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ISSUE 118 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/5/2004

Like a virgin

By Jennifer Hancock
Staff Writer


Friday, November 5, 2004

While many people on campus are sexually active, there are some who by choice or circumstance have never had sex. We call these people virgins. Some are embarrassed by their virginity and want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Others are proud of it and only want to lose it after marriage. Others feel a sort of indifference to their virgin status; they are neither proud nor ashamed. So what makes a person a virgin, anyway? In the past, this term could be applied only to women with intact hymens. There was no term for men who had never had sex (except maybe loser). Men were expected to sow some wild oats, while women were supposed to keep their hymens whole  no wild horseback riding, let alone vaginal intercourse before marriage. It kind of makes you wonder with whom the men were having sex, if women were supposed to remain virgins until marriage Well, at least we know better today. Women without hymens and even the masculine half of our species can be called virgins. Unfortunately, today nobody seems to know what the word virgin actually means  though I suppose the most straightforward way to define a virgin would be as a person who has never had sex. However, this definition is problematic because there is no clear-cut definition of sex. Alas, we must ask the eternal question brought to the forefront by one William Jefferson Clinton: what constitutes sex? If sex is simply a-penis-inserted-in-a- vagina, then homosexuals, who have never had heterosexual intercourse, would be considered virgins  no matter how much down and dirty loving they got from a same-sex partner. By the same token, someone who has a ton of illicit oral sex would be a virgin simply because he or she has not partaken of the penetration equation. And what about anal sex? Can one be an anal slut and a vaginal virgin? A friend of mine regaled me with tales of girls in her high school, who bragged about their virginity even though they had anal sex with their boyfriends. Are they virgins? Maybe virginity refers to a certain level of sexual purity. There must be some line which when crossed constitutes a loss of sexual naïveté. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that line would be. But if virginity refers to sexual purity, then a person who is involved in behaviors like oral sex, anal sex or heavy petting is not exactly virginal. So is a virgin someone who has never been kissed? Or someone who has never had a sexual thought? Who knows. Since we cannot measure virginity objectively by the presence of an intact hymen, it seems that virginity has become a meaningless term. Rather than having virgins and non-virgins, all people are somewhere along a continuum of sexual experience. However, as sexually free as our society has become, we still attach positive and pure qualities to the elusive word, virginity. When we have sex for the first time we say we have lost our virginity. This phrase is highly aggravating. Why do we have to call having sex for the first time losing virginity? Isnt first-time sex awkward enough already without calling it a loss? Certainly first-time sex can be a bad experience, and for that reason considered a loss. But for many people sex is a gain. Sex provides greater intimacy and physical pleasure. Many people feel unnecessary guilty when they have sex for the first time simply because they have been told that they have lost something in the process. Instead of enjoying the intimacy, they have gained with their partner, they experience a sense of grief and loss. Why not put it in more positive terms? We could say we have gained intimacy or booty or something like that when we first have sex. Dont get me wrong. I am definitely not encouraging every virgin to have sex immediately to experience all the good that comes of it. At the wrong time or with the wrong person, first-time sex can be a terrible experience. But at the right time and with the right person, there need not be a sense of loss. Just remember even if you only had oral sex, you did indeed have sexual relations with that woman.

 Any questions or comments may be sent to sexcolumnist@stolaf.edu.





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