University of Wisconsin–Madison

Virgin

Virgin: a person who has never had sexual intercourse

This definition is so simple, yet the word itself has many different connotations and carries a lot of weight. Its alternate definition of “not yet touched, used, or exploited”, meant to reference new and unseen forests, etc, has a history of applying to the human body as well.  Historically, a woman was only viable for marriage if she was a virgin, or sexually pure.  In today’s society, the term “virgin” still means the same thing, except a new type of shaming dubbed “prude shaming” has emerged where the term “virgin” has a negative connotation, and is meant to deem somebody as inexperienced and uptight.  In normal words, basically it has become “uncool” to be a virgin.  Examples of this viewpoint on sex can be seen in literally any form of pop culture.  From entire apps dedicated to hookups, to the popularization of terms like “netflix and chill,” sex is what you are “supposed” to be doing.  However, there is a catch with this.  If you have too much sex, or have sex with the wrong person, you will be deemed a slut.  This societal issue is summed up in a quote from the breakfast club, “Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?”

The clip from the movie “Cruel Intentions” that is posted above ties together multiple themes. Sebastian and Kathryn are making fun of a girl who is waiting until marriage to have sex, and at the same time talking about her virginity as a conquest, and something that can be taken from her. They are talking about her as if her virginity is directly linked to her pureness and wholeness as a person.   This theme is prevalent in Danielle Evans short story, titled “Virgins.”  In the story, a 15 year old girl named Erica has sex with an older character named Ron, and although it was not rape, Erica felt pressured by society and the lifestyles of those around her to have sex. Forms of prude shaming make people like Erica feel like there is a part of them missing if they have not had sex before, and forms of slut shaming make young girls feel like there is a part of them missing because they have had sex.

In Kelly Hager’s Keywords essay “Body,”  she discusses what age children should be exposed to themes like their body, sexuality, masturbation,  etc.  This intersects with the classic issue of children’s literature, which is that it is written about children, for children, by adults. Hager argues that that there is “ignoring of the existence of children’s sexuality.”  Anyone who argues against that and says that children are too young to be exposed to aspects of sexuality, need to read stories like Danielle Evans where characters as young as 14 and 15 are losing their virginities and clubbing.  By educating younger generations on what sexuality is, and what it means to be sexual, we can start to reframe the narrative on virginity and sex, and start to end prude and slut shaming.

1 thought on “Virgin”

  1. I’ve always been fascinated by this double standard. It seems like girls can’t win when it comes to sexual activities, but boys are always praised based on the amount of sexual partners they’ve had. I agree with you in that sexual education should not be limited, especially when talking about young adults in the early teens who are just starting to enter the sexual world.

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