Have you ever asked someone if they’re a virgin?
I have, and in hindsight, I have a really hard time justifying why. Why did I feel the need to know if someone identified as a “virgin”? Why was this essential information necessary to help carry me forward in my daily life? Why did I care?
The short answer is that I didn’t. The long answer is that I didn’t know I didn’t care. I thought I cared. I thought the notion of virginity was legitimate and important and a great indicator of someone’s sexual experience (because you should definitely inquire about that)!
Different people have differing opinions around virginity, whether being a virgin is a good thing or a bad thing, a respectable thing or an immoral thing, a choice or a responsibility. The majority of people have some sort of opinion about virginity even if that opinion is “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
The notion of virginity is often talked about in social circles, most of the time in extremely problematic ways. Even the people that “don’t care” are contributing to the larger problem that the notion of virginity has created with their indifference.
Virginity is an outdated concept rooted in myths and sexism and heteronormativity. It has perpetuated a culture of inequality and exclusivity that we’re trying to leave behind.
Somewhere along the way, virginity became a concept used to shame girls for their sexual lives. It implied that having sex was a life-changing experience, a loss of innocence and purity. The concept has contributed to centuries of oppression against women and has been used to justify innumerable instances of violence. It has perpetuated the idea that women’s bodies aren’t their own and has been used to constantly police them.
It’s essential to address the main myth associated with virginity for people assigned female at birth. Unfortunately for the famous euphemism, there ain’t no cherry to pop. Vaginal penetration doesn’t fully tear the hymen as this deceptive phrase would lead you to believe. Yes, you’ve been deceived your whole life, but that’s okay. Take comfort in the fact that this isn’t the only thing our society has lied to you about. Hymens are as diverse as people – they come in different thicknesses and levels of elasticity, as well as different sizes of openings. Sometimes vaginal penetration just makes the opening a little bigger and sometimes it doesn’t. The idea that we can physically tell whether someone is a virgin by examining them physically is, therefore, anatomically inaccurate.
Anatomy aside though, as the concept of virginity was sustained by these false facts and a deeply engrained misogyny in a patriarchal society, it is now serving to sustain these outdates ideas even though our society’s moral progress is to a better place (for the most part). We’re becoming more accepting of queer communities – or, at the very least, we tolerate them – and we try to create spaces where people who have been oppressed feel safer.
Virginity is a concept that very blatantly promotes the very opposite of that. Discussions around queer sexuality have complicated our definitions of sex, exposing some undeniable flaws with our notion of virginity. Queer people might not have sex or even think of sex the way a heterosexual, gender-conforming couple does. A queer person might not identify a “virgin,” but in a heteronormative context, they would be. These invalidations of sexual experiences can be harmful and pose serious threats to our ultimate goal of universal inclusivity. It can be difficult for queer people to even know how to categorize themselves in the first place, creating unnecessary confusion around a concept with a history of oppression.
Virginity places too much importance on having or lacking a sexual life. It pushes some people to the outside and it oppresses others inside. It creates problematic links between virginity and masculinity, or virginity and gender inequity.
The notion of virginity promotes values of a society that our society no longer aims to resemble. It is clinging on to an oppressive past, to lack of sex positivity and education, and it’s about time we left it behind.