Society obsesses over the concept of virginity. Young girls are inundated with the message that the determining factor in our “purity” and “cleanliness” is whether or not we have had sex yet. Placing so much importance on what is, in its essence, a social construct designed to perpetuate a culture of slut-shaming and rape culture is dangerous to young girls’ health and well-being.
The truth of the matter is, there is no medical or biological definition of virginity. There is no real definition of virginity. The dictionary says it is “the state of never having had sexual intercourse.” But the problem with that definition is that it doesn’t mean anything. Because “sexual intercourse” refers to penetrative sex. So what about all of the people who have plenty of sex that isn’t penetrative? Can they not lose their virginity? How “far” can you go until you’re engaging in sex? Does masturbation count? Oral? What about the use of sex toys? The truth is: Different people define sex differently. So this one definition we have of virginity doesn’t even work.
We’ve established that there can’t possibly be one true definition of “virginity.” So, why does such a concept still exist? It exists as part of a larger societal problem that stems from a desire for everyone to conform to heteronormative concepts. It diminishes the experiences of people who identify as LGBTQ* or other- clearly, women in relationships with other women have never had penetrative sex, so how could they ever lose their “virginity”? What about men who are in sexual relationships with other men? The concept of virginity erases their sexual experiences by continuing to perpetuate the idea that the only “real” sex must be penetrative sex.
Furthermore, the concept of virginity creates a society hell bent on slut shaming; or, more particularly, women shaming. Girls who keep their virginity until a certain age (perhaps until marriage) are seen as “pure” and “good”, whereas girls who lose their virginity earlier than society has deemed appropriate are seen as “dirty” or “slutty.” Why are we telling women that choosing to engage in healthy, consensual sexual relationships makes them dirty, when we tell men that doing the same thing makes them “cool” or “players”?
The concept of virginity serves another purpose: to add fuel to the fire that is rape culture. When we tell girls that they are “dirty” for having sex, we tell women who have been assaulted that the violence they have survived has marred them. Instead of helping them, society tells them that because a man felt entitled to their body, they are no longer “pure” or “good.” We wouldn’t tell a victim of gun violence that they are dirty or unclean for how someone chose to attack them; so why do say that to victims of sexual assault?
The broken concept of virginity is sexist, non-inclusive and contributes largely to slut-shaming in our society. By continuously telling women that their worth is determined by whether or not they have had sex, we reduce them to sexual objects instead of people. Virginity is a social construct that needs to be abolished if we are ever to achieve gender equality.