First of all, what exactly is ‘virginity’, and why is it so important in our society? Why is it seen as desirable in women and undesirable in men? To be a virgin is to not have had sexual intercourse, but with the ever-changing definition of that phrase alone, how is so much importance still placed on a state of being that leaves someone, in most cases, visibly unchanged?
Let’s deal with the term ‘sexual intercourse’ to begin with. If you’re a virgin, you haven’t had this, and if you’re not then you have. It seems fairly simple, but that’s without fitting such a concept around non-heteronormative relationships. Sexual intercourse is defined by its relation to heterosexual sex, and though some definitions are evolving to become more inclusive there is still some debate as to whether or not lesbians, gay men, queers, aromantics, or people of other non-binary sexualities can even have sex. That would mean that you and your partner(s), no matter how committed you were to each other, would forever be virgins. This idea promotes exclusivity; only heterosexual people can have sexual intercourse, and everyone else can crochet or whatever it is that they do in their spare time. The concept is more than a little ridiculous.
So if we go with a broader definition of sex, then everyone can have it, which I’m sure you’ll all agree is much fairer. However, the whole framework of sex positivity – as long as it’s between two consenting adults then who cares, it’s your body – ignores the existence of asexuality. Someone who is asexual is not necessarily aromantic. Though people who are aromantic do not feel romantically for anyone, they can still enjoy sex and form strong, platonic bonds with others. Asexuals, on the other hand, have no desire for sex, but may still feel for people romantically and fall in love. Aromanticism is covered by the general sex positivity movement. Asexuality is not. The idea that sex is inherently good, rather than bad, is a great message to send out to the large percentage of people who desire and enjoy sex, but it alienates those who do not. The message leans more towards “losing your virginity and having sex is what’s normal“, and though that may be a slight exaggeration, safety could be found in middle ground. Yes, you can lose your virginity and that’s your business, but if you don’t want to have sex then don’t. I think we can all get our heads around that.
Women and men are held to different standards when it comes to losing one’s virginity, but that’s old news; it spans across different cultures and goes back far too many years. Men are not generally criticised when they act upon their sexuality; women acting in the same way are shamed and forced to marry that man in the street who saw their ankles before the whole village finds out about her wanton behaviour. Put into a modern (more serious) setting, this translates into sexually liberated women being referred to as “sluts” and men who are free with their bodies as “players”, which just makes them sound like lovable vagabonds. Virginity has long been associated with purity, which is something that is usually only applied to women. Men are not expected to be pure, and this double-standard is becoming harder to ignore with feminist movements bringing it to the forefront of the cultural consciousness. Acceptance of promiscuity should be universal, not simply allowed for those who present themselves as men.
In the end, your virginity – if such a thing truly exists – is yours. It does not belong to anybody else; not to your father, your mother, your spouse, or your potential one-night-stand. Too much focus is placed on chastity and propriety when it should be placed on safety and happiness. Two consenting adults of any gender having sex is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is not having sex at all. Nobody should ever be made to feel like less of a person for the way in which they choose to use their body.