On Tuesday, April 11, I attended the University of Richmond’s annual Take Back the Night event. A recurring theme in the stories of the survivors who were moved to speak was that of virginity.
The importance of a person’s virginity is a prevalent idea in our society. Because I think far too much stock is placed in it, I thought I would share some of my views on the subject.
I believe that virginity is still a valuable idea, but at a lower level than it is currently.
First and foremost, today’s notion of virginity is a holdover from a time in Western culture when religion held a more central role in society, and with it, a different moral code that put a lot more value in celibacy than we do today.
In those days, a person’s views on sex were considered a major portion of his or her moral character. Virginity was perhaps the most important component of that. Whether or not a person was a virgin determined whether he or she was moral or immoral, and this pressure to remain celibate was much greater on women.
As time has progressed, mainstream attitudes have grown more accepting of premarital sex, and a broader range of lifestyles are accepted. However, the idea of virginity has remained, as has its disproportionate pressure on women.
There is no biological change as a result of intercourse, and many feminist scholars, such as Jessica Valenti, argue that intercourse does not alter a person’s personality. Therefore, the loss of virginity should be looked at as a minor indicator of a person’s morality today, both because of the evidence that it does not inherently change a person as well as the smaller role that sex plays in our contemporary perception of morals.
Because a person’s virginity has no inherent effect on his or her personality or physiology, it must be looked at as an indicator of where he or she is in his or her sexual history in the context of his or her personal morals, rather than a contextless and binary indicator of morality.
To someone who does not believe in having premarital sex, losing his or her virginity might be an indicator of having found the person with whom he or she want to spend the rest of his or her life and feel comfortable taking that step after getting married. For someone else, it might mean that he or she found someone he or she was attracted to and who was attracted to them, so they had sex and parted ways. It can mean any number of things for each person and that is great.
Despite the many differences in what losing one’s virginity can mean, there are invalid meanings that can lead to placing too much stock in virginity or lead to unhealthy views of sex. Most importantly, rape can never lead to a loss of virginity. Because a person’s virginity is an indicator of his or her attitudes and choices, it cannot reflect the actions of anyone other than that person.
Virginity is also not what other people believe, but rather what you believe. No outside code should determine what losing your virginity means to you. A person losing her or her virginity before someone else thinks he or she should does not make him or her a slut. And losing it later than other people think he or she should does not make him or her a prude.
Furthermore, losing your virginity is not a goal; it is a side effect. As such, losing it is not a reason to have sex or not. You should choose whether or not to have sex because you are comfortable or uncomfortable. Virginity should not factor into the decision.
Finally, the retention or loss of virginity is not the end of the world. I believe in placing less value in the indicators than the causes. You should care that you have lived, that you have loved, that you are amazing and beautiful — and that people who care about how much sex you have had are out of their minds.
Contact opinions writer Cal Pringle at firstname.lastname@example.org.