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Let’s pop the proverbial cherry and talk about sex—or rather, the lack of sex. Virginity is a taboo topic that usually gets ignored in university settings, but Statistics Canada has shown 43 per cent of teenagers have sex for the first time between the ages of 15 and 19. This means more than half of Canadian students begin their university careers as virgins.

With so many V-card-carrying students wandering around campus, the many misconceptions surrounding virginity are surprising. The following are some common myths surrounding abstinence—busted!

The absence of a hymen means a woman has had sex

For those of you who were unaware, the hymen is a membrane that completely or partially surrounds the entrance to the vagina.

It’s a common misconception that a girl has had vaginal intercourse if her hymen is not intact. In reality, a women’s hymen can be stretched or broken through a number of activities, including riding a bike, going horseback riding, or using a tampon.

Having a hymen has nothing to do with virginity—some women aren’t even born with one. Historically speaking, the hymen was regarded as the only indicator of whether a woman was a virgin. This ideology is still prevalent in some cultures today, explaining the rise in the number of hymen reconstructive surgeries.

Guys should want to have sex, and those who don’t are freaks

If we’re going by Hollywood’s standards, every teenage guy should want to “lose it” before high-school graduation. We can all name those coming-of-age movies where the young men in the film scramble to have sex on prom night; however, the same Statistics Canada study showed about half of young men aged 15 to 19 have abstained from sex.

Studies show guys who reported having sex before they felt comfortable suffer the same psychological repercussions their female counterparts do, such as depression or anxiety. Society puts a lot of pressure on men to be sexually experienced, but the fact is men—just like women— can choose to remain virgins.

Queer sex isn’t really sex

Our society has a heteronormative approach to virginity. Because vaginal, heterosexual intercourse is associated with reproduction, it’s often placed upon a pedestal and considered the only way someone can really have sex. This can alienate and ignore those who identify as LGBTQ. Some people believe gay or lesbian men or women have not lost their virginities because they haven’t been intimate with a member of the opposite sex. Defining virginity in this way devalues the experiences of LGBTQ people—simply put, queer sex is sex, too.

All virgins are religious freaks

Many people pigeonhole virgins as religious, prudish freaks because abstaining from sex goes against the normative ideals of today’s society. Contrary to this belief, people choose to abstain from sex for a number of reasons. Sure, it might be for religious purposes, but it could also be they haven’t yet met the right person, fear an unwanted pregnancy, or are wary of contacting a sexually transmitted disease. Some people who have been sexually active in the past choose to abstain from any further sexual acts until they feel truly ready. Regardless of the reason why a person isn’t having sex, he or she is likely a lot more “normal” than you’d think.

—Sofia Hashi