Now, I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should be out having wild (heterosexual) sex. I totally respect any individual’s personal choice to abstain from any sexual act(s) for so long as they want- until they are “this” age, until they are in “that” kind of relationship, because they don’t feel like dealing with sex at this point in their life, or ever. What I’m suggesting is that we, as a society, ditch the social construct that is “virginity.” Here are just a few reasons why:
- “Virgin” is not a medical status and term. In fact, the traditional marker of female virginity, known as the hymen, doesn’t even exist as most people understand it.
- The expectations and mythology surrounding female virginity creates an often dangerous situation for women all around the world. Despite the fact that many “virgins” do not bleed their first time, severe consequences may face the woman who doesn’t bleed on her wedding night. (See the fake hymen)
- It is a heteronormative concept. What does virginity mean to a queer person, who may never have vaginal intercourse in her/his/hir life? What of a lesbian who chooses to never engage in any sort of penetrative sex act her entire life, does she remain some sort of super, extra virgin? If a straight man receives a blowjob, he will in all likelihood still consider himself a virgin, but a gay man receiving a blowjob may have a more complicated understanding of what it means for his sex life. In many ways, our conception of “virginity” erases or invalidates queer sex.
- When we place vaginal intercourse at a higher “value” than all other sex acts and define “virginity” in such a narrow way, it can create a seriously unhealthy predicament, especially for teens who have the misfortune of enduring “abstinence only” sex education. Most of us have probably heard about teenagers engaging in anal and oral sex, while maintaining that they preserve their “virginity.” It has been found that without a clear, healthy understanding of what is safe sex, 10% of these “abstainers” have an STD.
- Our obsession with virginity thrives on double standard and reflects a model of sex-as-commodity. Women are valued for their “purity” and their sexuality. In many ways, women are simply equated with sex and can be, at the tamest, shamed when they are not doing this sexuality right- for example, by having sex when they shouldn’t be. On the other hand, men’s sexuality often does not get the same amount of policing in this area- male “virgins” are not valued in the same way female “virgins” are (in fact, men may feel pressure to be having a lot of sex). The idea is perpetuated that sex is something that women “have” and men “take” from them- check out the issues of heteronormativity, gender roles, hierarchy, and rape culture in that one! By implication, women only have so much sex to give out before they are “used up,” “dirty,” or “broken.” Why shouldn’t we see sex as a collaborative, mutual experience, and value those with experience instead? (Check out Yes Means Yes! for a great article on this by Thomas Macaulay Millar)
- Sex is treated and understood as something that is dirty and defiling, rather than the beautiful, healthy, and enjoyable experience that it should be.
Instead of a broken and outdated system of regulation, we should replace it with frank, open discourse and education revolving around healthy sex and relationships.