A year ago today, I was hanging out with a new guy from Tinder. A very typical weeknight if you will. We were sitting around talking about our lives, both a little nervous as we had laid out over text that there was potential for a hookup. We start chatting about our sexual guestbooks, going through some of the worst and best hookups we’ve had, including him asking about the first time I had sex or in his words, “the time I lost my virginity”.
I expressed to him that my first time was average and that I felt overtly neutral about the experience. I told him it was nothing special, that it was with a friend, that it was not romantic. I added that it was not the first time I’d had something penetrate me (I’m an OG sex-toy nerd), so the experience was just as pain-free as it was expectation-free. I didn’t put emphasis on having sex for the first time, because, even then, I knew I didn’t believe in the concept of virginity. After finishing my little spiel about my sexual début, the Tinder boy responded. “It was your fault.”
My mouth fell agape and I bluntly told him to explain himself. He continued to say that it was my fault that I didn’t have an amazing first time because I chose to “lose my virginity” with someone I was not in love with.
I told him that he wasn’t allowed to try to change my experience based on his feelings towards sex, and quickly showed him the door. And because I didn’t get the chance to explain to him all the reasons why his reaction was wrong, I’m going to explain it here.
“It was your fault.” is an incredibly victim-blamey response. If this is what he said to me – a person who was fine with her first sexual experience – it makes me assume that he would have the same reaction to people who didn’t have the choice of their first sexual encounter. The rest of his explanation confirmed his viewpoint and made me confirm that I did not want to put my mouth and genitals near him.
His response was problematic in delivery, but what really was concerning, was the ideas behind it. Virginity definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the state of a person who has never engaged in physical activity,” but it’s not as simple as it’s definition. Virginity has a lot of social implications attached to it that make it a pretty dangerous concept. As society dictates, virginity is something you lose when you have penis-in-vagina, penetrative sex. Usually, this sex occurs after marriage, as people are told to save their virginities to give to someone special. Virginity as a concept is on a pedestal and with that, it has extremely negative effects, particularly towards women, and people who fall outside of the gender binary. The idea of virginity is routed in slut shaming, seeing a feminized person as property, disempowering women* and excluding representing queer, trans and disabled people’s sexual narratives.
Society treats a person’s first sexual experience as a commodity. Virginity is a thing that you have (“I still have my virginity”), and that can be taken from you (“Did Casey take your virginity?”) or lost (“Have you lost your V-card yet?”). Weird that we talk about a physical action as an object, right? It’s greatly assumed that virginity is talked about this way because of the myth that a person with a vulva’s hymen breaks during their first time having sex, therefore having sex is taking away a part of the body. However, this is completely false news. While the hymen can be in pain due to inflexibility, it will never break. It can tear, and it can bruise, but it will heal. The hymen also rarely bleeds; the usual blood-at-first-penetration coming from vaginal tearing resulting from lack of warm up and lubrication. A person physically doesn’t lose a part of themselves when they have sex for the first time, they’re actually gaining an experience.
So if we’re not losing anything physical, why is virginity viewed as a commodity? Long ago, virgins used to be sold as wife’s by their father in exchange for food; yes, virginity was used to literally increase the value of a person. The majority of countries don’t practice this anymore, but the idea that being “pure” (i.e free of sex) still means that a person is worth more, especially when we talk about young people. A grand majority of adults have had sex, and while we’ve shaken the shaming passed down to us by the previous generations, there’s a continued message spread to youth that their virginity is something they have to savor.
Virginity is sexist. While the concept does affect people of all genders, from the beginning it’s been a misogynistic practice. Women/people with vulvas are shamed for having sex, while men are praised for having sex. All people have the right to have as much sex as they want.
Virginity contributes to slut-shaming. When society makes the “pure” people the most valuable asset, people who have had sex are seen as damaged (other than men.) This slut-shaming technique makes people not have sex out of fear of being shamed (which in certain countries can have dire consequences.) Virginity doesn’t allow casual sex either; coming from the idea that you have to save your sex for marriage. A patriarchal society sees people with vulvas taking power and ownership from having sex, and creates shame to take away agency from them. Sex is a healthy activity and should not be seen as something to fear.
Virginity is heteronormative. The concept only highlights penis-in-vagina sex, so much so that there are some people out there that say “Oh so you haven’t lost your virginity.” to people who have only had same-sex partners. Sex doesn’t just include PIV, but oral, anal and sex with fingers or toys. People with who have a partner of the same gender can have sex too!
Virginity is transphobic. The repression of femininity has been seen throughout history when trans people were not visible. However, the concepts of the virginity affect all genders, including trans folx. The virginity binary is closely focused on cisgender people and PIV sexual activities. From this, trans people are excluded in conversations of sex before or after transition, and/or as non-binary people. Every person has the right to have sex!
Virginity is ableist. If having sex for the first time can only be PIV, this excludes not only queer people but people with varying bodies! Not everyone has full use of their body, and virginity doesn’t allow for sexual narratives of disabled people. There are various ways of having sex!
Now while I believe that virginity isn’t tangible, I do recognize and appreciate that many people want their first time having sex to be special. The majority of people want to have sex with someone they trust, and this fact is much more prevalent in situations where someone is having sex for the first time. This contributes to many people wanting to be with a loved one when they decide to begin being sexually active. It can be easier to have an orgasm with someone you’re closer too! I started my sexual career in a comfortable way because I first had sex with a friend (not to say that it’s not possible to achieve this with a stranger.) It’s not making your first time special that’s the problem, it’s idealizing the concept of virginity in a way that’s damaging to ourselves and other people. We need to start thinking of having sex for the first time as an empowering thing to do, not something that diminishes our value.
This post swirled in my head as I closed the door behind the Tinder guy as he walked away. No one should feel judged by expressing an act of consensual and safe sexual desire. All bodies and genders should be represented when talking about sexual activities. Having sex for the first time should not be something we shame people for; it should be celebrated. I think virginity is a social concept, and that you should have sex when you feel like you’re ready for it, not when society tells you to. You’re not losing anything by having sex, you’re gaining an experience.
This post is sponsored, but, as always, all writing and opinions are my own.