Virginity Is A Social Construct

19 Dec

Jezebel published a piece today with the title “Nearly 1% Of Women Claim They Were Virgins When They Gave Birth,” and, because this is Jezebel we’re talking about here, they used this as an opportunity to shame and belittle the women who say that they became pregnant while still virgins. And just so we all understand what author Erin Gloria Ryan means by virgins, she writes that they are women who,

“… were unpenetrated by the peen of a man when they became pregnant.”

She further explains,

“This doesn’t include women who became pregnant via in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination; these are women who gave birth the old fashioned way and were like *shrug! SERIOUSLY GUYS I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENED!”

Then (incorrectly) asserts,

“Getting pregnant without sex is virtually scientifically impossible, yet dozens of women in the study (who were teens when the research began) swear up and down that their babies happened sans man. This is the biological equivalent of claiming that your glass of drinking water spontaneously began boiling itself without the presence of heat. I mean, maybe it’s Unsolved Mysteries-possible, but it’s highly doubtful that 0.8% of all glasses of water boil themselves. Come on.”

Also, just so that we’re really super clear on how Jezebel views these women, the article was posted to their Facebook page with the following header:

Nearly 1% of women insist they were virgins when they gave birth, which means that nearly 1% of women are delusional.

Oh, Jezebel. Jezebel. I know all the cool kids have already said it, but damn. You sure do suck at feminism.

First of all, it is definitely scientifically possible to become pregnant without having penetrative vaginal sex. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s possible – all you need is for a someone to ejaculate on or in close proximity to the vagina, or else have some other thing with sperm on it – a finger, say, or a sex toy – penetrate the vagina. Yes, these are unlikely ways in which to become pregnant, but they’re not within the same realm as water spontaneously boiling.

Second of all, can we not have this discussion without calling women stupid or crazy or just flat out accuse them of lying?

Third of all, can we please stop talking about virginity as if it is a real, measurable thing?

Virginity is not a thing. Not really. It is a social construct meant to make people, especially women, feel badly about their sexuality and sexual experience. It is a way of policing other people’s bodies and passing judgment on how they use them. It is, at its very core, a way of controlling and subjugating women.

One problem with the idea of virginity is that there’s no hard and fast way of deciding who’s a virgin and who isn’t. Many people would define loss of virginity in a very heteronormative sense – a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. But does that mean, then, that a queer woman who has only ever been with other women is a virgin? Is a gay man, who has only ever had anal sex, a virgin? Most people, when pressed, would agree that no, those folks aren’t really virgins, even if they’ve never had penis-in-vagina-style intercourse. The flip side of this is that many rape victims don’t feel as if they have lost their virginity even if they’ve had penetrative intercourse forced on them. They consider themselves to be virgins because they don’t consider what happened to them to be sex. So taking all of that into consideration, how do we then define virginity?

Some people have said that performing any sexual act constitutes losing one’s virginity, but that seems like much too broad of a definition. Kids start experimenting with sexual play and experimentation at a fairly young age, so does it then follow that anyone who’s kissed someone of the opposite sex or shown them their genitals has de facto lost their virginity? I’m not sure that this idea makes any more sense than saying that virginity can only be lost through one very specific sexual act.

Another problem is that there is literally no way of knowing if someone is a virgin or not. Oh, people will tell you that you can check if a woman’s hymen is broken, but that’s not a reliable indicator at all. A hymen can be broken without any kind of sexual intercourse, through sports or through some kind of injury. Not all women are born with hymens. Not all hymens tear during penetrative sex. And yet we’ve all been sold this idea of torn flesh and blood on sheets as some kind of definite rite of passage for women. This idea – that you can somehow tell if a woman has been sexually active – has contributed to the oppression and subjugation of women for pretty much all of recorded history. It’s given men a way to control women, to make them ashamed of their bodies their sexuality. It’s led to a double standard where it’s fine – even encouraged – for boys to gain sexual experience, but women who are sexually active before marriage or have sex with too many people are considered to be slutty or damaged goods.

