Virginity is a social construct

I have an issue with the concept of virginity. It may seem like a simple ‘rite of passage,’ but I would argue that it is actually a regressive and oppressive concept for all people.

Supposedly, all ‘virginity’ means is someone who has never had sex before. But the concept isn’t that simple. It’s entrenched in double standards, and has always had very different connotations in relation to men and in relation to women.

All you have to do is look at this dictionary entry for ‘virgin,’ which reads: “a person, typically a woman, who has never had sexual intercourse.” Why is this word ‘typically’ used to describe women? What is the difference between a man who has not had sex, and a woman who has not had sex? Nothing – surely? Well, our society and culture doesn’t view it that way.

It’s no secret that the concept of virginity has been used for centuries to control women and their bodies. Throughout history in the Western world, people were expected to remain ‘chaste’ before marriage, a religious value that is thankfully now largely seen as outdated in the now more secular Western world. It was one ripe with double standards, rarely applied to men and women in the same way. Despite the value, men were actually often encouraged to become experienced, whereas it was of absolute importance that women remained ‘pure’ until marriage. Women who had sex before marriage, or were rumoured to have done so, would be completely shamed, considered ‘damaged’ or ‘fallen women.’ Sounds familiar, right?

It’s familiar because nowadays, the concept of virginity is still wrapped up in harmful double standards. It places pressures on both men and women that are oppressive and damaging. For men, there seems to be more pressure to ‘lose’ one’s virginity, to be sexually active, a ‘player’ or ‘stud.’ Those who are ‘still virgins’ are often shamed for being so. Women, on the other hand, are taught that virginity is a ‘virtue’ that they should protect, and are routinely ‘slut shamed’ for being sexually active. Both of these types of pressures are damaging to men and women, and to their relationships with one another.

Virginity is also a very damaging concept as it places so much emphasis on the ‘value’ of being ‘pure.’ But this actually means nothing, because in reality, when you ‘lose your virginity’ nothing happens to suddenly change you, does it? You might feel a little different, but it’s all down to the individual, it’s specific and unique. But there is no difference between you before and you after sex for the first time, other than that new experience. I also dislike that it is considered something you have ‘lost,’ because this places so much pressure, expectation, and value on something that is really just a made up thing, a social construct. There is literally nothing you are losing, if anything you are only gaining things by doing something new for the first time.

And what difference does it make whether you’ve had sex once, not at all, or hundreds of times? It might mean something to you – but that is how it should stay – completely personal, with no outside opinions! When and how and with whom someone has sex with is entirely up to them and their partner(s), no one else. We should never judge anyone else in this matter; it’s simply none of our business.

Then there is also the problem with how we define what ‘losing your virginity’ consists of, or by extension, what ‘having sex’ consists of. Typically, people might only think of heterosexual sexual intercourse. But this isn’t inclusive to people of all sexualities. It is also ignoring the fact that when we have sex, this doesn’t just mean sexual intercourse, it can encompass other kinds of sexual acts and experiences. Someone may feel like they have had sex for the first time after they have a sexual experience that wasn’t sexual intercourse, and who is anyone to say that they’re wrong? Sex is utterly personal, it means different things to different people and we should respect that.

So, as far as I’m concerned, virginity is just a socially constructed concept, created to control and repress people. Of course, having sex for the first time, whatever that may mean to each individual, can be a key experience for many people, and I don’t mean to diminish that. But I don’t think ‘losing your virginity’ is the right way to frame it, because the concept is so damaging to all with how it places a ridiculous amount of made up pressures and expectations on people, and is still heavy with double standards. We need to break down these double standards, acknowledge that ‘sex’ can encompass many things, and mean different things for different people, and we need to eradicate all notions of pressure and expectation in regards to sex, which the concept of virginity contributes to. So let’s scrap the idea of virginity, it’s just made up anyway.

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