I have a feeling this will be one of those posts that ends up raising more issues than it addresses. I’m also writing this from my own perspective and i understand that does put a female slant on the subject.
Firstly, what is virginity? The dictionary definition is someone who has had sexual intercourse. I know from asking around that raises a few issues itself. I just want to clarify this isn’t anywhere close to being a scientific study and the people I asked are people I know in real life and not part of a sex positive community as I’m sure they would say something very different. Most people I asked said they thought it implied when you’ve had penis in vagina sex you have then lost your virginity. Just that one small assumption then raises so many other issues.
The most obvious problem with that statement is how heteronormative it is. Not everybody with a vagina wants a penis near it and likewise not everyone with a penis wants it to go anywhere near a vagina. We are living in a world that, thankfully, is a lot more accepting of ‘non-traditional’ relationships and gender fluidity. Sadly that hasn’t quite come into our everyday language and thinking so it appears we automatically revert back to those stereotypes.
Another huge problem is that sex covers a wide range of activities but genital penetration is only a small proportion of those activities. The most obvious is oral sex, which even has the word sex in its name, yet that doesn’t seem to be covered. If we’re looking at the penetration aspect then does penetration by either fingers or dildos or penetrating an object count? Is mutual masturbation not classed as a sexual act? Now I understand that any of those can also be done solo and the loss of virginity is something that appears to be something that requires a partner. Yet surely losing your virginity is actually the moment in time where you discover you are a sexual being and that, for most, means self discovery through masturbation.
One of the key aspects of virginity, across many cultures, appears to be the concept that a non-sexual person is somehow pure. Historically that has applied to both male and females but now that will mainly refer to females, it seems not to matter if men adhere to these cultural rules. There are instances out there where females are required to prove this purity. In many of these cases this means checking to see if their hymen, a thin membrane covering the vaginal entrance, is intact. However, this is massively flawed, they can be broken with even light physical activity so masturbation and the use of tampons is very likely to render that check invalid. After all the medical checks themselves can break them and quite often there is no pain or blood to give any indications that’s even if you had one in the first place.
As a society we put a huge price on the value of virginity and emphasise how special it is, to only give it away to that one special person. I believe that there are a great many men out there who also appreciate the value women place on this but I also believe placing it on a pedestal only increases the chances of feeling regret if it doesn’t live up to expectation.
I’ve been guilty all the way through this of using the term losing. It is not something that can be lost, i believe it is about gaining new experiences. Sadly it can also be taken away from us in the form of sexual assault. Not only does that leave people dealing with the often traumatic aftermath of an assault it also leaves people with the shame of no longer having the choice of who to give their often highly valued virginity too and in some cultures this can go as far as bringing shame on their families and communities too.
However far we have got as a society we seem to still judge women on when they lost their virginity. Some people encourage abstinence until marriage but whilst men are congratulated for being sexual early on, with women it is still frowned upon. Time and time again we still hear the terms tarnished and slut being used to describe sexually active women. As much as women are pressured into remaining ‘pure’ I believe men also feel the pressure not to remain virgins and appear to be the more experienced partner although that pressure is more likely to come from peers than society as a whole.
Virginity, in my view, is purely a social construct used to shame people because they have become impure when in reality it is nothing more than discovering another part of our identity.