It’s all in the Mind
Angela Fabiola Cárdenas Rosales
A person who has not had sexual intercourse.
Defining Virginity in Modern Times
If you look up “virgin” in the dictionary, the
definition of virginity seems straightforward: If you
have had sex (meaning penis-in-vagina, and sorry for
sounding so clinical!), then you are not a virgin.
Before you accept this as true, there might be a few
more things to consider. There might even be a whole
series of “firsts”— which could be physical,
emotional, intellectual or even political—that
determine “losing your virginity.”
Myth: The “Intact Hymen” Determines Virginity
First of all, let’s get clear on what a hymen is
anyway. A hymen is a piece of tissue that partially
covers the vaginal opening. Usually, the hymen has
small holes (or one big hole), and those holes get
bigger during a woman’s life. For centuries, many
people have believed that a woman loses her virginity
when her hymen has been “popped.”
When a woman is first penetrated, there is no popping
sound. The hymen does not and cannot “pop.” Human
bodies are not made of bubble rap. A vagina is not a
zit that can just “pop,” so forget about the cherry
Lots of girls are born without hymens, and those who
have one often “break it” fairly early in their lives.
When a hymen gets small tears, whether during sex,
tampon use or hard sports, there is often a small
amount of blood. But, these activities don’t always
tear the hymen and it doesn’t always bleed. An intact
hymen does not signify virginity anymore than a broken
hymen signifies the loss of virginity. It signifies an
intact hymen or a broken hymen. That’s all.
Furthermore, if virginity is about an “intact hymen,”
how does a guy lose his virginity?
Myth: The “penis-in-vagina” determines virginity
The myth that only penis-in-vagina sex determines
virginity raises questions since it is not the only
way to have a sexual experience. If this were true, it
would mean lesbians and gay men are left out of the
game, and even the most promiscuous of them would
remain “virgins” their entire lives.
If penis-in-vagina sex defines whether someone is a
virgin or not, would this mean that two lesbians
together for fifteen years are still virgins? It
could, according to the “penis-in-vagina” definition.
In this case, there is no word for lesbians to
describe the significance of their “first” time, since
only the experience of penis-in-vagina sex is
considered “important” enough to count as sex.
The first time experience of these women could, and
probably would, be one of the most emotionally
significant things in their lives. It would be
emotionally equal to what a heterosexual woman feels
when she first has sex with a man. So, should a
lesbian call her first sexual experience “losing her
And how about gay men who have had anal sex? Are these
men still virgins? How about when they have been
together for years and years? If you count anal sex
as “losing virginity,” would it count for heterosexual
couples as well?
There are many cultures that consider anal sex to be
a “safe” way for a man and woman to have sex and still
keep the woman’s virginity intact. So, if anal sex
doesn’t count for men and women, does it count for two
What is it then?
It seems like everyone has different ideas and
attitudes about virginity, what it means to have it,
lose it, prize or detest it. It isn’t determined by
the hymen and it doesn’t always include a penis and a
vagina. So what is “virginity?” What does it mean to
be a virgin, or loose one’s virginity?
The truth is, unless you wear a specially worded t-
shirt, nobody will know what kind(s) of sex you have
or haven’t experienced. In the end, whether or not you
are a virgin, and whether that is a good thing or a
bad thing, depends on who you are and what you
believe. So, what do you believe?
Past Virginity Definitions
In the past, and it still holds true for some people
today, a woman with an “intact” hymen is considered a
virgin, end of story. And of course, no
similar “physical” test exists for men.
In the Middle Ages, for example, if a woman stretched
or tore her hymen while horseback riding, she was
simply and plainly no longer a virgin. If she was born
with a tiny hymen, or none at all, she was not a
virgin, which for some cultures meant she was not
worthy of marriage. For women, the virginity—as
determined by a thin piece of skin—carried serious
There are, however, still some cultures today where a
woman’s value continues to be determined