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Why I’m No Longer Subscribing To The Notion of ‘Virginity’

Why I’m No Longer Subscribing To The Notion of ‘Virginity’

Jessie Bennett

Virgin. There’s a lot of weight in those 6 letters.

Whether stemming from social, historical, cultural, religious or personal connotations, everyone has a relationship with the notion of ‘virginity’, and I for one, have decided to end that relationship. Not in the sense that I’m not what is deemed a ‘virgin’, and therefore the concept no longer applies, but rather that I find the term and the meaning to be extremely archaic.

Virginity isn’t something that disappears once you’ve had sex for the first time. It follows you around for years after the initial act. You could have had sex thousands of times, with multiple partners, but people only really seem to care about the first time. The ‘losing of virginity’. “How old were you when you lost your virginity?” “Where’d you lose your virginity?” “You’re a virgin?!” “You’re not a Virgin?!” We’ve more than likely all been asked these questions, or will be at some stage, the last ones often with shock and slight disdain. Leading to the idea that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t…. Which is part of my problem with the notion.

Why I no longer use, or believe in, the term virginity

The Double Standards are real…

Double standards exist in most areas of life. When it comes to sex, they’re extreme. A girl’s virginity is much more ‘precious’ than a boys. Sex education (in its current primitive form) often pressures girls into celibacy with language deemed to shame and shun them. Whilst the constant threat of unwanted pregnancy lingers in the classroom, it’s implied that girls who have sex will be seen as ‘sluts’, ‘loose’, ‘undesired by men’, ‘damaged goods’, the phrases are endless. I received my sex education (lol) in the mid noughties and this is the exact impression I got, and in 2022, not much has changed…

I also remember being waved off to teen discos being told to keep a coin between my legs by friends’ parents, whilst some boys were given condoms “just in case.”

It’s Archaic…

The idea that women and girls must protect their virginity at all costs whilst men are encouraged to “sow their wild oats” before settling down is mind-boggling, and extremely old-fashioned. If you watched the most recent period drama to grace our screens, Bridgerton, you’ll have seen examples of this. On one hand we have Daphne, who is terrified to be caught in a garden with a man for fear people would call her virginity into question. This could possibly not only ruin her prospects for a ‘good marriage’ but her entire family.

Simon on the other hand is deemed a ‘rake’, aka a f**k boy. He’s had plenty of sex, and isn’t shamed for doing so. Why? He’s a man. You also have Anthony Bridgerton, who is having sex with an actress. Whilst it’s perfectly ok for Anthony to have as much sex as he possibly can with this woman, she’s not marriage material. Why? She’s not a virgin, duh… *insert rolling eyes emoji*

It’s Not A Sex Positive Term

These days, most people don’t wait for marriage to have sex for the first time, and often have multiple sexual partners. We talk about sex, masterbation, and all in all strive to have a sex positive attitude. Yet the idea that a woman can’t have had more sexual partners than her male partner is still very much a part of our culture.

As another pop culture example we can take a look at Dawson from Dawson’s Creek. He rethought his whole relationship with Jen (who he had actively pursued for ages), when he found out she wasn’t a virgin. I mean, what…? Jen is then made to feel bad for having not waited to have sex with Dawson (whom I’ll point out, she’d never even met at the time of having sex for the first time). Appeasing the male ego shouldn’t be factored in when deciding to have sex for the first time, yet society teaches us that it should. This is by no means a sex positive ideal.

It’s Hetereonormative

‘Virginity’ by definition means “the state of never having had sexual intercourse.”

‘Sexual intercourse’ is defined as “Sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, especially the insertion of a man’s erect penis into a woman’s vagina, typically culminating in orgasm and the ejaculation of semen.” Therefore, members of the LGBTQ+ community who engage in sexual activity have their experience of first-time-sex completely negated from the cultural narrative posed by the concept of ‘virginity.’

It’s Not Biological…

‘Virgin’ is not a recognised biological or medical term. There’s no way you can prove someone is or isn’t having sex. All those things you’ve heard about a hymen breaking? Forget it. This is not an indication of having had penetrative sex. ‘Virginity’ is a social construct that is used to oppress and shame women for being sexual beings.

We ‘Lose’ It

When someone has had sex for the first time, we call this ‘losing your virginity’ as if it’s a part of yourself you give away to one person, and they have it forever, locked in a box. I’ve already highlighted why it’s dangerous to commodify sex and virginity, but the idea of losing a bit of yourself is slightly terrifying when you think about it. It also creates a lot of pressure around deciding when and who to ‘lose’ it to. Which leads to my next point…

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It Creates A Lot of Unnecessary Pressure…

My own experience of sex for the first time was very underwhelming. Not because of the act itself, but because society had told me that it was such a HUGE deal. Was I going to feel different? More mature? Guilty? I didn’t feel any of these things, and spent a lot of time wondering if there was something wrong with me. The fault didn’t lie with me, it was all of this pressure our culture has created around sex.

You should never feel pressured into sex, that’s an obvious one. But unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. There can be a lot of pressure put on people to have sex, but also to not have sex. To shed your ‘virginity’ ASAP, but also hang on to it, because once it’s gone it’s gone. Whilst sex is a big deal to some, it’s not to others.

How you feel about sex is very personal, there shouldn’t be pressure on any side. But we have this term, ‘virgin’, that has very weighty connotations and consequences for some, and I can’t help but think that if we ditched the term it would lead to a much more sex-positive space in our society.

As I mentioned, your relationship with the notion of virginity is a personal one. Some believe heavily in the idea due to cultural and religious beliefs, I’m not trying to imply there’s anything wrong with this.

However, it is my belief that virginity is an outdated concept and only adds to sexual repression. I now use the term ‘sex for the first time’ it’s a bit of a mouth-full but the fact that you have to actually use the word ‘sex’ is a much more sex positive approach IMO.

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