Ambiguity is Absolute
Female virginity is an umbrella term representing the multitude of different interpretations and understandings for what it means to be a female virgin— an ambiguous concept. Not considering the broad female perspective for millennia in the West, collectively, men in power have strictly limited female virginity to a singular definition. In a male-dominated society, female virginity is defined as the act of avoiding vaginal intercourse that involves penetration through breaking the hymen. Confining female virginity to one definition limits a woman in her freedom of choice. Female virginity is as limitless as the woman who defines the concept herself. The definition of female virginity is truest when the woman herself makes the choice to define the term, not men.
The word “female” is more than an adjective and noun, the word itself is also an umbrella term. No woman can be put into a box and limited to a one line sentence. As a Western society, men have put these limits on women, defining women as to how she is supposed to dress, act, and or speak. Planned Parenthood states that women are generally expected to dress in typically feminine[ly] ways and be polite, accommodating, and nurturing. No woman will always dress in deemed femininely attire, be polite, accommodating, and nurturing— that request is simply inhumane, inaccurate, and outdated. If an individual who identifies as a woman were to live by misogynistic guidelines provided by men and act out in frustration, not keeping to being accommodating or polite, because her car was broken into and stolen from, that individual would not be a woman anymore, according to male-opinionated, prejudiced guidelines. Ideas of what a woman “should be” are constrictive like a cobra killing its prey, expectations and defining lines breed for inaccuracy and stereotypes. Planned Parenthood claims, “exaggerated gender stereotypes can make relationships between people difficult” (Planned Parenthood 1). In the world of want-to-believe limits, relationships are difficult when women are put into four-walled iron boxes. Authors Alice H. Eagly and Antonio Mladinic of “Gender Stereotypes and Attitudes Toward Women and Men,” claim, “women [are] perceived as inferior to men in agentic, or instrumental (i.e., masculine-positive), qualities…” (Eagly and Mladinic 554). Because women are perceived to be inferior to men in more masculine-positive qualities, this apparent gap becomes more distinct, therefore ruining any chance of equality. By understanding that the definition of a woman seeps out of this systemic patriarchal box, then can Western societies begin to understand the many layers to a woman.
According to men in power, female virginity is preserved only when a woman avoids having vaginal intercourse through her hymen being broken because of penile penetration (penile-vaginal intercourse involves the penis being inserted into the vagina). Penile-vaginal intercourse is a reasonable viewpoint to consider when conceptualizing what it means to be a female virgin; this viewpoint is true only if the woman herself believes the method of intercourse to be closest to her idea of what it means to be a female virgin. Penile-vaginal intercourse is most applicable to heterosexual women, excluding women who are non-heterosexual,
Heterosexuality is not the forefront in the West. Restricting, penile-vaginal intercourse fails to cover the vast array of diverse sexualities and/or preferred methods of intercourse. According to Jeffery M. Jones, author of an academic article highlighting LGBT demographics in the United States for the year 2021, “… lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identification finds 5.6% of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT” (Jones 1). This percentage is low but Jones adds, “7.6% [of American adults] do not answer the question about their sexual orientation” (Jones 1). The small percentage of confirmed LGBT American adults only accounts for adults who are fully out. The study fails to cover two pivotal points: LGBT children, teenagers, and individuals who keep their sexual orientation private, and the amount of individuals who identify as LGBT+. The percentage reported is likely to be larger— when including all different groups of individuals.
Besides penile-vaginal intercourse, anal and oral intercourse are two methods of intercourse that are valid and must be considered. Both anal and oral intercourse involve penetration of the penis. Respectively, both methods of intercourse have strict guidelines that set both of them apart: anal intercourse being achieved through the insertion of the penis into the anus while oral intercourse is achieved through the penis being inserted into the opening of the mouth. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, conducted by scientific researchers in America, found that 29.4% of American adolescents believed that virginity is lost through oral intercourse while 83.9% believed virginity was lost through anal intercourse. Alternatively, writers for the Journal of Adolescent Health state that “70.6% of [American] adolescent[s] believed that girls and boys retain their virginity if they participate in oral sex” (Bersamin, Fisher, Walker, Hill, and Grube 1) and “16.1% believed that an adolescent was still a virgin if he or she engaged in anal sex” (Bersamin, Fisher, Walker, Hill, and Grube 1). Being completely dependent on the individual woman, anal and oral intercourse should be considered when deciding what it means to be a female virgin.
Emotional-psychological aspects of intercourse are important which must be considered when defining what it means to be a female virgin. Intercourse is not only a physical process but rather intercourse is both emotional and physical (or only emotional— this perspective is dependent on the individual woman). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women may never have penile-vaginal, oral, and/or anal intercourse. This possibility should not exclude these women who identify as non-heterosexual. Women who avoid penile-vaginal, oral, and/or anal intercourse have creative methods to provoke sexual intimacy. Fondling, foreplay, kissing, rubbing, stroking, and or touching are effective methods that provoke sexual intimacy. Emotional-psychological intercourse is enthusiastic and must involve the presence of two people. Penile-vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse all can be one-sided, even with consent. Emotional-psychological intercourse that involves the presence of two people will always be two sided.
