The Great Debate: Is Virginity Even a Thing?

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Yes, it is (Ezra):

Restraint is a value all but forgotten in modernity. The first world war shook the west such that we have never really recovered, and never will. People were generally more shocked and appalled at things in those days. But having been persuaded by authority to fight a gruesome and stupid war which killed off the best of us who were brave enough to sign up with zeal to fight for King and country, but who were instead slaughtered for nothing, we have been left in the mire. And from the mire has emerged a new ethic. We now live in an atomised society, where individuals believe their actions only affect them: a symptom of the selfishness fostered by a cynical and indifferent cultural shift which despises tradition and the structural fabric which maintained community and empathy.

And now, here I find myself half astonished at having to argue that the concept of virginity is even real. Some propose that the concept of virginity was created as a patriarchal weapon to control the sexual behaviour of women. This is half right, but it was also created to control the sexual behaviour of men. The tradition of ‘waiting until marriage’ and the custom of marriage itself was practised to protect women from predatory men who could not be trusted to support their children. Men would have sex with as many women as possible if left to their own devices. Marriage and virginity were social tools to force men into contracts under oath which bound them to their wife and children. This tradition has been rotting in the graveyards of Anglican churches for decades now, and whilst I see no possible return of this institution, I lament its death. The most meaningful oath we can take in our society is no longer to be taken seriously, which brings into question the seriousness of society itself.

Ultimately, the assault on virginity as a concept is only a micro-symptom of the real change in social morality. Like abortion, it is the result of a movement towards a world in which the desires of the individual trump those of the family. Where hedonism and self-adoration are sacred, and the restraining traditions of the past are to be made a mockery of. So, you must be aware of selfish motives, because they are often the real reason for someone’s arguments. Like drug legalisation, the destruction of the concept of virginity is a move to abolish sexual taboo in order to alleviate the personal discomfort and accountability over engaging in the most intensely intimate act with people who you barely know. And how can we blame students for thinking this is acceptable when cynical governments instruct them on how to have sex in school?

Despite all our technological advancements, we are still human. We are still constrained by our biology and no amount of utopian social engineering will change that. Perhaps once we have utterly bankrupted ourselves of everything which gave us dignity, honesty, and respect we will appreciate the wisdom of those who came before us.

No, it isn’t (Tamara):

Is virginity a real thing? Well, it depends. It depends on how you want to frame the question. Biologically speaking, yes – women have a hymen, which either tears or stretches as a result of penetrative intercourse with a man (but can equally be damaged by inserting a tampon or riding a bike). However, the concept of virginity is a toxic, heteronormative, patriarchal social construct, primarily used to shame women into submission, and here’s why.

We’ve all heard the overused trope, about how one key opening many doors is a good thing but a door that can be opened with every key is not, crudely used as a metaphor for women’s vaginas. It a prime example of how women are consistently slut shamed for our sexual choices. Wait for the right key (read: penis) they say, be a good pure virgin. No one wants a lock that can be easily opened. Well, here’s a fun fact – a vagina isn’t a lock. In fact, it isn’t any kind of object. Women are not a commodity and our virginity is not something that can be lost, taken or given away. We are human beings. Think about the concept of “damaged goods”. Goods? This is the definition of objectification.

It’s not only women being harmed by the construct, mind you. Men, too, experience judgement based on decisions around their sexuality but in the opposite direction. As a guy you are expected to lose your virginity early and have as much sex as possible before settling down. The internet has a variety of useful terms to shame you in case you don’t. Haven’t had sex by the time you’re 30? You’re a wizard now. And need I mention the ever-growing toxic incel community?

Then there is, of course, a whole range of complications which arise once we consider homosexual relationships. Do two lesbians who never pursue penetrative intercourse, but are still sexually active in every other sense of the word, count as virgins? Does someone who only has oral or anal sex remain a virgin forever? But, most importantly, why should it matter to us, as a society, to be able to label these people? To put them in boxes, based on perceived “pureness”. Why are we so obsessed with the need to police other people’s bedroom behaviour and collectively decide whether or not someone is a “slut” or a “prude”? The conversations we need to be having should be centred about education and consent to empower people to make their own choices and then we need to learn to stop judging the choices that end up being made as a result.

So no, virginity is not real in any way that matters. It is a social construct, an outdated patriarchal concept, primarily used to police women’s bodies and make us feel guilty for experiencing pleasure. The power relations that arise as a result of this dynamic are harmful. Whether you want to have a new sexual partner every week or remain a virgin until marriage is no one else’s business but yours and your consenting partners’. Sex (or a lack thereof) should not define you. Whether you are a decent human being should.

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