Virginity: Its meaning and fluidity

According to Merriam Webster:

Virginity: the state of never having had sexual intercourse

1:  the quality or state of being virgin; especially: maidenhood

2:  the unmarried life: celibacy

Sexual Intercourse: sexual activity between two people; especially: sexual activity in which a man puts his penis into the vagina of a woman.

The concept of virginity is often assumed to be a female issue (use of the word “maidenhood”), and the definition of “sexual intercourse” describes it as a heteronormative term.

The heteronormative perspective on males usually puts them into the place of highly sexual beings while females must keep their virginities for as long as possible. Interviewing two men who identified as straight offered a perspective on this, one stated, “most guys don’t like having their virginity in their later teens [because] it’s more of a pride thing for men to lose their virginity as soon as possible.” He was proud to have kept his virginity for as long as he did. The other gentleman told me that he had felt it was important for him to be with someone he cared for, so he waited until he was truly ready at the appropriate time. While men are seen as sexually adventurous, we begin to see that virginity means something to heterosexual men; it’s not just an obstacle.

An alternative viewpoint was given by a male who openly identifies as homosexual. He sees the definition of the heteronormative virginity as problematic. According to him, “virginity” goes two ways for gay men: to penetrate and/or be penetrated. The stereotype associated with the partner being penetrated is often feminized and vice versa with the penetrator. Not only must they battle femininity and masculinity, but they must become comfortable with the positions that contradict the concepts of the heteronormative definition. He suggests that sex should not be about the labels — it’s about intimacy and connection with another person.

For him, sex wasn’t “wham-bam, thank you sir.” There were techniques and skills used, being mindful of the receiver and mindful of the giver. Communication is a huge issue. Because you cannot just assume that everything is OK, you need to constantly make sure everyone is comfortable. “Everyone has rights and responsibilities to communicate,” he said, adding that it’s about intimacy.

A lesbian-identified female I talked with said, “[Straight] women think they can get away with keeping their virginity by doing everything else . . . A sexual act can change the trajectory of a relationship.”

Putting so much importance on virginity can be damaging, especially if someone has no say in losing it. If someone is raped, the standard definition says that they are no longer a virgin. But from the perspective of intimacy, as well as much of society, they still have their virginity. Some women who wait until marriage have made sex into such a bad thing that it’s difficult, once married, to come to terms with it as a good thing.

If gay men have “two virginities,” if heterosexuals have done “everything” except vaginal sex, if lesbians “cannot” physically penetrate, then what is virginity? In my heterosexual female opinion, people are comfortable with and have a need for labels, but virginity is a label that probably shouldn’t exist. As the homosexual gentleman said, “Sex happens, and intimacy should be the defining concept.”