Multilayered and complex, female virginity is anything but simple. Men continue to define what it means to be a female virgin but when the woman herself decides to be in charge of defining female virginity, then will a woman be able to embrace the complexity of female virginity, freely. Though, this notion is challenged for childhood influences impact both girls and boys, thus creating a vicious cycle of repetition, unable to progress.
Bad influences result in more terrible solutions. Poor childhood influences are to blame for Western society’s inability to condemn systematic female oppression. An ongoing crisis, systemic female oppression has led to a fight for power— power available only to men. A childish way of handling differences in opinion, fighting has led women to take the objectification of female virginity men have created and use that objectification as a weapon. In the name of power, women continue to allow misogynistic behavior— romanticizing female virginity in order to fight back and/or to hold power, a behavior learned from men.
Peter Pan teaches boys that narcissism is an acceptable trait to have in society. Protagonist of the classic play, Peter and Wendy, written and produced by James Matthew Barrier, Peter Pan is a prime example of an exaggerated stereotype— a self-centered, absent-minded boy. Peter Pan inspires young boys alike who watch in awe, lacking a sophisticated mindset to make level-headed judgement. Like sponges, young boys’ minds are weak and absorbent, only able to pick up material presented without a second thought. Being so influential, the Peter Pan Syndrome is a metaphor psychologists use to describe adults who have characteristics similar to Peter Pan. Authors Melek Kalkan, Meryem Vural Batik, Leyla Kaya, and Merve Turan of “Peter Pan Syndrome ‘Men Who Don’t Grow’: Developing a Scale” define and outline the Peter Pan Syndrome— a spectrum. Adult males who meet the standards to be placed on the spectrum are often described as: lacking responsibility, immature, lacking sophistication, having the inability to express and process complex human emotion, and most commonly, narcissistic.
Egoistic men take authoritative positions in society which ruin the chance of allowing for complexity to be a norm in Western societies. Simplicity is the best solution for men that lack the intellectual ability to process such complexities. Female virginity is an umbrella term—ambiguous and multilayered. Understanding female virginity is an individual process, unique to every woman. But often times, women and ideas of what is female virginity are limited to a one line sentence— an over exaggerated stereotype. The deep-rooted patriarchal system in the West is plagued by Peter Pans: adult men who refuse to grow up. These power-hungry men achieve simplicity in ambiguous terms such as female virginity by limiting the agency women have in making decisions. Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts, authors of “OBJECTIFICATION THEORY: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks,” stresses objectification is used as a tool to degrade women in culture— leading to poor self-worth and anxiety. Objectification is used strategically to place women inferior to men, allowing men to keep and hold power, therefore limiting a woman’s agency. As women are objectified by men, the understanding of female virginity becomes shallow, simple, and misrepresented.
Women allow Peter Pans to be accepted in greater society— as women are taught. Another metaphor psychologists use is The Wendy Dilemma— used to describe women who take on a mother’s role in a relationship or marriage, instead of being an affective partner. Wendy is mature, caring, and attentive unlike Peter Pan who is immature and self-centered. Like boys, young girls also watch and absorb characters’ actions. Wendy teaches girls to be accepting of boys’ immaturity and inability to reason. Finally growing up, girls, now women learn to simply shrug off a man’s crudity. Women pacify men, continuing to cater to a man’s every need— as Wendy teaches girls. This process results in an unhealthy dynamic between men and women. A societal game of tug-of-war, this cycle creates a ripple effect. Neil Davidson, author of “Oh Boys! Sex Education and Young Men,” claims that men and women are born with the same emotions. Though, as both men and women grow and progress in life, men are taught to be more masculine while women are taught to be more feminine, Davidson continues. By masculine men are taught to be tougher, stronger, and rougher. In juxtaposition, women are taught to be more feminine which means to be soft spoken, gentle, and attending. As young girls grow into these stereotypical ideas of what a woman should be, girls learn to accept that boys will be Peter Pans— as Wendy teaches girls alike.
Accepting the nature of men and misogynistic views, women lose power and respect. Desperate, women romanticize female virginity, allowing for continuous objectification and oppression of women alike— all to hold any ounce of power and use that claimed power against men. Laura M. Carpenter, author of “Gender and the Meaning and Experience of Virginity Loss in the Contemporary United States,” details that women consider female virginity to be sacred. This idealized concept of female virginity creates an uncomfortable distance between women and men—a terrible solution. By considering the concept of virginity to be sacred, women ultimately allow for objectification— objectification that men perseverate on. By treating the concept of female virginity as something of holy value, men then believe that female virginity is an object worth collecting, an object of high value. The Wendy Dilemma comes back to bite women in the end since women stay accepting of oppression and objectification.
Terrible solutions alleviate nothing. Systemic oppression and the objectification of women is an ongoing crisis in the West. Men continue to oppress women by objectifying female virginity while women simply accept these terms, in turn, using objectification proposed by men as a weapon. Instead of handling this crisis like adults, women and men look at childhood influences, such as Peter Pan and Wendy for guidance. A ripple effect, this vicious cycle continues as men pursue simplicity— a quality that solves nothing — and women pursue mere blindsided acceptance— a quality that also solves nothing. The Peter Pan Syndrome and Wendy Dilemma are a counterintuitive Ying and Yang that creates a ripple effect in Western society. In order to solve this ongoing debate, women must stop catering to a man’s every need while letting go of the idea that female virginity is sacred. Men, on the other hand, must learn to grow up and leave Neverland. Female virginity is anything but a singular definition.
