Like a virgin, but not

 Image from amandabhslater on Flickr
Image from amandabhslater on Flickr

Virginity as a socially-constructed fallacy

By Natalie Serafini, Opinions Editor

Dating life is peppered with the internal and external negotiations on a certain commodity: sex. More notably in youth, this involves negotiating the loss of virginity. Although your first time is said to be “special,” and “should be with someone special,” it shrinks when stacked up against the rest of your times to come, and the disproportionate significance it’s been given has made giving away your V-card more of a social fallacy than anything else.

This isn’t to say that the establishment of your relationship with sex doesn’t matter at all, or that you should hand it over to the next person you talk to. I’m tossing in this disclaimer, but obviously it’s a good idea to always make sexual choices that are safe and that you feel comfortable with. What makes having sex right for one person could make having sex wrong for another, so the decision to pop or not pop that cherry is a personal one.

Returning to why first times aren’t that big a deal, the term “losing your virginity” seems steeped in faulty language. You don’t lose anything from the experience, but stating it in such negative terms sets a corresponding tone. The supposed loss communicates that you become less and less pure with each additional conquest, and that there’s an initial fall from grace the moment you bump uglies. Personally, I don’t put much stock in purity, and there’s little chance that using a part of your body in the way it was intended will result in a horrible decline in character.

Much like it doesn’t initiate the gradual decay in your morality, sex doesn’t change you in other ways, either. We giggle our way through tween and young adulthood seeing sex as some sort of sexy bar or bat mitzvah where we’ll emerge a new man or woman, but that’s not the case. You don’t actually undergo a metamorphosis, few cry from the pure emotion of it all, and you don’t gain a certain special je ne sais quoi. First times are portrayed in teen dramas and books as life-changing, but it’s unlikely that anyone matures or drastically changes based on this single, hopefully positive, event.

Maybe because of the supposed weight of it all, there are certain “requirements” for that first time which are stated as fact for all people and situations. If I think of those teen dramas and novels, the questions posed in these situations are not “Do you know that you want to have sex with this person?” or “How comfortable are you with your relationship?” but “Do you love them?” The statement isn’t just “Be safe,” but “Your first time should be with someone you love.” I call shenanigans on this emphasis on love.

If you’re waiting for “The Love of Your Life,” you could be waiting a long time, if not forever. Moreover, the qualifier “Someone you love” is indefinite—how to differentiate them from someone you care a lot about, or even a bit about? You know when you want to sleep with someone; love and experience, or lack thereof, needn’t be deciding factors in whether or not you get it on. Besides which, if you want to have sex with someone, chances are you care about them, and you don’t need to define further than that.

Having sex is a neutral action that can be tainted or aided by context, whether it’s your first time or your thousandth, but it seems it’s only ever portrayed in a select few lights. One of these lights involves a long and melodramatic, possibly tragic, plot. More mildly, girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl sleeps with boy, boy loses girl’s number. More dramatically, girl gets pregnant. Or chlamydia. And dies.

While I acknowledge that these should all be concerns, they shouldn’t stop you from having sex if they’re addressed beforehand—and afterwards. If you get chlamydia, make sure you address that afterwards, too. These cautionary tales function more or less to prevent people from becoming sexually active. When you’re bombarded with the idea that when you have sex you will lose your partner (all the worse if you’ve waited for The Love of Your Life)/get pregnant/get chlamydia/die, all of this adds up to the subconscious understanding that you’ll be punished for a loss of virginity and purity.

Sometimes sex is an important, life-changing experience, but until you’ve lived out your life, it’s hard to discern which moments changed it. For the time being, sex isn’t about having a life-changing experience—or at least, it’s not about going in search of one. It’s about having sex with who you want to because you both want to. Sex, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth, doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.