A virgin (or maiden) is, originally, a young woman characterized by absence of sexual experience (see Etymology). Virginity is the state of being a virgin (never had vaginal intercourse). The word is also often used with wider reference by relaxing the age, gender or sexual criteria. Hence, more mature women can be virgins (The Virgin Queen), men can be virgins (The 40 Year-Old Virgin), and potential initiates into many fields can be colloquially termed virgins, for example a skydiving "virgin". In the last usage, virgin simply means uninitiated, i.e. unmarried.
Also by extension from its primary sense, the idea that a virgin has an emotional "blank slate", without complications for her potential intimate emotional life with men, leads to the abstraction of unadulterated purity (see below). Hence, virgin can even be used with non-human referents. Unalloyed metal is sometimes described as virgin. Some cocktails can be described as virgin, when lacking the alcoholic admixture. Similarly, olive oil may be called virgin if it contains no refined oil and has an acidity below 2%, or extra-virgin if it comes from a cold pressing with an acidity below .08%.
The last instance also incorporates yet another association of virginity—the notability of its loss. More properly, the association is with the significance of the addition of a new status, rather than a loss. Hence this association is typically found in references to the first instance of a potentially extended series of like events. Just as extra-virgin olive oil is from the first pressing, so a maiden or virgin speech is an incumbent's first address. The same metaphor, using the synonym maiden, is applied to the first or maiden voyage of a ship. A woman's maiden name is the surname she had when she was (presumed to be) a virgin—her first surname. In cricket, a maiden over is an over from which no runs were scored. Maiden Castles are those with the reputation of never having been captured.
Chastity is a near synonym of virginity, the distinction being that chastity views sexual integrity in terms of faithfulness to a spouse, rather than as absolute inexperience. Sexual jealousy is a recurrent theme throughout the history of literature. Virginity derives its significance from this context, because it distinguishes between unmarried women who have had no sexual partners and those who have.
In this, and many later contexts, the reference is specifically Christian, alluding to members of the order of virgins known to have existed since the early church from the writings of the Church Fathers. However, within about a century, the word was expanded to apply also to Mary, the mother of Jesus, hence to sexual virginity explicitly.
Further expansion of the word to include virtuous (or naïve) young women, irrespective of religious connection, occurred over about another century.
These are just three of the eighteen definitions of virgin from the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, pages 230-232). Most of the OED1 definitions, however, are very similar.
Frank Harris (1923) claims to have given the following humorous etymology in a lecture, " 'vir,' as everyone knows, is Latin for a man, while 'gin' is good old English for a trap; virgin is therefore a mantrap. Other, serious, but unsupported etymologies exist in print.
The German for "virgin" is Jungfrau. Although Jungfrau literally means "young woman", a standard formal German word for a young woman, without implications regarding sexuality, is Fräulein. Fräulein can be used in German, as a title of respect, equivalent to current usage of Miss in English. Jungfrau is the word reserved specifically for sexual inexperience. As Frau means "woman", it suggests a female referent. Unlike English, German has a specific word for a male virgin Jüngling ("Youngling"). It is, however, rarely used in this sense. Jungfrau, with some masculine modifier, is more typical, as evidenced by the film, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, about a 40 year-old male virgin, titled in German, Jungfrau (40), männlich, sucht. German also distinguishes between young women and girls, who are denoted by the word Mädchen. The English cognate "maid" was often used to imply virginity, especially in poetry.
By contrast, the Greek word for "virgin" is parthenos (παρθένος, see Parthenon). Although typically applied to women, like English, it is also applied to men, in both cases specifically denoting absence of sexual experience. When used of men, it does not carry a strong association of "never-married" status. However, in reference to women, historically, it was sometimes used to refer to an engaged woman—parthenos autou (παρθένος αὐτού, his virgin) = his fiancée as opposed to gunē autou (γυνή αὐτού, his woman) = his wife. This distinction is necessary due to there being no specific word for wife (or husband) in Greek.
Also published in 1989 and 1990, a much-cited study at a United States campus by Clark and Hatfield involved male and female researchers approaching total strangers of the opposite sex one-to-one and asking one the following questions.
