Why The Entire Concept Of 'Virginity' Is A Lie

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virginity myth

Definitions of virginity have always varied according to culture and time.

In the past, virginity was an important concept because when wealth and property were passed down through the male line, confirming paternity was essential so as to clarify inheritance. In times before DNA-based paternity testing, the main way to establish paternity was to establish that a woman had not had sexual intercourse with anyone prior to having it with her husband and becoming pregnant. Women were seen as property, so establishing virginity meant that male ownership was clear.

Sexual purity was the responsibility of the women and proof was required. 

In the modern world, it is relatively easy to establish paternity and the price of paternity testing is no longer prohibitive (£99 for simple tests in the United Kingdom and from £289 for legally-admissible tests). 

Virginity has long been used as a way to control and exploit women. There are many countries in which hymen checks are still done in schools.

I was recently at a presentation at ScarletLadiesUK where a woman from eastern Europe confirmed that these checks are still done and girls found to have a damaged or missing hymen were sanctioned or excluded as a result. Never mind the fact that many women don’t have hymens, many have lost them riding horses, doing athletic activities, or only have partial hymens. Never mind the fact that the scientific community no longer believes that hymens mean anything.

Hymenoplasty costs up to $5000 and there is still a lot of demand. Virginity testing is labeled unethical by the World Health Organisation (primarily because the exams are intrusive and produce no valid results).

Related: This Is What Being Bisexual REALLY Means (To Me, At Least)

The importance placed on a girl’s virginity is the impetus behind bizarre situations in which young women will engage in oral sex with other women or perform oral sex on young men and still consider themselves "pure." Many will be promiscuous and yet manage to hold on to the "pure" image.

Taken further, many young people now believe that oral sex and anal sex are not actually sex when virginity remains intact.

These very intimate sexual activities have become common place and divorced from intimacy.

Virginity has come to equal morality.

Good girls remain virgins. Sluts give away their virginity before marriage. This binary view of women causes intense psychological damage. It takes away woman’s choice about her body, her sexuality, and her relationships.

Women often use "purity" as a way to feel superior to other women and to compete for relationships with desirable men — to help to find a good husband. The ideas surrounding virginity and purity again highlight women’s bodies as objects. Virginity is either lost or taken. This myth remains almost as strong today as it was in the middle ages.

The myth includes the idea that first-time sex will always hurt because of the hymen tearing. It continues to say that it is possible to tell whether someone has had sex in the past and that once lost, virginity cannot be reclaimed.

But there is no scientific validity to this idea at all. It is complete fallacy.

Hymens do exist but they are not the gateway to the vaginal canal. Usually, the hymen is across one portion (the top) of the canal. If torn, like any other cut flesh, it can heal. It can stretch as well. First-time sex will certainly hurt if there has not been proper preparation. If foreplay warms a girl up, she often won’t experience any tearing or serious pain during penetration. The myth of virginity adds the culture of shame and guilt surrounding sexuality.

How can we undo the damage that this myth causes?

First, we have to make sure that people have good sex education with information that is correct, up to date, and scientifically valid.

Second, we need to remove the shame from sex and sexuality. Virginity perpetuates women being shamed for having sex and sexual feelings and men being rewarded for having sex and sexual feelings. 

Third, we need to empower women to make choices about sex and sexuality based on their own needs and desires. This may be the most difficult step. Many women are not used to thinking in terms of their own pleasure. They are socialized to think about how they look, how they appear, and what will please their partners. Shedding this socialization takes effort. 

What can you do to undo the damage?

If you are male:

Examine your own bias.

Do you talk about wanting a "good girl" or a "pure" girl while at the same time trying to seduce girls you're attracted to? Is virginity something you think is important for the girl but not for the guy? Look at where these ideas come from.

Do not devalue sexual partners and sexual experiences.

If "purity" is important, don’t ask partners to engage in oral or anal and label this activity "not sex." Oral and anal are intimate sexual activities. Period. 

Stop slut-shaming.

And help the women you know stop slut shaming. Slut shaming is as prevalent among women against other women as it is from men to women.

Speak up when you hear people quoting junk science and making claims that are patently false.

Work with others to change the cultural climate.

Related: I Was A Virgin Until I Got Married — And I Regret It

If you are female:

Spend some time unpicking your feelings about virginity and purity.

If you find these ideals important, be able to explain why you do and don’t shame others for having different ideals. If these ideals are truly important to you, don’t engage in sexual activity and then call it ‘not sex’ or say it doesn’t count because your hymen is still intact. If you believe in purity, stay pure. Don’t use guilt and shame as tools.

Explore your own sexual needs and desires.

Be able to label them and understand them. Take responsibility for your desires and your pleasure and for getting these met.

Work through any shame you have about sex, sexuality, and pleasure.

This may require some help. If you are finding it really difficult, enlist the aid of a coach or therapist.

Don’t shame other women.

Learn to say to yourself "Their pleasure is not my pleasure but that’s fine." Or "That’s not my cup of tea but you enjoy yourself" instead of being shaming.

Work to change the cultural climate by educating others.

Most importantly: Be authentic. Show up as all of who you are. Hiding your light, remaining in the shadows helps to grow shame. As Brené Brown, the world’s leading researcher on shame and guilt says:

"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."


"If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame cannot survive."

Dr Lori Beth is a sex & intimacy coach and psychologist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups to help them explore sexuality, recreate a healthy sexual identity after trauma as well as deepen their awareness and understanding of intimate relationships. Why not join her at her free tele seminar: Intimacy & Authenticity With Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey 3 Secrets To Comfortably & Confidently Explore What Arouses, Excites, & Ignites You (In & Out Of Bed!) on 20 September 09:00 PST/12:00 noon EST/ 5:00 pm BST.