Let’s stop asking people if they’re virgins

Source: Hollie Turner Source: Hollie Turner

(content warning: rape mention)

Questions I’ve been asked (several times):

Are you a virgin?

Have you ever had sex though?

Doesn’t that mean you’re still a virgin?

How come you are still a virgin?

I am not a ‘virgin’. Though, by the heteronormative ‘dictionary definition’, I guess you’d say I am in that I’ve never had penetrative sex.

Such a definition creates several problems. First and foremost, such a definition would imply that only ‘straight sex’ counts, if your vagina hasn’t been penetrated by a penis or your penis hasn’t penetrated a vagina, you haven’t had ‘real sex’. We all know that isn’t true. We’re not going to suggest that any sex that isn’t heterosexual isn’t real, because it is real, and it definitely counts if you want it to count. No matter what your sexuality is, no matter with whom and how you engage in sex, it’s ‘real’. Sex does not equate to a penis penetrating a vagina. Sex is an entirely personal phenomenon, therefore no one can tell you whether what you’ve done ‘counts’.

Furthermore, such a definition would imply that if you’ve had non-consensual penetrative sex, you are no longer a virgin, and can never have sex for the first time again. As previously said, sex only counts if you want it to. Rape victims don’t need to be defined by a lack of virginity (that is if they hadn’t engaged in sexual activities before).

Another major problem with the term ‘virgin’ is that it carries heavy implications that you should at some point become a non-virgin, i.e. have sex. It creates a norm within society that everyone at some point will ‘lose their virginity’. This doesn’t have to be the case, not everybody wants to have sex, and that’s ok. Just like not everyone likes eating hummus, or driving a car or reading novels. And that’s all ok too. Because every human is individual, some of us want to go to fly to South America and drink white wine and some of us want to drive to Scotland and drink whisky. I’m not going to label people who don’t want to fly to certain countries, or eat or drink certain things. There isn’t a term for all of these, so why should people who haven’t ever and don’t ever want to have sex be labelled?

Building on this, for people who are labelled ‘virgins’ (still following a dictionary definition) who do want to have sex, this label is a weight to carry around. It creates intense pressure to have sex, to have sex by a certain age, and to have a certain kind of sex. I want to tell everyone, don’t feel pressured into having sex of any type, no matter what your age, your sexuality, your gender, no matter what the people around you are doing.

Aged seventeen I wanted to have sex. Not because I was ready to have sex, but because I thought I should have sex. Everyone around me talked about it, people got into relationships and they got drunk. I wondered, what’s wrong with me? Why have I not had sex. This is dangerous for young people. Specifically because I felt I should be having penetrative sex at an age where I wasn’t even sure of my sexuality.

Almost three years on I’ve learnt there isn’t anything wrong with not having penetrative sex, because that’s not the only thing that ‘counts’. And it doesn’t matter if you haven’t had sex at all. You don’t have to ‘lose your virginity’ by a certain age, or at all if you don’t want to.

So let’s stop asking people if they’re virgins. Their definition of their virginity or lack thereof doesn’t have to match yours. Let’s stop adding to a stereotype that dictates only traditional heterosexual penetrative sex counts, and lets stop pressurising people to ‘lose their virginity’. Because it’s your choice when you want to have sex, what type of sex it’ll be and whether you even want to have it at all.


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