What is the Concept of Virginity and where did it come from? Who invented the concept of Virginity? Is there any importance in losing virginity? Why is Virginity Important and Highly Valued by many societies and almost all religions? Was it intentionally created to oppress and control women?
The Concept of Virginity originated from ancient times and was designed and invented by patriarchal societies which disregarded women and treated them as second-class citizens. Religious groups, mostly led by men, have endorsed and strengthened the concept of virginity by highlighting and advocating for purity -with a bias against women- while disregarding basic human dignity.
Who Invented the Concept of Virginity and what does it Mean?Some Religious groups, mostly led by men, have endorsed and strengthened the concept of virginity by highlighting and advocating for purity -with a bias against women- while disregarding basic human dignity. Click To Tweet
There are many myths surrounding the concept of virginity and how it has been used to oppress women. Here we will look at some of these myths and the idea of purity and dignity with reference to research and observations made in the Gambia, a West African country.
What is the Actual Meaning of Virginity?
Culturally, virginity for women means keeping their hymens intact and unbroken – basically not engaging in premarital sex – for sanctity or social approval by men and society in general. Well, I think the custodians of this traditional rule of morality didn’t really pay attention to how this can be determined. This is because they may have been too busy finding ways to domesticate women’s sexuality and sexual behaviours.
Scientifically, there is no actual definition of virginity because the concept of virginity cannot be empirically proven. There is no approved scientific way of proving or finding out if someone is a virgin. For more explanation on this, see 3 Major Myths about Virginity we need to Forget Immediately:
According to most Religions, the meaning of Virginity, also seen as a measure of purity, is to suppress sexual urges by staying away or abstaining from premarital sex and it is prescribed for both women and men. In other religions, the concept of virginity is stretched out and even looking at a someone lustfully is considered impure to the same level as having sexual intercourse with them.
But what is the actual meaning of virginity? Is it also for men (who don’t have the same pressure as compared to women)? Is it taken or given? Is it physical or is it a conceptual idea? Well, we feel like this is a choice that everyone should have to make without any pressure from ideologies and society.
The Myth of Virginity: Policing Female Sexual Behaviours
Rules are rules only when it is about a woman being in full control of her body and mind, rules become meaningful because men are privileged, and their privileges are knotted to a woman’s freedom.
Sex has been regarded as a sacred act, at least it seems so in our society. Notwithstanding that as much as many young women try to be cautious of this cultural and religious rule of chastity it is quite difficult to sustain it.
This is especially true when the other sex is supposed to be careless about their “virginity” to prove manhood. Here are 3 Major Myths about Virginity we need to Forget Immediately:
3 Major Myths about Virginity we need to Forget Immediately:
- The myth that pain experienced while “losing virginity” during your first sexual encounter is because of the breaking of the hymen and that blood should be present. Forget this myth because the fact is that 63% of women have painless 1st sexual encounters. (Reference: one of the forum participants, Sharon Onella, a Communication Student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, requested for a Reference to this statistic so here you go – Should It Hurt The First Time You Have Sex? Here’s Exactly How to Make Sure It Doesn’t, According To A Sexologist – By SUZANNAH WEISS). Furthermore, the pain felt can also be due to anxiety, fear or nervousness thus there is not always a presence of blood.
- The myth that the concept of virginity is important and should be encouraged especially for women to be viewed as “pure”. Forget this myth because boiling down someone’s worth to the presence of an “intact hymen” is dehumanising and just wrong.
- The myth that the breaking the hymen by a penis is the only way to lose your virginity. Forget this myth because people can have oral, anal and other forms of sex. Also, there are different types of Hymen and they can also be fractured (sometimes even without the person being aware), due to other physically strenuous activities: E.g. vigorous exercises or simply riding a bike.
The “Virginity Tests” during Wedding Ceremonies:
Virginity tests are controversial practices that involve the insertion of a finger into the vagina to determine if a girl or woman has had sexual intercourse.
In The Gambia, the most important part of the wedding ceremony is the “virginity test”, this is the point where every Tom, Dick and Harry has their phone close to their beds waiting for a call, text or the sound of a drum to declare that the bride’s hymen has been broken (Cringes).
At that moment, the girl is in pain, the man is sheepishly smiling and being praised for his manliness and the mother of the bride puts up a face of relief from “shame”.
