Why ‘Lose Your Virginity’ When You Can ‘Celebrate Your Sexual Debut’ And Expand The Possibilities?

Filmmaker Paromita Vohra advocates replacing the term, 'virginity', with the more thoughtful, 'sexual debut'. Here is why that makes sense.

Filmmaker Paromita Vohra advocates replacing the term, ‘virginity’, with the more thoughtful, ‘sexual debut’. Here is why that makes sense.

Paromita Vohra, filmmaker and Founder of Agents of Ishq, spoke to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal from The Week, recently, at the We The Women forum in Mumbai. In the interview, Paromita advocated for using the term ‘sexual debut’ instead of the term ‘virginity’.

Virginity is a loaded word. It carries with it notions of ‘purity’, perfection and pride. It also has sexist connotations –where for a man, being a ‘virgin’ is looked down upon, for a woman, virginity is prized.

It is also based on the false co-relation between sex and the hymen. Having sex for the first time doesn’t necessarily tear the hymen, nor does a torn hymen indicate that sex has occurred. Recently, there was much uproar on social media about rapper TI who stated that he makes his daughter take yearly ‘virginity test’ via a hymen check. Following his comments, a Bill was introduced in the New York State Legislative Assembly to ban the practice of such testing.

Last year, the WHO had declared virginity testing unethical and had recommended that it be banned, saying, that it “reinforces stereotyped notions of female sexuality and gender inequality. The examination can be painful, humiliating and traumatic.”

The term ‘virginity’ thus has connotations that are sexist. It also reduces the multifaceted act of sex to a ‘thing’ that is lost or taken.


But why replace ‘virginity’ with another term?

One may wonder why we don’t just do away with the word ‘virginity’. What is the need to replace it with another term?

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The answer is that sexual milestones are important. We will need a term to denote them –what is needed is that the term be shorn of moralistic judgements. Hence the term ‘sexual debut’. The term is not a new one coined by Paromita Vohra –it has been in use for some time now, especially among academics. However, it is yet to make significant inroads into popular culture though, and it should!

More inclusive, more real life

Sexual Debut is more representative of how we actually experience sex. In Paromita’s own words, “Virginity is part of a culture which believes that sex is only about intercourse and only about reproduction and that it is about a man piercing the vagina and impregnating the woman. But Sexual Debut will expand the definition of sex, which includes kissing, touching, cuddling, flirting, and overture. There are many ways in which people enjoy sex. Also, different genders are involved in sex, not necessarily just men and women, and also multiple partners could be involved. So, we need to expand the sphere not just limit it to heterogeneous definition.”

Where virginity limits the ‘first time’ experience of sex to one event, sexual debut opens it up. So, for instance, one may have a sexual debut for hand holding, for kissing, for oral sex, for vaginal penetration and so on and so forth. It is also more inclusive of people on the LGBTQIA spectrum.

Consent and agency

Replacing the word ‘virginity’ with sexual debut also has implications for consent and choice in sexual relationships. As Paromita has said earlier, conversations around sex in India, usually get stuck around the issues of violence and rape, and this should not be the case! Sex can be an extremely pleasurable and positive activity; we constantly shift and evolve new ways to make it so. ‘Virginity’ is too static a term to represent all these facets of sexual pleasure.

Saying ‘sexual debut’ instead, offers more agency to women and also takes the pressure off men to be a woman’s ‘first’. Quoting Paromita, “Our definition of sexual intercourse is limited to intercourse and the control of women, precluding women’s pleasure. It creates an entire emotional and psychologically traumatic universe for women. They can’t make a choice. It has a domino effect and it also has an impact on the mental well-being of men themselves. Oh, my wife is not a virgin, now what! I have failed! They feel unhappy all the time and feel miserable about themselves and their masculinity. It gets in the way of happy relationships, too.”

And well, let’s face it, ‘sexual debut’ sounds a lot more fun! (wink wink)

Image source: a still from the movie Masaan

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