Thursday, April 17, 2014

Like a Virgin

Wikipedia states virginity as, “the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse”.  Going beyond google searches seems to make this definition much more complicated. Growing up we heard things like “Only if he cums”, “Only if her cherry pops”, “Anal doesn’t count,” and endless other descriptions. Interviewee from Losing Virginity Stories from the Huffington Post states, “It’s kind of a double-edged sword isn’t it? If you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap.” Our society sends mixed messages about virginity and certain expectations are prevalent for both males and females.

A 25 year old women, interviewed in Losing Virginity Stories, stated, “I lost my virginity quite late, I was 24: way too old. I was dating a guy but the only thing he didn't know about me was that I was still a virgin. Every time we made out I made up a silly excuse not to have sex because I was afraid I'd bleed and reveal the embarrassing truth: that I was a virgin. I say "embarrassing" because I assumed being a virgin at that age was something wrong -- that I was unwanted, ugly, undesirable and therefore, unworthy as a woman, that all the times I had said no to sex because I didn't like the guy or didn't feel comfortable with it had made me a prude and that I probably didn't deserve the sex. I wanted to have sex with [my boyfriend] but at the same time I didn't, because I didn't want him to know my secret. So one day it just happened: we were having drinks, we went to bed and we did it. I didn't even bleed (maybe because I had already broken my hymen masturbating) but he didn't notice it was my first time. I was nervous, I wanted him to feel he was having sex with a "normal" girl (thanks, prejudice) so I didn't particularly enjoy it.”

The interviewee explains that she felt she was too old to be a virgin. At what age do you think that our society claims it to be too late to be a virgin? After college? Before college? At what age would you claim it to be too soon?

Another interesting point when analyzing the concept of virginity is to understand that the word itself is gendered. It comes from a Latin word that means young woman, and while the term can be referred to both, there always has been pressure for the woman to perform in some way (Vagianos 2013).  The concept of virginity is heteronormative and leaves little room for people with a same sex orientation to identity with the term. Something that I found interesting was all the popular press articles I found never discussed virginity with same sex couples, and all the fun tips and truths were presented to straight women or men.

What do you all think about the concept of virginity in relationships? Do you hear about it being a deal breaker?
Do you feel that since Kalamazoo College is a sex positive campus it puts pressure on people to have sex for the first time?

Josie Cibelli


  1. I think that the concept of virginity in a relationship should be a part of sexual communications between partners. Chances are if you and your partner are at the point in your relationship (assuming that the relationship is committed, and both partners' have similar trajectories for the course of the relationship) that you want to be having sex with one another, their is also a mutual self-disclosure and trust and desire between partners. I think you pose an interesting point; but if being a virgin is a deal breaker, than perhaps their are other deal-breakers (such as inhibited sexual assertiveness and communication) should break the deal.

  2. I think the age that is considered too late or too early to lose virginity depends on the culture. Living in three different countries, I have noticed that the reactions to virgins and losing ones virginity is seen as a taboo topic in one country, such as those in east Asian countries including my home country in Japan, and as a spontaneous and fun topic in Italy. Considering the American culture and the societal norm, I feel that many people assume that a girl has lost virginity once she goes to college, due to the hook-up culture.

    I also think that the concept of 'losing' virginity is such a vague and unclear way to state it, because when are you sure that you've 'lost' your virginity? Is it only vaginal intercourse that counts, or does masturbation and anal sex count too? I think the wording of the whole concept puts many people into question when you actually 'lose' your virginity.

    I've only been here for the last 7 months at K college, but I think K is a sex positive campus and not many put pressure on people to have sex for the first time. However, I think people give a lot of backlash if someone lost their virginity to someone, and talk about it regardless of whether you care or not, which I believe is a nerve-wrecking experience as that one who has lost their virginity on campus or while at K. As a small college, even the smallest gossips may become a big deal, that can really stress one out.

  3. I think it would be interesting to compare being a virgin at age 24 for a woman compared to a male of the same age. Virginity in our society is looked at in two different ways which happen to be polar opposite. If you're a virgin then you are considered to be this prude person but also that you could be considered a whore. A female virgin is not always frowned upon by all males. A male virgin though seems to be very frowned upon by people in our society. Like how could a guy at age 24 ever be a virgin? Like did he go to college? So I definitely think there is a huge difference in how virgins are viewed between the two genders.
    From what I have heard from all of my guys friends, there is two opinions of woman being a virgin, both polar opposites again. The first is that it is great because that means she has not slept around and you do not have to worry about that stuff because you would be her first. The second is that a guy would not want to engage in sexual intercourse with a woman because he does not want the pressure of being her first. Being the first is a big deal to a guy and most of the time it can scare us away for whatever reason (clearly I do not feel this way).

  4. I remember in highschool one of my friends came to me in tears, informing me through hiccups that she had lost her virginity and now she felt like she had lost part of what made her "good". My reaction was to tell her that no, she hadn't lost anything, she had simply gained an experience -- in fact, I said, she had sexually debuted. I threw in some jazz hands for effect. The notion of that concept cheered my friend up considerably. But even here at K, I know people who regard virginity as a tangible thing to be lost. This way of thinking about first sexual experiences puts a lot of pressure on people who are considering becoming sexually active, and I think it's damaging. I have definitely heard of "virginity" being a dealbreaker -- it's a catch 22, either you're a virgin and you're inexperienced and going to be emotionally needy, or you're not a virgin and so you've clearly been around the block a few times.
    I do think that K is a sex positive campus, but I hope that the discussions our community has about sexuality does not make anyone feel pressured to debut before they're ready.

  5. At first thought, I would assume that pressures to lose your virginity would depend on the social, socio-economic and possibly ethnic circles you associate with. But despite all of these boundaries, love can happen to anyone.<3<3<3 If everyone lost their virginity when they experienced this feeling, no one would have to have any regrets due to societal restrictions. If only, if only.

  6. I think the age at which it is "too late to be a virgin" is relative to the cultural context. For example, in a very religious community the norm might be to be a virgin until you are to be married, no matter the age at which this happens. I definitely think there is a lot of weight attached to women "loosing" their virginity, whereas for men it is doesn't seem to be such a big deal. This notion of the significance of loosing one's virginity as a woman is connected to the idea of men wanting to marry a virgin but being able to themselves have sex before marriage. I think the double standards in sexuality are very strong and present in modern society.

    I think the concept of virginity in relationships shouldn't be a deal breaker, and if it was a deal breaker then it's probably not the best relationship to be in. I think communication and honesty in every level is essential when being sexually active with a partner. From a health standpoint, it's important to communicate in an honest way because of preventing STDs. From a personal standpoint, it's important to communicate because in this way one might feel more comfortable and therefore have a better sexual experience.

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  8. There is an article written by Jessica Valenti that states how virginity (or loss thereof) can profoundly affect women's lives. However, her next claim is that women are being judged on something that doesn't even really exist anymore (virginity).
    After countless hours of searching in the Harvard library, she was unable to find a clear, concise definition of virginity.
    Point in case, virginity is so subjective, there may never be a real, medical definition. While there is no medical definition, society still chooses to define it, though.
    It's interesting to think why virginity truly matters in today's society. Is it because of religion? Who in society really defines virginity?
    In my opinion, virginity encourages sexism. It is a designation for women to meet a certain standard of what women are supposed to be like (have no sex drive, but be sexually available for men) while men are encouraged to be sexually active. Jessica states, "You can be vapid, stupid, and unethical, but so long as you've never had sex, you're a 'good girl' and worthy of praise."