So do we still pretend that misogyny is pleasant? Or do we still think that we should “preserve” our culture? If we continue to do so we devalue women by placing their entire existence and worth on a piece of tissue.
Regardless, I still think that culture is interesting, but rebuffing the fact that a huge part of the culture is retarded and does not in any way tally with our current generation is what I will not do.#VirginityMYTH: The pain experienced while 'losing virginity' during your first sexual encounter is because of the breaking of the hymen and blood should be present. Click To Tweet
Is the Idea of Purity and Dignity only Required from Women in the Society?
How women are expected to uphold this while men are not being taught the same is what I haven’t processed yet.
The results of this bizarre rule is that we have thousands of entitled men who feel the need to “convince” women to be engaged in sexual relations with them and, while the man prepares for pleasure and satisfaction, the woman anticipates discomfort, slut-shaming and the consequences of this for years to come.
Do we still not see the problem? Different interpretations to women and men on the same issue is what leads to all forms of violence against women, abuse and rape, female sexual expectations and every other aspect of discrimination.
Women and men both coexist biologically, consequently, it is important to recognize that one cannot be reckless in the conformity of another. So if a rule for one is a rule for all, then let men be disciplined sexually and if this means finding a way to prove their virginity then let’s get to it.
When that is said and done with, let’s also encourage sex conversations where women do not feel the need to suppress their sexuality or feel ashamed of it.#VirginityMYTH: The concept of virginity is important and should be encouraged especially for women to be viewed as 'pure'. Click To Tweet
Now we know that the hymen isn’t a reliable test for virginity as it can be broken through physical activity and some possess hymens that do not produce blood, in that case, the “virginity test” becomes primitive and unfair – as expected.
Gambians have always put emphasis on virginity through tradition and religion but what is the bigger problem here?
Is it the fact that women have to undergo such barbaric experiences all just to keep their virginity intact or that men are never questioned about their virginity?
Whichever the case may be, the mouths that shame women who have allegedly lost their “virginity” are the same mouths that praise the ones that take it.
Religion or Culture: Who is to Blame for the Social Construction of Virginity?
So do we now act like this is new information? Patriarchy through a façade of tradition and religion has tried to control and keep women on a leash especially in regard to their sexual behaviours.
No, misogyny to be quite frank is normalized in the Gambia, rooted so deep that women themselves are made to believe that they should be on that end of the spectrum.
Not till 2015 that a bill was passed in the Gambia on Female Genital Mutilation, which isn’t at it’s best very extensive, and on October 30th 2018 it was reported that the Darsilami community in the North Bank Region vow to continue this horrific practice even if it means going to jail. Religion or Culture what is to blame?
I blame humans and their lack of rationality and their refutation to even hear and notice the rampant inequality present as such. With activists trying very hard to push for egalitarianism in the Gambia the time is coming sooner or later that these toxic behaviours will be cleansed.#VirginityMYTH: The breaking the hymen by a penis is the only way to lose your virginity. Click To Tweet
The Virginity fraud | TED Talk by Nina Dølvik Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl:
The Virginity fraud | a TED Talk by Nina Dølvik Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl authours of The Wonder Down Under (Gleden med skjeden).
Nina Dølvik Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl are medical students and Sexual Health Workers. They talk about The virginity fraud and why we need to put an end to beak the Myths surrounding the Concept of Virginity. Nina Dølvik Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl are also the authors of the book The Wonder Down Under (Gleden med skjeden).
The hymen is still the most misunderstood and dangerous part of the female body. Nina Brochmann & Ellen Støkken Dahl will take you on a journey of what the hymen really is and what it still means to women across the world.
Their mission is to empower young people through better sexual education and research-based information about their bodies. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Nina Dølvik Brochmann, M.D. is spreading medical expertise and enthusiasm for sexual health as a teacher for teenagers, sex workers and refugees. With her collaborator Ellen Støkken Dahl, she has built up one of Norway’s most popular health blogs, Underlivet (The Life Below/The Genitals).
After being frustrated by the number of medical misconceptions and shame that surrounded the female body, she and Dahl wrote the popular science book, The Wonder Down Under: The Insider’s Guide to the Anatomy, Biology, and Reality of the Vagina.
This humorous and non-judgmental medical guidebook to the female genitalia has taken the world by storm and is currently being translated into more than 30 languages. She has a B.A. in political science from Columbia University (CC ’10), and she currently works as a doctor and writer based in Oslo, Norway.