Invocation by Frederick Leighton
White has traditionally been associated with ritual purity, innocence and virginity.

Virginity refers to the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions which place special value and significance on this state, especially in the case of unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth. Like chastity, the concept of virginity has traditionally involved sexual abstinence before marriage, and then to engage in sexual acts only with the marriage partner.

Unlike the term premarital sex, which can refer to more than one occasion of sexual activity and can be judgment neutral, the concept of virginity usually involves moral or religious issues and can have consequences in terms of social status and in interpersonal relationships. A person can lose their virginity voluntarily or involuntarily, as in the case of rape.

The term originally only referred to sexually inexperienced women, but has evolved to encompass a range of definitions, as found in traditional, modern, and ethical concepts.[1][2][3][4] Heterosexual individuals may or may not consider loss of virginity to occur only through penile-vaginal penetration,[1][3][4] while people of other sexual orientations may include oral sex, anal sex or mutual masturbation in their definitions of losing one's virginity.[3][5][6] Further, the belief that virginity can only be lost through consensual sex has also been prevalent.[2]


Etymology and usage

The word virgin comes via Old French virgine from the root form of Latin virgo, genitive virgin-is, meaning literally "maiden" or "virgin"—a sexually intact young woman[7] or "sexually inexperienced woman". As in Latin, the English word is also often used with wider reference, by relaxing the age, gender or sexual criteria.[8] Hence, more mature women can be virgins (The Virgin Queen), men can be virgins, and potential initiates into many fields can be colloquially termed virgins; for example, a skydiving "virgin". In the latter usage, virgin simply means uninitiated.

The Latin word likely arose by analogy with a suit of lexemes based on vireo, meaning "to be green, fresh or flourishing", mostly with botanic reference—in particular, virga meaning "strip of wood".[9] The first known use of virgin in English comes from an Anglo-Saxon manuscript held at Trinity College, Cambridge.

  • c. 1200: Ðar haueð ... martirs, and confessors, and uirgines maked faier bode inne to women. — Trinity College Homilies 185 [ms B.15.34 (369)]

In this, and many later contexts, the reference is specifically Christian, alluding to members of the Ordo Virginum known to have existed since the early church from the writings of the Church Fathers.[10] However, within about a century, the word was expanded to apply also to Mary, the mother of Jesus, hence to sexual virginity explicitly.

  • c. 1300: Conceiud o þe hali gast, born o þe virgine marie. — Cursor Mundi 24977

Further expansion of the word to include virtuous (or naïve) young women, irrespective of religious connection, occurred over about another century.

These are just three of the eighteen definitions of virgin from the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, pages 230-232). Most of the OED1 definitions, however, are very similar.

The German word for "virgin" is Jungfrau. Jungfrau literally means "young woman", but is not used in this sense. Instead "junge Frau" can be used. The rather dated German word for a young (unmarried) woman, without implications regarding sexuality, is Fräulein. Fräulein was used in German as a title of respect, equivalent to current usage of Miss in English. Jungfrau is the word reserved specifically for sexual inexperience. As Frau means "woman", it suggests a female referent. Unlike English, German also has a specific word for a male virgin Jüngling ("Youngling"). It is, however, dated too and rarely used. Jungfrau, with some masculine modifier, is more typical, as evidenced by the film, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, about a 40 year-old male virgin, titled in German, "Jungfrau (40), männlich, sucht…".[11] Note that the term used for the starsign virgo also is Jungfrau, which makes the above movie title ambiguous. German also distinguishes between young women and girls, who are denoted by the word Mädchen. The English cognate "maid" was often used to imply virginity, especially in poetry.

