Virginity is not a thing. It describes the absence of something. Like dark describes the absence of light.
The phrase “stole her/his virginity” bothers me. As if virginity existed. As if it were a jewel hidden and snatched away. That is what we were taught. But, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t steal silence by singing, or ignorance by teaching.
No one says that the sun came and stole the darkness unless they are trying to be poetic. Most people prefer sun. In fact, there would be no life without it.
When a child (or anyone) is abused, I think it is cruel to say they lost their virginity.
Yes, I’m sure they have lost trust in those around them or in the safety or fairness of the world. They may have lost feeling in control of their own body. Security and autonomy are not the same as virginity. The former are two very positive and necessary things that are a loss to be mourned. Steps should be taken to restore them.
The latter describes a physical ignorance, but phrasing it this way adds yet another ‘loss’. I’ve talked to people who felt extra worthless because in their eyes, an unwanted experience had taken away the status of virgin. Mourn the abuse, yes! As a society we need to take that more seriously than we do. But don’t add another burden by fetishizing ignorance.
Why is this ignorance so valued in certain circles? In the circle I grew up in, this ignorance was supposed to make one superior. In other groups, it can be looked down on.
Sexually ignorant people are not superior or inferior. They are just lacking a physical and emotional experience. Sometimes for good reasons, like being too young, waiting for the right relationship, or being asexual. Sometimes for not-so-good reasons, like fear or loathing of their bodies.
And then there is the tricky business of defining what levels of ignorance can still qualify for the title ‘virgin’. This is complicated because we don’t really understand what ‘sex’ is.
One of my roomie’s boyfriends was a fervent Calvinist (when it suited him). He looked down on my roomie because she had some knowledge of her reproductive system learned with her previous boyfriend. He was constantly trying to pressure her into unwanted anal sex because he felt he could still retain his superior status of ‘virgin’. She was not impressed, especially when he tried the ‘but you’re not a virgin, therefore you’re a slut and I’m entitled to treat you like a sex toy’ argument.
There are a lot of religious people who think that avoiding penile-vaginal penetration gives them the right to look down on others, while convinced they are being humble. Respect and giving to others is not their measuring stick of right and wrong, but a checklist like filling out a tax form. That atmosphere changed sexual encounters from mere expressions of intimacy by adding the competition of how far you could go or what you could get without being a bad example to the youth group. It made sexuality some sort of idol. (Yes, I speak from experience.)
Even though not explicitly stated, I thought that virginity was good and therefore sexuality was bad, or at least dangerous and dirty. Realizing that virginity is not a thing, but an absence of a thing, and not good or bad of itself has been good for me.
I no longer regret premarital make-out sessions. I do regret all the hours of anguish and self-loathing that followed such occasions. We had been told that any kiss longer than 5 seconds (or more than 5 one-second kisses) could not be pure. It was hard to sit in church and take communion knowing that feeling guilty and dirty was not enough to stop it from happening again.
I didn’t lose my virginity. I found more of myself and my lover. Poetically speaking.