Right around the time you hit puberty, chances are good that you received the talk. Or, to be more specific, The Talk–a conversation so grave and important, presumably, that it practically requires a caps-heavy title. The actual content of this talk varies between people, but, generally, it circles around various puberty-related things–periods, body hair, body odor–and centers on the concept of having sex for the first time, which, more often than not, is framed as “losing” one’s virginity. This implies, of course, that one’s virginity is something that is inherently a part of them, and that the act of losing it will be, as is the case when losing most things, at least vaguely traumatic.
Now, I don’t want to be that person who’s always all, like, “virginity is a social construct that is unfairly and disproportionately foisted upon female-presenting people in order to preserve their so-called purity, which is in and of itself a social construct.” But. Virginity is a social construct that is unfairly and disproportionately foisted upon female-presenting people in order to preserve their so-called purity, which is in and of itself a social construct. And, because of this, there are likely a few (possibly more than a few) misconceptions about virginity that you probably believe. Most people do! Check them out here:
Your Virginity Is Something That You Have And LoseRemember how I said that virginity is a social construct? Basically, what this means is that there is no actual medical or biological definition for virginity. So, many of the definitions you've heard about "virginity" are the ones that, traditionally, have been used as something to gauge the so-called "purity" of women. But, if you think about it, virginity can only be defined as a state of being for a person who hasn't had sex yet (I mean, that's literally how the dictionary defines it), and doing something that's natural and normal for human beings doesn't make you less pure person, even if it's your first time doing it. Of course, it is possible to know something intellectually--like the fact that the concept of virginity is, at its root, patriarchal BS--and still feel its impact emotionally, so it's totally understandable if your virginity (whatever that means for you) is something that feels important to you. Just know that the fact of whether you've had sex or not isn't something that actually defines you as a person. Image source: Getty
Your Hymen Is Something That Can Be "Broken"AKA your cherry pops. Or...something. People with vaginas are often taught that they have a small tissue barrier over the opening of their vagina that tears during the first time they have sex. And this is...sort of true? You do have a hymen! But it doesn't tear during your first time having sex, and it definitely isn't a marker of your virginity. Everyone is born with a different-shaped hymen, first of all, so its size doesn't really depend on whether or not it's been penetrated. And, the first time you have sex, it might stretch--which could be a little painful for some people, depending on its size--but it doesn't tear or "pop"the first time you have sex. The hymen also naturally shrinks over time, so it's possible that, by the first time you have sex, your hymen won't even be a concern. Image source: Getty
You'll Definitely Bleed The First Time You Have SexAnother part of the "cherry popping" myth is that everyone bleeds a fairly noticeable amount the first time they have sex. (Like, have you read that chapter about virginity in The Bell Jar? Horrifying!) It is true that some people bleed and experience pain during their first time having sex, but that's more to do with a lack of lubrication in the vagina, which can result in small tears and fissures. This means that any bleeding or pain that you experience during your first time is more likely the result of a guy who didn't have the patience to spend time on foreplay and shoved it in before you were ready. (Dump that guy! Or, at the very least, give him a stern talking to!) You shouldn't feel bad if it does hurt or if you do bleed a little bit the first time you have sex--everyone is different, first of all, and you might not be quite sure when you're lubricated enough for sex--but it's important to remember that it definitely doesn't have to hurt. Image source: Getty
You Can Tell If Someone Is A Virgin Or NotThere are a lot of weirdly pervasive strategies for "testing" someone's virginity--like checking the sheets to see if they were bled on and seeing how many fingers can be inserted into the vagina without resistance--and, unsurprisingly, they're pretty much all BS. First of all, many people don't bleed after sex, regardless of if it is their first time or not. Also, hymens are stretchy and can heal well, which means that no one (not even a doctor) can tell by looking at the vagina if they have had sex or not. Also also, virginity isn't real. So. What is there to tell, even? Image source: Getty
You Will Be Irrevocably Changed After The First Time You Have SexA lot of people tend to think that they will experience a big, noticeable shift--in their body, personality, whatever--right after having sex for the first time. Nope! You'll still be you. The only difference will be that, before, you were a person who hadn't technically had sex, and, after, you will be a person who has had sex. That's it! It can be exciting, of course--new things are fun!--but you won't be a totally new, grown-up person. You Have To Have A Penis In Your Vagina To Lose Your Virginity Um. No. If someone ever tries to tell you this, you just need to let them know that not everyone is straight, Carol, and, because of this, not everyone will be having penetrative p-in-v sex throughout their lifetime. (You can be straight and never have p-in-v sex, too.) There are many people who have never had penetrative sex and never will have penetrative sex who might not consider themselves virgins. Basically, virginity is...whatever it means to you. You definitely don't have to have had a penis in or around your vagina to say that you aren't a virgin. Image source: Getty
You Have To Have A Penis In Your Vagina To Lose Your VirginityUm. No. If someone ever tries to tell you this, you just need to let them know that not everyone is straight, Carol, and, because of this, not everyone will be having penetrative p-in-v sex throughout their lifetime. (You can be straight and never have p-in-v sex, too.) There are many people who have never had penetrative sex and never will have penetrative sex who might not consider themselves virgins. Basically, virginity is...whatever it means to you. You definitely don't have to have had a penis in or around your vagina to say that you aren't a virgin. Image source: Getty
Using Tampons Impacts VirginityNo. You're not using a tampon in a sexual sense (I assume). You are using it to absorb the uterine lining that your body sheds once a month. This is not the same thing as having sex. Also, not to be crude, but if we're talking penis-related sex here, most penises you encounter aren't going to be the same size as a tampon. So, don't worry--using tampons isn't going to stretch you out in any way. Image source: Getty
Your First Time Has To Be SpecialA lot of people think that their first time having sex has to be special--you know, like, candles, soft music, and unbridled tenderness and intimacy. And it's totally possible that this could happen for you! But it's also possible that preemptively romanticizing the event--which, in reality, will probably be a little awkward and mundane--will make it seem like a disappointment in comparison. This doesn't mean that you should just do it with, like, anyone, of course, because that isn't exactly safe. Instead, try to do it with someone you feel safe and comfortable with and, uh, lower your expectations a little bit. This way, you'll be sure to have a good time. Image source: Getty
Were you surprised by any of these things? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!