Note: This article discusses sex between queer women, but please note that not all women have vaginas.
There’s no denying that the concept of losing your virginity is a heteronormative one. When we think of losing our virginity, we often think of penis-in-vagina sex (PiV), as the “breaking” of the hymen is apparently a central component of losing one’s virginity. Countless articles and stories contain depictions of heterosexual vaginal sex as the one way to “lose it.” Despite the fact that the hymen myth is simply not true and vaginal sex isn’t the only form of sex, we still cling to the idea that the one way to “lose your virginity” is by vaginal penetration by a penis. (I would like to note here that I do not personally agree with this concept because it implies that sex is something you give away as opposed to sharing with your partner. Also problematic is society’s tendency to inflate the first sexual experience as something that must be overly significant, but I digress.)
The obvious problem with this logic is the question: where do queer folk fit in? If penetration is apparently so significant to sex (although it definitely doesn’t have to be, but read on) then for gay men the loss of virginity can be defined as anal sex, but for lesbian and bisexual women having sexual experiences with other women, the idea of virginity can be very different. VocaLady spoke with several individuals who identify as bisexual or lesbian to hear their takes:
One anonymous bisexual writer rejects the concept of virginity all together, writing to VocaLady in an email, “I don’t really have a strict definition for virginity because it’s a completely fabricated concept without any medical or personal necessity. The first definition I’d ever heard of it was from my brother, during a discussion between myself, him, and my mother on sexuality, who claimed it was a penis penetrating a vagina for the first time. But then the concept of oral sex was brought up, and whether or not that was real sex was thrown in contention too. Honestly, trying to define a concept that’s been used so long to shame women doesn’t make sense to me.”
Alex*, another writer and sexual assault survivor, also rejects the concept of virginity on its heteronormative grounds, writing in an email, “your virginity is not lost just because you experienced penetration; it should be more about the person you are intimate with because you care for them. Society’s idea of male/female virginity is outdated.”
While some bisexual and lesbian women may understandably discard the obsolete definition of “virginity,” other women may still find it significant to their sexual experiences. An anonymous women told VocaLady that it’s “definitely something Sapphic women think about. My queer friends speak about it more as the first time they’re intimate with someone, and I would say a lot of bisexuals get nervous over talking about or experiencing their first experience with the same or opposite sex. Someone who has only been with men or only with women might put a lot of weight on having sex for the first time with the same or opposite gender, as a way to validate their bisexuality. That’s a form of obsessing over virginity, in my opinion, even if it’s not always called ‘virginity.’”
For Betty*, a bisexual woman, the concept of virginity concerns the orgasm, saying, “for me, losing my virginity will entail having an orgasm while having sex with my partner.” Her concept of sex? “Any sort of stimulation down there,” meaning penetration doesn’t have to be a part of it.
In fact, Betty acknowledges the wide amount of sexual acts lesbians (and other couples where a vagina may be concerned) can engage in, such as fingering, oral sex, the use of a strap on, or just clitoral rubbing, and chooses to label whichever act first brings her to orgasm as the moment of virginity loss, if you will. Alex also points to the different forms of intimacy women can have with one another, writing, “I wouldn’t consider oral with a male to be full intercourse, but I would with a woman.”
There’s no point in beating around the bush. It’s clear that it’s time to ditch the concept of virginity altogether, regardless of sexuality, although there’s no denying—for some people—one’s first sexual experience can be significant. Instead, perhaps, it’s time to allow individuals to define their first, second, fifteenth, sixtieth, consensual sexual experience as they will, regardless of who with or what it entailed. We thank all of our contributors.
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