Virginity has a lot of meanings in various cultures. It is a term primarily reserved for women, and in many definitions it is used to assess a woman's “value” to a man, and to ensure her “purity” for marriage. It is also a term, when used to include both genders, to assume one's “innocence” (primarily in young children). In some cultures, these definitions are antiquated; in others, they are its moral fibers.
When we think of the word “virgin”, what images, thoughts, feelings and descriptions emerge? Some examples include: pure, innocent, sweet, naïve, untouched, Virgin Mary, natural, inexperienced, asexual, not interested in sex, happiness and carefree, mother-figure, accepting, moral. I also see media images between two extremes: a person who lacks self confidence is shy and anti-social versus a person exuding confidence and a strong sense-of-self. It is something to hold onto; to preserve (you don't want to “lose it”).
For many of us, not only is a virgin someone who simply has not completed sexual intercourse --a very specific sexual act-- it is also someone who has an entirely different personality, as depicted in our society. In other words: a person who decides to “lose their virginity” instantly becomes a different “being”.
This topic becomes increasingly complex when we talk with individuals (primarily women and young girls) who are sexually active, and want to know if they are still virgins after engaging in certain sexual behaviors.
When is someone a virgin?
Is there one specific sexual act that makes someone a NON-virgin?
What can we do sexually, but still be considered a virgin?
Surprisingly, there is not one absolute definition of “virgin”; being a virgin occurs within a broad context of many facets of life: religious, spiritual, medical/health, familial, cultural, societal. When you define “virgin” within any of these areas, you receive various meanings and descriptions.
Are you still a virgin if you engage in:
- Penis-to-vagina penetration?
- Oral sex?
- Anal sex?
- Touching genital-to-genital with no penetration?
- Vaginal penetration by only a finger?
- Any sexual/intimate act “below the belt”?