Sexuality, Virginity & “Purity” Series Part 4: Queering Virginity

This series of posts from the community is in preparation for Paradigm
Shift’s next event, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women”
A Discussion with JESSICA VALENTI, Author &
Founder/Editor on TUES, FEB. 23rd, 7pm, NYC. We want to hear your
stories. View call for submissions- deadline 2/19- Click here!

by Morgan Boecher

Is there such a thing as queer virginity? The argument could be made that virginity is just another convention of the hetero-norm, not unlike how some people view marriage as an inherently heterosexual institution. The idea of virginity is not terribly practical, just as marriage is not necessary for survival. Looking at the traditional meaning of virginity as a gauge for a woman’s “purity,” in conjunction with contemporary rituals such as purity balls, which obviate the fact that virginity is largely about controlling women, it might as well be left out of queer culture.

However, there are plenty of unsavory customs that permeate American society and clash with queer lives. The surest way to subvert them is by giving them new definitions. Many people have appropriated the marriage tradition to work in a queer context. Perhaps virginity can also be reclaimed.

Queer sex is necessarily different from the monogamous, heterosexual affair; therefore it automatically alters the traditional concept of virginity as the state of a woman before she has been penetrated by a penis. Meandering from that construct could lead to a plethora of exciting places.

Before exploring there, though, I would like to find a word other than “non-virgin” to describe the state of after one has had sexual intercourse. Just like how it is detrimental to have one’s political group known as “anti-” something (e.g.: anti-choice, anti-federalists), it doesn’t help those who are proud of their sexual experiences to be called non-virgins. So let me know if you come up with a good alternative.

About queer virginity, though, since it means basically anything but the norm, one sees a great deal of subjectivity come into play. An example may be a 40-year-old lesbian with a husband and children who is yet to have intimate relations with a woman. Virginity may apply to someone who has not had pleasurable, consensual sex before, but who has had the misfortune of experiencing the other kind. Perhaps a transwoman who is yet to receive bottom surgery considers herself a virgin. One case where virginity might not even be relevant is with an asexual person.

Virginity here becomes a unique and personal story for each individual, rather than a sorting method of who is and isn’t “pure.” If the idea of virginity has to stick around, I would say that reclaiming the concept is a step toward a brighter, queerer future.

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