Virginity is often something we’re ashamed of and want to get rid of, or something we want to hold onto until marriage so that we maintain “purity.”

In the eyes of many people, the first time one has sex with another person is a significant occasion. Everyone has different notions as to why it’s a big deal, but there’s one thing I have found held in common–after it happens, the big deal is pretty much over. The build-up is such a big deal that the actual act is almost inconsequential.

Originally this notion of “virginity” came from the idea that once an unmarried woman has intercourse with a man, she is tainted with sin and no longer pure for her beloved husband. She is ruined for marriage if she has engaged in intercourse before she is wed.

These days, there’s often a pressure to have sex for the first time at a young age. If you haven’t, you are considered inexperienced, and there’s an assumption that you must be undesirable. Since ideas of “purity” no longer have such a strong hold in many communities, there should be no reason that one hasn’t had sex by their late teens. Even while writing this article I feel compelled to make clear that I’m not writing this article because I am a “virgin,” because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I don’t want you to think I’m undesirable or inexperienced.

Virginity is based around shame — either shame that you still have it, or shame that you “lost” it.

But what the heck even is virginity? Is it simply when a penis enters a vagina? An orgasm certainly isn’t in the definition, is it? When do men who only have sex with men “lose their virginity?” Do we re-define virginity as when a penis is stuck inside a hole? Is it all about the penis entering an orifice? So then when do women who only have sex with women lose their virginity? When is “virginity” lost when no penis is involved? Does a woman have to have something stuck inside of her to “lose her virginity?”

Based on these basic concepts, it seems like “virginity” is all about the penis.

Virginity is about shame, the male orgasm and heterosexual sex.

This is a call for vocabulary change. Perhaps we should say I had sex for the first time rather than “I lost my virginity.” Where did you lose it? Should we go find it?

Women, we should celebrate having orgasms for the first time, rather than the first time we have a foreign object stuck in our bodies. We should celebrate sex rather than ridding ourselves of virginity. We should celebrate the act of making one another feel good rather than the concept of who took what from whom. Having sex for the first time can be treated as a less weighted experience, while one’s first orgasm is the real celebration. Let’s lose “virginity” as a concept. No one should be labeled by his or her experience levels, but rather by his or her desire to love.

Maris Harmon can be reached at marhar@umich.edu.

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