Photograph by Zoila Molina
So I have a question about sex. I am 17 and I am a virgin. I am bisexual; I’ve just started a relationship with a another girl and we are feeling close and ready for sex. I get so many mixed messages about whether I’m still a virgin if I have sex with a girl. What classifies my virginity? Because I am bisexual I feel like I have to have had sex with both sexes to not be a virgin. I know it shouldn’t matter but it’s playing on my head a bit. Thanks so much for your advice, C xox
Thank you so much for your advice forum submission! We are so excited that you saw one of our postcards and reached out! This is such an amazing question! It makes sense that you would be confused– the messages really are mixed.
Not everyone defines virginity the same way, because not everyone defines “real sex” or a “virgin” the same way. Most definitions of “losing your virginity” equate it with the first time you have sex, and the most commonly understood conception of “real sex”/ “going all the way” is vaginal penetrative sex, which of course conforms to the norms of heterosexuality and the gender binary. Others may say that the first time you engage in oral or anal sex “counts” as the loss of your virginity as well, or even fingering. Because vaginal penetrative sex has been hammered into our heads as the “real way to lose your virginity,” it may be less easy to define for same-sex couples, or individuals who don’t adhere to the strict gender binary.
There’s also some people who claim that a girl loses her virginity when she breaks her hymen (“pops her cherry”). I’d like to point out a few problems here– the first is, men don’t have hymens, which means we’re kind of limiting the definition of a virgin to females, which, if you ask me, feels disempowering to women and a remnant of the patriarchal society we live in. Second, not all individuals who think of themselves as girls have hymens either!! Again, it all goes back to the tricky problems the gender binary creates. Further, on a more basic level, not all girls have a hymen, and there are other ways to break them. Hymens are vastly misunderstood; for example, the hymen does not fully cover the vagina (if it was, how would we menstruate or expel discharge?), and, your hymen can stretch and change with different activities (it can even grow back!!) so equating virginity to breaking the hymen is completely ridiculous. I’m fairly confident I broke mine when I first jabbed in a tampon at age 12, and trust me, with my first kiss another 5 or 6 years away, I DEFINITELY still considered myself a virgin after that moment.
Anyways, I could rattle on and on the history of the concept of the virgin and the problems that go with it, and female sexual agency, and the effects of living in a culture where there is a huge, unnecessary, and often detrimental hype around the idea of virginity and its “loss” being celebrated as a milestone… BUT, I’ll hold myself back. At the end of the day, like you acknowledged, the definition really doesn’t matter. No one else needs to know if you’re a “virgin” or not. If what you do with your current girlfriend feels like sex to you, then maybe you won’t consider yourself a virgin anymore. Or maybe you’ll decide to consider yourself a virgin until (if) you have sex of some kind with both a male and female individual. Or maybe you’ll decide to screw the virginity idea all together. Any decision you make in that regard is “correct”, valid, and okay– as long as it doesn’t pressure you to have sex with a boy just for the sake of confirming your loss of virginity after you have sex with your girlfriend. What really matters here is that you do what you and your partner feel comfortable with, that you’re being safe, and that you’re communicating with any sexual partner.
Good luck and don’t let this get to your head too much. I’ll bet that in a year (or five years or a month or a week), it won’t matter to you anyways.