Finally, why is virginity so damn important to us? We don’t have nouns for who or what we were before we hit any other life milestones – there’s no term to refer to a person before they can walk or talk or read and write – all of which I would argue are more important achievements than getting laid – and yet it’s the sex that we focus on. Why do we put so much more weight on this one small facet of human life than we do on any of the others? Why are we still making a big deal out of who is a virgin and who isn’t?

This is the discussion that we should be having – not about whether women are lying or delusional about their virginity, but about why we still use this damaging term. We need to talk about why the idea of virginity continues to hold such sway over our cultural consciousness, and why so-called feminist websites a perpetuating the thought that virginity is a tangible, definable thing. Most of all, we need to figure out a better way to talk to kids about their bodies and their sexuality, because the way that we’re doing it now clearly isn’t working.

Even Mary agrees - virginity is bullshit

Even Mary agrees – virginity is bullshit

221 Responses to “Virginity Is A Social Construct”

  1. melanieliangjm January 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Agreed. And I think it doesn’t really make sense for girls to “boast” about the fact that they are still virgins when they have already done everything from the first to the third base, just not the home run. I guess many people tend to focus too much on the technicalities of the term “virgin”, and fail to realise that even if, technically, there is no penetration involved, a couple has already crossed physical boundaries by doing everything else prior to the final stage.

  2. ashlynapierblake January 7, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    Reblogged this on I Dreamed a Dream.

  3. stevencharlesrae January 7, 2014 at 6:29 am #

    Reblogged this on stevencharlesrae's Blog.

  4. lostinloveandlife January 7, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Reblogged this on lostinloveandlife and commented:
    I love this

  5. k a r a h ~ January 7, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    this is worth your time

  6. k a r a h ~ January 7, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Reblogged this on k a r a h ~ l i n and commented:
    love this one , thought ~ provoking

  7. burnielancaster January 7, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    Love this! Great job. 🙂

  8. lostinloveandlife January 8, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    Reblogged this on lost in love. Check it out!

  9. rabbiadar January 8, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Well done!

  10. albertvgn15 January 9, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    Fwd: Fwd: no subject
    MORE DO IT (very nice) HEALING PRAYER. Try not to break it, if you can not send it, let me know … I know you chose well as twelve people, hopefully we can receive strength and Divine Light … This is a novena of Father Ignacio, which began on January 10, 2005 and still has not broken … when you receive it, pray a Hail Mary and make a special order … do not forget to work towards your dreams, as well, with you and with God everything is done much faster … “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen “(Here make your wish). Please do not break this novena, send it to 12 people you think deserve Justice, Health, Peace, Love and Truth, but do not keep … Our Father who art in heaven, walking into my house and take all my worries, diseases, fears and please protect my parents, brothers, I (s) Child (s) my friends and my family, in the name of Jesus! Amen. If God is first in your life, stop what you’re doing and send!, So that all your contacts today to receive a blessing. No silence that God does not understand or he does not know sadness, no love and he tears not ignore values. Dear God Bless the hands that opens this post, also illuminates the eyes of those who read and full of Love and Blessings to whoever shares. Choose who give … Angels have learned these fighting something, say it is over, do not cut please these warned / or tonight two issues of your life for your relief will be arranged, tomorrow will be the best day at all, I leave 12 angels one for each month, you must give it to twelve people, including me, will reach you in twelve minutes tkmm good news ……

  11. Francis Philip January 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    The reality of virginity is tied to the reality of virtuous men and women who wait until marriage to have sexual relations. Just because you may not be a virgin or know no one who is or know others who may falsely claim “virgin birth” does not mean that virginity is a myth. Neither is virginity “dangerous.” My aunt was a virgin on her wedding night; it was obvious and it became a family story – that’s how I heard about it.

    • lib June 11, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      No-one said being a virgin or taking agency in when you want to consent to sex (like after marriage if that’s what you want) is dangerous, obviously their is nothing wrong with that.

      The author is saying the social construct of the label virginity and associated de-valueing of sexually active females is damaging and dangerous.

