Walking to my grandmother’s house from high school one day, my friend asked an odd question. “So, if it goes in but he takes it out before anything comes out, are you still a virgin?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“Oh,” my friend said, pausing. “Well, guess what!?”
The above is a very real conversation I had with my friend around the age of 16. Clearly she had sex, but she wasn’t sure if that meant she had lost her virginity. In fact, if you walk around a school and ask, you’ll get many different answers about what virginity actually is. Supposedly, it’s this special thing we’re supposed to save, but I have yet to encounter a solid definition.
I sought out Dictionary.com, hoping there was at least a solid definition. Turns out, there’s no mention of intercourse, vaginas, penises or sex. Here’s what the dictionary has to say:
Perhaps you consider pure, chaste and unsullied to be words related to the state of a human body that has not had sex, but that’s really more of an opinion. I don’t think having sex makes a person less pure or sullied. Hell, I have plenty of sex and people can’t stop telling me how innocent I am (if only they knew, right?).
Until recently, I considered virginity to represent a person who never had vaginal intercourse. A person who had anal or oral sex still had their virginity. A person who was fondled or fingered still had their virginity. Yet, what was my virginity really. Monday, I discussed the thought process that lead me to believe having sex before marriage was the right move for me. While I consider 2011 to be the year I lost my virginity, other friends think I lost it earlier. Sure, I wasn’t having vaginal sex, but that didn’t matter to their definition of virginity.
We have a problem. If we are telling young women to keep their virginity, going so far as to shame them when they don’t, shouldn’t we at least provide a solid definition? To say that being a virgin is the state of never having sex is not enough. What is sex? I remember my father uncomfortably telling me that there were ‘other things’ you could do besides sex. It was just a passing comment, but his tone seemed to imply these ‘other things’ were just as wrong. Unfortunately, these things would never be described to me. I have been left, abandoned by adults, authorities figures and my trusted dictionary, to define virginity for myself.
So I have.
Having done many of those ‘other things,’ all the while still believing I was a virgin, and then moving on to lose my virginity, I don’t think virginity has anything to do with any specific sexual action. Virginity is more of a state of being. It’s not innocence. It’s the emotional state of having never given all of yourself to someone. When you finally let go of all your walls and give yourself completely to someone, that is a loss of virginity.
I didn’t feel like I lost my virginity before 2011 because my emotional state didn’t change. My walls were still up. I wasn’t giving anything away. The only thing I considered to be ‘giving it all away’ was vaginal intercourse. So, it wasn’t until then that I ‘lost’ anything (to say that I lost anything isn’t really true, though. That’s a blog for another day).
The way I see it, if those ‘other things’ also resulted in a loss of virginity, certainly I would have noticed. If sex is such a big, momentous deal, it should have been quite obvious what was happening. Instead, I was left with a question mark. In fact, sex is the opposite of obvious without a solid definition. Why else would 0.08% of America’s pregnant teenagers still believe they are virgins? Maybe that doesn’t seem like a large number to you, but when you consider that an average of 750,000 teenagers get pregnant every year, that number becomes pretty large.
There are still questions to that. How many of the other 99.2% of those pregnant teenagers thought they weren’t really having sex until they fount out they were pregnant? How many non- pregnant teenagers are having sex without know that’s what they are doing?Perhaps even more dire, how many out there avoid using safe sex practices, putting themselves at greater risk for STIs, because they don’t think their actions are sex?
I’ve heard the excuse that humans have had sex for years without a class as a way to support imposing ignorance on our youth. We have learned about sex through the years, though, as much as we have learned about anything else. We have learned about emotional impacts, physical impacts and diseases. Our children deserve to know the truth. If nothing else, they deserve to have a solid definition of what sex is and what virginity is. Without a solid, descriptive definition, what is the point of preserving or losing virginity?
How do you define virginity? How has that definition changed over the years? Do you think teenagers can understand what we mean by sex and virginity with the poor definitions we give them today?