Permanent link for Sexual Abstinence, Virginity and Sexual Decision Making on April 6, 2021

Part of our Sex-Ed Series

As per 2018 National College Health Assessment statistics, 74% of GVSU students have engaged in sexual activity which means 26% have not. So in today's post we are going to discuss sexual abstinence and virginity.

Sexual-abstinence means refraining yourself from participating in sexual activities.

The interpretation of the word ‘abstinence’ may be different for different people. For some people, sexual abstinence may mean that there is no sexual activity of any kind. While for some other people, abstinence may mean not taking part in vaginal or anal sex but that practicing oral-sex, kissing or masturbation is ok. Communication is key in practicing abstinence: it is important to communicate with your partner(s)  regarding if, when, and how you want to practice abstinence.

Anyone can practice sexual-abstinence if they want to, irrespective of their age, gender, or sexuality-orientation . You can practice sexual-abstinence even if you have participated in sexual activities before. Your partner(s) should respect your choice to be abstinent, and they shouldn’t try to pressure you into having sex or any other sexual activity you don’t want to do.

There are many reason why people practice abstinence, some of them are:

  • To prevent pregnancy - or using it as a mode of contraception
  • Because of any underlying medical conditions
  • Waiting for the right partner
  • Not feeling like have sex or lack of intimacy
  • Practicing celibacy 
  • Personal or religious beliefs

Many people may also practice outercourse, which is participating in sex and other sexual activities except vaginal sex - or any sexual activity that can get any semen in the vagina.

Virginity is slightly different from abstinence in that virginity is often thought of as something a person who has not engaged in penis-vagina intercourse has or possesses. Many times virginity is associated with the presence of hymen in individuals with vaginas. An intact/unruptured hymen is believed to be a sign of virginity. (Note: there isn’t often an equivalent definition of virginity for a person with a penis). 

But, much like abstinence, being a virgin can mean different things to different people. For some people, virginity means never had penetrative sex (vaginal, anal) before in their life. For some others, it may mean not engaging in penetrative vaginal sex anytime in their lifetime, but they have enagaged in other sexual activities such as oral sex, anal sex, etc. On the other side, some people also believe that masturbating or having other kinds of sex play- including fingering or touching a sex partner’s genitals with the hands can make people to lose their virginity. There are different beliefs and concepts regarding virginity in our society, and they vary from person to person. 

Virginity does carry a lot of emotional weight for people and while we know many people believe in virginity as a concept it is important to share that virginity is a social construct - which means that it was an idea created by society. A few reasons we think that’s important to share this? Well, you can read this blog post from the School of Sex ed for more, but they tell us that: 1) the focus on penis-in-vagina sex as the “key” to virginity erases experiences, desires and preferences of others; 2) the association between purity and virginity serves to control female bodies; and 3) you can’t tell by looking at genitalia if someone has had sex (so the myth about an intact hymen is just wrong). Perhaps take some time to explore how you feel about virginity and if you agree or disagree with its basis.

Sexual Decision Making
If you are considering having sex for the first time (or any time) there are a bunch of things you and your partner(s) should know and evaluate. You should consider the emotional and physical needs and wants of everyone involved. You should also take note of your relationship and if you have safer sex supplies available.  For more information regarding sexual decision making please checkout the ‘Ready or Not’ checklist from Scarleteen. It has so many different questions for you and your partner(s) to answer to determine if you are ready or not!

As we conclude, we want to remind you that any choice you make about sexual activity is ok if it is consensual! It is okay if you choose to be abstinent. It is ok if you choose to participate in sex or sexual activity. We believe there should be no stigma attached to either one of the choices. 

By: Sonal Subhash Mandale and Beck Lukins, WIT Peer Educator

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Page last modified April 6, 2021