The concept of sex might have been alien to us in our homes, but abstinence and virginity were not. Early on, we learned to equate virginity with purity. Our parents, teachers, religious texts, and places of worship, etc., instilled the idea of ‘saving it for marriage’ or ‘for the right one’.
At the same time, sex was everywhere in movies, magazines, music, comics, and ads. At school, we all knew that one kid who had their first sexual experience and they would not stop bragging about it. They were considered ‘corrupt’, but still ‘cool’ and ‘popular’. Sexually-active guys were ‘players’ and sexually-active girls were ‘sluts’. Everyone else was ‘losers’ or ‘nerds’.
Growing up alongside these contradictory attitudes, have our beliefs about sex changed? Or are they simply hidden under our ‘progressive’ mindsets? And most of all, why does ‘doing it’ or ‘not doing it’ still matter?
“Virginity is a Virtue.”
In our society, a woman’s virginity is a virtue. When this message is all that young girls see and hear, it is understandable why some women may still struggle with the guilt or shame of having sex.
Many have pointed out to me that things have changed in urban cities. But I beg to differ. There were instances where gynecologists judged women for their sexual activity or refused treatment in cities like Delhi.
I still hear discussions about marriage alliances where Indians who boast about their supposed progressiveness (“because we live in the US”) demand ‘pure’ brides. But of course, they do allow their women to drink, wear modern dresses, and work. They are open-minded after all!
And the list does not end there. From less intrusive traditions like ‘kanyadaan’ (‘giving away of a daughter’) to extremely invasive ones like hymenoplasty (surgery to restore the hymen) and virginity tests.
We cannot associate the honour of a man or a family with a woman’s hymen, and expect her to have an independent, liberal sex life.
“Virginity is Unmanly.”
I remember conversations with my male friends about their virginity, and they spoke of how they had to lie about having sex with their friends.
“I just want my first time to mean something” — Anonymous
Young boys are never spoken to about their insecurities or questions about sex. It is assumed they always want it, and it is expected that they would be the ones to initiate the act. Society desensitizes their first sexual experience, insinuating that their feelings about it aren’t as important. Why is it a joke when men want to wait, or do not wish to have sex?
We cannot associate a man’s ‘mardaani’ (manhood) with his sexual activity, and expect him to have an independent, liberal sex life.
What Is Virginity Anyway?
It cannot be defined, because virginity does not medically exist. There is no scientific explanation for it. We developed a definition for it to judge a person’s character, control sexuality, and to exclude people of different sexual orientations and belief systems.
Penile-vaginal sex is not, and should not, be the only form of sex. (Also, because that would be extremely boring!)
The whole narrative excludes everyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It does not consider asexuals or aromantics, who have no desire for sexual and romantic relationships. And what about all the people who indulge in oral, anal, and phone sex, or other forms of sexual activities? Are they all virgins?
Virginity cannot be defined, because it is a social construct. It is not something you need to question or think about. It can mean everything, anything, or nothing at all. And it all depends on whether you choose to define it.