Updated: Jun 15, 2022
One of my favourite things about being biracial is exposure to the beautiful aspects of both my parents' cultures (🇹🇴Tonga and🇯🇵 Japan). For context, my Japanese mum, being raised in Tokyo, was always relaxed and chilled, whereas my late Tongan dad was the more strict and Spartan parent. My siblings and I were all raised in Tonga, with a mix of both cultures around our house.
Despite our parent's best efforts, when you're a mixed kid, sometimes you feel kinda like you belong and kinda like you don't. Naturally, you'd have double the amount of questions about the two worlds you're being raised in. As an inquisitive kid, sometimes I'd get my questions answered, and sometimes I'd get a "shoo, go away", depending on who I asked 😂 Never stopped me from asking questions though.
Anyway, one question I've always had about Tongan culture though is the one-sided emphasis on virginity and chastity until marriage ONLY for women. Why?🤷♀️ Why is virginity so important in the Tongan context and why is it important only for women? That's what I'm asking in the poem below.
The first "big traditional Tongan wedding" I remember is my auntie's (dad's cousin) wedding when I was about 7 or 8. There was all the usual koloa,kava,mohenga and puaka, and then there was the hush-hush suspense/pride amongst the aunties & grannies about the traditional bedding ceremony. The traditional bedding ceremony involves parading the blood-stained sheet after the newlywed's first night, like "Yaaay, our girl was a virgin, yaay" I didn't get why it was a big deal at 8 years old. Now, almost 20 years later, and several Tongan weddings attended, I still don't get it. 🤷♀️
There are always questions when kids ask why, you can tell them "Go ask your mother". But my free-spirited Tokyoite mum doesn't give two flying fucks about virginity, much less in the Tongan context 😂 So I've had to ask my Tongan aunties and older cousins why Tongan brides proving their virginity is so important. I don't think anyone I've ever asked answered me, they'd just laugh and tell me this is how it's always been, and good Tongan girls don't need to ask why. 🤷♀️ I think not normalising discussing "taboo" topics like periods, sex and virginity play into the amount of shame, stigma and pressure girls feel, but that's another story for another day.
Back to the virgin-proof sheet thing: Wa s this concept introduced by the missionaries? Probably. Was this practice long existing before the missionaries? Probably not. Why has it become such an ingrained part of Tongan culture? I don't know.
I personally still can't wrap my head why it's important in the Tongan context, because if virginity truly was important, surely both parties would be equally invested? Like, if I ever have a daughter who is getting married and they (other people/other families) expect her, as a woman, to be a virgin, then their son sure as hell better be one too 😂😂😂. I don't have the time to be dealing with the double-standard energy.