An abstract illustration showing different variations of hymens in terms of shapes and sizes.

Let's talk about virginity — a topic that can be confusing and is often surrounded by shame and judgement. Is it just something society made up, or is there science behind it? Can it be lost or taken away? And what does it mean for a person's worth or value?

Whether you're looking to understand the true meaning of virginity, eager to challenge common stereotypes, or simply curious to learn more, we’ve got your back. Join us as we uncover what virginity is and if there is such a thing as losing it.

And while you're at it, why not subscribe to our newsletter and discover all there is to know on V-Zone (that refers to everything to do with the vagina, vulva and the V-shaped front of your body) matters, big and small?

What is virginity?

The term 'virginity' has long been used to describe the state of never having had sex. It’s often linked to the presence of an intact hymen, which is a thin tissue along the lower edge of the vaginal opening. This tissue can ‘break’ and cause bleeding during first-time sex, though keep in mind that bleeding during first-time vaginal penetration is usually due to lack of lubrication rather than damage to the hymen. 

Defining virginity can be a bit tricky since everyone has their own idea of what counts as sex. While many connect sex to penis-in-vagina acts, this definition doesn't apply to everyone. Sex can be defined in many ways and can hold different meanings to different people. Not everyone's experience is the same. Some include oral and anal sex  as well as using fingers or sex toys when considering sexual experiences. 

On top of that, the whole hymen situation can be quite complicated (not everyone has one, and some tear easily, even in non-sexual situations, while others don’t at all).

All of this makes the idea of virginity deeply personal. Remember, there's no definitive right or wrong answer here. What’s important is to not define ourselves and others (and especially not to judge) based on sexual status. At the end of the day, it is your body, so you get to decide what virginity means for you and if it’s even important in your life or not.

Is virginity made-up?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), virginity is not a medical or scientific term. Rather, the concept of virginity is a social, cultural, and religious idea that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls. [1]

This means there is no actual science behind the concept of virginity, so yes, it’s a made-up idea. 

Sadly, many people often use it to judge someone's worth or moral character, especially when it comes to women+ . But “losing” our virginity (having sex for the first time ) doesn't change who we are as a person.

Remember that we all have unique sexual journeys. Your worth and identity are not determined by when you choose to have sex or if you choose to have sex at all. It's just one aspect of your life and the decision of what feels right for you is entirely in your hands. 

Can the idea of virginity be problematic and harmful?

Making such a big deal about whether someone has had sex before or not can make people feel ashamed and pressured to fit in with what society expects. This can be problematic, especially for women+.

The idea of virginity is frequently linked to purity, whether it's interpreted as never having had sex or reserving sex for marriage. Unfortunately, this association reinforces unfair beliefs that a woman's value is dependent on her sexual "purity". Such thinking is harmful because it implies that sexual experience is something shameful and wrong, despite it being a natural aspect of life! On top of that, no longer being seen as "pure," can lead many people to feelings of being tainted or less valuable, which is both unfair and untrue. 

After all, who cares if you've had sex or not? It should be up to each of us to decide what makes us worthy based on our own values and what matters in our lives.

What’s the deal with the hymen and virginity?

Basically, the hymen is a thin piece of fleshy, elastic tissue along the lower edge of the vaginal opening (the internal muscular tube that connects the vulva to the womb). It appears like a delicate ring of skin. [2]

Despite its potential presence (not every vagina comes with one), the hymen has no reproductive or any other biological function, and interestingly, scientists have not figured out what its purpose is yet. 

There's a common misunderstanding that someone with a vagina will always have a hymen that fully covers the vaginal opening — and that an intact hymen means that they are "pure" and haven't had sex. Well, this is a complete myth! We’re human beings, after all, not ketchup bottles with a “freshness seal”.

What does a hymen look like?

 A hymen is a thin, stretchy tissue that has the same colour as the skin (flesh-coloured) around your vagina. 

It can come in various shapes and sizes. For some people, it might cover the whole opening of the vagina except for a hole in the middle, kind of like a ring or a doughnut. For others, it might only partially cover the vaginal opening, in a crescent moon shape. While some might not be born with a hymen at all! 

But don't worry, none of this impacts you or your sexual and reproductive health. Just think of the hymen like wisdom teeth – a part of someone’s body that doesn't serve a specific purpose but might still be there.

Remember that your body is unique, and there's no shame in embracing it the way it is. There's no such thing as an ideal or perfect standard. What truly matters is your happiness and good health. Your hymen (or lack thereof) can be a part of who you are, but it doesn’t define you! 

How can a hymen break?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a hymen will only 'break' the first time a woman+ has penetrative sex — this is not true. There are many reasons why the hymen can stretch or tear, including:

• Doing physical activities like swimming, cycling, playing football, and horse riding. 

•   Having a pelvic exam or smear test (a simple medical procedure where a sample of cells is collected from the cervix to check for any abnormalities).

• Using tampons  or a menstrual cup .

• Exploring your own body through masturbation using your fingers or sex toys.

The key thing to remember is that the hymen doesn’t break and stay broken forever. If a hymen tears or bruises, it heals. [4]

It's important to challenge the belief that an intact hymen represents purity and virginity, not only because it’s inaccurate but also because, in some cultures, this misconception has led to the harmful practice of virginity testing. This is when a person is forced to get an invasive vaginal examination to determine if they’ve ever had sex. 

In some cultures, not having an intact hymen can be seen as going against societal rules, and the consequences can be really serious. It could mean being kicked out of your own family or, in the worst cases, even being in danger of losing your life. [5]

If you ever feel pressured by your partner, friends, or family members to undergo virginity tests, know that it’s not okay for other people to make decisions about your body or invade the privacy of your sex life. You can seek support from a trusted adult like a teacher or relative or reach out to a sexual health organisation in your area. Remember, you have a right to your body and choices being respected, and no one should pressure you into undergoing invasive and unnecessary procedures.

