Virginity


Virginity is the state of never having had sexual intercourse. It is viewed positively or negatively depending on one's gender, one's age, one's culture and one's own personal beliefs and attitudes.

In some cultures virginity has no special significance, and young people, of both sexes, engage in coitus very early and there is no special status associated with not doing so.

In others, virginity is required of both sexes, and in many it is required of women only. Violation may result in severe punishment.

For example, proving a bride's virginity became a public matter wherein the bed sheets used by the couple on their wedding night were hung out the window for the wedding guests to view. A bloodstained sheet was a sign that the groom penetrated the bride's intact hymen, causing it to bleed. Though not medically true, the theory was that the hymen would be unbroken if she were still a virgin.

Retaining Virginity: An Important Goal

In some North American cultures, retaining virginity until marriage has been an important goal. Many parents and some sex educators disapprove of loss of virginity until marriage and are especially adamant about teens remaining virgins. A chief motivator of this standard is concern about the welfare of young people, particularly young women, who are at risk for pregnancy.

A number of religious groups also are in favor of virginity until marriage, but their sanctions against premarital coitus are based more on the churches' ideology.

Peer Pressure

Not all adolescents and young adults are comfortable with the idea of virginity, however. Peer pressure often dictates that being a virgin is an undesirable indication of immaturity or prudishness. Losing one's virginity is seen as a rite of passage into the adult world of sexuality.

Like most sexual behaviors, remaining a virgin or not is a personal choice. Nowadays there may be more ambiguity about the goal or milestone for which virginity is being maintained. Until recently, marriage was the clear-cut boundary separating sanctioned intercourse from sinful intercourse.

Modern Standards for Virginity

In modern relationships where the goal may not always be marriage, new standards are set based on depth of caring, commitment, or some other agreed upon concepts. An interesting framework for describing some of the different sexual philosophies among unmarried virgins and nonvirgins was developed by D'Augelli and D'Augelli in 1971.

According to these authors, inexperienced virgins are individuals who have had little dating experience until college and have usually not thought much about sex; adamant virgins are people who firmly believe that intercourse before marriage is wrong; potential nonvirgins are individuals who have not yet found the right situation or partner for coital sex and often seem to have a high fear of pregnancy; engaged nonvirgins are those whose coital experience has usually been with one partner (typically someone they love or care deeply about) and only in the context of a committed relationship; liberated nonvirgins are people who have more permissive attitudes toward premarital intercourse and value the physical pleasures of it without demanding love as a justification; and confused nonvirgins are those who participate in intercourse without an understanding of its motivation, its meaning in their lives, or its effect on themselves or others.

Double Standard for Virginity

The issue of virginity is often subjected to a double standard based on gender. In our society, boys are typically encouraged to, and congratulated for, engaging in intercourse. Losing their virginity tends to elevate their status in their peer group and sometimes even in the eyes of their fathers or other older males.

Girls, on the other hand, are cautioned not to lose their virginity and their reputations often suffer if they do engage in sexual intercourse. One wonders then to whom the boys are supposed to be losing their virginity.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute

Related Articles