Why We Should Stop Saying We Lose Our Virginity
So...when did you lose your virginity? Pretty innocent question, right? That’s the most common way to ask a partner or friend when they first had sex.
But lately, I’ve started to see two problems with this formulation. What did I lose, exactly? And what is considered a first sexual experience? A lot of questions indeed.
My boyfriend, who’s been reading a book about symbolism and sex recently told me he read that, in the past, you were a virgin as long as you were unmarried. Hence, you “lost your virginity” when you got married.
So that could be where this formulation came from! Women were not expected to have sex before marriage, therefore getting married (and having sex) meant losing your virginity. It meant belonging to a man.
Virginity as in purity and innocence, this disturbs me a lot. Does it mean that when we first have sex we are not pure anymore? What does it even mean to be “pure”? Does it mean clean? Is sex dirty then - of course. Society’s primary message that sex is shameful and to be avoided worked really well, again.
And should we mention that of course, mainly women are targeted? Does a straight guy lose his purity with his first sexual experience? Society doesn’t think so. Guys are usually congratulated on their first time (now you’re a man!), and women shamed (now you’re a slut!).
And, apart from the obvious tendencies of our world to see women belonging to men, the hymen might well have something to do with it. See, women have this membrane at the opening of the vagina that stretches when you have sex. And of course, we couldn’t wait to assign a metaphor to it.
Men have the “power” to take women’s purity with penetrative sex. But the truth is, the hymen doesn’t “break” the first time you have sex. Some women don’t even have a hymen. If you do have one, it just stretches and become more elastic when you have sex. Still, too many people place importance on it.
The hymen doesn’t prove anything and cannot be used to shame, disrespect or blame.
Which brings me to my next question: what is having sex for the first time anyway? In the world of hetero dick-in-vagina only sex, it’s easy to think loss of virginity comes when you have penetrative sex for the first time. But then people who have only had same-sex partners never “lost their virginity” according to this way of thinking. Truth is, sex is whatever feels like sex to you. Be it a handjob, oral sex, hands touching your breast, being naked in front of someone, or the first time you masturbated.
I used to say “l lost my virginity” habitually. But it sounded like I lost something when I really wanted to thank sex for opening me up to so many things. I gained self-confidence, I gained knowledge of my body, I gained the ability to trust people with my body, to know someone on another level. For me, sex is a form of conversation, and you never lose anything from a nice conversation.
So what should we say instead? Well, it could be something along the lines of:
“When was your first sexual encounter”
“When was the first time you had a sexual experience”
Honestly, why place so importance on the first time at all. As if it was sacred? Why would we need to know the age someone first did it, if not to judge? Sex is just sex, do you go around asking people the first time they had chocolate?
Instead of asking that, we might ask: How is your sex life right now? What are you into sexually lately? Did you masturbate today?
In fact, the root meaning of the latinate word ‘virgin’ means strength, force or skill. As Rebecca Campbell writes in Rise Sister Rise: A Guide to Unleashing the Wise, Wild Woman Within, “Ishtar, Diana, Astarta, Isis were all called Virgin, which did not refer to sexual chastity but sexual independence”.
I hope we can do away with virginity as losing ourselves to another. Instead, we gained sexual independence and begun the lifelong journey into exploring that. You can't take someone's virginity. Our bodies and sexualities always belong to us. This is what really matters and what can open the path to better (and more fun) ways of talking about sex.