Female students answered yes to the male researchers 50%, 6% and 0%. Male students answered yes to the female researchers 50%, 69% and 75%. (A later Austrian study attempted to reproduce the results, but found as many as 6% of females responded yes to a sexual invitation from a total stranger, concluding that social context was significant in female assent.)
Studies like those above are consistent with evolutionary explanations of certain aspects of human psychology. Psychological preferences in sexual behaviour can have reproductive consequences, hence natural selection should operate on them, and may do so differently in men and women. In particular, "Males who preferred chaste females in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness, ceteris paribus, presumably enjoyed greater reproductive success than males who were indifferent to the sexual contact that a potential mate had with other males." Dickerman (1981) and Daly & Wilson (1983) argue, "chastity would also provide a cue to the future fidelity of a selected mate. A male failing to express such a preference would risk investing in offspring that were not his. Buss notes, "A female could be sure her putative children were her own, regardless of the prior sexual experience of her mate. This sexual asymmetry yields a specific prediction: Males will value chastity in a potential mate more than will females."
David Buss has had a long and distinguished career, pioneering cross-cultural study of sexual jealousy and refining evolutionary explanations of this psychological phenomenon. The Evolution of Desire (ISBN 0465077501) makes the academic work accessible for the popular market.
The evolutionary theory also accounts for the linguistic evidence, where terminology for sexual inexperience is more often associated with women than with men. Virginity, or chastity, in women is probably simply more valued psychologically, hence talked about more. Nonetheless, the evidence also suggests that cultural influences are significant in reinforcing or suppressing any evolved, psychological factors.
In the first group, the data indicated families arranging marriage for daughters as close to puberty as possible, with significantly older men. Age of men at sexual initiation in these societies is at later ages than that of women, but is often extra-marital. This group included sub-Saharan Africa (the study listed Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia). The study considered the Indian subcontinent also fell into this group, although data was only available from Nepal.
In the second group, the data indicated families encouraged daughters to delay marriage, but to abstain from sexual activity prior to it. However, sons are encouraged to gain experience with older women or prostitutes prior to marriage. Age of men at sexual initiation in these societies is at lower ages than that of women. This group includes Latin cultures, both from southern Europe (Portugal, Greece and Romania are noted) and from South America (Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic). The study considered many Asian societies also fell into this group, although matching data was only available from Thailand.
In the third group, age of men and women at sexual intiation was more closely matched. There were two sub-groups, however. In non-Latin, Catholic countries (Poland and Lithuania are mentioned), age at sexual initiation was higher, suggesting later marriage and reciprocal valuing of male and female virginity. The same pattern of late marriage and reciprocal valuing of virginity was reflected in Singapore and Sri Lanka. The study considered China and Vietnam also fell into this group, although data was not available.
Finally, in northern and eastern European countries, age at sexual initiation was lower, with both men and women involved in sexual activity prior to any union formation. The study listed Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic as members of this group.
The state of virginity often has special significance, usually as something to be respected or valued. This is especially true in societies where there are traditional or religious views associating sexual exclusiveness with marriage.
Attitudes regarding male virginity and female virginity have often diverged, however, usually placing greater emphasis on the latter, and even devaluing the former. In modern times it is not uncommon for either male or female virginity in adolescents and adults to be disparaged by peers, as a sign of immaturity.
Female virginity is closely interwoven with personal or even family honour in many cultures, especially those known as shame societies, in which the loss of virginity before marriage is a matter of deep shame. For example, among the Bantu of South Africa, virginity testing or even the suturing of the labia majora (called infibulation) has been commonplace. Traditionally, Kenuzi girls (of the Sudan) are married before puberty (Godard, 1867), by adult men who inspect them manually for virginity (Kenedy, 1970). Female circumcision is later performed at puberty to ensure chastity (Barclay, 1964).
In Western marriage ceremonies, brides traditionally wear veils and white wedding dresses, which are believed by many people to be symbols of virginity. In fact, wearing white is a comparatively recent custom among western brides, who previously wore whatever colors they wished or simply their "best dress." Wearing white became a matter first of trendy fashion and then of custom and tradition only over the course of the 19th century.
