rating the purity of the extra-unadulturated

Last night my bullshit detector was set off by the completely unverifiable nature of a study M. Simon linked.  It was a blog post by an unnamed author at an anonymous blog, quoting from an unlinked "study" by an unnamed person -- the sort of thing that strikes me as fiendishly calculated to frustrate people who like to see proof of claims that are made. While the study purports to have been done by "one smart student at NYU" who questioned "1,306 students at NYU and another 3,287 from other schools" the list of majors does not include a number of important NYU major fields of study, such as Comparative Literature, Sociology, Music, Engineering, or even Physics. But perhaps the "study" was intended as a joke; that "zero" for "Studio Art" (not listed as an NYU major) struck me as a pretty clear indication that the study is bogus, because there are always at least a few virgins (or virgin claimants) in any field, even art.

However, another reason the study frustated me was because of a question that arose in my mind. 

Regardless of the value placed upon it, what is virginity? What constitutes its "loss"?

Is there an agreed-upon definition?

The traditional one seems to revolve around the rupturing of the hymen, but even that is problematic:

The act of losing one's virginity is commonly considered within many cultures to be an important life event and a rite of passage. The loss of virginity can be viewed as a milestone in a person's life.

In human females the hymen is a thin film of membrane situated just inside the vulva which can partially occlude the entrance to the vaginal canal. It is flexible and can be stretched or torn during first engagement in vaginal intercourse. Throughout history, the presence of an intact hymen has been seen by many as physical evidence of virginity, particularly alongside "proof of blood", virginity as proved by the presence of vaginal bleeding from intercourse connected to the tearing of the hymen.

The presence of a hymen is often considered to be an indication of virginity, but is no guarantee given that some degree of sexual activity may occur without rupturing the hymen. The lack of a hymen is an even less clear indication of virginity lost as the hymen's shape, thickness and coverage is extremely variable, and one that does occlude the entrance to the vaginal canal may be broken through means other than sexual activity. It is a common belief that some women simply lack a hymen, but some doubt has been cast on this by a recent study.[27] It is likely that almost all women are born with a hymen, but not necessarily ones that will experience a measurable change during first experience of vaginal intercourse.

There may also exist varying definitions as to the type and extent of sexual activity that is considered by a person to terminate the state of "virginity" as the definition of virginity is problematized by some experiences. For example, the prevailing notion of virginity as lost only through vaginal intercourse is problematized by homosexuality, as well as by some religious youth who engage in oral or anal sex for the purpose of retaining their vaginal virginity. The issue is further complicated by the availability of hymenorrhaphy surgical procedures which repair or replace the hymen, marketed to both sexually active women to restore their "virginity", as well as to virginal women who are concerned that their hymens may not provide adequate proof of their virginity through bleeding or the perceived tightness of their vagina.

In the majority of women, the hymen is sufficiently vestigial as to pose no obstruction to the entryway of the vagina. The presence of a broken hymen may therefore indicate that the vagina has been penetrated but also that it was broken via physical activity or the use of a tampon or dildo. Many women possess such thin, fragile hymens, easily stretched and already perforated at birth, that the hymen can be broken in childhood without the woman even being aware of it, often through athletic activities.

If hymen rupture is what it's all about, then only women can prove virginity, but not all virgins can prove it.

Oral sex would not "count" officially, but are we talking about traditional virginity or modern virginity here?

How about men? Must a man have committed an act of hymen penetration? Or would any pentration do? Are homosexual men who have never had sex with women virgins? How about homosexual women who have never had sex with men? The Wiki virginity page mentions a lesbian who sold her virginity for a lot of money:

Emphasizing the monetary value of female virginity, some women have offered their virginity for sale. In 2004, a lesbian student from the University of Bristol was said to have sold her virginity online for £8,400, and Londoner Rosie Reid, 18, reportedly slept with a 44-year-old BT engineer in a Euston hotel room against payment for her virginity.[18] In 2008, Italian model Raffaella Fico, then 20 years old, offered her virginity for €1 million.[19] In that same year, an American using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan announced she would accept bids for her virginity through a Nevada brothel's web site.[20][21]

It sounds as if there's quite a virginity fetish out there, and I have discussed the phenomenon before in the context of Islam and surgery.

But are we talking about actual truth, physically provable truth, or truth in labeling?

Considering the uncertainty, perhaps we should consider labeling virginity in humans in the way way we rate that of olive oil. Like, keep the traditional measure of the unruptured hymen as "virgin" but add another level -- so that not having had oral sex would be "extra virgin" and so on.

This would not guarantee that there wouldn't be cheating, though, just as there is cheating (massive cheating) with the mislabeling of adulterated olive oil. But the only thing that could be physically measurable and testable would be the hymen, plus maybe testing for the presence of HPV or HSV-2 (although the latter can be spread non-venereally).

It strikes me that no matter what happens, the more value that is placed on something, the more incentive there is to lie about it, especially when verifiability is open to question. In that respect, I find myself wondering whether an honest slut (or stud, I guess, for lack of a better term) is a better deal than a liar who calls himself or herself a virgin. This is all the more true in the case of those who place a high value on such things, because a lie about that represents a fairly major level of dishonesty.

But there's another complication in that the lying can go in the other direction, and virginity is valued by some and devalued by others. For starters, there is a major difference between men and women. Many men place a premium on the lack of virginity (this is called "experience"), and many virgin men lie about their experience. This was common when I was in high school, and the phenomenon doubtless still exists. I also strongly suspect that both men and women lie about their sexual experience when they hit college, most likely to fit in and be cool. 