German is not the only language to have a specific name for male virginity; in French, male virgins are called "puceau" or "Joseph"[citation needed] whereas a number of indigenous Bolivians, males presenting with phimosis who injure their frenulum during first penetration are said to be "uncartridged" as opposed to "cartridged" before first intercourse.[12]

By contrast, the Greek word for "virgin" is parthenos (παρθένος, see Parthenon). Although typically applied to women, like English, it is also applied to men, in both cases specifically denoting absence of sexual experience. When used of men, it does not carry a strong association of "never-married" status. However, in reference to women, historically, it was sometimes used to refer to an engaged woman—parthenos autou (παρθένος αὐτού, his virgin) = his fiancée as opposed to gunē autou (γυνή αὐτού, his woman) = his wife. This distinction is necessary due to there being no specific word for wife (or husband) in Greek.

By extension from its primary sense, the idea that a virgin has a sexual "blank slate",[13] unchanged by any past intimate connection or experience,[13] leads to the abstraction of unadulterated purity.

In culture

Le Droit Du Seigneur (1872) by Jules Arsène Garnier

Female virginity

Cultural value

The first act of sexual intercourse by a female is commonly considered within many cultures to be an important personal milestone. Its significance is reflected in expressions such as "saving oneself", "losing one's virginity," "taking someone's virginity" and sometimes as "deflowering." The occasion is at times seen as the end of innocence, integrity, or purity, and the sexualization of the individual.

Traditionally, there was a cultural expectation that a female would not engage in premarital sex and would come to her wedding a virgin, which would be indicated by the bride wearing a white gown, and that she would "give up" or "gift" her virginity to her new husband in the act of consummation of the marriage.

In some cultures, it is so important that a female be a virgin that a female will refrain from inserting any object into her vagina, such as a tampon, menstrual cup or dildo, or undergoing some medical examinations, so as not to damage the hymen. Some females who have been previously sexually active (or their hymen has been otherwise damaged) may undergo a surgical procedure, called hymenorrhaphy or hymenoplasty, to repair or replace her hymen, and cause vaginal bleeding on the next intercourse as proof of virginity (see Proof of virginity below).[14] In some cultures, an unmarried female who is found not to be a virgin, whether by choice or as a result of a rape, can be subject to shame, ostracism or even an honor killing. In those cultures, female virginity is closely interwoven with personal or even family honor, especially those known as shame societies, in which the loss of virginity before marriage is a matter of deep shame.[15] In other cultures, for example in many modern-day Western cultures, sexual abstinence before marriage is not valued, and in some cultures it is discouraged or mocked.[citation needed]

Virginity is regarded as a valuable commodity in some cultures, and the right to have sexual intercourse with a virgin can be bought. For example, in Japan, geishas would sell the right of first access in a ritual called mizuage. There is also a legendary droit du seigneur ("the lord's right", often conflated with the Latin phrase "jus primae noctis") which alleged entitled the lord of an estate to take the virginity of the estate's virgins on the night of their marriage, a right which the lord can trade for money.

It was the law and custom in some societies that required a man who seduced or raped a virgin to marry the girl or pay compensation to her father.[16] In some countries until the late 20th century, a woman could sue a man who had taken her virginity but did not marry her. In some languages the compensation for these damages are called "wreath money".[17]

Recognizing the monetary value of virginity, some women have publicly offered their virginity for sale. In 2004, a lesbian student from the University of Bristol was said to have sold her virginity online for £8,400, and Londoner Rosie Reid, 18, reportedly slept with a 44-year-old BT engineer in a Euston hotel room against payment for her virginity.[18] In 2008, Italian model Raffaella Fico, then 20 years old, offered her virginity for €1 million.[19] In that same year, an American using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan announced she would accept bids for her virginity through a Nevada brothel's web site.[20][21] The veracity of these reports have not been verified.

Proof of virginity

Some cultures require proof of a bride's virginity prior to her marriage. This has traditionally been tested by the presence of an intact hymen, which was verified by either a physical examination (usually by a physician, who provided a certificate of virginity) or by a "proof of blood," which refers to vaginal bleeding that results from the tearing of the hymen.[22][23][24] In some cultures, the nuptial blood-spotted bed sheet would be displayed as proof of both consummation of marriage and that the bride was a virgin.[23][24]