History evidences laws and customs that required a man who seduced or raped a virgin to take responsibility for the consequences of his offense by marrying the girl or by paying compensation to her father on her behalf.
Some historians and anthropologists note that many societies that place a high value on virginity before marriage, such as the United States before the sexual revolution, actually have a large amount of premarital sexual activity that does not involve vaginal penetration: for example, oral sex, anal sex and mutual masturbation. This is considered by some people "technical" virginity, as vaginal intercourse has not occurred but the participants are sexually active.
There are anthropological reasons for the view that vaginal penetration, especially on the part of the woman, is especially indicative of a change in status, a threshold irrevocably crossed, the most incontrovertible "loss of virginity". And that is because a woman who has been vaginally penetrated is one who may have potentially conceived. From an evolutionary standpoint, men would prefer "virgin" mates under this definition to be sure that the woman was not carrying another man's child which the new husband would be tricked into caring for as his own.
In human females, the hymen is a membrane, part of the vulva, which partially occludes the entrance to the vagina, and which stretches, or is sometimes torn, when the woman first engages in sexual intercourse. The human hymen can vary widely in thickness, shape, and flexibility. Throughout history, the presence of an intact membrane has been seen by some as physical evidence of virginity in the broader technical sense, though the hymen can be easily broken by other means.
In the majority of women, the hymen is sufficiently vestigial as to pose no obstruction to the entryway of the vagina. The presence of a broken hymen may therefore indicate that the vagina has been penetrated but also that it was broken via physical activity or the use of a tampon or dildo. Many women possess such thin, fragile hymens, easily stretched and already perforated at birth, that the hymen can be broken, or merely disappear, in childhood, without the woman even being aware of it.
In contrast to the common cases of an absent or partial hymen, in rare cases a woman may possess an imperforate hymen, such as prevents the release of menstrual discharge. A surgical procedure known as hymenotomy, which creates an opening in the hymen, is sometimes required to avert deleterious health effects. The playwright Ben Jonson claimed that Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen, had a "membranum" that made her "incapable of Man", and that a friend of hers, a "chirurgeon", had offered to remedy the problem with his scalpel and that Elizabeth had demurred.
The presence of a hymen is a possible indication, but no guarantee, of virginity, given that it is speculated that some degree of sexual activity may occur without rupturing the hymen and because there may exist varying definitions as to the type and extent of sexual activity that is required to terminate the state of "virginity". This is further complicated by the availability of hymenorrhaphy surgical procedures to repair or replace the hymen. (This procedure is more common in countries where virginity is greatly prized, as in the Middle East.)
In males, there is no physically visible indicator of virginity.
In some countries until the late 20th century, if a man did not marry a woman whose virginity he had taken, the woman was allowed to sue the man for money, in some languages named "wreath money". Emphasizing the monetary value of female virginity, some women have offered their virginity for sale. In 2008, Italian model Raffella Fico, then 20 years old, offered her virginity for 1 million Euros. In that same year, an American using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan announced she would accept bids for her virginity through a Nevada brothel's web site.
One slang term used for virginity is "cherry" (often, this term refers to the hymen, but can refer to virginity in males or females) and for a virgin, deflowering is said to "pop their cherry," a reference to destruction of the hymen during first intercourse.
A curious term often seen in English translations of the works of the Marquis de Sade is to depucelate. This word is apparently a literal translation of dépuceler, a French verb derived from pucelle (n.f.), which means "virgin". Joan of Arc was commonly called "la Pucelle" by her admirers.
Cultural anthropologists have discovered that romantic love and sexual jealousy are universal features of human relationships. Social values related to virginity reflect both sexual jealousy and ideals of romantic love, and appear to be deeply embedded in human nature.
