Stories about virginity obsession can go on and on...
Plastic surgeons reconstructing hymens
"Magical" medicines and creams promising vaginal tightness
Mothers-in-law waiting to see blood on the sheets after the first night of their son's matrimony to affirm that their daughter-in-law is indeed a virgin
Even Madonna titled her early hit "Like a Virgin" on this topic alone!
Virginity gets all this talk around the world because even today, a woman's worth gets attributed to her sexual purity.
So what's virginity? And why is everyone so crazy about it!
A virgin is a person who has never had sex and virginity refers to someone never engaging (or not yet engaging) in sexual activity, specifically intercourse.
This obsession with virginity can be dated back to the worship of the Virgin Mary — the mother of Jesus, who conceived him "immaculately". Because Jesus was seen as the son of God, Christians believe that Mary and Joseph didn't need to have sex for Jesus to be born.
What's the difference between a hymen and virginity?
It's important to separate the hymen from the concept of virginity.
The hymen is a membrane or a layer of skin present on the vaginal opening. In many cultures, its presence is often considered the mark of virginity. Because the hymen can tear and bleed after the first time someone has sex, many people believe that only this bleeding confirms someone's virginity.
Often, girls and women are told in many conservative cultures that taking part in sports, biking, running, lifting heavy weights, or sexual activity can lead to their hymen breaking, and in effect, losing their virginity.
However, more and more research shows that not every person has a hymen, and these hymens change throughout your life due to hormonal changes.
This also means that not everyone bleeds the first time. Sometimes, bleeding during sex occurs when the body isn't fully ready or aroused enough, or there is force used upon entry.
Why do cultures place significance on virginity?
One reason might be to prevent young people from getting pregnant, having unsafe abortions, and contracting STIs.
It's also because historically, women were often considered someone else's property — transferring ownership from father to husband and often to son. "Virginity" was meant to control women's sexuality and choices.
Is virginity real? And can it be proven?
Until recently, the old tradition of checking virginity through the two-finger test was considered a legitimate legal practice in many countries (Pakistan and India). Apparently, if a doctor can fit two fingers inside a rape victim, it means that she consensually agreed to sex. This was banned and changed quite recently in both countries.
There's no real way to tell if a person has had sex before or not. Physiologically, nothing breaks or changes once we have sex. The United Nations have called virginity "a social construct" or simply a concept developed by society over time.
Is the concept of virginity expected from men and boys?
In the majority of cultures, virginity is only important if you identify as a woman or girl. Men or boys are celebrated if they lose their virginity early. If they don't, they're often mocked or criticized, and their sense of masculinity is questioned.
Your friends have all had sex already, and they keep making fun of you, calling you a virgin as an insult. What should you do?
Is there a timeframe to lose your viriginity?
Absolutely not! It's completely your choice when you lose your virginity and with whom you decide to have sex for the first time.
Media, peers, and your family can push you to delay or speed up that decision, but only you know when you're ready on an emotional and physical level. Trust your timing!
What can you do to change ideas about virginity?
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This Byte has been authored by
Founder & CEO at Aurat Raaj