The HUD Love Club

The V word

By Mikayla and Siobhan

Along with gender, government, and social class, virginity is another construct that stubbornly persists despite advancements in thinking and women's rights. An episode of our Good Girls podcast explores the history of virginity, from ancient times to modern viewpoints, and concludes that you don't owe anybody your virginity - it's not even real. Read that again: It's. Not. Even. Real.

Why is virginity such a big deal, anyway?

Skipping over a whole lot of history and cultural context, we're still living in a society that could be described as "purity culture". Abstinence-only sex education, women's reproductive rights being eroded to the point of nonexistence in certain states and countries, and the continued vilification of women's sexuality (at the same time men's sexuality is celebrated) - all these things just serve to perpetuate wildly outdated beliefs and practices.

We've come so far in empowering women to have a healthy relationship with their bodies and their sexuality, yet we still look down on women for having sexual experience - virginity is something for boys to be ashamed of and girls to be proud of. Conversely, not being a virgin is something for girls to be ashamed of and boys to be proud of. This unfair double standard sucks.

Virginity exists in two spaces

What actually IS virginity? What, from a biological standpoint, defines virginity? Setting aside religion/culture/society/etc, virginity is seen as something you "have" until you have sex or the first time. But there's also this idea that virginity also has something to do with penetrative, p-in-v sex. Biologically speaking, you might have learned that once someone has been inside you, or once you've been inside someone, you're no longer a virgin.

So does that mean gold-star lesbians are virgins forever? What about men who haven't, you know, had sex with women? Are they virgins forever, too?

Others believe that the breaking of the hymen - a thin piece of tissue that surrounds the vaginal opening - signifies "losing" virginity. But what about people whose hymen is no longer intact because they played sports, used tampons, went horseback riding, or did gymnastics? There are soooo many ways for the hymen to break without sex being involved.

There is no biological difference in anyone's body, no matter what genitals or reproductive organs you possess, when you are comparing someone who is a virgin and someone who isn't.

Virginity is about power and patriarchy

The emphasis we as a society are putting on the experience of having sex for the first time is whether something has been given or taken - making virginity about power and control, not about biology.

Historically virginity has been considered a "gift" that you give to someone specifically - a husband or wife - and then this shifts to something one "loses" or has "taken", which is a real letdown. Giving or losing one's virginity is built up as some kind of beautiful, spiritually-tinged connecting of humans, but in reality, it's often not. It might be uncomfortable, it might not be a big deal, it might be over with so fast you barely notice it, it might not be enjoyable, or it might occur in a way that you originally hoped for. In a modern context, it's unlikely that you're having sex with your husband/wife when it comes to your "first time".

We can say unequivocally that whether or not someone has been inside of you, or whether or not you've been inside of someone, is not a measurement of your worth. Your virginity or lack thereof has nothing to do with your inherent value.

Can we redefine virginity?

If we, as a society, are determined to keep the construct of virginity, we need to redefine it. We would like to suggest replacing the concept of virginity with something much more accessible and inclusive: Making one's sexual debut. This is a far more appropriate way to understand virginity - it doesn't matter what sex act took place or what parts were involved, and it has nothing to do with biology or specific actions being taken.

This idea of "losing" something, when it's actually about opening your world to new experiences, is powerfully repressive. Whatever side you're on, as long as you are at peace with the decisions you've made regarding your own sexuality, and you put your own needs above those of others, virginity isn't a defining characteristic of your life.

Why not wait?

Hear us out - we think it might be a good idea to make your sexual debut a bit later on in your life, when it's what you want to do and not what everyone is doing, when you understand what you want, and when you can make better choices about who you want to be intimate with.

Relationships matter so much when you're young, but it takes time and experience to develop perspective on your sexuality. It's so easy to get lost in those intense relationships of your teenage years, when you're going through that collection of firsts - first crush, first kiss - those moments are pivotal, but they often come at a time when you're still figuring things out.

Wait until you've lived and learned a bit. We'd rather you didn't just take the first option that's presented to you, but that you know the person you're with is nice, treats, you well, and cares about your comfort and pleasure. Not just the first fumble in a corner at a loud party - someone you're infatuated with but doesn't know how to treat you right.

The things you learn from your early sexual experiences are things that you carry with you. Stepping into a different form of adulthood - your sexual debut - can be a great thing, but not if it's centered in shame and purity, which are more likely to lead to negative perceptions and a lingering discomfort.

Have sex for yourself, not for someone else.

We repeat: Have sex for yourself, not for someone else. When you're ready. When you want to. Whatever "sex" means to you. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, your sexual debut can mean whatever you want it to mean. You do you!

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