Anonymous virginity questionsStudents are asking me less and less often about virginity because we don’t use the term that often these days. But because it still comes up every now and then in the classroom, let’s discuss.

I think the concept of virginity is outdated and useless for a few reasons. First, it’s based on misinformation about female anatomy. When I first started teaching in the late 90s, a virgin was simply defined as a person who had never had vaginal sex. It was also assumed that first time vaginal sex would tear her hymen and cause bleeding. And if a woman didn’t bleed the first time she had vaginal sex, then clearly she wasn’t a virgin.

We know now that this isn’t true. Some girls are born without a hymen, and some hymens get torn and stretched painlessly and without bleeding long before sexual contact. So stories about woman having their “cherry popped” the first time they have vaginal sex are garbage. That ugliness is much more about ignorance of female anatomy than about virginity.

It’s also worth letting our children know that no one, not even a doctor, can say with absolute certainty whether a person has or has not had vaginal sex. Of course, the presence of sperm or semen, STI organisms or bruising and tearing in or around the vagina may be an indication of vaginal sex. But maybe not. Pregnancy can happen without penetration and isn’t an indicator.

I also have a problem with the concept of virginity because it’s too simplistic. That is, it doesn’t take into account the different kinds of sexual activity a person may have and makes the assumption that vaginal sex is the “be all end all”. What if a person has never had vaginal sex but has had oral sex and anal sex? Are they a perpetual virgin?

I also find the saying “losing” one’s virginity very sex negative (is that a thing? You know what I mean.). In a healthy, consenting sexual relationship, there’s nothing to lose and lots to gain, like pleasure, intimacy, fun, stress relief and physical and emotional connection with another human.

Lastly, I don’t get the point of the concept. Really, who cares if a person is a virgin? And if a person wants you to know about the kinds of sex they’ve had and haven’t had, they’ll tell you! End of story.