I decided to write on the most taboo topic of our society as I have felt that lots of unhealthy notions are deeply embedded in our generation regarding the issue of virginity. I tried to encompass as many points in this article but still, there is the possibility of missing some crucial aspects. I have tried to understand this perspective from both the sides, men and women, however, I agree that I can understand but never feel this situation from the perspective of a girl. Nevertheless, my male privilege allows me to write so frankly on this issue. The references provided at the end of the article are really some informative articles, do have a look at them to understand this issue better.
When it comes to marriage, “virginity” is the deal-breaker for the majority of the Indian men as well women irrespective of their educational status. Although, the reasons for being concerned about virginity are quite different for men and women. The patriarchal society and the perverse cultural norms related to sexuality have made pre-marital sex such a taboo, that even well-educated girls have internalised the cruel standards imposed on them. They have submitted to the idea that having sexual desires (which is a perfectly normal and one of the innate desires found in animals) is immoral or having pre-marital sex is almost like a sin or getting impure or akin to deceiving their parents. However, they cannot be blamed for it as there are severe consequences if they try to deviate from this norm, and it almost always results in “character assassination” and “slut-shaming”. Ironically, not only men but women also indulge wholeheartedly in this process of naming and shaming.
The prevalent definition of virginity in the society is that when a girl has peno-vaginal intercourse (penetrative sex) then her hymen breaks and she is no longer a virgin. However, this definition is reductive because this excludes those girls who have broken their hymen even before having sex for the first time by riding cycle, playing some sports, masturbating or inserting a tampon. This definition also does not take account of homosexual intercourse or the other modes of intercourse like oral sex, which is technically not considered as sex.
Virginity is a social construct contrived by religion and patriarchy to control the sexuality of women so that it can be used as a commodity for the benefits of men. It has been used to construct a false dichotomy of two types of women: a) those who wait for sex until their marriage and hence are good women with pure character b) those who are sexually active before their marriage and hence are characterless or impure women.
Moreover, the virginity of men is considered of lower value than the virginity of women because historically sexual prowess has been associated with masculinity. That’s why we have the dual standards of “studs” vs. “sluts”. However, sexually inexperienced males are also chastised for not being virile enough.
2. In India, the legal age of consent for sex is 18 for both men and women.
3. No standardised medical definition of virginity exists. (4)
4. There is no scientifically verifiable proof of virginity loss. (4)
5. The hymen is not destroyed after the first sexual intercourse and it will stay there for the entire life of a woman.
“Phrases like “popping the cherry,” “loss of virginity,” or “deflowering” leads us to believe that once sexual intercourse occurs, the hymen is destroyed or compromised in some way. This is not true.
The hymen is a very thin, elastic membrane that rests either outside of the vagina or just inside of it. During sexual intercourse, or the usage of tampons, fingers, etc. the membrane (hymen) is simply stretched, due to the elastic nature. However, if one or their partner is too rough, too fast, or if not amply lubricated, the membrane can tear. This can cause a sharp sensation outside the vagina and it can cause bleeding. So, ultimately the hymen stays with one, their entire life!” (1)
6. Bleeding or not bleeding on first sexual intercourse can’t be used to infer that whether the girl was sexually active or not. It’s quite possible that even a virgin girl might not bleed in her first intercourse.
7. Sexual intercourse does not affect the personality of an individual i.e. ethics, morality and character of a woman has nothing to do with her sexual life. Because if that were the case then all the virgin guys and girls in this country would be no lesser than saints, however, we all know that is not true.
The concept of association of purity of a woman with sex is just a disgusting myth. The absurdity of this concept can be seen from the fact that according to the society, after marriage everything is justified – even marital rapes also, however, pre-marital sex is not justified as it would render a girl impure.
The majority of the Indian men are uncomfortable with the prospects of marrying a girl who is a so-called “non-virgin”. These men and unfortunately lots of women also suffer from what is known as the
“A woman’s character does not lie between her thighs.”
Patriarchy sustains itself on the commodification of sexuality of women and it enforces such unethical moral codes by using religion or social pressure, just to keep its cruel and inhumane structures intact. Women should assert their basic rights of sexuality by embracing it boldly and sooner or later they will earn their freedom from the oppressive shackles of the patriarchy. People should question these perverted norms of sexual morality as well as their own understandings of sexuality because then only the old ideas could be replaced with new ones.