Where is your virginity? Do you carry it around with you? Did you lose it somewhere in the back of the car? Got drunk and left it at the party you were at? Still got it despite years of satisfying sex with your girlfriend? Have you kept it safe by having oral sex only? Virginity is a rather amorphous concept, that really boils down to the idea of sexual purity.
While the traditional pressure to ‘save’ your virginity for marriage has mostly eased in western culture, the concept of sexual purity has not. Having casual sex, or sex with ‘too’ many people can still make a woman ‘unmarriageable’ or sexually 'polluted' , after all ‘slut’ is still almost always used to refer to women. If you really wanted to pin down the meaning of virginity most would define it as when a woman’s vulva is penetrated by a penis for the first time, and a likely part of that process is the breakage of the hymen.
Losing your 'L' plates has become a rite of passage for many in western culture, and that to become a woman you need to have been ‘opened’ by a man.
Hymen lets break down the myths
For many years I assumed the notion of virginity came from the existence of the hymen. It turns out that 'popping the cherry' is mostly just a myth. In the absence of birth control men have been trying to control women’s sex lives to ensure paternity for millennia.
Virginity tests are attempts at controlling and scaring women, sometimes using the most bizarre methods, in the European Middle Ages upward pointing breasts and clear urine were considered signs of virginity.
Not all cultures defined virginity by the presence of blood on the newlywed’s marital sheets, but for cultures that did many a mother-of-the-bride would have helped her daughter smuggle a vial of chicken blood into the marriage bed, just in case her hymen had already dissolved or her husband wasn’t rough enough.
many a mother-of-the-bride would have helped her daughter smuggle a vial of chicken blood into the marriage bed, just in case her hymen had already dissolved or her husband wasn’t rough enough.
The truth is there isn’t a membrane that needs to be broken open in most cases, what we have is a vaginal corona which are folds of mucous membranes encircling the vaginal entrance one-two centimetres in.
There is a large amount of natural variability in the thickness, stretchiness and size of this opening. In most cases it has largely dissolved due to hormones during puberty and with the right level of arousal, lubricant and patience it can stretch to accommodate penetration without bleeding or too much pain.
Taking back your virginity
Because we have cultural myths around the first time being painful and bloody many don’t know that most women do not bleed and that those who do, mostly did so from bad sex not because of their hymens.
Only a few of us will have hymen’s sensitive or inflexible enough to bleed if things are taken slowly. Instead we set women up for a painful experience that can then be a mental barrier to enjoying penetrative sex.
If we embraced masturbation as the path to sexual fulfilment and awakening our full sexual adult selves, we can own our own orgasms and personhood. Penetrating ourselves first can give us pleasure, prevent pain and bad associations.
Let's lose it
We are not physically marked by our sexual partners and we do not need to define or label ourselves based on how many partners we have had. In fact if you do not have penetrative sex for a while the vaginal corona can retighten and need to be treated gently when resuming penetration.
While the concept of virginity can cause unnecessary pain and mental anguish in western cultures, it can have far more serious consequences for women in some cultures. It is about time we ditched the virginity concept and stopped counting our sexual partners and started counting orgasms.
It is about time we ditched the virginity concept and stopped counting our sexual partners and started counting orgasms.
Photo credit: © Victoria Andreas - Fotolia.com