Virginity Is A Social Construct 

Recently there has been a surge in conversation pertaining to virginity, especially with the recent news that T.I. sits in on his 18-year-old daughter’s gynecological visits to “ensure her hymen is still intact.” 

However, it has long been established that virginity is a social construct used to trap women into thinking that they ultimately lose a part of themselves to some man with a shrimp penis and two brain cells. 

This perception that virginity is measured by if your hymen is stretched or not has been proven to be false according to a plethora of sources, including Planned Parenthood. Some people have naturally more open hymens. Hymens can also be stretched by simple things like riding a bike or playing sports. Even using a tampon can stretch your hymen. Once your hymen is stretched open, it can't go back. With our modern advancements in technology and medicine, you'd think people would stop using this medieval way of measuring a patriarchal social construct— yet, sadly, stupidity persists among our population, but anyway… let's talk about virginity and its misogynistic roots. 

Virginity is a social construct made up by men to ensure that women “stay pure.”

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Purity in any sense is a dangerous term. More often than not, it condemns the population that is deemed impure. At the essence of virginity, it is almost always dominated by heterosexual discourse surrounding penetrative vaginal sex. 

In semi-recent news there have been false cure claims that have taken hold in sub-Saharan Africa, and some parts of India and Thailand that virgins are so pure that if a person diagnosed with AIDS has penetrative sex with a virgin, they will be cured. This consequently led to the rape of younger and younger girls, some may even attest to babies. 

You can trace the obsession with virginity all the way back to Roman Catholic worship of the Virgin Mary, or Mirology. Mary was considered the “New Eve” in the Middle Ages, highlighting the importance of purity in luring men to do good. However, since she was at the crossroads between the heavenly and earth, this led to the popular belief that women are supposedly ~evil.~ 

A prime example of a good ole evil virgin was Queen Elizabeth I of England. She ruled England for 44 years, but people are still talking about the men she interacted with during her reign. More interestingly— her sex life. People didn’t obsess over her because of her virginity— they obsessed over her sex life because she was 34 years old and childless. She didn’t provide the aristocracy with a child like a proper woman should, thus she was deemed a slut. Sex without children was pointless to English society— why would a woman ever engage in sex for pleasure? Her lack of interest in producing a child meant she failed to uphold patriarchal notions of power and control over women’s bodily autonomy. 

More recently, according to Carpenter in her 2005 study, there are three scripts women tend to follow when it comes to their beliefs surrounding virginity: gift, stigma and process. 

Through this study, we see that some women perceive virginity as a gift to be given to their partner. These women tend to believe that they must have a solid, fulfilling relationship before they “give” their virginity to their partner. It is their prized possession, something to cherish. Often these individuals express the need to find the “right” or “perfect” partner. 

The second script, stigma, takes a different form. Usually these women see their virginity as something to get rid of. Unlike the “gift” script, they aren’t necessary prioritizing the “perfect” partner but more wanting to get rid of the shame attached to "still being a virgin.” Often individuals within this script try to hide their sexual history (or lack thereof) to potential sexual partners and view sex as a way to improve their social status. 

The process script tends to be more fluid. These individuals see virginity as something lost in their transition to adulthood. Unlike the second script, they don’t fear being seen as inept in sex; they often appreciate their sexual partners having experience. They did not speak about having the perfect partner like the gift script, reflecting a less emotional based decision. 

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In Kelly’s 2010 article, “Virginity Loss Narratives in ‘Teen Drama’ Television Programs,” she expresses how virginity has been a staple for teen television. Most TV programs are following the first script: giving a “gift” to their partner or abstaining from sex all together. In many instances, sex is portrayed as dangerous. When sex does take place, viewers are bombarded with speeches about unwanted teen pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted infections. *cue the fear*

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No doubt, a lot of our conversations surrounding virginity are influenced by cultural scripts we are fed throughout our lives. This can be through our families, television and media, cultural or religious backgrounds, and our education, just to name a few. 

It’s not even surprising that girls and boys tend to experience different conditioning when it comes to virginity. Boys are applauded for losing their virginity, often being able to tell their relatives, potential partners, and friends about losing their virginity without being deemed a “slut” or “whore.” We often see this materialize in conversations surrounding individual’s “body count,” or how many sexual partners an individual has had. For men, this is seen as a topic that they can boast about with their friends. The higher the number, the more social capital they acquire. However with women in this case, the “higher the body count” the more people that may perceive her as “easy” or a “hoe.” 

Even in the situation of “body count,” the framing of sex to women is seen as negative. An active sex life for women is seen as an inherent problem to their morality and/or character, or something to not talk about. This is complicated and problematic. 

Creating a sex-positive discourse is important in dilluting the stigma for women, but it also can expand the conversation surrounding sexually transmitted infections, Planned Parenthood reports. When we are open about sex with our sexual partners, it can help address sexually transmitted infections (STI). STI’s are more common than they are perceived by society and you should not be ashamed for getting the proper treatment for them. When you have any other health problems, you are not socially ostracized for getting treatment for it. You should be able to have conversations about sex without having to whisper about it or feel ashamed. Combatting the stigma around conversations is just a small step in the direction of ensuring we are all able to be healthy, happy individuals to ensure we all have healthy and happy sex lives. 

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While creating sex positive discourse is not without its problems, especially in conversations surrounding trauma for survivors of sexual assault, it can be useful in starting discourse surrounding sexuality for women as well as expanding conversation around STI’s. 

Talk about sex if you want, don’t if you don’t want to, but don’t let society tell you how you should feel about yourself and your relationship with your own body. Do not let the cultural scripts of society keep you from treatments for STI's or seeking resources for your sex life. Virginity is a social construct made up by men, and you will never lose any part of you to a man's penis (if you swing that way), I can promise you that. You're not losing anything, darling— it's just your sexual debut.