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Virginity

What it is, and questions from readers

Young people, especially young females, frequently send questions about virginity. This page sets out a definition of virginity and a philosophy of it and its importance. Below that are actual questions from readers.

What is virginity?

Virginity is the state of not having had sexual intercourse.

What is sexual intercourse?

Sexual intercourse is any sexual act involving the genitals of one person and some part of another person. There are four kinds of sexual intercourse:

  1. Vaginal intercourse - Penetration of the vagina or genitals of the female by the penis of the male.
  2. Oral intercourse - Contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth of another.
  3. Anal intercourse - Penetration of the anus of one person by the penis of another.
  4. Manual intercourse - Contact between the hands of one person and the genitals of another.

So who is a virgin? Only someone who has never done any of those four kinds of sexual intercourse?

Different people have different ideas when it comes to what makes a person not a virgin. Everyone agrees that someone who has engaged in vaginal intercourse is not a virgin. Most people believe that someone who has engaged in oral or anal intercourse is not a virgin, even if they have never engaged in vaginal intercourse. Most people believe that someone who has only engaged in manual intercourse is still a virgin.

If you want to be absolutely certain that everyone will regard you as a virgin, you can't do anything "below the waist," either yours or your partner.

How far in can the penis go before I am not a virgin?

If even the tip of the penis is not visible past the outer lips of the vulva, neither of the participants is still a virgin.

Can I lose my virginity by masturbating by myself?

No.

What is the hymen?

The hymen is a thin fold of skin partially covering the vaginal opening. It is normally intact only in very young girls.

If I no longer have a hymen, does that mean I am no longer a virgin?

You can only become a non-virgin by engaging in sexual intercourse as described above. Some females who have engaged in sexual intercourse have perfectly intact hymens, and some females who have never done anything "below the waist" have no hymen left at all. Besides sexual intercourse, the hymen can break through masturbation, athletic activity, tampon use, or even strenuous play. Most women have some hymen left until they bear a child vaginally.

Can I get my virginity back?

No. To quote the song "Toyland" from the 1903 musical Babes in Toyland,

Once you pass its borders, you can never return again.
(lyrics by Glen MacDonough, music by Victor Herbert)

So what is a "born-again virgin"?

That's a sexually experienced person who decides not to have sex again until he or she is married or experiences some other event. They're not really virgins.

Why is virginity important?

A lot of people want to wait to have sex until they're married, or until they meet someone very special. These people decide that sex is not merely a biological act but something more important. Everyone has to decide what importance virginity has to him or her. Preferably while still a virgin.

Why is the hymen important?

It isn't, really. Most girls who are worried about hurting their hymens are trying to keep themselves as pure as possible, like keeping something brand new after bringing it home from the store. They want to be able to prove to their future husband (or their first partner) that they really are virgins. Since the hymen can be broken in so many ways other than sexual intercourse, it isn't all that useful as an indicator of intercourse experience in most women of marriageable age.

The hymen does have one purpose, however. It can show if a very young girl (of the age that would normally have an intact hymen) has been sexually abused, and in what manner.


Questions from readers:

I masturbate every month. Am I still a virgin? (age 18)

Masturbating does not make you not a virgin.

When are you not a virgin? I heard it's when the boy gets all of the head in and I've heard that it's when the boy busts your hymen. I can't tell whether or not I am because he got all of the head in, but not much else. I really enjoy your site, and I've learned a lot from it.

I'm inclined to say you're not a virgin if you've had even a penile head inside you. The hymen is irrelevant, since most girls have already broken theirs before they have intercourse for the first time.

Is is possible to lose your virginity while masturbating, using water or plain clitoral stimulation (rubbing)? (age 21)

You cannot lose your virginity by masturbating, only by having sexual intercourse with another person.

I'm still a virgin and last night my boyfriend used his fingers to pleasure me. I've had this done to me before but ever since last night every time I go to the toilet my vagina hurts and it won't stop bleeding. Does this mean that I am no longer a virgin? (age 16)

Most people say that having someone's fingers in your vagina (manual intercourse) does not make you not a virgin. Most people believe you have to have penis-in-vagina intercourse (vaginal intercourse) or at least penis-in-anus (anal intercourse) or penis-in-mouth intercourse (oral intercourse) to lose your virginity. He probably broke your hymen more than it had ever been before, but that doesn't make you a non-virgin.

