What comes to your mind when you first hear the word ‘virgin’? Most likely- a woman. Be it in the holy books, movies, or even literature, the current debate around the reproductive rights of the woman has been dominated by the idea of purity. The onus of purity falls squarely on the shoulders of women and why is that? Why does virginity translate to the morality of a woman? This condition of virginity is often used to control and exploit women for years.
Talking about sex in a country like India seems to be a bit odd, as sex is highly considered taboo and not many people prefer talking about it publicly. It is ironic to know that in a country that has ancient scriptures like Kamasutra, sexology was not a thing of debate before the early 20th century. Thanks to the American rom-com that the idea of sex came into the Indian society. Now people are coming out of the prejudice bubble of shame and accepting sex as a natural phenomenon. But it cannot be argued that India is completely taboo-free. A large section of the country still lives in preconceptions. With its strong religious tendencies and widespread conservative ideology, talking about sex in public is a tough nut to crack. In India, the idea of sex is heavily associated with morality and most people still consider it to be a sin to have sex before marriage. Especially, the idea of being a virgin is most important.
Amid the discussion, one question that does come to our mind is- Why the burden of piousness fall solely on women, while male sexual desire is normalized?
The obsession with virginity also known as virginal obsession is nothing new in society. Historically, virginity is rooted deeply in our culture that somehow grants men rights to ownership. In Roman Catholics, the Virgin Mary who is the mother of Jesus is often attributed to virginity.
The patriarchal obsession with virginity, especially of women is to ensure that they protected their uterus from being harmed or technically breached by a man who does not “own” her (unmarried). And this idea is not just prevalent in Asian countries as many of us would imagine, even in the West all the modernity about women’s virginity conditions men to determine a woman’s character to whether her hymen is intact or not! This policing of women’s hymen is not that uncommon.
Many kids in their late teens are obsessed with either losing or saving virginity like it were some tangible object that defines your being. For boys, the pressure is to lose virginity for girls they are taught to ‘save it for their future husband. And this doesn’t end with teenage. At every phase of your life, you’ll be judged based on your virginity status. For instance, losing virginity at a young age is considered pride and usually goes synonymous with masculinity. While in the case of girls, being a virgin is a ticket to a prosperous life. This misconception around virginity makes it even more contagious.
The problem with this heteronormative definition of virginity is that it is inaccurate and completely misleading. By hyping these thoughts, people are pressured under unrealistic expectations of sex, especially the first time. They may in turn start experimenting with their sexuality, which is an unhealthy thought, to begin with. Sex is a natural phenomenon that needs to be appreciated not derogated (consensual sex). Virginity does not define whether a person is pious or not. Bringing sex positivity in life is very important for young people and it does not necessarily mean encouraging sex, it means being accepting of everyone’s sexual decisions, regardless of whether you agree with them or not.
It’s time that we stop objectifying women’s bodies. We must understand that unless we stop safeguarding them, women will never be empowered the way they should. The decision of having sex depends solely on women and we are not anyone to determine or suggest otherwise. Sex is needed and beautiful, but it is not defining. A person is much more than that and we need to emphasize more on positivity rather than ‘slut-shaming’.