Where Do You Stand on the Value of Virginity?
Originally Published: July 7, 2016
Revised: November 3, 2016
Like a pimple on your face right before picture day, the myth that virginity just involves girls and hymens won’t go away. (The hymen is a thin layer of tissue that covers part of the opening to the vagina.) Because this myth is so pervasive, it wasn’t until after middle school that I finally figured out that I wasn’t ever going to go near a hymen, unless I pursued a career in gynecology (you know, because I’m super gay). I realized that the way a good deal of society frames virginity doesn’t really make sense. Focusing on having an intact hymen as a sign of virginity means lots of stigma is placed on girls who may not have a hymen or who tore their hymen in some non-sexual way. And of course, this whole charade where guys have to break hymens neglects the non-hetero population; the last time I checked, guys don’t have hymens for other guys to break. That’s how my definition of virginity changed. I now believe that having anal sex equates to losing my virginity.
But that’s just me. And that’s the point: virginity isn’t as simple as we assume it to be. There isn’t one set of standards for what virginity is, and in turn, each individual’s perception of how important it is influences their feelings about sex.
Your first sexual partner doesn’t have to be the person you end up marrying, and your first time doesn’t have to be a fairy tale
No Big Deal
Lily*, 18, from Ambler, PA, sees through the “hymen requirement” for what it is –not the defining feature of virginity. “I believe virginity to be much more of a social construct than something tangible—for instance, I either a) never had a hymen or b) ruptured it in a non-sexual experience.”
Lily doesn’t identify as a virgin and says her conservative upbringing actually encouraged her to explore sex more. “As I developed and began to feel more and more restricted, my curiosity took hold, and I ventured onto the Internet,” she explains. After exploring what sex was through everything from sexuality education forums to pornography, she lost her virginity and experienced no regrets, realizing in the process that the first time doesn’t have to be perfect.
“Making mistakes, laughing with your partner, learning what works and what doesn’t, what hurts and what feels good, it’s all a part of the process, and I think expecting a ‘perfect first time’ sucks the fun out of being new to sex.”
By Lily’s own admission, losing her virginity wasn’t a big deal. And what if virginity isn’t this valuable thing you are trying to save for The One? Max, 17, from Plymouth, MN, says, “If I wanna have sex with someone because I feel a connection, even if I don’t think they are The One, I probably would.”
We’re all familiar with the idea of losing our virginities to “The One”—the perfect person who you will love forever and be with until you die, I suppose. But here’s the thing. Your first sexual partner doesn’t have to be the person you end up marrying, and your first time doesn’t have to be a fairy tale. As long as you’re sure of the decision you’re about to make, you do you. (Or someone else. You get it.)
On the other side of the spectrum is Julia*, 18, from Bayside, NY, who stands by the value she places on her virginity.
“I love the idea of being able to give something so special to someone I really trust as a way of finally being able to open up completely,” she says. “I want it to be special, not in the way it’s carried out, but because it’s going to be with someone I hold in high esteem and that I trust wholeheartedly.”
You Do You
The idea that virginity has a value differs depending on who you ask. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sexually active or a virgin; own it! If you’re a grand romantic who will only give it up for someone he really, really loves, then that’s fine. Likewise, if you’re not a virgin, then that’s just as OK.
The view that virginity is linked to moral character isn’t and shouldn’t be a thing. Hayley, 18, from Wilkes-Barre, PA, puts it best. “Being a virgin is neither good nor bad; it just is. It should hold no weight in your perception of yourself or others. Always, always be comfortable with who you are with and what you are doing.”
And of course, this goes without saying: whatever you decide to do, be safe about it.
* These names are pseudonyms.
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