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If Virginity Is Merely A Physical State, Why Are People So Obsessed With It?

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By Nimisha Jain:

As the generations come and go, so do the beliefs and principles. But there are a few which find themselves cemented on the surface of the society and stay there fresh and undying. One such perception is about sex and virginity. Sssshhh…how can these words even be uttered? How can these be talked about? The interrogations seem to be vague because very often, these subjects are discussed and debated upon and therefore it genuinely appears that there exists no more shyness in this respect. But is this picture a vivid depiction of the reality? Certainly not. Society still has the same perception as it had 100 years ago. It is still reluctant when it comes to changes. It’s still obsessed with virginity and that too on a biased scale.

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The dictionary defines a virgin as someone who has never had a sexual intercourse but the definition put forward by the people is absolutely unalike. It means a pure and innocent soul. And it is the latter one which sets the standards of respect and dignity for the individuals. These standards are based on the distinguishing elements of virginity and chastity. Chastity, which is an act of having an intercourse with the one a person is married to, is regarded as the most sacred and divine act. On the other hand, the same act for an unmarried takes the form of a dirty and shameless one. Aren’t the opinions disappointing? And the disappointment reaches its height when such a limit to freedom is focussed to one section of the society- women. This isn’t just an opinion but a fact.

The books on ‘virginity retains purity’ are read aloud to girls on a regular basis but the same remain out of syllabus for boys. History suggests that men have never been questioned on their visits to brothels and on their relations with concubines. But in the same era, women, when unmarried, were behind the veils protecting their virginity or waiting for their husbands (after marriage) to make them complete. The times have changed and veils have disappeared but the notion remains unchanged. And the most insane part of this discrimination boils down to the ignorance towards rationality in this respect.

Even today, the society is reluctant to re-marriages of women and acceptance of rape victims, both of which the people relate to purity. Though chastity is the purest of all, this attribute gets violated when a married woman is considered for remarriage. Though the worst nightmare of rape wasn’t a choice of the girl, she is still boycotted, for an obvious reason- she is no more a virgin. Isn’t the thread that the society has been tying between virginity and purity of complete worthlessness?

Is virginity above every other virtue of a being? Is it a just criterion of judging a person? I am totally in disagreement! The society considers it of utmost importance and it couldn’t be blamed entirely for this attitude. After all, this is what every generation is taught by the preceding one. But it’s here where are we losing our brains and wisdom. Why isn’t anyone giving a thought towards the origin of such a notion? Let’s go back and explore history. From the ancient times, when men and women were equal and marriage wasn’t a concept, having sex was one’s choice whose only determinant was the willingness of the two involved. As time flew, separation in work gave rise to the roles of men and women, further giving rise to women’s dependence on men and thus the concept of marriage.

The authoritative attitude of man allowed him to treat his wife as only his property and therefore emerged the coin with two sides- chastity and virginity. But with the changing times, even the direction of change has reversed. We are moving towards the path of equality and independence while leaving behind the contradictory notions which are a hindrance to this journey. The prevailing perception towards virginity is one such hindrance. Let’s drop it!

Let’s accept the fact that nothing is absolute- neither the time nor the ideologies. Both are complements and move together. A transformation in one will surely produce a related modification in the other. The concept of virginity, therefore, deserves a re-consideration. Let’s not be the blind followers of the bygone societies but be the sensible ones to address the new time with new thoughts, new ideologies and a new attitude towards virginity.

You must be to comment.
  1. harish

    So what do you think about men losing their virginity?

    1. nimisha

      Men have an equal to right to enjoy the same freedom. The sole reason for the article to focus on women was to highlight the higher degree of confinement that the society lays on them.

    2. harish

      Thanks for your reply. What I’m trying to point out is that women in general put a very high price on their virginity, not in terms of money but in terms of what they expect in return for sex. Very often it is marriage and a lifetime of companionship. I wish to question that.

      This made sense in the olden days, when contraceptives/abortions were not widely available and women did not earn money to support the child. But now, I believe a woman should be free (and should freely exercise the right if they wish to) to have sex in exchange for sex and not “love” or “care” from the man. Those are also desirable too no doubt, but it should be in exchange of “love” and “care” from and for the man, not for sex.

      But my view has been criticized as “objectifying the woman as a means for male satisfaction”. I wish to challenge this, since the underlying assumption is that women don’t enjoy sex and just do it to keep their man. This is patently false and medical science has shown that women experience sexual pleasure in the same manner as men, although the society prefers they don’t.

      Which is why I asked the question about male virginity. Men in general have not been taught to be sentimental about their virginity. Maybe it’s time women started having sex for reciprocal pleasure and intimacy, and without such enormous strings attached. For one, men wouldn’t be so much inclined to pornography (and often prostitutes too) if women (and the society in general) stops placing such a huge premium on female virginity

      (And please don’t bring in rape into the above paragraph. We are talking about consensual sex not rape. )

  2. sachin kumar

    If all women wd become a slut then what is d need to get married n who ll b responsible towards children .For ur kind information women always talk about virginity cuz dey r losing dre virginity n they want to b accepted but most of d men lose dre virginity after marriage ,wont it b injustice for d men who hv been protecting dre virginity n waiting for d marriage, can u imagine d trauma of a person who is a virgin but his wife is a slut . 99% of women r non virgins . only few percent of men who r rich r non virgins its a fact .A few men only visit brothel ,most of men sublimate dre sexual energy in creative works.N no body can stop a woman ,they can easily pretend dat dey r going to her friends place but in reality dey end up sleeping wd some rich guy who can splurge lots of money on dre makeup n other things .Women r astute n cunning dey can easily decieve any one…………

    1. keval

      Sachin, have you read the title of this article? It’s “why are people so obsessed with virginity?”
      .
      Why don’t you tell me reason behind it! I am very curious to know why virginity of a girl matters to you?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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