oh gURLs, can you believe that peeing in a cup used to be a test for virginity?!?! How far medical science has come.
Today, we think of virginity as a physical property, something you can “lose” or “keep.” All the euphemisms we have for virginity (e.g. your cherry or v-card) are physical objects. It might surprise you that virginity originally had more of a spiritual quality.
According to historian Hanne Blank, “Virginity has been defined in so many ways over the centuries. It’s been defined as a mode of behaviour, the way you carried yourself, whether you looked modest enough, whether you would look a man in the eye.“ Early Biblical scholars encouraged girls to be modest, obedient, and graceful; all qualities that could be compromised by lust or immoral thoughts and conduct. In other words, they thought a gURL could lose her purity by thinking dirty thoughts or acting the wrong way!
Because it was so important for a woman to be a virgin until marriage, doctors came up with all kinds of ways to test whether someone was really a virgin. (Of course, they didn’t subject boys to the same scrutiny!) De Secretis Mulierum, one thirteenth-century textbook on women’s health and reproduction says: “The signs of chastity are as follows: shame, modesty, fear, a faultless gait and speech, casting eyes down before men and the acts of men.” Medieval physicians even thought they could detect virginity by examining the color of your pee! A lot of these ideas sound like nonsense today, but virginity was serious business since it could make or break marriages, which were often arranged between families who wanted to exchange or share property and wealth.
When medical knowledge about the female body evolved during the Enlightenment, many of these religious superstitions faded over time. Though virginity remains a hot-button issue, the only thing that can be unanimously agreed upon today is that virginity loss requires a partner. Beyond that, however, there is little consensus, since there are so many different definitions of sex. It gets even trickier when you get into the idea of “technical” and “secondary” virginity.
If you’re a gURL wondering “Am I still a virgin if …”, stay tuned for next week’s column on what counts as real sex. The answer might surprise you!
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