Virginity is Society’s Funniest Joke
Female virginity is as ambiguous as the understanding of life itself. There is no “correct” or “right” answer in defining female virginity. Biologically speaking, scientists and medical doctors do propose an answer but there are often aspects of female virginity many do not consider—such as psychological interpretations, gender, and type of intercourse. The most common and popular definition of female virginity relates to the looseness of the hymen. This definition is vague yet also creates a thick boundary that often divides other considerable perspectives.
Psychological interpretations are individualistic—only the person feeling can interpret their feelings most truthfully. Medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, family, friends, strangers and the internet are all secondary to an individual’s understanding of their own feelings and thoughts. These groups can help guide an individual to a clearer understanding, but in the end, it is the induvial who has to define whatever it is they are trying to understand. When it comes to intercourse, usually, the act is engaged between two people. Intercourse is different for all people and all couples; not one two people (or couple) are the same. Communication is a central role in enjoyable and consensual safe sex. What is not always understood is how each induvial interprets virginity and sexual intercourse.
Interpretation holds differently in each person. Often times, gender and psychological interpretation goes hand and hand. The cliché “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” is true in some respects, though it is not a definite metaphor to be followed and ultimately, it is narrow in its saying. Those who identify as male or female (and of course gender does not end there), will always have a slightly different point of view concerning the world they live in. Even those of the same sex or gender identity, will have different perspectives. The psychology of an induvial is fluid and not concrete. Interpretations will always differ between people. Therefore, the interpretation of virginity will never be concrete.
Gender theory is quite expansive and is not limited to one or two categories. Differences in gender and gender identity affect the definition of virginity. This essay specifically focuses on those who identify as female. In the patriarchal society, those who identify as female, often face oppression and objectification. Both oppression and objectification blurry a woman’s own psychological interpretation of virginity which ultimately affects society’s understanding of female virginity. Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts, in their proposal essay, “Objectification Theory, ” claim that “at a psychological level, perhaps the most profound effect of objectifying treatment is that it coaxes girls and women to adopt a peculiar view of self.” The idea of virginity is an aspect that applies to all persons. Virginity is and can be part of an individual’s identity or view of self. For countless generations, women have lived in a society that has deemed their virginity to be “pure.”—something worth “holding onto.” The reasons for “holding onto” female virginity as long as possible vary, but what can be clearly depicted is that the reiteration of this idea of virginity being something “pure” has branded women, historically. Having a “romanticized” idea of virginity led many women defining their virginity as something almost “sacred.” Come forth to modern times, women and feminists began to question this idea of “virginity” and what it meant to society.
As noted, psychological interpretations differ throughout the different genders. Those who identify as a female will interpret virginity differently than, say for example, individuals who identify as male. Laura M. Carpenter, in her proposal essay, “Gender and the Meaning and Experience of Virginity Loss in the Contemporary United States,” claims “… scholarly and popular writers concerned with virginity loss have almost invariably defined it as the first time a man or woman engages in vaginal-penile intercourse…” The terms “virginity loss” and “virginial-penile intercourse” are most significant in this quote. Scholars and most individuals view virginity as something to be “lost” and historically that only applied to women. These misogynistic opinions, as stated earlier, have affected those of the female gender.
The second word most significant to the quote is “virginial-penile intercourse.” The last hurdle in defining female virginity, is the type of intercourse one chooses to engage in. “Virginial-penile intercourse” is a problematic term because it is limited to only one group of people and is connected to one singular concept. There are many different types of intercourse people engage in, including vaginal, oral, and anal. Going back to the common definition of virginity loss, most scholars, scientists, medical doctors, and everyday people define virginity loss as engaging in vaginal intercourse, thus loosening the hymen. This discriminative definition excludes the other ways people engage in sexual intercourse and ultimately creates a “social norm” or “aspiration” for society to follow. Most scholars and scientists also define intercourse as the penetration of the anus and or mouth— in lay terms, being dubbed “anal sex” and “oral sex.” Though, the same academics often times exempt virginity loss when discussing in either or both alternate ways people engage in sexual intercourse.
The concept of female virginity is already vague in its understanding and definition. By defining female virginity one way and not being considerate of other methods of sexual intercourse, the notion of virginity being singular is ultimately incorrect. Anal and oral penetration is considered intercourse in most scholarly textbooks, as noted earlier. Because scientists exclude virginity loss in both anal and oral intercourse, that would ultimately make a woman a who engages in anal or oral intercourse a “virgin”—if that is her first time (following a traditional definition).
Ultimately virginity is a paradox. There are a multitude of factors to be included and considered when defining female virginity. Factors include psychological interpretation, gender, and type of intercourse. Considering all these factors, an individual is entitled to define what female virginity means to them. Life and virginity, two terms most people don’t understand and will continue to question. Virginity will always be as ambiguous as life, therefore, there is no one “true” definition of female virginity.
Carpenter, Laura M. “Gender and the Meaning and Experience of Virginity Loss in the Contemporary United States.” Gender & Society, vol. 16, no. 3, 2002, pp. 345–365., https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243202016003005.
Eyre, Linda. The Objectification of Women in Mass Media: Female Self-Image in Misogynist Culture. The New York Sociologist, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.694.8981&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Fredrickson, Barbara L., and Tomi-Ann Roberts. “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 2, 1997, pp. 173–206., https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.