Across different ages, cultures, ethnicities, and religions, sex is seen as an important part of life. However, not everyone begins to engage in sexual activity at the same time. In the end, the decision to lose—or to not lose—your virginity is personal and should be entirely your own.
Defining “Losing Your Virginity”
What exactly does “losing your virginity” mean? Virginity can be defined in different ways according to your sexual orientation, beliefs, and culture. Losing your virginity is often described as engaging in penetrative sex, including anal sex, for the first time. The definition can also be expanded to include oral sex and manual stimulation. Oftentimes, when sexual intercourse and virginity loss is mentioned, it is most commonly defined as being penile/vaginal sex (P/V sex). This is due to heterosexual relationships and intercourse being historically dominant in societies. However, with the LGBTQ community becoming more widely acknowledged and accepted, the definition of sexual intercourse is being defined in broader terms.1 It is no longer restricted to the heterosexual definition of a penis entering a vagina (penetrative sex), but it now includes the penis entering the anus (anal sex) and more (oral sex and manual stimulation). The modern-day definition of virginity (and virginity loss) is also being confronted due to this ambiguity of the word “sex.”
In many cultures, once a female’s hymen is broken, she is no longer considered a virgin. In nations around the world, the presence of the hymen is a sign of female virginity and purity. Biologically, the hymen is left over tissue from when the vagina is formed and contains a large number of blood vessels. It can be torn over the course of a female’s lifetime by accident, through regular physical activity, or through sex, so, it is not a definite indicator of whether or not a female is a virgin. However, due to the cultural significance attached to the hymen, an industry has been created for women who believe they may have ruptured their hymens. There are now surgical procedures that one can receive to reconstruct the hymen, and clinics have developed based solely on this practice. Additionally, products, such as lotions and creams, have been created to tighten the vagina and artificial hymens are also available for purchase online.2
In other cultures, a person is no longer seen as a virgin once they have engaged in any sexual activity, including oral sex, and manual stimulation. Ultimately, “losing your virginity” varies greatly amongst sexualities and personal sexual experiences. This is due to the vagueness of the word “sex,” and the various definitions by which people define their own virginity loss.
Losing Your Virginity in Today’s Time
In today’s culture, sex is everywhere. Countless television shows, music videos, songs, and advertisements contain references to sex, or are extremely sexual in nature. Additionally, mass media is increasingly targeting younger and younger audiences, therefore adding to the pressure to have, or at least think about having sex at a young age. In the United States, the average American loses their virginity at age 17.3 However, this should not be used as an indicator for when you should have sex. It is important to note that there is no “right answer” of when to lose your virginity because everyone is different. Some are bound by religious beliefs, while others have their own differing beliefs on what the appropriate age is to first have sex. Some may wait until marriage, others may enjoy casual one-night stands, and some may not be interested in having sex at all. The bottom line is that, if desired, everyone should strive to have a consensual, fun, and positive experience when they decide to have sex for the first time.
Questions to Ask Yourself
While there is no right age to lose your virginity, there are some questions you should contemplate to determine if you might be ready to lose your virginity:
- Are both partners consenting?
- Are you being pressured to have sex?
- Are both partners above the legal age of consent to have sex in your state or country?
- Are you having sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Is appropriate contraception available and being used if pregnancy is a concern?
- Does it break the law?
- Does it go against your moral or religious values?
The answers to some of the questions above may be complicated, but as you talk through them, be sure to remain open and honest about your feelings. The responses may help you realize if you are ready to lose your virginity or not.
Answers to the Questions
The answers you give to the questions above may help you realize if you are ready to lose your virginity or not. Both partners must give affirmed consent when having sex. This means that each partner must clearly communicate verbal or nonverbal consent that explicitly and positively expresses their permission and willingness to participate in sexual activities. Any lack of resistance or silence does not count as consent.
If you and your partner do not want to become pregnant, it is important that you use the best contraceptive method for you. It is possible for you or your partner to become pregnant while losing your virginity, if you are engaging in P/V sex.4 The condom is the most popular form of protection against pregnancy and STIs for males, while birth control pills, IUDs, contraceptive patches, implants, rings, and shots are available for females. Most contraceptives do not protect against STIs, as the male and female condom are the only contraceptive method that protects against STIs if used properly.