This article examines the relationship between premarital sexual activity and the long-term risk of divorce among U.S. women married between 1965 and 1985. Simple cross-tabulations from the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth indicate that women who were sexually active prior to marriage faced a considerably higher risk of marital disruption than women who [sic] were virgin brides. A bivariate probit model is employed to examine three possible explanations for this positive relationship: (a) a direct causal effect, (b) an indirect effect through intervening "high risk" behaviors (such as having a premarital birth or marrying at a young age), and (c) a selectivity effect representing prior differences between virgins and non-virgins (such as family background or attitudes and values). After a variety of observable characteristics are controlled, non-virgins still face a much higher risk of divorce than virgins. However, when the analysis controls for unobserved characteristics affecting both the likelihood of having premarital sex and the likelihood of divorce, the differential is no longer significant. These results suggest that the positive relationship between premarital sex and the risk of divorce can be attributed to prior unobserved differences (e.g., the willingness to break traditional norms) rather than to a direct causal effect.This study makes no recommendation, it simply notes that the women most likely to exercise freedom to enter sexual relationships prior to marriage, overlap significantly with the women most likely to exercise freedom to leave a relationship after marriage. Men were not the subject of this study; they may show a different degree of overlap.
"The sun-god said: O beautiful , your meeting with the demigods cannot be fruitless. Therefore, let me place my seed in your womb so that you may bear a son. I shall arrange to keep your virginity intact, since you are still an unmarried girl.
a legal text attributed to Manu:
"The nuptial texts are applied solely to virgins, (and) nowhere among men to females who have lost their virginity, for such (females) are excluded from religious ceremonies.
In predominantly Hindu societies in Nepal and India, any form of premarital sexual intercourse is still frowned upon immensely and is considered an act destined to bring great dishonour and disrespect to the family. It is practically impossible for a non-virgin girl to find a partner from a traditional family.
Sex in Judaism is not seen as dirty or undesirable — in fact, sex within marriage is considered a mitzvah, or desirable virtue. Jewish law contains rules related to and protecting female virgins and dealing with consensual and non-consensual pre-marital sex. The thrust of Jewish law's guidance on sex is effectively that it should not be rejected, but should be lived as a wholesome part of life.
Although there is a provision in Judaism for sex outside of marriage, the idea of a pilegesh, is it very seldom used, partially because of the emphasis placed on marriage and other social pressures, and partially because some prominent Rabbis have been opposed to it, for example Maimonides.
While a child born of certain forbidden relationships, such as adultery or incest, is considered a mamzer, approximately translated as illegitimate, who can only marry another mamzer, a child born out of wedlock is not considered a mamzer unless also adulterous or incestuous.
However, in practice, contemporary Judaism is fairly lenient about sexual relations and has been, since its early days, fairly pragmatic about the realities of sex and sexuality. The more liberal denominations (Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Conservative Judaism) are relatively open to pre-marital sex: while it is not encouraged, it is not ignored, either—rules governing sexuality still apply, etc. In stricter denominations, such as the Hasidim, sex before marriage can be relatively uncommon, as religious practices of modesty, arranged marriages, marriages at a younger age, and related practices, may apply, thus restricting the mobility of single people.
Some have theorized that the New Testament was not against sex before marriage. The discussion turns on two Greek words — moicheia (μοιχεία, adultery) and porneia (πορνεία, fornication see also pornography). The first word is restricted to contexts involving sexual betrayal of a spouse, however the second word is a generic term for illegitimate sexual activity. As such it is not specific about which particular behaviours are considered illegitimate. Elsewhere in , incest, homosexual intercourse and prostitution are all explicitly forbidden by name. The theory suggests it is these, and only these behaviours that are intended by Paul's prohibition in chapter seven. Two of the strongest arguments against this theory are: 1. Paul speaks as though porneia is widespread and virtually inevitable, which is unlikely of incest, homosexuality and prostitution, but plausible of pre-marital sex; and 2. the Old Testament especially, but also the New outside Corinthians, speaks against pre-marital sex; without evidence Paul permitted pre-marital sex one assumes that he did not.
As in Judaism, the interpretation of Genesis is that it describes sex as a gift from God to be celebrated within the context of marriage. The New Testament also speaks of the Christian's body as a holy temple that the Spirit of God comes to dwell in. Purity in general is deeply threaded throughout the entire Bible.
Christians have officially accepted the New Testament claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin at the time Jesus was conceived, based on the accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox denominations, additionally hold to the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary. However, Protestants cite evidence against this including : "Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren't His sisters here with us?". The Catholic Church holds that in Semitic usage the terms "brother," "sister" are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters. Some Christians may refer to her as the Virgin Mary or the Blessed Virgin Mary.
