sex, love, and relationships for those of us who don't quite follow the rules

Archive for the ‘language’ Category

Words I dislike: virgin

I hate the word “virgin.” Really, really hate it. I stopped using it, with reference to myself or anyone else, about four years ago. I hate it because it takes the simple state of not having done a particular thing, and turns it into a defining characteristic. As if, after you have sex, you’re suddenly a different kind of person than you were before.

Of course sexual experience has an impact on a person, but that impact starts long before whatever counts as “sex” happens. I had been making out and sleeping in the same bed with boyfriends many years before I had sex, and I felt perceptibly less virginal than my friends who had never kissed anyone. And when I started masturbating and had my first orgasm, that made about as big an impact on me as when I first had sex with a partner. There are a lot of degrees of sexual experience, and to apply the “virgin/non-virgin” dichotomy at one particular point is pretty artificial. (Not to mention the silliness of hetero kids who think they can have oral and even anal sex with half a dozen partners and still claim virginity.)

I also hate the sentimentality of it; it feels associated with lacy white dresses and Victorian flowers. When applied to a man, it seems to feminize him — and while I like blurring of gender categories, I don’t think the correlation of manliness with sexual experience does anyone any favors.

I hate the phrase “losing your virginity.” It’s so backwards. In what other category of human action would doing something new be described as a loss? In communities that place a value on absolute monogamy (only having sex with one person over the course of your whole life), it makes some sense to use the phrase. Outside that context, it’s just stupid.

And let’s not even talk about the word “deflower.” I pretty much only hear it used ironically these days, which is good; it’s got all the problems of “virginity” turned up to eleven.

The words we use affect our thinking, the mental categories we comfortably entertain. This is one I’d like to see fade out of common usage.