Virginity is a Tricky Subject: Answering Difficult Questions
By Ruthie Kolb, Training Manager
September 8, 2016
If I had oral sex, am I still a virgin?
We receive SO MANY questions from youth about virginity. What exactly makes a person a virgin? When does a person lose their virginity? Is it tampons, hands, oral, vaginal, anal? Which one counts? Which one is "The Moment" everyone is talking about?
The concept of virginity treats sexual activity as a gatekeeper to adulthood. Therefore, as young people go through the process of maturing, a virginity focus gives them mixed-messages - Grow up, but not too much. Make your own decisions, but not over your body and relationships. Be more mature - except with sex. That’s for adults. But just vaginal sex. The other sex is possibly not sex and we don’t have a great consensus on whether it counts for virginity.
Let’s be honest for a second -- none of us BECAME adults the first time we had sex. We either were or were not mature and the experience probably didn’t change that. And so marking virginity loss as this coming-of-age moment for youth doesn’t actually inform their sexual health and development. For example, a person who is thinking about having oral sex needs to know that oral sex should be consensual and that many STIs can be transmitted orally. Arguing over if that person can claim the term “virgin” doesn’t affect their health outcomes.
But perhaps even more importantly, the virginity conversation alienates so many teens. What about youth didn’t choose to have sex; youth who had other people who chose it for them? What about young people who are LGBTQ; what does virginity mean to them? What about youth who are uninterested in sex? What about those who had sex and it wasn’t that great, but now, they are told they’re tarnished? What about young people who had a fantastic relationship and awesome sex and don’t regret it a bit and are told that they lost something?
ALL of these people are alienated by the virginity conversation.
So, what’s a better conversation? What about simply removing the adult-behavior component of sexuality and recognizing young people’s agency? We need to acknowledge and respect that engaging in sexual activities is a choice young people make, and when making that choice, what's important is that they have decision-making and partner communication skills.
With these ideas in mind, here is how I would answer that question:
That is such a good question, and I can almost guarantee that if you asked 10 people that question, you would get almost as many different answers. That’s because there isn’t a consensus on what exact behaviors count for “virginity.” So, I can’t really speak to whether or not oral sex “counts”.
For those of you who may not know, oral sex is when a person uses their mouth on another person’s genitals (their penis or vulva) for sexual pleasure. Sometimes, people also call this a “blow job” or “going down” on someone.
Just like vaginal, anal, or any other sexual activity, oral sex requires consent – that means that both partners are giving a sober and excited “yes” to the activity. How can a person make sure that their partner is consenting to having oral sex with them? (Take a moment for class or teen to think of ways to do this.)
Additionally, just like vaginal and anal sex, many STIs can be transferred through oral sex. As always, not having sex is the safest choice, but if a person is having oral sex, they will be safer if they use a barrier.
Now you try. What if a student asks you “If my boyfriend and I have anal, are we still virgins?”
What would you say? Try saying it out loud.
I know it’s awkward to talk to yourself, but don’t worry – I do it ALL. THE. TIME. It’s perfectly normal.
Besides, saying your answer out loud will help you practice for when you need to say it in front of a young person or your students.
Want more TRUST in your life? Check out Ruthie Kolb's other blogs here!