Blogging “Yes” Day 23: Defining Virginity
For day twenty-three of the Blogging “Yes” project, I read “The Process-Oriented Virgin” by Hanne Blank, author of Virgin: The Untouched History (and apparently a fellow Baltimorean!) I’ve blogged here before about my personal virginity definitions, so I may be rehashing a bit, but I think Blank does a good job of making a point that comes up again and again in feminist circles: there really is no such thing as a virgin.
As I’ve said on this blog, I always find it kind of amusing that my own concept of virginity is so unrelated to positive sexual experiences or any kind of value, really. I learned the definition of “virgin” as a very technical thing, penis enters vagina, virginity lost. Of course, even that can be a bit confusing, since young people don’t always succeed on that entry part, or don’t really succeed, and etc. etc. I have plenty of friends who find themselves wondering what date to actually mark for the popping of the cherry. But assuming that one can figure out when the first entry of the penis occurred, there are some obvious problems there.
As a lesbian, it may seem kind of funny to make a first heterosexual experience so important. And perhaps if I had engaged in oral sex with a female partner before that, my perspective would be different, but since I never got to the lesbian equivalent of “going all the way” with my first girlfriend, I sort of consider that preliminary baby stuff. I’m also not like the lesbians Blank mentions in her essay who have sex with a man and then consider their first sexual experience with a female virginity loss. To me that seems sort of silly. I guess I look at virginity this way: first, it has no real definition or meaning or importance. We should just stop using it. But second, whatever it is, it is not a significant marker of sexual experience. I don’t think the answer is to appropriate the term “virgin” or “losing your virginity” and apply it differently based on sexual orientation, pleasure, etc. I think the answer is to abandon virginity as a historical legal/religious term and go from there. What if we just described our experience in matter of fact terms? Not “when did you lose your virginity?” but “when did you first do X?” Not “are you a virgin” but “have you ever…?” Not that people really need to be asking these questions, but, you know, you can’t deprive high school locker rooms of all their fun.