What does "virginity" really mean? The definition has changed greatly from the origination of the word – with its transformation to a sexual term in medieval times and today's adaptation of the word.
Below is some history about "virginity" that you might find of interest.
Virgo: Origination of 'Virgin'
"Virgin" originated from the Greek and Latin word "Virgo," or maiden. It was used often in Greek mythology to classify several goddesses such as Artemis (also known as Diana) and Hestia.
Artemis is the Greek virgin goddess of the moon and the hunt; she protects women in labor, small children, and wild animals. Hestia is the Greek virgin goddess of the hearth. She never takes part in the struggle of men and gods.
Virgin was a label of strength and independence by being used to describe the goddesses who were immune to the temptations of Dionysus, Greek god of seduction and wine. Virginity was once a term of power.
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Medieval Transformation of Virgin
In medieval times, virginity became a sexual term for a heterosexual woman in a physical state of not having had been penetrated by a penis. "Virginity" was classified as a gift from the Christian God only to be released by a "husband."
It was expected for a woman to remain chaste until marriage; a woman broke her family's honor if she was not chaste and was often punished. Tests of chastity, both medical and mystical, were used on women to verify their status.
One such test was checking for a hymen, or thin flap of skin located ½ inch inside most women's vaginas upon birth. If the hymen was still intact, the woman was said to be "virgin." This test had been developed or adopted by various other cultures as well.
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In the last few decades, the term or label "virgin" has become confusing as we try to label persons of both genders as well as transgendered persons and all persons of sexual orientations (straight, gay, and bisexual).
The old concept of checking for a woman's hymen to determine if she is a virgin is being thrown out as more is understood about the hymen. Not all women are born with hymens, some are born without fully intact hymens, and the membrane is so thin that it often breaks with normal physical activity such as running, gymnastics, or horseback riding.
Today it's assumed that "virgin" means not having had been penetrated sexually. But what is considered "de-virginizing" penetration is still unclear – does it mean penetration by a penis, finger, tongue, or experience alone?
Even more confusing is how society judges a "virgin." Sometimes the name is used condescendingly, sometimes in high regard, and sometimes simply just as a fact.
So there you have it – the history and confusion of the word "virgin." It still leaves a question as to what "virginity" really means. As society is still confused, it's up to us to develop our own personal interpretation of the word.
Many would like to regain the association of the word "virgin" with power, extending to all persons. However you decide to personalize the term, don't force your interpretation on others. If your potential partner discuss "virginity" versus "non-virginity," make sure you are clear on your definitions.
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