Myth: The hymen entirely covers the opening of the vagina.

Fact: It might cover the whole opening, like a ring or doughnut. But it might only partially cover the lower portion of the vaginal opening, like a crescent moon. And some women+ might not be born with a hymen at all!

Myth: You can tell if somebody has had sex by the state of their hymen.

Fact: The shape or condition of the hymen (if there’s any) cannot accurately determine someone’s sexual status.

Myth: Your hymen only breaks during the first time you have sex

Fact: The hymen can stretch or tear for many reasons, from physical activities like horse riding to using tampons or menstrual cups.

What counts as losing your virginity?

The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. While the concept of virginity is entirely made-up, different people have different beliefs and definitions about what’s considered as officially becoming sexually active.

For many, it might be the first time they have penis-in-vagina sex.  For others, there might be two people with vaginas involved or no vaginas in the mix at all. This also means that sexual intimacy can take various forms, like oral or anal sex. Some people even experience sexual pleasure from being touched in body parts that are not even their genitals at all!

What’s most important to keep in mind is that virginity is just a social idea, not something that gets lost forever and definitely not a measure of anybody’s value. So does it really matter “what counts”?

Can you lose your virginity by using a tampon or menstrual cup?

The short answer is no. No matter how you look at it, using a tampon  or menstrual cup  does not cause you to “lose your virginity”. 

While virginity is nothing but a social ideal, it is typically associated with sexual activity — and there is nothing sexual about wearing a tampon or cup! These products are simply a way to manage your menstrual flow , allowing you to go about your day comfortably during your period. 

Although they are inserted into your vagina and could potentially ‘break’ the hymen (if you have one), remember that the state of your hymen doesn’t prove sexual experience. Many other activities, like sports, can also cause the hymen to break.

So, if you want to use tampons or menstrual cups, go ahead and do so without any worries. They’re just a handy tool to help you manage your flow . And if they can help you feel comfortable and confident on your period days, then why not use them? 

Do you lose your virginity if you masturbate?

Masturbation (touching your own body for sexual pleasure) is a completely normal and natural part of human sexuality. It’s a way to explore your body, discover what feels good, and experience sexual pleasure on your own terms. 

Losing one’s virginity is a social idea that typically refers to first-time sexual experiences with another person. So, technically speaking, if we’re going by this traditional definition, masturbating wouldn’t count as losing your virginity.

Ultimately, what truly matters is your journey and how you perceive your sexuality. Masturbating is a healthy way to understand and explore your body, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed about it. Especially because of a concept other people made up! So, embrace it and know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the time to discover yourself and enjoy your own pleasure. 

Can losing your virginity make your period late?

Having sex — whether it’s the first or the hundredth time — doesn’t directly affect the timing of your menstrual cycle , including the days of your period. The only way that sex can potentially delay your period is if you have unprotected penetration and become pregnant . This is because when you’re pregnant, your body goes through hormonal changes that keep your usual flow from coming. 

If you’ve had unprotected sex and are concerned about your period running late, taking a pregnancy test at home is an easy way to determine whether or not you may be expecting a baby. 

But before you dash to the pharmacy, keep in mind that slight changes in your period from month to month are normal. Factors like stress , illness, or changes in your routine can cause irregularities in your menstrual cycle . If you’re on contraception  such as hormonal birth control pills, implants or the hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), they can also make your periods late, or you might not get your period at all while you use them. For your peace of mind, you can always wear a liner  for extra protection against potential staining from irregular periods .

And if you have any concerns about your period or suspect that something is not right, speaking to your partner, loved ones, or someone you trust can help put your mind at ease. It may be a good idea to talk to your doctor too, who can provide professional and personalised guidance and support. 

At what age should you lose your virginity?

In the same way that it’s up to you to decide what counts as officially becoming sexually active (if you want to count at all!), you also get to decide when you are ready to start. 

In some cultures, there may be societal pressure to remain “a virgin” until marriage, while in others, being sexually active before marriage and even at what some might consider a young age is no big deal. 

What's most important is that you start your sexual journey when it feels right for you personally, regardless of what others may think is right.

What is sexual consent?

Fancy as it may sound, consent basically means that both you and your partner agree to have sex by saying “yes”. It’s important that everyone involved is excited (agrees to have sex enthusiastically) and understands what's happening. In other words:

• Everyone should choose to take part willingly.

• Everyone should have the freedom and ability to make that choice.[3]

If someone says ‘no’ to any kind of sexual activity, it means that they’re not consenting to it. 

But, if someone doesn't say ‘no’ out loud, that doesn’t automatically mean they have agreed to sex either. Some people struggle saying it, but you can tell they’re not comfortable because of their body language; they might seem uptight or pull away from you and that also counts as a ‘no’.

Consent is all about giving permission freely, without any pressure, tricks, or force. And most importantly – consent can be taken back at any time. This means you can turn down sex at any time if you feel uncomfortable or you don’t want to have sex anymore (yes, even if you already started!). 

So, whether it’s your first or tenth time having sex, it’s really important that you and your partner clearly understand and agree on what you’re comfortable with. Think of it as an exciting adventure, best enjoyed with people who make you feel safe and free to say what you want and need.

To wrap it up, the key message here is that there’s really no such thing as “losing your virginity” — it’s just a made-up idea and not a real, tangible thing. What truly matters is recognising our true value as individuals, whether we choose to have a sexually active life or not. So, try to let go of any societal pressures or expectations and focus on what matters to you. 

Want to learn more? We’ve got the answers to your sex and sexual health questions  and the lowdown on what’s an orgasm .

Medical disclaimer

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