Virginity is bullshit. The history of its significance is sexist, white supremacist, and its definition can’t even apply to everyone.
For starters, technically we define virginity as something that both men and women lose. But women are socialized to see their virginity as giving up a part of themselves that’s sacred. They don’t just lose this label that looms over them throughout those awkward, zity teen years (or beyond), they lose their inherent “innocence.”
If it’s done too early or before marriage, in the eyes of some, self-worth is lost, too. I’m pretty sure that the same bullshit significance isn’t placed on guys’ purity or lack thereof whenever they end up having sex. No, wait, I’m positive that the same bullshit significance isn’t placed on them. Sure, they can participate in this purity culture, but it’s always on the perimeter while girls are the stars of purity balls and creepy father daughter “I promise not to let a penis inside of me until he puts a ring on it” ceremonies.
As someone who hasn’t even had the talk with my parents, the thought of participating in an entire ceremony as a teenager that is entirely focused on my sex life gives me hives. But I digress.
After watching the documentary How To Lose Your Virginity by Therese Shechter I was even more convinced than ever before that virginity not only grapples with really fucked up, sexist, Madonna-whore dichotomy bullshit, but it also exists in such a ridiculously hetero, cis-gender context.
For example, when one thinks of losing your virginity, we’re usually thinking about it in the context of cis-gender man puts penis in cis-gender woman and that’s about it. Okay, cool, so what about people who don’t fit in that gender binary? What about lesbian women? What about gay dudes?
Is virginity simply about penetration of a sex organ, because I think that some lesbians who have never had a penis inside of them would absolutely argue that their virginity is certainly not in tact. If anal penetration is enough for two gay dudes to lose their v-cards, then why do some hetero kids go around doing it up the butt under the notion that it doesn’t count unless a penis is in the vagina? I’m not sure who it doesn’t count for—Jesus?—but it definitely leaves me with a lot more questions than answers.
I used to write for a teen girl website called Gurl.com, and I was constantly floored by the questions we got about virginity and their levels of pure neuroticism. I’ve had girls ask if they’re still a virgin after putting in a tampon, if they’re still a virgin after giving a guy a blowjob, if they’re still a virgin if their hymen is broken before doing it, etc.
These girls are in an absolute panic about virginity, a label we all end up subscribing to at some point of our lives. And then things get even more complicated because as much as there isn’t really a clear definition of virginity, I still feel comfortable telling these girls, “Uh, no, that tampon didn’t take your virginity.”
Defining virginity as the first time one experiences mutual sexual intimacy with another person is the easy route, but it’s not exactly an accurate one for everyone. As of now, I’ve put my mouth on a dude’s penis. I’m pretty sure that that was the first time I was incredibly sexually intimate with someone. But I still identify as a virgin.
For someone else, oral sex might have been their personal marker between the virgin world and the not-so-virgin world, so who am I to give definitive definitions about what is or isn’t virginity if I’m just basing it off of my super cis-gender hetero perspective?
If there’s one thing us humans hate it’s being unable to define or label something. Seriously, it drive us up the fucking wall. That’s why it’s so maddening to think about this concept—virginity—that seems so cut and dry until you poke at it a bit. It seems so clear until you ask, who is virginity really for? What does it really mean? Why is it such a precious commodity until some unknown point past 20-years-old when it becomes analogous to the mysterious leftovers in the back of the fridge that nobody wants to eat?
I’m not going to be a virgin forever, but my disdain and confusion over its meaning might just last that long.