As we step into our adolescence, we slowly get familiarised with our changing bodies and minds. With this change, it is now deemed necessary for us to be introduced to different aspects and ideas surrounding the circle of life. Out of which many ideas which are inherently rooted in misogynistic beliefs get instilled in us.
“Virginity” has been a buzzword throughout modern society. “Losing your virginity,” even more.
Social construct. An idea or a concept that solely exists based on the collective views cultivated by the society as opposed to existing naturally.
Virginity has always been a big deal and many cultures have always been obsessed with this narrative for a long time. The way the culture of virginity has been perceived is extremely damaging to the health of our sexualities, especially considering that technically, it is not even real.
Being a woman comes with many adversities. From being pushed with the norms of being the sole caretaker of their homes to being policed through and through on every action carried out by them; it really is not surprising when we start discussing *virginity*, we find that the narrative around it puts women in a tight box constricting their free will and action.
When we look at the definition of virginity, we find it intertwined with words like purity and innocence. This interrelation carries the gist that one’s purity lies in their genitals. This false concept of purity can be very detrimental to one’s self-image as well as healthy sex life. The idea of purity is used as a means to manipulate us into following social norms, especially gender norms. The idea that women lack sexuality is strongly reinforced by this concept.
Virginity has always been treated as a commodity that can be lost. So according to this, when a woman has sex, she loses her value. However, this construction does not just hurt women, it’s detrimental to men’s sexualities as well. Men are also widely embarrassed for remaining virgins, as the loss of their virginity is a sign of their masculinity and manhood. It’s a “rite of passage,” a special club one can only join by engaging in one of the most intimate human experiences.
The concept of virginity introduces us to “hymen”, a membrane surrounding the vaginal opening. Even though the narrative around virginity tries to introduce us to female anatomy, it fails massively to state that having an intact hymen before having sexual intercourse is not a universal thing. Many vagina owners do not have hymen and even if they do, the hymen can be broken through activities like cycling, swimming, horse riding. This establishment perpetuates the cycle of sexual shame for vagina owners. They are also commonly taught that there must be vaginal bleeding and pain when having sex for the first time, as it “shows” they were a virgin to the partner. This is a flagrant double standard as penis owners are not taught about such an idea of purity for them.
Similarly, looking at similar words for “taking virginity” like “popping the cherry”, “deflowering”; the whole concept of virginity lies in the idea of penetrative action with the penis in the vagina. Humans are a glorious variety of needs, wants, and preferences. The sole focus on penis-vagina action not only is heterocentric but also dismisses other sexual experiences as sex can mean very different things to different people. This idea alienates queer folks and deems the value of sex within the queer community as less than and not legitimate.
Instead of using detrimental words like ‘virginity’, ‘losing one’s virginity, terms like sexual debut or any other terms as preferred by the individual can and should be used. The term needs to be reclaimed and determined whatever seems fit- as it isn’t something that is one size fits all; it is a social construct.