So. Virginity. What’s the Big Deal?
In this day-and-age of “friends with benefits”, legalized prostitution (in certain parts of the United States and the world), birth control, and STI-screening, one would expect virginity to be less of a ‘gold standard’ than it has been for so many years. Why does the V-word inspire such a hullabaloo?
First, a little background. In many cultures and religions, virginity is viewed as an essential quality in a bride. Pre-marital sex is frowned upon, and often prosecuted (sometimes even persecuted) in certain nations. In some cultures, infibulations (or the surgical sealing of the labia majora in order to close the vagina) is commonplace, carried out to preserve the virginity of women before their wedding night. In other parts of the world, young men and women (or anything in between or outside that binary) place great importance on “their first time” or can’t wait to “lose it”. The question is why? And is it worth it? Let’s explore some reasons people promote virginity – particularly for women.
1) Virginity in a bride ensures that she is free of STI’s and is not already pregnant. A remnant of the middle-ages, but still important in many cultures. Modern medicine (birth control, detection and treatment of disease) supersedes this.
2) Virginity shows that a woman plans on being faithful to her husband Really? Then why do countries that have pre-marital sex laws also have adultery laws? And who mandated that non-virgins can’t be faithful? If having sex before marriage makes me a nymphomaniac, does having a glass of wine before the legal age make me an alcoholic? Plus, why doesn’t this apply to men as well? Because IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO TEST FOR MALE VIRGINITY!
3) Virginity means that you’ve been “saving it” for that special someone. Only somewhat true. The hype about “saving it” only exists because of the big deal everyone makes about virginity. The problem is that people who expect their “first-time” to be the most wonderful experience of their lives (and a sign of their “true-love” for one another) often experience disappointment, either with the act itself, or with the person who later dumps or divorces them. Sure, waiting is great, but do people always wait till marriage for their first kiss? I’m not saying that sex is the same as kissing, but the build-up around it is blown-out of proportion.
4) Everyone’s doing it and it’s an adolescent rite of passage. Not true. There are many people out there who wait for sex for various reasons. No-one should feel pressured to have sex just to say that they’ve done it. Sex is about YOU and YOUR partner, not the people around you.
Oh, and there’s a detail that many overlook: even for a woman (or anyone with a vagina), you can never detect virginity conclusively. Most “tests” check for the intactness of the hymen, but many women break their hymen because it’s naturally thin, or through sport and vigorous activity.
This of course, brings us to the question: what constitutes virginity? Does oral sex count? Recall the famous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” Is it only intercourse that matters? An ’09 friend of mine shared with me a story about how friends of hers in school partook exclusively in anal sex because it preserved their “virginity”. Were they justified? How can virginity be so sacred if we can’t even decide what it is?
What I’m trying to convey is simply that virginity itself isn’t that big a deal. It’s not good or bad. If you want to lose it, good for you: you have every right to enjoy sex! If you want to save it, that’s great: waiting till you have a deep emotional connection with someone can be a fulfilling first experience! And if you make decisions about your virginity based on religious or spiritual beliefs, that’s fine too! Just make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And don’t judge others based on the status of their cherry.