISTIANS but than for that matter neither would atheist. OUR BELIEF IN GOD AS THE ALPHA(beginning) meaning He is the founder of our walk and that same ALPHA is the beginning of your walk, he is the reason we study and the reason you study the reason we read the bible and the reason you read (past tense) just like read in both sentences it all means the same thing. It’s a win win for Christians lol. We’ll take it

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