Broken Keys for Broken Locks
Like the human psyche, female virginity is deeply complex. Historically, female virginity has been understood to be a single, narrow definition—according to men. Scientists, academics, and men define the female virgin as a female who has never had sexual intercourse. The current definition of female virginity dismisses alternative aspects of virginity, excludes other classes of intercourse, and is inconsiderate of the female perspective, therefore inaccurate.
Laura M. Carpenter is an author and associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University who argues that female virginity is anything but one definition. In an academic article Carpenter claims, “ …interpreting virginity loss as a step in a process holds the most promise for enhancing the ability of all people, regardless of gender or sexual identity, to experience virginity loss in ways that are empowering, health-enhancing, and consonant with their desires” (Carpenter 362). Viewing “virginity [loss]” as a “step in a process,” Carpenter takes a holistic approach to understanding virginity. In Carpenter’s academic article, she explores the different ideas, reasons, and understandings of virginity—not limited to a singular group of people, race, class, and or identity. A “step in a process” is an ambiguous phrase which is a progressive outlook on female virginity and alleviates any differences in opinion or judgement. Carpenter’s approach avoids disregarding any personal understandings of female virginity, rather, Carpenter opens the door to a more appropriate definition. An inclusive definition allows for women to hold to their opinion and judgments of female virginity, not feeling pressured by any sort of systemic categorization.
Not following a progressive approach leads to the singularity of female virginity—confining female virginity to one idea, one notion, one definition. A counterintuitive, singular definition of female virginity is regressive, and in turn, causes for a lack of growth for generations to come (if this process is continued). Linda Eyre of the Candia Journal of Education, in Toronto, asserts in an academic article discussing “compulsory heterosexuality” the dangers of singularity—relating to virginity, sexuality, and outlook. Eyre declares, “ The belief [of a female virginity being a singular definition] then is used to justify dominating those who do not subscribe to the privileged practice [understanding female virginity to be one definition]” (Eyre 36). Having a singular definition of female virginity can be (and is) used as a weapon, protecting men’s authority over women—causing great danger and oppression. The teaching of heterosexuality is predominate in schools, universities, and class rooms, resulting in sameness or confusion. Heterosexuality is the “normal” in society, Eyre expresses in her academic article. Like heterosexuality being the societal “norm,” female virginity is then lumped under the umbrella term of “heterosexuality.” Eyre argues that not everyone is heterosexual so defining female virginity using heterosexual terms is inconclusive. If teachings continue where heterosexuality is the norm and that female virginity can only be defined in a singular heterosexual way, society will continue to regress. This regression will be the downfall of diversity in female virginity, narrowing the female perspective—allowing oppression.
Oppression is the reason why female virginity remains singular. Outdated outlooks on female virginity persist, a vicious cycle. This vicious cycle must be broken not by changing a woman’s belief and understand but by allowing the reality of diversity to seep into the understanding of female virginity. Being an ambiguous term, female virginity is virtually impossible to pinpoint—there is no “right” or “correct” answer. Science has one definition and psychology another—the list goes on. Like the human psyche, complex and puzzling, female virginity is too complex and puzzling. The realization that female virginity is deeply complex and multilayered is frustrating to say the least. We are a society who always wants an immediate answer but sometimes there is not always a direct answer. Oppression is unjust, cruel treatment towards a group of people, objects, or even ideas and oppression is used to debilitate female virginity. A truly abstract term, female virginity is subjected to oppression for the sake of “simplicity.” This denial created by men, is, by all means a false analogy.
Female virginity is viewed as simple and clear cut—understanding the idea to be simple like a lock and key. Female virginity is anything but a lock and key. To better understand, female virginity is multilayered and individual. Each defintion will vary between women. There is no one cultural understanding, scientific understanding, religious understanding, and or societal understanding. Female virginity is an individual understanding that varies between women. One could argue that female virginity is like a lock and key, even if that induvial understands female virginity to be individual. Even so, female virginity is not a lock and key. Locks and key go hand and hand and are arguably intimate. With that understanding, does every lock and key go together? No, it does not. Sometimes keys break, bend, are lost. Like keys, locks too can break, bend, and become lost. Virginity is a fluid term, like the water that washes us. Women have the absolute right to shift their understanding regarding their own virginity. No person or man has the right to take away that power, despite how hard one may try. Female virginity cannot be simply understood, the term is a messy scribble of words not a single, uniformed sentence.
Female virginity is complex, there is no argument for that. Multidimensional and complicated, female virginity is debated amongst men who tend to make the call. The simplicity in man’s definition of female virginity leads to regression and oppression. The cycle will stay continuous as long as men deny the fact of complexity regarding female virginity and as long as women accept this cycle. No more locks and keys. Only a messy scribble of words, abstracts, and abysses. There is no one “right” or “correct” answer/defintion of female virginity. As a society who always wants a clear answer, this simply will not happen regarding female virginity. This reality must be accepted. There are many aspects to female virginity and in order to understand we must not understand.
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. “Compulsory Heterosexuality in a University Classroom.” ProQuest, ProQuest, 1993, https://www.proquest.com/docview/215374474?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=13605.
Wight, Daniel, et al. “The Quality of Young People’s Heterosexual Relationships: A Longitudinal Analysis of Characteristics Shaping Subjective Experience.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, vol. 40, no. 4, 2008, pp. 226–237., https://doi.org/10.1363/4022608.