Each state and country has a legal age of consent, meaning that citizens must be older than a specific age in order for sexual activity to be considered legal and consensual. Individuals that are under this age of consent are not able to consent to any sexual act according to the laws. To find the age of consent in your country or state, you may visit https://www.ageofconsent.net/.5
Consuming alcohol or using drugs prior to or during sex can nullify the consent because the alcohol and drugs compromise the clear state of mind one needs to consent to sex.
If your religion or moral values encourage you to wait until marriage in order to have sex, you may want to consider what your current situation entails.
Pressures to Lose Your Virginity
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of pressure to lose your virginity, especially in ongoing romantic relationships. However, it is important that you decide to lose your virginity because you want to, not because you feel pressured to do so. There are many ways that a partner can pressure you into having sex. For example, your partner might say, “But I love you, and if you loved me too you would have sex with me.” Please be careful in this situation and do not feel pressured to have sex with someone just because they express their love for you. If they truly loved and valued you, they would not pressure you and would respect your decisions. Other common tactics used to pressure someone into having sex is threatening to leave, comparing your relationship to that of your friends, and various forms of blackmail. No matter the pressures that a partner gives to encourage you to lose your virginity, it is important to keep in mind that this is ultimately your decision, and you should do what you want and what makes you feel good, not what your partner desires.
Mass media has increasingly become more sexualized, thereby subtly and perhaps unconsciously pressuring teenagers all around the world to lose their virginity. In many popular television shows and movies, it is not uncommon to have the main characters engage in casual sex, even at a young age. Many young people who watch these forms of entertainment look up to and even imitate those they see on the big screens. This is not limited to movies, and also applies to books, music, and fashion. Yet again, it must be stressed that everyone has their own “right” time to lose their virginity and it should not be influenced by outside factors. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that just because your favorite actor or actress is engaging in sex during the film, it does not mean that they are encouraging you to do so as well.
Sex and the Law
Before losing your virginity, there are a number of laws that you must be aware of depending upon the country that you live in. Most states in the United States of America have an age of consent at 16 years of age.6 Therefore, having sex under the age of 16 in some locations is considered illegal and can lead to prosecution. However, the laws vary depending on the state, country, and situation, so it is best to check with your local laws. If your partner is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then they are not able to give consent. In this situation, it is crucial that you do not engage in sexual activity until your partner is sober. You may view our “Sex and Alcohol” and sex and drugs articles (such as Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Ecstasy, and Poppers) for more information.
Losing your virginity is often seen as a milestone in a person’s life. If after careful consideration you feel that you are ready to have sex for the first time, here are some things you can consider that may help make your first time as enjoyable as possible. First, do not worry if your first time does not go as planned or is not how you envisioned it. Many people spend a great deal of time dreaming about the moment they lose their virginity, and it is important to keep in mind that it is normal if your experience does not live up to your expectations. Second, it may be awkward and that is normal as well! Losing your virginity inherently means that you are having sex for the first time, so it is normal if you do not think you performed well. Instead, make your first time fun, playful, and lighthearted. Keep the pressures away, and embrace the fact that this is your first time engaging in one of the most intimate activities possible. Finally, be in the moment, communicate, and enjoy yourself. Each person will have a different experience when losing their virginity, and just remember that it is normal and healthy if your experiences differ from others. If your first time having sex is not all that you hoped it to be, you should not worry. With more experience, sex becomes more fun, pleasurable, and comfortable.
- Parenthood, Planned. “What Is Virginity & The Hymen? | Losing Your Virginity.” Planned Parenthood.
- Castañeda, Donna. “Virginity Unmasked: The Many Meanings of Virginity.” Sex Roles, vol. 73, no. 1-2, 2015, pp. 83-85. ProQuest.
- “Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth – S Listing.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Aug. 2015.
- Parenthood, Planned. “What Happens When You Lose Your Virginity?” Planned Parenthood.
- “Legal Ages of Consent By Country.” Age of Consent Laws By Country.
- “Legal Age of Consent for Marriage and Sex for the 50 United States.” Global Justice Initiative (n.d.): n. pag. Legal Age of Consent for Marriage and Sex for the 50 United States. Global Justice Initiative, 2011.
Last Updated: 15 October 2019.