Author Peggy Orenstein was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air recently, discussing her new book Girls & Sex. The last paragraph in the synopsis on NPR’s Website really rang a bell for me.
The topic was virginity. After running through a list of possibilities, one young woman had concluded that females lose their virginity when they have their first orgasm with a partner. I can’t think of a better definition, though it differs greatly from the common standard and leaves itself open to interpretation.
Control of others through their sexuality is a topic that’s covered in several other posts on The Shaggist. The reader is probably already familiar with some of these heinous impositions: Shame, female genital mutilation, circumcision, monogamy, ostracization, imprisonment, ex-communication, eternal damnation. Here is yet another.
Virginity has long been prized as a near-magical virtue. Dogma ordinarily requires zero sexual contact with anyone until marriage, including one’s self. The measure of chastity in females has traditionally been the existence and condition of the hymen, the protective organ possessed by most – but not all – young girls. Unfortunately, boys possess no such physical determiner though circumcision and other penis-oriented practices can have some quasi-religious connotation regarding manhood.
The ideal of the intact hymen traces to the false notion that any vaginal penetration will result in the tearing of this tissue, normally with some amount of concomitant bleeding. Willfully retaining the hymen precludes both intercourse and vigorous masturbation, not to mention physical activity that could potentially strain or rupture the hymen inadvertantly. Thus young females are expected to not explore themselves, not get to know their bodies, not learn about the fabulous vessel in which they reside. All in the name of remaining a virgin and ideally carrying the resulting ignorance forward into marriage, after which virginity is lost forever.
So are there different types of virginity, as suggested by Peggy Orenstein? Does this suggest that there is a way to have sex and not lose your virginity? The short answer is yes and it’s not difficult to understand.
Standard virginity simply requires the lack of hetero-style penetration, regardless of gender. Very convenient to know when evaluating one’s limits while growing up, but what about all the other sex things one can do? Self-exploration, masturbation, penetration with fingers or objects, oral and anal sex, viewing porn, sexting other kids, riding the washing machine like mom used to do? How about hymen restoration surgery? Where do all these fall in the virginity spectrum? Nowhere and everywhere, according to our convoluted societal norms.
Virginity is only a concept. We are all virgins from birth, experiences and sensations flooding us as we go, each new encounter erasing our virginity in that one unique way. So, if one has never been a public speaker or driven a race car or gone skydiving then they are a virgin in each of those ways. Of course, these are just life experiences, not sex, right? Right?
I encourage each of you to lose as much virginity as you can in this life. Love and peace be with you.