Men in power have and continue to confine female virginity to a woman who has never had penetrative vaginal sexual intercourse. Because men hold the uppermost power in Western societies, women have been conditioned to believe that female virginity is an exclusive definition. The current, and singular, definition of female virginity dismisses a woman’s ability to make a choice. No single definition of female virginity will suffice unless women have the absolute right to define female virginity on personal terms.
Female virginity has no physical value hence a woman is unable to lose female virginity— unless that idea is closest to the woman’s definition of female virginity. Laura M. Carpenter, an author and associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, 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). Carpenter’s definition argues since virginity loss is a process and not a singular action, the idea is applicable to virtually anyone— any woman. Contradictorily, Carpenter fails to acknowledge that virginity is anything besides loss. Carpenter’s definition has quite the opposite effect, nowhere near health-enhancing and empowering; Carpenter’s definition confines a woman’s freedom of choice. Viewing virginity as something a woman loses is anything but progressive— Carpenter’s thesis is regressive in its manner. A proposal inclusive to all women, regardless of sexuality, experience, and personal identity would be to disregard viewing female virginity as a loss but rather viewing female virginity in itself a process determined by the woman. Female virginity is ambiguous and abstract, like the universe, female virginity is always expanding, surpassing all perceived barriers.
Men hold superior power in society. Used as a weapon, limiting defining lines of female virginity protects men’s authority over women. In order to secure societal control and power, men objectify women as a whole in order to keep the status of women inferior to men— a practice that has been relevant for centuries in the West. Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts claim, “…men tend to be portrayed in print media and artwork with an emphasis on the head and face, and with greater facial detail, women tend to be portrayed with an emphasis on the body” (Fredrickson & Roberts 176). Women are seen in mass media as sexual objects for personal use and/or pleasure— often being portrayed as promiscuous. Such depictions in mass media damage the reputation women have in society, alienating women. As biased depictions reach more people, the more women will continue to face discrimination. Fredrickson and Roberts continues, asserting, “…the sexual objectification of the female body has clearly permeated our cultural milieu…” (Fredrickson & Roberts 177). The damage has been done. Because women are portrayed in media as sexual objects up for use, female virginity is narrowed to penile-vaginal intercourse. Slyly, this idea of female virginity takes the forefront of definitions in Western society because it allows men to stay on top. In order to alleviate discrimination against future women, men must not be portrayed as the end-all-be-all.
Men with power define female virginity as avoiding penile-vaginal intercourse which in turn excludes women who express nonheterosexuality. In Western societies, heterosexuality is taught to be the forefront of sexualities. Linda Eyre, a contributor for the Canadian Journal of Education, argues, “…curricula continue to reflect heterosexist assumptions…” (Eyre 273). Eyre continues to argue that lesbian, bisexual, homosexual, gay, and transgender teachers and students alike are forced to stay silent about nonheterosexuality, claiming, “…many lesbian and gay students and teachers continue to hide their sexuality, often with disastrous personal consequences” (Eyre 274). This barrier creates distance between diverse peoples in larger society— a crisis that effects all peoples. As the classroom teaches individuals to stay silent about diverse sexualities, heterosexuality continues to dominate groups who are deemed minorities by the same men who objectify women and define female virginity. Penile-vaginal intercourse as the leading definition of female virginity is heterosexist— assuming every woman is heterosexual. This assumption is restricting and outdated for not every woman is heterosexual nor defines female virginity as avoiding penile-vaginal intercourse. Like viewing female virginity as a type of loss, also viewing female virginity as something only achievable by heterosexual couples is regressive. This singular definition fails completely. An abstract, female virginity is anything but a one line sentence but in order to exclude women of diverse backgrounds and to promote heterosexuality, men with power limit female virginity to one sentence.
Female virginity is limitless and free flowing— a decision every woman has the right to make. A weak one line sentence, the current definition of female virginity, fails to meet a progressive outlook where all women have a freedom of choice. Ambiguity as the leading definition of female virginity is best because ambiguity allows for personal interpretation and lack of judgment in society. Complex, female virginity is multilayered with a lack of a singular answer. By defining female virginity as ambiguous, women are provided with a road point and or the decision to dismiss any definitions or ideas, if chosen— a choice, which women were without before this proposed definition. To ignore man’s persistence on objectifying women, in turn objectifying female virginity, women must ignore man’s persistence— difficult but achievable. Female virginity has no merit value as men like to debate. There is no debate. Women are anything and everything, not objects for a man’s personal use and or control. Misogynistic approaches towards defining female virginity are of the past an in order to stay in the past, women must hold ground in order to repel a conservative, singular definition of female virginity. Ambiguity will always be absolute. Meeting the progressive outlook women have the right to, in ambiguity there is freedom and a choice— a choice in which every woman is entitled to.
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