There is one thing about women that the world is obsessed with. “It’s a gift!” they say in school, church, fashion magazines, in between retweets and shares on social media, and 19th-century novels.
“Once you lose it, you can’t get it back,” they hiss, their tone vicious with warning.
It is rarely about time, money, or trust, however, important these three may be. It is one’s virginity, which brings us to the first question- what does “virginity” mean really? This is how Google defines it:-
- The state of never having had sexual intercourse.
“He lost his virginity in college.”
synonyms: chastity, maidenhood, maidenhead, honor, purity, innocence
- The state of being naive, innocent, or inexperienced in a particular context.
Here, we are using the context of one who has never had sex. As innocent as the concept of virginity may seem, it has caused much harm to people, especially women and girls.
Firstly, the virginity concept is a sexist social construct designed to control people, especially women, and their sexuality. The concept of virginity is used to measure one’s purity and commodify women’s bodies because it creates a perception where we begin to believe that women who guard their virginity against the clutches of lust are “good women.”
It commodifies women by placing their virginity on a pedestal – a pedestal of purity and trust. ‘Virginity tests’ are held for various reasons ranging from ensuring a woman’s purity for marriage to determining if they deserve scholarships.
In February 2015, Majalah Dara held a sexual abstinence campaign called “Save Your Dara”, in which “dara” means ‘virginity’. Although every abstinence campaign starts off with good intentions (eg: to discourage minors from having the sex they can’t consent to yet), their underlying sexism cannot be ignored. “Save Your Dara” seemed to explicitly focus on preserving female virginity. For example, the campaign discouraged teenage girls from dressing sexily in order to not sexually arouse their male peers, who seem to be easily excited.
Did they teach teenage boys to not dress sexily too, or to simply respect women and girls as fellow human beings, regardless of their state of dress?
We give labels to people, particularly women and girls, who have had sex before it is socially acceptable to have sex that is after marriage. We label these women as ‘damaged,’ ‘sluts,’ ‘used,’ and the ever-popular ‘worn shoes.’ We use analogies to teach them about chastity, comparing them with locks and keys, where an ‘easy,’ and therefore useless lock would be one that fits every key.
We compare these WOMEN and GIRLS with chocolate bars, one new and pristine, another licked and chewed by icky boys; yet we acknowledge that WOMEN and GIRLS are NOT OBJECTS.
They are people with bodily autonomy, thoughts, feelings, and rights to their own choices, just like every other human being.
Here are some myths about Virginity.
1. Your virginity is hip, urban, relevant, and REAL.
Your virginity isn’t actually a ‘thing.’ Firstly, virginity commonly refers to the hymen, which is a membrane that partially closes the opening of the vagina. This hymen can be stretched in various ways, besides sexual intercourse, of course. Strenuous sports, tampon insertions, accidents, injuries, and a series of unfortunate events could tear the hymen.
Sexual intercourse may tear the hymen a little as it stretches, but the hymen doesn’t break altogether.
Most of us haven’t noticed that there is NO medical or biological definition for ‘virginity.’ Besides that, the HYMEN is only present in people with VAGINAS, which indicates that men do not have virginity to lose. This is sexist.
Your virginity, or lack of it thereof, doesn’t mirror your dignity. It doesn’t change you as a person. A person can have sex for the first time and be exactly the same person as they were before they had sex. Cool huh?
2. “Once you lose it, you can’t get it back.”
This statement is often directed to girls or women, hence pressuring them into not having sex and “saving themselves” for the “right man”. Until it’s too late, and these women are labelled as “anak dara tua” (translation: old maids).
You are not losing anything by having sex for the first time ever. Your virginity is not a diamond-encrusted “One Ring to Rule Them All” that magically disappears down Mount Doom the first time you have sex. It is nothing that you should hold value to as it doesn’t contribute to your skills or character. Hence, you can safely say, “Bye, virginity!”
Who needs to save their “dara” when they can save their money?
Besides, there is no foolproof method to determine whether a person is a virgin or not, because the hymen may have been torn, so anyone who asks will have to take your word for it, even though it is none of their business.
3. Keeping your virginity intact will lead to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling marriage.
Technically, it’s not called “premarital sex” if you never get married. The term “premarital” places sex in the context of marriage when it isn’t necessarily so.
This term makes sex without marriage seem shameful, and taboo, when it really is quite normal. It is also something we shouldn’t judge people for because it doesn’t affect anyone except those who consented. Some husbands still expect their wives to bleed on the first night, and – whoops- that didn’t happen, hence feelings of distrust and disgust begin to develop in their marriage.
Statistically, only 42% of women bleed the first time she has sex.
People believe that lack of abstinence represents the inability to love and respect one’s spouse. However, it is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you believe that sex before marriage will ruin your ideal marriage, then it does! The issue of your spouse or yourself having sex before marriage becomes a thorn in what would have been a healthy relationship.
4. Virgins are pure, good, and well-behaved people, blessed with magical powers to prevent hamsapness (translation: perverted-ness). Meanwhile, non-virgins are just sluts, waiting for the next person to sleep with.
This displays how the concept of virginity contributes to slut-shaming. It is not just a complex social construct, the concept of virginity is harmful. For example, society has painted a picture of the “ideal” rape victim – the good girl, one who dresses conservatively, doesn’t have sexual relations, has a few, or no male friends, stays at home all the time, and is mommy’s darling. “Here is a girl we would believe in!” they say.
Meanwhile, any rape victim who does not fit the “ideal” description gets discriminated.
“Good girls don’t wear tank tops, go out at night, or have sex.” They say, “You asked for it,” when a victim of sexual assault clearly didn’t ask for anything.
People expect these victims to be bruised, battered, and emotionally distraught (indeed, most victims are) but sexual assault criminals aren’t choosy. It could happen to anyone; their absence of the V-card doesn’t invalidate the assault that took place. This also bases a woman’s ‘purity’ on how much sex she has had; more sex equals to less pure.
Less pure equals her increased risk of getting sexually assaulted by ‘letting her guard down,’ hence she was just waiting for something bad to happen to her anyway.
The crime of sexual assault is downplayed when the victim isn’t a virgin or is sexually promiscuous.
Instead of blaming the victims, or policing how they ‘should’ have behaved, we ought to look to the preparators. THESE PEOPLE should have BEHAVED THEMSELVES and NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULT WOMEN.
5. Non-virgins walk differently from virgins.
THEY DO NOT! You cannot tell the difference between someone who has had sex and someone who hasn’t by observing the way they walk. STOP TRYING!
6. Drinking extra-virgin olive oil can help restore your virginity.
#Sarcasm, but in case you didn’t notice, the featured image shows a girl endorsing extra-virgin olive oil (note: this is not a product placement). If anyone deserves holier-than-thou bragging rights over this ‘virginity’ dispute, it is a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil. YOU GO, GURRLL!