While traditional Catholic theology recognizes a physical aspect of virginity, the moral aspects are far more important. In traditional theology, virgins are thought to receive a special aureola in heaven, and as such it was important to define exactly what constituted this "theological virginity". Depending on the culture, this definition of virginity may be very different from the "social definition of virginity." In Catholic theology, virginity is technically lost by any deliberately felt sexual pleasure, and as such is forfeit even by masturbation, though not necessarily by sexual acts in which one participates but in a way that does not cause genital pleasure for oneself. In some part because of this last possibility, it is specified that not all virgins are necessarily chaste, and that an intention of purity is needed for the virginity to be meritous. However, while this intention can be lost and restored and the aureola still gained, the physical fact of sexual pleasure voluntarily engaged in is irreversible.
In some ways, this is the most logically consistent definition; in traditional theological thought there is little objective difference, either physiologically or morally, between being brought to orgasm by one's own hand and being brought to orgasm by the body of another if the latter act was not open to life. Acts such as masturbation and sodomy have traditionally been regarded as worse sexual sins because they are allegedly unnatural for not being open to the possibility of conception, whereas fornication or adultery could still theoretically be "natural" even if not moral. Therefore, it would be odd for theology to conclude that virginity is lost by a less grave sin but preserved in worse and more unnatural sins of lust.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says: "There are two elements in virginity: the material element, that is to say, the absence, in the past and in the present, of all complete and voluntary delectation, whether from lust or from the lawful use of marriage; and the formal element, that is the firm resolution to abstain forever from sexual pleasure." And, "Virginity is irreparably lost by sexual pleasure, voluntarily and completely experienced." However, for the purposes of consecrated virgins and nuns, prior masturbation is not usually inquired into, and canonically it is enough that any sexual activity of theirs is not publicly known or infamous.
Aquinas, emphasizing that acts other than copulation destroy virginity, but also clarifying that involuntary sexual pleasure or pollution does not destroy virginity says in his Summa Theologica, "Pleasure resulting from resolution of semen may arise in two ways. If this be the result of the mind's purpose, it destroys virginity, whether copulation takes place or not. Augustine, however, mentions copulation, because such like resolution is the ordinary and natural result thereof. On another way this may happen beside the purpose of the mind, either during sleep, or through violence and without the mind's consent, although the flesh derives pleasure from it, or again through weakness of nature, as in the case of those who are subject to a flow of semen. On such cases virginity is not forfeit, because such like pollution is not the result of impurity which excludes virginity."
Female saints and blesseds are generally given one of two titles. Those who were either unmarried, nuns, or consecrated virgins are given the title "Virgin" while those who have been married are given the title "Holy Women", not virgins.
In Christian mysticism, Gnosticism, as well as some Hellenistic religions, there is a female spirit or Goddess named Sophia that is said to embody wisdom and whom is sometimes described as a virgin. In Roman Catholic mysticism, Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Sophia as a cosmic figure both in her writing and art. Within the Protestant tradition in England, 17th Century Christian Mystic, Universalist and founder of the Philadelphian Society Jane Leade wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the "Virgin Sophia" who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe. Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of 16th Century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society. The Harmony Society was a religious pietist group that lived communally, were pacifistic, and advocated celibacy among its membership.
In Finland, the phrase ei ennen papin aamenta (not before priest says Amen) refers to abstinence before marriage. It is also used in any contexts to warn doing anything prematurely or before its time. The phrase includes also a side meaning "but do it for good once the priest has said the amen!".
Until recently, some states that have a significant Christian population have or have had laws protecting virginity. Germany abandoned a law (§1300 BGB) only in 1998 that entitled the deflowered virgin to compensation if the relationship ended. In Mexico, there is a very old saying, still used by women today: "Fulfill your promise to marry me (if we had sex), or leave me how I was (a virgin)".
For cross breedings of some laboratory animals, females are needed that have not already copulated in order to ensure that the offspring possess the intended genotype. To do this in Drosophila flies for example, females are used that are maximally 6 to 8 hours old (at 25 °C); only after this period has elapsed do inseminations begin.