O-Face: Reflections on virginity


Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

It’s a sticky subject, virginity.

There’s only one way this is supposed to happen, right? A man lays a woman down in missionary, strokes a few times, blows his load and suddenly your virginity vanishes like the ghost you thought you saw slinking down the hallway at 3 a.m. Then, much like the ghost, you’re left to wonder if what just happened was reality.

We, as a society, are preconditioned to believe that this is the only normal way to have sex for the first time. And, for a time in our lives that valued so highly, these are exceedingly low expectations.

As a woman, I was incessantly taught that the first time was supposed to hurt and it was expected that I would bleed. Contrary to this belief, if you bleed during sex it typically means that something was not done right. Yes, even if it’s your first time. This isn’t a case of the hymen being punctured. Most people with vaginas who have used a tampon or ridden a bicycle have torn it long before their first sexual encounter. Hymens are not indicators of sexual activity.

In spite of the scientific fact that the body, or a person, doesn’t necessarily change due to sex, female virgins are extremely sexualized. You’re called a slut if you lose it too young and are considered to have more value by men with it in tact. When I was 18, an older man on the internet offered me money in exchange for my virginity (never mind I wasn’t a virgin at a time) because he fetishized it so much.

What form does virginity really come in? What constitutes losing it? Did I lose it when I was 6, curiously laying naked under my bed with a friend? Was it my first time doing oral as a teenager?

No? Then maybe it happened while I was first exploring my sexuality with women. Or was it the man who begged me until I gave in?

That man who wanted to buy my virginity did not fantasize about my virginity. Not really. He wanted my penis-into-vagina virginity. The only virginity that counts to so much of society. We are conditioned to believe that virginity is one thing only: Heterosexual. No other sexual experience matters if a penis hasn’t yet taken the most valuable thing about you.

Sexual first-timers: your experience does not require labels or even expectations. The concept of virginity is fluid. It is up to you to write your own narrative of sexual maturity. And if you decide sexuality isn’t even something you want or need, that’s valid, too.

Do what feels right to you. It’s your prerogative. Our society’s definitions of sex are not rooted in inclusive, scientific reality. With luck, education and effort, maybe we can eventually untangle all of the unfair stigmas we’ve plagued ourselves with.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @rayphenomenon