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I’m so confused about virginity. Is there a real definition?

There really isn’t one definition of virginity, or at least not one that everyone agrees with.

Some people believe intercourse is when a penis goes inside a vagina and that this is the only way people lose their virginity. But this is a pretty limited definition, and it doesn’t include people who have sex with someone of the same sex; it also doesn’t include other sexual behaviors.

Some people think that if you have oral or anal sex, then you’ve lost your virginity. Still others believe that a “true” loss of virginity only happens when at least one person has an orgasm.

So, guess what? Defining “virginity” and giving it one label isn’t as important as other things, like making sure you feel good about any sexual activity you decide to do and making sure you’re protected from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or unplanned pregnancy.

The important thing is to stay true to yourself. That means taking your time to make decisions about sex that are best for you—not anyone else. Base these decisions on your own beliefs, values and feelings. If there are sexual things you don’t want to do until you’re older, or when you’re in a certain kind of relationship, or when you’re partnered with someone for life, those can help you determine how you define virginity.

Secondary Virginity

Sometimes after a person has sex, whether it’s vaginal, oral or anal, they decide that it was a bad decision and they don’t want to do it again. Some people refer to this decision not to have sex again as having “secondary virginity.” In other cases, a person—guy or girl—might have been raped or abused. Since they didn’t consent to that behavior, it doesn’t really count, and they consider themselves virgins until they make the choice to have sex with someone.

This works for a lot of people. And that’s good. But it’s also important to count any sexual experiences you’ve had (consenting or not) as part of your sexual history when you visit a health care provider. Your risk of exposure to STDs depends on whether you’ve had sex. If you have been exposed to STDs, then you need to protect yourself and any future partners from infection by getting tested.

Most clinics and hospitals offer free or low-cost STD testing and free information on sexual health. Find a clinic near you or locate a Planned Parenthood near you at 1-800-230-PLAN (7526).

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