Is ‘virginity’ outdated – or even obsolete?
We need a workable alternative to discuss
our early sexual experiences.
Losing your virginity is one of the few aspects of sex
not often talked about. It’s important to break this taboo
When she decided the moment had come to lose her
virginity, everything seemed to fall into place.
A good-looking French boy – a whole year older than
her and so sophisticated he was holidaying alone.
“I was enthralled,” she says, “like a moth to a flame.
I figured out pretty quickly this was my big opportunity
to lose my virginity.”
The pair planned it carefully and on the last night
of the holiday he took her up into the hills where
they found just the right spot by a swimming pool
overlooking the sea.
In the event, her French Adonis turned out to be a letdown.
It was mechanical, boring and uncomfortable.
“My absolute first thought was: Oh, this feels like three
Tampax instead of one. “Nothing more.”
Even so, when it was over, as it was in a flash,
she skipped back down the hillside feeling euphoric.
“Losing my virginity was absolutely
top of my list of things to do,”
Is This Your First Time?
Like a Virgin
How do you define a virgin? I have never had any
sexual intercourse. However, my boyfriend and I
often have “intimate actions” and oral sex.
Am I still a virgin?
It is an interesting question: what
does it mean to lose your virginity?
Why Do We Prize Virginity?
Most dictionaries define a virgin as “a person who has not had sexual intercourse,” with sexual intercourse being defined as “sexual union especially involving penetration of the vagina by the penis.”
In the strictest, most literal term, you are thus a virgin until you’ve had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. But this definition leaves a lot of people out of the loop. For example, does this mean that gays and lesbians are eternal virgins?
Or that someone who is highly sexual but stops at intercourse is a virgin? In theory, under this very traditional definition of virginity, sex and sexual intercourse are separated — an interesting notion, to say the least.
Outside the context of the dictionary, people seem to have many different ways of defining “virgin.” To some, a virgin is someone who hasn’t had sexual intercourse (penis-to-vagina).
To others, a virgin is a person who has not engaged in any intimate acts, including deep kissing, genital touching, or oral, vaginal and anal sex.
Still others may allow certain intimacies, like kissing and touching below the belt, while excluding other sex acts.
Some people believe they are a virgin until they have sex with someone of the opposite sex, while many believe that people who exclusively have same-sex partners can and do lose their virginity.
Finally, some believe that mutual consent must occur and that people who have been sexually assaulted — but have not had consensual sex — are still virgins.
Why the variation? Definitions of virginity are often deeply personal and stem from religious, cultural, historical and family influences that emphasize different values.
Some people want to remain a virgin for religious or cultural reasons, some relate the concept of purity to being a virgin, and others simply don’t want to have sexual intercourse at this point in their lives.
It’s normal to question whether you are still a virgin, and if so, whether or how long you wish to remain a virgin. It’s also normal, if not especially easy, to come up with your own definition of what “virgin” means to you.
You might start by asking yourself these questions: What does “losing your virginity” mean to you? Is it a state of mind or a specific act? Is it something that can be taken from you, or does it only count if you willingly participate?
How do you define “sex” and when does “having sex” begin? How would you define losing your virginity if you were/are homosexual? Is sexual intercourse the only act of sex?
Or does sex also include oral and anal sex or mutual masturbation? Is your virginity a matter of technicality and terminology to you or is your virginity connected to a deeper spiritual component of your self?
How do you see yourself as a sexual being, and what does this mean to your virginity? How do you blend your notion of yourself as a sexual being with the values and expectations placed on you by society, culture, religion and family?
Like so many of life’s gray areas, only you can determine if you’re “still a virgin.” Take the time to reflect on how you see yourself and what you really want for yourself in the realm of your sexuality and relationships.
Ultimately, defining such a seemingly simple word could lead to a rich process of self-discovery, growth and clarity. Enjoy the journey!
Abandon This Medieval Attitude
Too many religious communities, the one in which I grew up included, prize pre-marital virginity. To “lose your virginity” before your wedding day is to relegate yourself to the margins of the congregation–shame and self-loathing your near-constant companions.
To get pregnant, unmarried, causes corporate mourning. To have gay sex–no matter the relational configuration–is out of the question. Like some sick, Pavlovian ploy, the erotic is almost immediately tied to guilt.
To be fair, while non-religious persons, in my experience, tend to be more sexually liberated, I have heard them speak with equal fervor about the value of virginity, heard them explain that people–more specifically, women–who retain their “v-cards” somehow have more sexual currency. This is the same psychosis, differently clothed.
In our cultural obsession with virginity and our privileging of marriage, we have done nothing but wed sex to guilt and loss–the very things that prevent sex from being good.
Enough studies have been done to show that religious affiliation has a relatively negligible effect on people’s sexual behavior.
The question, then, isn’t whether or not people are going to have non-marital sex: it’s how they’re going to feel about having it.