      It’s a little disturbing that your family discusses their sex acts with each other tho, or maybe I’m just a prude I don’t know, but i personally found this shocking *shrug*

      • Francis Philip June 11, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

        Well, it may seem shocking that I know (because brothers talk and sisters talk) but I was taught to honor virginity and to, therefore, honor my aunt for her virtue as a result.

  12. Polémique January 12, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    This is great, thanks for writing it! I hate society’s obsession with virginity, whatever the definition be. It seems like they also might not consider the fact that some women who “lost their virginity” to a rapist might still consider themselves virgins, god forbid.

  13. innervoiceoutloud January 13, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Reblogged this on innervoiceoutloud's Blog.

  14. howcharlotteviewstheworld January 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Great piece. I love how it really makes you think. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter.

  15. missmiika January 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    ALL of my yes!

  16. Tris Chandler February 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Also, super rare but women who have never had sex can be pregnant through parthenogenesis.

  17. madeyamu March 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on imade and commented:
    I love this so much!

  18. dejidope March 8, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    that picture is so so so disrespectful and this is pure trash

    • Chidi February 11, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

      Then don’t come on here and comment acting like you are so much a saint. Coming from a Nigerian like yourself, we act all holy but behind closed door do worse. African should stop this I am too holy attitude.

  19. dietaproteinowaa March 20, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful blogs online.
    I most certainly will highly recommend this site!

  20. Happiness June 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    I have this problem hanging on my conscience for so many years now. its all has to do with the several boys u had sex play with as a growing child. Please can I share with you?

  21. Happiness June 24, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    I have this problem hanging on my conscience for so many years now. its all has to do with the several boys I had sex play with as a growing child. Please can I share with you?

  22. girlandbluebird October 26, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

    Reblogged this on girlandbluebird.


  1. Oh no! There’s no such thing as sex! | This and this and that - January 15, 2014

    […] little while ago, I read this text. I found it to be very enlightening, as I had never thought of virginity as a pure social construct […]

  2. SOCIAL CONSTRUCT 1: BEAUTY | imade - March 21, 2014

    […] I heard abt social constructs and i felt this way since but recently i read this article about how virginity is a social construct, and it really opened my mind. All the things we care so much about and base our lives on, do we […]

  3. Team Hillary or Team Monica? Uhhh… I think we’re on each other’s teams | Izzy In a Tizzy - May 14, 2014

    […] fairly prominent. To this day, there remain countless examples of when pro-women writers lambast other women without considering the context of the situations these women are in nor the consequences of their […]

  4. Virginity, Violence and Male Entitlement | The Belle Jar - May 31, 2014

    […] had penetrative sex with a man (or any sex with anyone, to be honest). And yes, I believe that virginity is a social construct and not actually an actual thing, but at the time it was very real to me. I was embarrassed and […]

  5. [Generation Y] Is it bad to die a virgin? - Page 12 - July 21, 2014

    […] to me anymore anyway. But my sentiments were the same before I made my sexual debut, so to speak. My belief is that virginity exists ONLY as an outdated social construct anyway. Some social constructs serve valuable functions. Others are just archaic remnants of dumber times […]

  6. You’re Not a Virgin (Probably) | We Got So Far To Go - August 7, 2014

    […] not the first person to criticize the concept of virginity (oh hell am I not). It’s fairly well established in most feminist circles that the concept of […]

  7. Sex Isn’t Currency (and Why Virginity Isn’t Real) | Offending Boys 101 - April 29, 2015

    […] the words of the blog The Belle Jar, who wrote a post entitled “Virginity Is a Social Construct” […]

  8. Sexual Equality, Sexual Decadence: The Emerging Menace of Female Predators | Living in Anglo-America - June 21, 2015

    […] responsible adults to the conclusion that traditional morality — denounced by feminists as a “social construct” of the “heteronormative patriarchy” — was based on an understanding of human nature more […]

  9. Virginity Is A Social Construct – spillingtheteaa - January 29, 2016

    […] Source: Virginity Is A Social Construct […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: