Virginity By Definition, & In Relation To Sex

Knotted cherry stems

I want to premise this piece with a question, or, in fact, a pair of questions: how do you define loss of virginity? And how do you define sex? And – because I’m cheeky like that – a third: are the two the same? Give it a moment’s thought, and leave me a comment with your answer. (Even if you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the rest of this article, I’d dearly love to know your definitions and comparisons.)

These are questions that I’ve been considering since I first had penis-in-vagina-sex – heaven forfend I call that ‘losing my virginity’ in the context of this article, but for a long time that is the event I considered to mark the end of my virginal life – but it was listening to The Save Rubyyy Jones Hour that sparked inspiration today. In her ‘virgin show’, Rubyyy asked a few people about their first times and what they considered to be their ‘virginity loss’ moment.

Ben Is A Dark Horse – who I hope to share a spliff with some day, as we discussed at Erotic Meet on Friday – defines losing his virginity as the moment he decided to do it, before which he had been saving himself for marriage. What I like about his definition is that it is highly personal. Not many people claim this moment of decision as their moment, and I do think there is something to be said for making your own definition. It also facilitates a wide range of compatible and differing definitions, which is always good.

Meanwhile I have to raise issue with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross’s definition; the ladies say that sexual activity of any kind constitutes sex, and thus the first time someone touches himself, he has lost his virginity. First of all, the idea that a child innocently touching out of curiosity has lost his virginity is something I find, at best, awkward. I can’t help feeling that for most, there has to be a certain consciousness about sex in order for you to lose your virginity. (For the sake of this article I’m going to leave sexual abuse aside; I am conscious that this is something that can often blur the definition because of the lack of choice. However, I do not feel capable of tackling this aspect of the question, so I shall leave it for now.) But even then, masturbating, to me, is not quite sex. It is sexual, and once you start masturbating you are a sexual being, but I think it would be remiss of us to ignore the social definitions of virginity: there does, to my mind, need to be another person present.

Before I was old enough to raise issue with it, the definition I understood was penis-in-vagina-sex. Of course, the first problems I saw with this inference was that of gay and lesbian people. If you have to put a penis in a vagina in order to lose your virginity, what happens when there isn’t a penis or a vagina present? In my head it’s come to the point where I find this definition quite offensive. And even more base than this is the idea that, for girls, virginity is defined by your hymen. We all know – or, at least, I hope we all know – that hymens can rip from tampons, bike riding, horse riding, accidents, exercise… in fact, the list is quite endless. Not to mention the fact that some women aren’t even born with hymens. For all these reasons I feel that this definition needs to be thrown out completely. In some cultures misconceptions about this can actually have very serious connotations.

But back to the homosexual loss of virginity thing: Rubyyy’s gay friend had some trouble defining virginity, and ended up claiming that you lose your virginity when you or the person you’re with or both of you orgasm(s). This, to me, is also problematic, largely because I don’t even measure my pleasure by orgasms, let alone the fact of my sexual encounters. The vast majority of my sexual encounters have involved no orgasms on my part, and I’ve enjoyed a few where my (male) partner didn’t come either. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have sex. Equally, the night I “lost my virginity” didn’t involve any orgasms. I still had sex. And (if I was a virgin before that night) I still lost my virginity.

However, the line blurring that occurs due to homosexual relationships, particularly those between men, means that we do have to reconsider the penis-in-vagina thing which means – to my great delight – that religious kids can’t claim to be maintaining their virginity by having anal instead of vaginal intercourse. If you are consciously and sexually putting your cock in someone’s ass, neither of you are virgins.

On the other hand I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that sex is defined by penetration either; (without the aid of toys) lesbians are limited when it comes to penetration, and it may surprise you to learn that some gay men do not have penetrative sex either – same way some straight people don’t like anal sex, some gay people don’t either. And what about oral sex? There’s a clue in the name, isn’t there? Oral sex is, by definition, sex. I know this is a slippery slope – well, if oral sex is sex, then mutual masturbation is sex, then dry humping is sex, then groping is sex… and then you’ve had sex with that guy who pinched your bum in a night club. No. But somewhere in there, you’ve become a lot less virginal.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear definition, but I think it would be fair to put some wide parameters on it: for example, if you give someone a brief goodnight kiss after a first date then you’re not exactly making love to them. If your cock is deep in your girlfriend’s pussy and you’re fisting her ass while she screams in orgasm then you’re definitely fucking.

Perhaps it could be defined by intention: if you’re a lesbian you probably don’t dream of having your cunt full of dick, so you shouldn’t really make that your aim when it comes to losing your virginity. And if you’re a straight girl and your aim is to have someone’s hard dick in your pussy, then, I feel, that does give penis-in-vagina-sex some weight. If not literally, then mentally and emotionally. Perhaps we are conditioned by society to feel that penetration is significant, but then that is a human truth: I was thus conditioned and so it felt significant. No matter the reason, it still had that impact on me. Before that night I had engaged in mutual masturbation, oral sex, a lot of heavy petting, cyber sex (text, audio, and video), and had my hymen broken (by my boyfriend’s long fingers) but I still felt like a virgin, so feeling him push inside me was a turning point in a lot of ways.

Another theory I rather like is the one that does away with the ‘loss of virginity’ moment, and substitutes the idea that, for most people, it’s a gradual thing. Most people don’t have sex the first time they kiss someone, or the first time they grind their body against someone else’s. However, if you are a virgin, those events are significant. For me, as soon as I was on that track, it felt like stepping towards losing my virginity and, in retrospect, I was very aware of the fact that we were progressing in steps. True, there was still a moment when I knew, for sure, I really wasn’t a virgin any more, but equally it hadn’t felt true to answer the question “Are you a virgin?” with the word “Yes” alone for quite a while. I still felt entitled to the term ‘virgin’ (if I had wanted it, which I didn’t really) but it seemed to beg clarification. It seemed to require more. “Yes, I’m a virgin, but I’ve given blow jobs and stuff” felt far more honest.

Conversely, since losing my virginity, I have had sexual encounters that didn’t include penetrative sex, but in retrospect I do consider myself to have slept with those people, because we were sexual together. This goes along with the idea that when someone asks you “Did you have sex?” or “How many people have you slept with?” and you give an answer that doesn’t include the people with whom you’d only gone as far as – say – oral sex, that would actually be a slight misrepresentation. I don’t think, when asking this question, that many people are asking “How many people have penetrated you/you penetrated?”

(For the record, I still have no idea how or if to count people with whom I only enjoyed cyber sex. Furthermore, I’m not sure if I could even give you a number – not because there have been thousands, but because most were not particularly memorable. But the question rises when I consider Dom – who once whispered into my ear “to my mind, we just had sex” – and when I consider the Canadian – because of the depth and length of our relationship. But I’m just not sure where they fit into this discussion.)

It did occur to me that maybe we don’t need to define virginity. Maybe the problem is with our desire to put everything into boxes. I personally don’t have a problem with labels and categories – they are often very useful. But I don’t think you should blindly accept them at face value. For example, I class myself as submissive, but if you want me to submit to you it will require a hell of a lot more investigation. Same goes for virgins who are already on that track. And, actually, defining virginity is important, not in that we need to pin down a clear definition, but simply in that sex does make an impression on us. The truth is, the main impact the idea of ‘virginity’ has on us is emotional and mental. Virginity is not something that we really feel physically, so I think, in a lot of ways, it should be defined by our own mental recognition. I knew when I’d lost my virginity because I had reached the aim that I had personally set for myself. And – sorry to perpetuate stereotypes – that happened to be penis-in-vagina-sex.

But that’s just me. Before we met.

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14 Responses to Virginity By Definition, & In Relation To Sex

  1. Nolens Volens says:

    Thanks for the brain food. I love it when people make me think.

  2. Rubyyy Jones says:

    LGS love this! Gunna read again off the tube :)
    Nolens Volens would love to hear our thoughts on the show that inspired our gorgeous LGS!

  3. Yes, THAT Tonya says:

    I actually have this topic on my list of posts to make. Not the definition of virginity and, subsequently, sex, but the loss of my own virginity and the first time I had sex. They were two different events in my mind and have always been. I really like the way you tackled the subject. It really makes one think about how patriarchal definitions are ingrained in all of us.

    • LadyGrinSoul says:

      I have to say, writing about losing my virginity was actually a lot of fun. I tried to go for a satirical edge, which made it feel quite human to write. I’m curious about your claim that losing your virginity and the first time you had sex were two different events. Tweet me a link when you write that.

  4. Elenya Lewis says:

    I’m not sure how to answer this question, really. I agree about liking labels and boxes, but the lack of labels and boxes on virginity were equally important to me until I first had “penis-in-vagina” sex. It gave me license to be physical without losing my virginity. I was a firm believer in no-sex before marriage and I really struggled with it sometimes. I didn’t achieve it in the end.
    In my mind, the first time I had pentrative sex with my then fianceé is the moment I lost my virginity. He wasn’t the first person that touched me and he wasn’t the first person I touched. There were some mutual orgasms with other guys but I always felt unfulfilled by those and “wanted sex.” I count that kind of touching as sex now but I didn’t then.

    • LadyGrinSoul says:

      So you were in a similar situation to me, thinking about virginity – except yours was more a decision, whereas mine was frustration, haha. I really identify with the shift in what you think of as a sex, after losing your virginity, and I think other people feel the same. And I don’t think people talk about that enough.

  5. Catharine says:

    I went on holiday at the end of August and had sex involving hands, mouths and genital to genital contact without penetration, and call that sex, but didn’t call it losing my virginity. It did feel slightly weird still calling myself a virgin after that, but the only place I called myself a virgin in that period was on my blog/Twitter, and there was a blog post describing in great detail what I’d actually done, so I didn’t feel like I was exactly conning anyone.

    I’d say I lost my virginty at the start of September when I did stuff that involved having a cock in my vagina.

    For many years I’d assumed I’d first have sex with a woman and if I’d gone on holiday with a woman rather than a man and done thing ” involving hands, mouths and genital to genital contact without penetration”, I’d have called that losing my virginity, so I’m kinda sexist really!

    The whole hymen thing annoys me; I was a virgin until I was 25 and people said some odd things to me about hymens over the years. The reason that it’s a terrible way to ‘know’ if a woman is a virgin is not because women tend to break theirs before sex; it’s pretty much impossible to do so playing sport (it would involve a painful accident, at least – landing on the front of a saddle might do it) and if a hymen got broken by a tampon it would have to be an unusually large hymen and/or a case of very severe clumsiness. Hymens are generally still untorn even after virginity loss. And even when they tear it’s hard to tell with them all being different shapes anyway and generally quite jagged/frilled. The world seems to have created a mythical hymen and it’s weird.

    I keep meaning to write a blog posts about hymens and the creepy myths.

    • LadyGrinSoul says:

      I think the double standard there applies to lots of people.

      I do have to disagree with you on the hymen stuff though: whilst in general hymens are pretty tough, there are always exceptions. It’s not “pretty much impossible to [break your hymen] playing sport”. It’s a part of our anatomy that just cannot be generalised about because, as you say, they come in so many different shapes. I have friends for whom it was so painful they couldn’t have sex for a long time after they wanted to. I have friends who’s hymens broke when they were much younger and with no pain. I have friends who broke theirs with some discomfort riding bikes/horses. And then me – broken by my boyfriend’s fingers: there was a LOT of blood, but I didn’t even feel it. But a lot of women DO break their hymens before sex. It seems to be different in every single case.

  6. Catharine says:

    A lot of women just assume they’ve broken their hymen (or ‘lost’ it). The fact that so many use ‘broken’ and ‘lost’ interchangeably actually also suggests they don’t have a clue what it is.

    Because society creates these weird mythical versions of the hymen (which might be, say, a trampoline-like thing half way up the vagina), a woman correctly identifies that no, she doesn’t have a trampoline-like thing half way up the vagina, so assumes she has no hymen, rather than assume she has an actual real-life hymen, just not the creepy mythical version (or indeed a fairy living in her belly button).

    There doesn’t seem to be any scientific evidence that it’s possible to break a hymen from sport and if it is possible it’s probably about as likely as breaking your lips from too much singing. Even for women who have an unusually large hymen, it’s going to require something prodding against it to do it any damage. I’d imagine that only a few percent of the population have a hymen that could cause any problems at all. Most failure or difficulty having sex tends to be caused by the actual vagina.

    I think there’s something weird about the widespread claims that hymens regularly break from masturbation, exploration, tampons or sport. Let’s face it, they’re all things that creepy religious obsessives also don’t like women doing with their own bodies.

    • LadyGrinSoul says:

      Hmm. I think I’ve already answered this, in essence. But I shall leave the debate open to other potential participants. It’s not quite my main issue of concern anyway.

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