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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012

What If Virginity Was Linked to Sexual Pleasure?

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Are you considered a virgin if you already had sex and kids but can't feel pleasure while having sex, meaning not having an orgasm?

I wrote a column recently in response to another reader question about the cultural construct of virginity and how many of us assume that we have a shared definition of “losing your virginity” (usually penis-in-vagina penetration). In fact, this definition doesn't really make a lot of sense when scrutinized and is pretty arbitrary.

Without thinking about it too deeply, many people would say that a person who has had sex and has had children is not a virgin, regardless of whether that person experienced orgasm. But what if we linked the concept of sexual initiation to pleasure instead of one narrowly defined sexual act? What if we radically rethought the purpose of sex with a partner, so that our main objective was mutual pleasure instead of simply doing something to another person or taking something from them? I think this would be a great change, and it would be a lot more in line with our current cultural concepts of sexuality.

I get a fair amount of questions that start with, “Am I still a virgin if…?” These questions often come from a place of shame and regret. We're taught that virgins are pure and good, so people struggle to hold onto this “goodness” while exploring their sexual desires, which we are told are bad or sinful. We're also taught that “losing virginity” should be special and wonderful, when in fact it often kind of sucks and can be coercive or nonconsensual. Ummm, that wasn't what I thought sex would be like—can I have a do-over, please? Can that time not count?

If you want to define “losing virginity” as having an orgasm with a partner rather than any particular sex act, I say more power to you. Some people might not agree with your definition, but when it comes to your understanding of your own sexuality, you are the only one that matters.

And on a final note, many, many people find it hard to have an orgasm during sex with a partner. In fact, this is one of the most common topics in questions I get from readers. I round up several past columns about orgasm during sex here.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side. She has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.
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