This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the experiences of a brown Queer Muslim cisgendered woman whose upbringing included poor access to sex education and reproductive healthcare. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all women. Please read with caution and kindness.
The definition of ‘virginity’ seemed clear to me growing up: it was the first moment a penis would penetrate my vagina. As I got older, though, my perceptions around losing my virginity changed frequently and were couched in guilt.
Before puberty, it was clear to me that I shouldn’t enter into any sort of physical relationship with ‘the opposite sex.’ It would make my parents happy and, honestly, I didn’t like boys that much anyway, so it wasn’t a sacrifice on my part.
Things only got more complicated as I got older. I started feeling attraction to boys. I started to explore masturbation. At some point in high school, while learning about Queerness, I also realized that the way I felt about some of the girls in my life wasn’t purely platonic. One commonality in all of these confusing questions was the shame they brought.
I’ve always believed that all you owe to the world is to be kind. I knew early on that arbitrary things mattered to my parents and community which had nothing to do with this—the career I aspired to, the friends I kept, the university I chose. I didn’t necessarily feel guilt when I violated these norms. Choosing not to go into medicine was empowering, and so was going to Queen’s.
Yet, when it came to sex, I’d never fully been able to get rid of feelings of guilt. Though they’ve subsided overtime, and I’m more educated now on how inappropriate it is for anyone I’m not having sex with to be involved in my sex life, having sex can feel like I’m letting people down.
For a long time, this kept me from losing my virginity, even though I wanted to. Badly.
Now, when I say virginity, I am speaking in a very heteronormative, penis-in-vagina sense. Knowing what I know now about virginity, I know it’s more complicated and personal than that and, more importantly, I know that it doesn’t even have to exist in the first place.
I can take control of my own virginity. I can say I lost it the first time I engaged in oral sex, or the first time I engaged in penetrative sex which was consensual. Maybe I lost it the first time I kissed someone. And maybe I never had it to lose in the first place.
All that said, I think I lost my virginity just a few months ago, when I found a partner who I was attracted to, who I was engaging in sex with completely consensually, and who I didn’t feel guilt engaging in sex with.
While awkward, it was a relief to finally lose this thing that felt hugely important. It was like I had finally overcome one of the most ridiculous ways my family and society was controlling me.
However, it also made me think about all the attempts I had made at vaginal sex before finally losing my ‘virginity,’ and how even the broader societal concept of virginity—in the absence of the opinions of family and friends—made me feel broken.
For me, virginity involved breaking my hymen. Up until that point, I couldn’t handle any sort of penetration without it feeling excruciatingly painful. With a past partner, this initially kept us from having vaginal sex.
This made me feel like I wasn’t capable of doing the one thing every woman should be able to do, and my partner took advantage of that to coerce me into other forms of sex. Meanwhile, I felt grateful that he was still willing to stay with me despite the fact that I was broken.
All of this is to say that virginity as a concept itself—no matter how you look at it or define it—is incredibly destructive. It hypersexualizes women while simultaneously punishing them for expressing any sort of sexual desire. It acts in toxically masculine ways to pressure men into engaging with sex before they’re truly ready. It provides nothing other than making us feel ashamed, inadequate, and objectified.
Sex, misogyny, and everything in between are all really complex and can be very frustrating. Let’s kill the concept of virginity for good and make things a little easier for ourselves.
Column, Sex, Tricolour Sex Column
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