I don't masturbate, but I'm wondering if I can lose my virginity by using a tampon. I've only used the smaller sizes twice before getting scared that I broke my hymen, so is it intact, damaged, or gone? (age 15)

Someone would have to look to say for sure, but if you've used any tampons at all, it's unlikely your hymen is still intact. Having or not having a hymen has little to do with virginity. Most older virgins (18+) have little or no hymen left. And a few women have had sexual intercourse but for whatever reason, the hymen remains intact. You can't lose your virginity by using tampons.

I'm really concerned if a doctor can tell if I've had sex or not. PLEASE HELP!!! (age 17)

When a doctor examines a female's genitals, he or she can estimate whether she's had sex or not. The more sex she's had, the easier it is for the doctor. If she's only had sex once or twice, the doctor might not know. The genitals of a virgin female who masturbates with objects might look like those of a sexually experienced female in some ways.

I had sex with my girlfriend. I ruptured her hymen. In our society, it's very important to have a hymen. I am not sure if I can marry her. I have heard that by giving a break to sex and masturbation, she will get her hymen back. Is it true? (age 18)

No, it isn't. But a doctor can put in some temporary stitching and a fake blood capsule before her wedding so her husband will think she had a hymen.

I'm still a virgin, by choice, and my primary form of anxiety comes from societal conditions encouraging females to be more sexually active. I can't stand the thought of being with a girl who's been with other guys, but I don't think there will be any virgins my age left soon. I don't believe in premarital sex (based on religious principles). Can you help me with some statistics? (age 21)

There are plenty of virgin females your age out there and much older. But as a percent of all single women your age, they are a minority. You should try to get married soon or else abandon the idea of being a virgin. Males have a much tougher time adjusting to a partner (or even finding one) if they remain virgins past your age.

What is the average age for losing virginity (for men and women)? (age 16)

About 17 for females and 18 for males.

If a male has sex using a condom, does he lose his virginity the same as if his penis were uncovered? And what about the woman? (age 29)

Using a condom does nothing to preserve virginity.

My ex boyfriend and I were making out and he put one or two inches of his penis inside. Am I still a virgin? Will my future husband be able to tell? (age 17)

I don't think you are a virgin. If that's all you've done, I doubt anyone could tell. You will probably have other opportunities for sexual experimentation before the time comes for you to get married, and so will your future husband. It's doubtful either of you should expect the other to be a virgin.

Someone I had a casual encounter with inserted his penis, just the head, inside me. Is that still considered "sex"? (age 22)

What you describe meets the definition of penetration. It is definitely sex.

My boyfriend and I have made the decision to not have vaginal intercourse just yet. We do have oral intercourse both ways. Am I still a virgin? I thought I was, but I read something that made me think otherwise. (age 16)

By having oral sex, you have entered into a grey area where some people will no longer regard you as a virgin.

I'm a female and dating another female. Most of your questions come from straight couples. All that we have done has been fingering, oral sex, and rubbing up against each other with or without clothes on. I still have an intact hymen and I just wanted to know if I am still a virgin. I have never done ANYTHING with a male, and the only form of penetration I have ever had has been a finger. (age 16)

Most people would say you are a virgin if all you have done is manual intercourse (fingering), but you also report having oral sex. A lot of people would say that someone who has done that is not a virgin.

I'm 19 and a virgin, meaning no sexual contact anywhere at all. I'm not trying to save myself for marriage; I'm more interested in waiting until I feel comfortable with the right person. Is being a virgin around my age a turnoff for guys?

No. Many would even find it appealing. You're smart to wait until the situation is right.

What is the age you would recommend for a female to lose her virginity and not be too young? (age 14)

If I had to pick an age, I would say 19. That is old enough to deal with the consequences.

I am a 21 year old female at college. I have never been with a guy or even been kissed. However, I enjoy masturbation and I own several toys. If I penetrate myself with one of my toys, am I still a virgin?

Yes. To not be a virgin you have to do something sexual with another person.

Is it true you lose your hymen if you start to use tampons? My friends say you lose your virginity if you use tampons. Is this true? (age 14)

Tampons can erode the hymen over time but to not be a virgin you have to do something sexual with another person.

If a man gives a woman oral sex, who becomes the non-virgin? The man, woman, or both? What if the woman gave the man oral sex? Man, woman, or both? Some say that only vaginal intercourse makes you a non-virgin. Is that true? (age 32)

If you believe that oral sex makes someone a non-virgin, then being either the giver or receiver would make you one. Some people say only vaginal intercourse makes one a non-virgin, but the main reason they believe that is so they can have oral or anal sex and still call themselves virgins. Many other people disagree and believe that someone who has had oral or anal sex is not a virgin.


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