The concept of virginity is prized in our culture, whether valorizing virgins, or celebrating it in the form of purity balls. Human beings were compelled to accept the concept of virginity for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the concept of virginity helped in preventing human beings from engaging in sexual anarchy. Secondly, it kept human beings safe from catching sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The concept of virginity established a sense of dignity in their lives and taught them to respect their bodies. However, the mindset of our society has changed. Today, virginity is nothing but an antiquated and obsolete concept for many of us. As modern society became more liberal, its levels of tolerance also increased. The men and women of today have more opportunities to mingle, and they have far more sexual freedom, which increases the likelihood of losing one’s virginity. The purpose of this research paper is to explain the concept of virginity, elaborate the reason behind its significance, the variance of its significance between the genders, and whether this concept is relevant and valid in today’s society.
A variety of structures such as biology, culture, gender, psychology and/or religion must be taken into consideration in order to successful define virginity. Although, the very meaning of virginity has varied throughout the ages, the simplest definition of virginity is the state of having refrained oneself from engaging in sexual intercourse which involves the penetration of the male penis in the female vagina (Blank). This definition of virginity applies to both men and women. However, when it comes to women the definition of virginity branches out to include the intactness of the hymen and associating its loss when it is broken. Although the “fold of mucous membrane partly closing the external orifice of the vagina in a virgin” ("dictionary.reference.com") can also be broken as result of other physical activities, such as horseback riding, the dictionary like most anatomical and biological books presents a very narrow world-view of virginity by defining the hymen in terms of a virgin vagina. However, there are several problems with these definitions of virginity. Firstly, often girls are not born with a hymen (Jacoby and Youngson 889); secondly, as mentioned, the hymen can be broken as a result of other physical activities other than sexual intercourse, and thirdly, penetration is possible in different ways.
Before virginity can be defined more accurately, it is important that the definition of sex itself is figured out. However, again there is a problem with that because even the definition of sex tends to vary. For instance, some people define sexual intercourse simply as the penetration of the vagina. Other people exclusively define sex as the penetration of the vagina by the penis. Similarly, some people include anal and oral sex in the concept of sex (Carpenter 45), while others do not. The physical factors aside, the terms abstinence and celibacy also have a strong connection with virginity, both of which in this context refer to refraining from having sex, more specifically before marriage. Thus, virginity does not merely depend on the physical factors but also on the emotional factors. Of course, this all the more complicates the concept of virginity. So ultimately the best way of defining virginity and its loss is to determine what it means to us. Even though society is stringent about the definition of virginity, the only way clearly define it is what we believe it to be, whether it is never having engaged in sexual intercourse, having the hymen intact in the case of females, or simply never having reached the emotional and physical levels of intimacy.
Just like there are different ways of defining virginity, similarly, the importance and value of virginity varies from person to person, and depends on their own judgment. However, there are several basic reasons why society treats virginity as something important. The biological reasons behind the importance of virginity are of course, the protection from STDs, and the prevention of premarital, unplanned pregnancy and the after effects. Others believe that virginity is important because it grants an individual a status of empowerment (Bearman), being a sign of one’s personal conviction, and gives value to their own being. Similarly, since preserving one’s virginity takes a lot of control and discipline, virginity is also regarded as a valuable trait because it seemingly reflects an individual’s self confidence, self control, and willpower. However, ultimately, the reason why many of us think virginity is so important is because this is what our religions have taught us and what the societies we are living in have ingrained in our minds. Most religions, especially Christianity, associate virginity with spiritual purity. In fact, religions, such as in the Bible, even instruct us to “abstain from sexual immorality” ("biblegateway.com"), at least before marriage, and because sex is referred to as an immoral act, we believe that it is morally necessary to be a virgin.
Therefore, it can be argued that it is because of the prominence of religion and religious values that the concept of virginity gained importance in the society and within the hearts of people in the first place. However, the question is whether the concept of virginity is as important as it once was. In the past, in most places, even in liberal countries, premarital sex was regarded as a taboo, and for a period of time, it was and in some countries, still is, a norm to remain a virgin until marriage. However, in many other countries, adult virgins have become a stereotype (Henry), are considered to be backwards. Adult virginity is even ridiculed and seen as a psychological problem (Walsh). The importance of virginity can even be associated with personal preference of fulfillment in a relationship. For instance, some people believe virginity is not important because it is better to have experience when it comes to sex. Experience and knowledge in the bedroom, between the sheets is counted as a valuable trait these days. For others being a virgin is important because of “tighter” virginal vaginas ensure more enjoyable sex for both partners. Whatever the case, like the definition of virginity, its importance also depends on one’s own beliefs and values.
While the importance of the concept of virginity in today’s society varies, however, there also seems to be variance in the importance of virginity in men and women. One factor behind this could be the fact that throughout cultures, sexual intercourse and the taking of a girl’s virginity, is often reserved exclusively for the purpose of reproduction and continuation of the family line. In the 1930s, virginity in women was viewed as close to indispensible. According to a study, even though the value placed on female virginity has declined, it appears that virgin brides are valued more than virgin grooms (Buss et al., 2001). From a man’s perspective, there are several reasons many of them prefer a virgin bride. Firstly, virginity in women until marriage is a reliable sign that they will be loyal to their husband in the future, while promiscuity can lead to cheating and paternal uncertainty. According to another study, premarital sex and the loss of virginity before marriage is an indicator of the possibility of extramarital sex (Weiss, and Slosneric 349-358). Of course, a more lay reason of why men, in particular, desire virgin brides is because of the male fantasy of taking a woman’s virginity and enjoying marital sex. Then again, virginity, even in women, is not as crucial is not as crucial but has become more of a desire.
Everything in societies that has symbolic value has always been based on perception, and the same is the case with virginity as well. In fact, the concept of virginity is based on multiple perceptions, especially cultural and religious perspectives. However, virginity is a very personal and touch subject for every individual, hence the perspective that matters the most is the personal perspective. The fact that definition and importance of virginity varies from person to person, as seen in this research paper, is an obvious sign that virginity is more of a personal choice. Every individual should have the right to choose to preserve their virginity until marriage, or to lose it before getting married, it should not be up to society using moral and religious grounds to impose upon people that being a virgin is necessary for them. If a person chooses to be a virgin until marriage, for whatever reason, then there is no reason to ridicule and stereotype them. Similarly, no one has the right to point a finger at someone for losing their virginity before marriage if they choose to. If the choice of having or losing virginity was left up to every individual, and perhaps those they are in a relationship with, to decide, the concept of virginity would not be as complicated as it is today.
“I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening: I drank and danced all night with doubt and found her a virgin in the morning” (Crowley).
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