Defining virginity and the loss thereof is not simple, as there are physical, spiritual, and personal definitions of the word. The physical definition says that if the internal tissue, known as the hymen, is torn, the woman is no longer a virgin. Historically it was the presence of an intact hymen that was considered the mark of virginity. If a woman has used an insertable vibrator or dildo, and her toy has torn or stretched her hymen, she has, by the physical definition, "lost her cherry." The problem with this definitions is, of course, that physical activity of almost any sort, the use of penetrating fingers during self-stimulation or sex play, a medical pelvic exam, or the use of tampons can tear the hymen long before a penis is ever inserted. By this definition, a woman could lose her virginity alone and through nonsexual activity.
It is the religious concept that causes most people to experience guilt and shame, as the word purity becomes associated with virginity. The theological loss of virginity occurs when the woman has her first intercourse, but the premarital sin is not specific as to depth or duration, or the love shared (or not shared) by the couple. Historically, this prohibition was probably associated with viewing intercourse as being only for the purpose of procreation, rather than recreation. Before the relatively recent introduction of birth control techniques, saving intercourse for marriage might well have been the church’s attempt to prevent children from being born out of wedlock and thus having to grow up without a father. This moratorium on premarital intercourse is so much a part of our society, that the definition is accepted even by those who are not religious, although ignored by many who are. By this definition, a woman can lose her virginity without feeling passion, pleasure or orgasm. The physical act is the "sin," not the intent, the feelings, or the outcome.
The personal definition is quite flexible. If a woman feels she is a virgin until she has intercourse with a man she loves, she can give herself permission to have a number of casual affairs, and still feel justified in wearing white (the symbol of purity) on her wedding day. If another woman feels she will forefit her purity if a man arouses her, she will avoid sexual stimulation.
I should also add the neighbors' definition. There was a time when bed sheets were displayed outside after the wedding night, so that neighbors could observe the blood spots. No doubt in many cases the spots were from a pin prick on a finger, rather than from a ruptured hymen, but the significance of faking virginity is noteworthy. Many young girls, feeling shameful, will deny having had intercourse even to their closets friends. What neighbors think can have little similarity to the reality of the woman's hymen.
The avoidance of sex is often a matter of wording. Since in our society we have mistakenly equated the words sex and intercourse, and use them interchangeably, there are those who will do all manner of sexual activities short of copulation, but deny having sex. Clearly, "having sex" includes "having intercourse," but is not limited to it. By manipulating our vocabulary, we can give ourselves all kinds of excuses and permission!
The bottom line is not about the concepts of “virginity,” but about the making of responsible decisions, about a woman's right to choose, and about maintaining self-respect regardless of the choices made. For some women the choice is to save intercourse for someone special or for marriage, but to experience the pleasures of orgasm with manual, oral or vibrator stimulation. Each woman must clarify her own set of values and decide her own limits.
Did you read the article on Loss of Virginity: Your First Time?
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