Virgins And Other Mythical Creatures
Virginity does not exist. At least, it can’t be defined in any useful way, and the concept does significant harm.
In the past few days, there has been a number of posts about virginity. These posts don’t exist in isolation; Jessica Valenti gave the topic of virginity as a social structure book-length treatment in Purity Myth. Before that, Hanne Blank dealt with it in Virgin, The Untouched History, and in her excellent essay in Yes Means Yes, “The Process-Oriented Virgin.”
Guest poster Erica at Feministe has posted a series on the sexual learning curve this week, and the comment threads have included many personal stories. Her posts are:
What Kind of Mirror Did You Have To Look At Your Vagina With?
On Being Totally Okay With Losing Your V Card
Your Virginity Is A Delicate Flower And If You Give It Away You Will Die; and
Hotel Rooms Are Where The Best Sex Always Happens Anyways.
I am in favor of talking about this stuff, but I’m against imposing definitions. I have come to the conclusion that:
I can wing a bullshit, arbitrary definitions just fine, and I have before. Hint: mine is not penetrocentric, I don’t think there’s anything about Tab A in Slot B, or any other slot, that I want to put on a pedestal. But really, I think the whole thing is a bit of a fool’s errand. I’ll repeat my older post … :
Unless one is a sex or public health researcher, rules for what counts as sex so that one can count don’t really serve any purpose that I can respect. The reason for this counting is to slut-shame, or to defend against slut-shaming. Those readers who have gotten through the book know my view is that “slut” as a concept is a byproduct of a view of sexuality that I reject, and that has got to go.
There is no medical definition of virginity, so a biological and objective line is nonexistent and would not be of much use anyway. A social definition is necessarily tied to a definition of sex; I conclude that there isn’t one and trying to create one is a just plain terrible idea. Therefore, I conclude that virginity is similarly a fool’s errand. No fair and useful definition is possible.
The truth of most of our lives is that we have a progression from our childhood to our adulthood, which includes our sexual development — internal and experiential. Marking arbitrary points on the curve of our own development loses the larger truth.
I’ll briefly relate my own experience, and that of one ex-partner. I first had PIV when I was seventeen. many surveys and many ordinary people would say that before that day I was a virgin, and after, I was not. That makes no sense to me. In fact, before that day I had already been in an MMF threesome, a MFF threesome, had started doing some BDSM with partners, was polyamorous and had begun to identify myself as a kinkster and grapple with the political implications of a non-mainstream sexuality. In college, I dated a woman who hadn’t had PIV or PIA intercourse until well into her twenties. But in my relationship with her, she was poly, played with women and did regular BDSM. And we both identified as het, so the cheap dodge of different rules for queer folks cannot erase the incongruity of calling open, experienced poly kinksters virgins. We’re not alone in that regard; as CBrachyrhinchosis said on one of the Feministe threads, “[a]nd of course, being queer and occasionally kinky really pushes PiV sex out of the central place it’s assumed to have.” For a lot of us, the standard measures don’t well describe our experiences.
Virginity is a holdover from a reproductive property model of womanhood and marriage that has no place. Preserving such a vestigal construct is not a useful endeavor. I’m not the only person who thinks so; on one of Erica’s Feministe threads, Maggie referred to a “virginity losing process.”
That, I think for most of us, is really what happens. We start as children and we become adults, and in between is a learning curve.