Virginity Was Invented To Control Women’s Bodies
I have a problem with the idea of virginity.
Before I delve into this decade-long battle, I want to say that this is based on my personal experience and the harm I’ve seen the concept do to people in my community.
Virginity is very personal for many, and if that’s the case for you, this is not to dismiss that. This is to dismiss all the people who told you what virginity was and why it’s important.
Virginity was invented to control marginalized bodies, women’s bodies. It has been weaponized against us and others for centuries. Its origins are bleak. Victims were (and still are) publicly shamed and humiliated if they didn’t “pass” the virginity test, leading to their death in extreme cases. Virginity was used by those in power to control those who weren’t, and is still used today.
Let’s get one thing straight: virginity isn’t real.
It’s not a physical thing you can “prove,” no matter how often people may have tried to do that in medieval times. The hymen being an indicator of virginity is a joke (see here and here) and a dangerous myth used to attack women.
Virginity is a restricting concept for so many reasons. It’s wrapped up in some serious bullshit that a bunch of privileged men invented because it catered to them and the patriarchal structure of their time.
Sex is seen as something that only men enjoy, something that only men actively seek out, something that only men should gain pleasure from. If a man hasn’t orgasmed, it’s not “real” sex. If a man has already gotten off or gotten what he wanted, sex is often deemed over, regardless of what their partner wanted (especially if they had a female partner).
No one ever talks about men’s virginities. No one talks about men getting “deflowered” or “defiling” themselves by having premarital sex or having “too much” sex. No one calls men “sluts” or “whores” or “hoes” because they sleep with a lot of people. Instead, sex is seen as the default, the norm, a trophy for men.
And it shows up in our culture in a lot of ways. It shows up as a phallocentric society that jokes that men are biologically wired to be obsessed with sex and that this is totally okay. It shows up as shitty sex education, leaving out the real pleasure that the rest of us experience. It shows up as rape culture, excusing sexual assault and harassment as something that just happens, is the fault of women, or something that isn’t wrong because “she wanted it.”
This is not to say virginity is evil, but it does mean that we must reclaim our societal definition of virginity and acknowledge the spectrum of sexuality and pleasure that touches all genders. It means we think twice before saying things like “real sex” or “deflowering” women or any other terms that invalidate the real, lived experiences many of us have.
Sex is individual and personal. No one has the right to tell you if it’s real or not. No one has the right to shame you for being a “virgin” or not.