What is Virginity: Top Facts

In most cultures, including ours, first-time sex comes with a significant amount of taboo, mostly focused on the notion of virginity. It is a concept full of myths and is wrongly considered to be a women-only problem. Read our top facts to clear the misconceptions and learn all you need to know about virginity.

What is virginity?

There is no single way to define virginity. In its most simple explanation, virginity can be described as the state of not having had sex. But this gives rise to the question – what is sex. In many cultures, the peno-vaginal intercourse is considered as the definitive sexual act. Accordingly, a person, who has had sex that involves the penetration of a vagina by a penis, is not a considered a virgin.

However, sexual intercourse can comprise of a variety of acts in which one’s sexual organs are involved. This widens the ambit of what can be considered as sex or a sexual experience. Accordingly, a penile erection, wetting of a vagina, masturbation and oral sex are all sexual acts. Also, any acts that lead to sexual pleasure, such as foreplay touching or a passionate kiss, too are sexual acts. From this perspective, anyone, who has had any kind of a sexual experience, is by definition ‘not a virgin’.

Does it apply to men and women?

Yes. Anyone – female, male, transgenders, heterosexuals or homosexuals – who has not had any kind of a sexual experience is a virgin.

Having said that, conversations on virginity mostly center on women. Virginity in men isn't very important in most societies. On the other hand, virginity is considered as a sign of a woman being 'unspoiled' and is directly linked to her family's honour in the society. Also, in the past, because birth control methods were either unavailable or worked badly, staying a virgin meant avoiding getting pregnant outside of marriage, which was/and is still not socially sanctioned in many societies.  

The myth of the hymen

Virginity in women is also commonly associated with the myth that the first act of a penetrative peno-vaginal sex leads to the first-ever tearing of a fragile piece of skin at the entrance of the vagina. This piece of the skin is known as the hymen. And that this tearing takes place with a certain amount of bleeding, making it possible to definitely establish whether a sexual intercourse is a woman’s first. This is a misconception.

Hymen is not a seal that breaks open only with penetrative sex. It is a skinny part of the vulva, outside the vagina, not deep within. It comes in various shapes and sizes and is of varying thickness. In some women, it can tear without sex, for example during a fall, while playing sports or by stretching, while in others vaginal sex or even giving birth won't make it tear. Also, it may come as a surprise, but some women don’t even have a hymen! 

So can one find out?

No, if there isn't any blood when a woman has sex for the first time, it doesn't mean that she isn't a virgin. There are NO other means either to find if a woman is a virgin. Even very experienced doctors aren't able to tell for certain whether or not a woman is a virgin, so no virginity tests are reliable. Even in men, common myths about a tighter penis or a delayed orgasms are no signs of virginity.

Should it matter?

No, it should not. Mutual pleasure, mutual consent and safety are the only issues that should really matter in a sexual relationship. A person's virginity does not add to or take anything away from a happy and healthy sex life. Yet, if virginity is important to you it is best to discuss this with your partner at the start of a relationship to avoid complications later.

And the only way to know the virginity status of your partner: just ask them and then believe them. And if you can’t, no amount of proofs (medical or otherwise) can compensate for the lack of trust.

Can virginity be restored?

Frankly, there is nothing to be restored. If a person has had a sexual experience they have had a sexual experience. And since no symptoms can be associated to a person having had sex before – such as a torn hymen – there is nothing to be undone.

Similarly, a hymenorrhaphy, the surgery aimed at ‘restructuring the hymen’ or other procedures aimed at ‘tightening of a vagina or a penis’ can only bring about physical changes in person’s body. Describing them as a process that restores virginity is wrong.

Virginity – a risk to women?

Many people who believe in virginity to be a virtue say that virginity protects women and girls. But unfortunately, putting such a high value on virginity puts girls and women at risk of violence, abuse and assault by those who think a woman’s worth is connected to her sexual behavior. In many conservative parts of the world, for example, raping a girl to lower her dowry or to punish her family is rather common.

Also, in order to 'protect' women and girls from having sex, methods like female genital cutting are used, putting them at high risk of life-long health issues and even death.

Check out this cool video from Love Matters debunking virginity myths!

With inputs from Stephanie Haase. This article was first published on January 18, 2018. 

Do you have any questions on virginity? Talk to our experts on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please visit our discussion forum

Did you find this useful?

I had a fingering with my bf and i had a pain and he asked me if am still a virgin.when he want to insert his penis it pains a little He did that severally and we didn't have sex and now i am afraid to have sex with him.please reply want to know if um still a virgin
Monica bete vagina is very small and flexible. So use lubrication... But you have to be very relaxed and also your bf should have to be very supportive during this time. It is not necessary to go inside the whole penis once, and it is not considered. Read this about And Hymen is a part of the skin of the vagina - virginity is connected to a hymen or membrane. Remember that it can break very easily, cycling, horse riding, or during sports etc., no one can know anyhow about your virginity unless you yourself didn’t admit or tell them about it ok? So don’t worry. If you would like to join in on a further discussion on this topic, join our discussion board, ‘Just Ask’
Deborah puttar it varies person to person and depends on like and dislike. Listen, one thing very important in any sexual activity is the consent of both partners. If she don't agree, feels uncomfortable, don't force it, and there are other activities that you can try, read here: If you would like to join in on a further discussion on this topic, join our discussion board, "Just Ask”
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