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Do we need to define virginity in order to have a conversation about it?

Please welcome Ellice, the newest member of Team Trixie! After assisting with some of our interviews for the film, Ellice started wondering how she defined the V-Word for herself, and whether to even bother:

Therese (aka Trixie) has been asking a lot of people how they define virginity. She gets responses that run the gamut: it’s a loss of innocence, it’s a cultural construct, it’s heterosexual penetration, it’s sexual initiation, it’s miraculous, it’s bunk.

As much as these conversations pique my feminist interests, and as comfortable as I am examining them from a swiveling office chair, when I turned the camera on myself the other day, I found myself suddenly a lot less certain.

How do I define virginity? What does virginity and losing it mean to me? OK, I told myself, I can totally answer this. A whole gender studies curricula under my belt, no problem. Right?

Sure, the term is thrown around all the time: dresses are virginal, as are landscapes and olive oil. But the word virginity, at its most literal, tends to mean the state a person is in before she or he has had
heterosexual intercourse. Once you’re not a virgin anymore, the idea is that you have had this very specific kind of sex.

If you spend five minutes thinking about this definition of virginity, it’s hard to ignore how limited it is. And I think if you spend five minutes wikipedia-ing its history, how you use the concept of virginity to understand your own lived experiences, and the experiences of real people
you know, becomes relevant.

I know I use virginity in its most literal, conventional, narrow definition out of convenience; I define it more or less the way Miley Cyrus does. But, considering its history in controlling women’s bodies and lives, is this idea at all meaningful to me?

My immediate response is no. My sexual life doesn’t fit into the story that popular, scientific or mythical virginity definitions want to tell. This is partly because I'm queer. But I also know it's just because I'm a person whose sexuality is just as complicated as anyone else's.

What if I feel like I was sexual long before I "lost it?" What if there was in fact a marker of when I claimed my sexuality, and it had nothing at all to do with being penetrated? Virginity is not the framework that makes my experiences mean anything at all, and the centuries-old weight of meanings the word “virgin” carries does nothing but repulse me.

So, what is there to be done really but throw the word, the idea, the history out?

But I also wonder: what if this is not possible? And don’t important conversations require a language?

To me, "what is virginity" and "what does virginity mean to you" are very separate questions. To the former, I look to people working to imagine alternative definitions for what virginity (and "losing it") could mean. To the latter I personally say: it means nothing.

What does 'virginity' mean to you?