While a loss of virginity was considered bad earlier, today’s college girls may be facing pressure of a different kind – to lose their virginity – to seem cool.
The question of a woman’s value before marriage has always been answered in terms of her virginity. If the woman has had her hymen broken before her wedding or before starting a new relationship, the loss of virginity becomes a major factor in deciding a woman’s ‘character’. However, very few people these days actually give two hoots about women’s loss of virginity.
The hymen is a tricky tissue – it can break on strenuous activity or sports, and also, it might not break despite having many, many sexual encounters – in fact, as a study by the British Medical Journal suggests, 63% of women do not bleed after having sex for the first time. Thus, just as it is difficult to find out whether a man is a virgin or not, it is equally difficult to determine a woman’s virginity.
But, in contemporary times, do young girls have similar thoughts about loss of virginity as older women, or, for that matter, men? (Oh, yes, it is often the MEN who have an issue with the tissue!) Or do they feel pressured to lose their virginity to their boyfriends/partners?
I tried to answer these questions with the help of some young women.
Most college going girls do believe that the question of remaining a virgin is, indeed, a consideration when in a relationship. Sammy* (20) believes that one “tends to understand a lot of stuff” after college, including the fact that having sexual relationships is not a big deal. Having sex or a loss of virginity is not a big deal- at least not as much as it has been portrayed traditionally.
Dating starts much before 18-21 years of age for many girls, nowadays. For some girls, loss of virginity is not an issue as long as both partners are okay with it. Another respondent, Ankita* (20) believes that the question of giving importance to loss of virginity or not, is completely subjective.
For Tanvi* (20), however, loss of virginity is a western concept. She believes that being okay with losing one’s virginity when in a relationship could primarily be due to movies and other things like books that do influence people’s perceptions about various things in a major way.
More often than not, one gets to hear talk about someone’s first time, or gossip about a girl who has had many affairs. Sadly, though, despite being in a campus situation which is supposed to be rather open-minded, it is all too common to hear words like ‘Slut’ and ‘Whore’ for girls who are not virgins, further establishing the ‘importance’ of a woman’s virginity, even in the 21st century.
On the question of pressure for a loss of virginity, Sruthi* (21) felt that it was as much about external pressure to lose (or not) one’s virginity as it was about one’s own agency and decision to get intimate with one’s partner – irrespective of whether or not the relationship will last long. As a personal example, she stated that she never felt any pressure from her boyfriend, per se, to lose her virginity. But she also acknowledged that it does get a little weird if she’s around her friends who have had intimate relationships and they start to talk about them.
According to Ankita*, “If my friends are not virgins and they casually discuss that with me it doesn’t mean that it is a pressure on me,” but sometimes, things like, “Kuch nahi hota” (nothing will happen) may or may not provoke you a bit.
Tanvi* also thought that it was not so much about the pressure from somebody or something, that you start considering having sex. It is, according to her, more about the attraction and excitement of being in a relationship with someone you really love.
It used to be the notion in olden days that virginity is a pure and a sacred thing. Loss of virginity has always been considered a taboo – you should protect your virginity for the person you are going to be married to. For Sammy* however, having sex only after marriage is a very patriarchal notion, which makes no sense to her. On a more radical note, she expressed, “I don’t want to live with a guy who will choose to live with me because my vaginal wall is preserved rather than due to who I am!”
Sruthi* also stated that having/wanting sex is not just a guy thing anymore. “Girls want it as much as guys want it; they love it, they like it!” So on the question of whether or not she’d like to have sex, she stated that she wouldn’t mind it with her partner, but having sex with a stranger or having a one-night stand was completely off limits. Ankita* also agreed, stating that having sex will completely be her choice, and that she won’t mind. It has to be, after all, one’s own decision.
On the other hand, Tanvi voiced her opinion by saying that the chances of developing a situation where a girl wants to have sex are low, rather than a boy wanting to get intimate. Moreover, the girl might not explicitly say “Yes”, neither would she completely deny the boy – irrespective of whether or not she herself wants to have sex.
In general, loss of virginity/ having sex for the first time is a big deal for most people. But is it equally a big deal to have safe sex to prevent unwanted pregnancy or contracting an STD? For most people, the answer is “Yes!” Gone are the days (hopefully!) when wearing a condom was considered an equivalent to taking an unborn child’s life!
Sruthi* insisted that before having sex, it is important to have a “good level of communication” with the partner. It needs to be made sure that both the partners are comfortable in taking the relationship to the next level. Sex without protection is a dangerous bet. So for most girls, communication with their partners beforehand is the way to go.
However, a shocking thing that Monika* (21) told us while on the topic of protection was that more than a handful of shops that sell products like condoms are not even aware of the existence of female condoms and refuse to (or reluctantly) sell condoms to girls.
Loss of virginity is not an issue as far as both the partners are okay with it. A more pressing and worthwhile issue, however, is the issue of consent. It was really overwhelming to see that each of the girls who were approached had the same thing to say about the issue of consent.
Personally, there is no consensual or non-consensual sex. There is sex and then there is rape. It is but natural that you would, over the course of time, want to get intimate with someone you have been romantically involved with. But if that person fails to let you take your own time in reaching that level of intimacy, and you start feeling that pressure which you do not think you are capable yet to cope with, then you need to take some time off and talk to your partner. Baby steps are needed before you begin to run and in this case, you must have a clear understanding of your own comfort zone, otherwise the entanglement may turn bitter.
So these were the few questions regarding loss of virginity and related issues that were discussed by these campus girls. The world is not black or white – it is grey and each of us is entitled to our opinions. Whether or not a girl’s (ironically, not boys’) ‘purity’ depends on her virginity is an issue which doesn’t even need to be called an issue. But in a scenario where girls have been entrusted with this burdensome task of keeping the vaginal walls intact for their husbands, one can only hope that the level of awareness these girls show will only become greater and greater as time progresses.
*Only first names of participating girls are used to protect their privacy.
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