And what about the people who are technnically virgins but who are sexually sophisticated? I do not refer solely to homosexuals here, because there are plenty of forms of sexual gratification (whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual) that do not involve penetration of any kind. Suppose an attractive woman (perhaps a lesbian, perhaps not) decided that she could make a lot or money and send herself through college catering to men with kinky fetishes? Men who wanted to be diapered, trussed up, degraded, whipped, or even urinated upon? If she did such things to men who paid her for it, but never engaged in what the rest of us would call sex, wouldn't she still be a virgin because of the lack of penetration? And suppose she wasn't even turned on?

It is, then, at least possible for there to be such a thing as virgin prostitute. I have no idea whether that would matter to anyone, but I like to leave no stone unturned in my search for ultimate truth. 

And while I'm at it, what about her paying customers? If a man wants to be called names, beaten with a whip, and walked on with high heels by a woman who thinks he is scum in order to obtain sexual gratification, then does he lose his virginity by doing that even though he never commits an act of penetration? How can that be? He is having a fantasy, but is he having sex? I really don't know, but I think if we do call that having sex, then a whole lot of other behaviors that do not involve penetration might also be sex. Including online "sticky keyboard" stuff. And what about "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?" If we assume the commission of adultery means a loss of virginity, can virginity be lost with a look?

The more I look at these issues, the less able I am to come up with definitive answers.

It does seem that there are levels of purity, and levels of honesty. Loyalty to one's partner is something most of us would agree is desireable. Virginity, it would seem, constitutes loyalty in advance, to partners unknown, as measured by standards we could never all agree upon. Unless both parties were equally as clean as virgin snow, wouldn't it constitute a sort of imbalance of power for one partner to have a higher standard going in than the other?

In general, honesty strikes me as preferable to purity, and while they are not mutually exclusive, I tend to be skeptical about most things, so it would be easier for me to believe an admission of impurity than an insistence on purity. 

And if the most important thing is mutual loyalty, it seems that a focus on the present and the future would be better than a focus on the past.

posted by Eric on 03.04.11 at 02:11 PM


This post made my head hurt. :-/

Overall, I would say that one's virginity ends with the act of penetration of whatever sort, whether giving or receiving (although I probably wouldn't include oral sex as "penetration"). Of course, that's just my working definition, and your post makes it clear that it's not a cut-and-dried issue.

John S.   ·  March 4, 2011 4:56 PM

Funny thing about that chart. Instapundit had linked to a post with the chart. I couldn't find that post so I searched for one and came up with the one I linked.

The whole point of the post (for me) was what an understanding mate I had. ("Didn't Charlie Sheen get a great deal? Two babes.", she said.)

And no one even commented on that aspect. The first mate loves it when I say nice things about her on the blog, so my efforts didn't go unrewarded. Still....

M. Simon   ·  March 4, 2011 5:42 PM

I was reading the Bible the other day and came across a "bloody rag" story. i.e. the husband kept as one of his prize possessions "proof" of his wife's virginity.

The Bible is full of all kinds of strange fetishes.

And there is all kinds of folklore on how an unvirgin can fake it.

M. Simon   ·  March 4, 2011 6:03 PM

Including online "sticky keyboard" stuff.

For content generators it is referred to as blogging one handed.

M. Simon   ·  March 4, 2011 6:10 PM

"I was reading the Bible the other day and came across a "bloody rag" story. i.e. the husband kept as one of his prize possessions "proof" of his wife's virginity."

And even in those days, there were ways to 'fake it'.

(Oh - and, btw - you are lucky in your wife, and I think she is also lucky in her husband.)

But I'm with Eric on this one: "And if the most important thing is mutual loyalty, it seems that a focus on the present and the future would be better than a focus on the past." I've known way too many 'everything but' types over the years. Keep that hymen intact, ANYTHING else goes. Nah, that's not the idea if you are really being honest.

BUT, it's why I actually believed - and still believe - that Bill Clinton did not think he 'had sex with that woman' - that was NOT 'real' sex where I grew up - it was part of 'everything but'. Sex was one thing, and one thing only.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 4, 2011 6:32 PM

Just in case someone might not understand my previous comment... if it can't get a female pregnant, it ain't "sex" where I grew up. (Sorry Eric. Lovemaking you and yours might qualify for - but not sex - by the old standards. Personally, I'd take lovemaking over sex any day of the week, but that's just me.)

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 4, 2011 7:27 PM

The importance of virginity in females dates back a few millenia when ancient peoples made the connection between indescriminate sexual behaviors and the contraction of STD's. The ancients had reasoned that disease was caused by sin and that God was showing them the way to NOT practice sex by giving diseases to the sexually active. The ancients were enacting a stringent health code but gave it religious and moral significance as they had no idea about baterica, germs, viruses, etc. being the real cause of the diseases they saw.

And because some of these diseases are deadly, the ancients took a very strong stand on this, describing the behaviors as sinful and evil. Thus the condemnation of sexual libertinism for all these centuries. And because the "safe sex" adopted by the ancients worked, it increased their collective belief in God.

In short, virginity was nature's equivalent of today's "Do not open if seal is broken" safety seals. Hard to catch STD's if both the man and the woman are virgins.

I wonder what our sexual mores might be like if STD's never existed. Hmmmmm.......

Randy   ·  March 9, 2011 8:01 PM

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