Some researchers note that the presence or absence of a hymen is not a reliable indicator of whether or not a female has been vaginally penetrated.[22] The hymen is a thin film of membrane situated just inside the vulva which can partially occlude the entrance to the vaginal canal. It is flexible and can be stretched or torn during first engagement in vaginal intercourse. However, a hymen may also be broken during physical activity. Many women possess such thin, fragile hymens, easily stretched and already perforated at birth, that the hymen can be broken in childhood without the girl even being aware of it, often through athletic activities. A slip while riding a bicycle may on occasion result in the bicycle's saddle-horn entering the introitus just far enough to break the hymen.[25] Further, there is the case of women with damaged hymens undergoing hymenorrhaphy (or hymenoplasty) to repair or replace their hymens, and cause vaginal bleeding on the next intercourse as proof of virginity.[14] Others consider the practice to be virginity fraud or unnecessary.

There is a common belief that some women are born without a hymen,[26][27] but some doubt has been cast on this by a recent study.[28] It is likely that almost all women are born with a hymen, but not necessarily ones that will experience a measurable change during first experience of vaginal intercourse.

Some medical procedures, such as hymenotomy, may require a woman's hymen to be opened.

Male virginity

Historically, and in modern times, female virginity has been regarded as more significant than male virginity. The perception that sexual prowess is fundamental to masculinity has lowered the expectation of male virginity without lowering the social status.[29][30][15] For example, in some Islamic cultures, though premarital sex is forbidden in the Quran with regard to both men and women, unmarried women who have been sexually active (or even raped) are subject to name-calling, shunning, or family shame, while unmarried men who have lost their virginities are not.[15] Abroad, males are expected and/or encouraged to want to engage in sexual activity, and to be more sexually-experienced.[29][30][31] Not following these standards often leads to teasing and other such ridicule from their male peers.[29][30][32] A 2003 study by the Guttmacher Institute showed that, in most countries, most men have experienced sexual intercourse by their 20th birthdays.[33]

Females are more accepting of the concept of male virginity, but there exists negative feelings about the topic even among women. Reflective of the Guttmacher study, some women perceive men being virgins past their early twenties to be an undesirable trait and would decline marriage due to the man's sexual inexperience; in these cases, male virginity is considered to threaten the fantasy some women have about men knowing how to sexually please them.[31]

Within American culture in particular, male virginity has been made an object of embarrassment and ridicule in films such as Summer of '42, American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, etc., with the virgin male being typically presented as socially inept.[29][32] However, some have challenged the negative connotations regarding male virginity, as well as the belief that males should want to lose their virginities at earlier ages than their female counterparts.[30][32][34][35] Noted are surveys and studies where adolescent males reported depression after losing their virginity, such as when discovering that their partners did not care about them and rather wanted "bragging rights" for having bedded a male virgin.[32] There is less research on male virginity, but the topic has started to gain more traction. While some writers and researchers argue that male virginity does not exist because there is nothing to identify male virginity, like there is in the case of hymens for females, others argue that it is no less valid since virginity can be subjective and is a matter of sexual experience.[34][35]

Prevalence of virginity

Country Boys (%) Girls (%)
Austria 21.7 17.9
Canada 24.1 23.9
Croatia 21.9 8.2
England 34.9 39.9
Estonia 18.8 14.1
Finland 23.1 32.7
Belgium 24.6 23
France 25.1 17.7
Greece 32.5 9.5
Hungary 25 16.3
Israel 31 8.2
Latvia 19.2 12.4
Lithuania 24.4 9.2
Macedonia 34.2 2.7
Netherlands 23.3 20.5
Poland 20.5 9.3
Portugal 29.2 19.1
Scotland 32.1 34.1
Slovenia 45.2 23.1
Spain 17.2 13.9
Sweden 24.6 29.9
Switzerland 24.1 20.3
Ukraine 47.1 24
Wales 27.3 38.5
Prevalence of sexually-experienced 15-year-olds

The prevalence of virginity varies from culture to culture. In cultures which place importance on a female's virginity at marriage, the age of loss of virginity is in effect determined by the age at which marriages would normally take place in those cultures, as well as the minimum marriage age set by the laws of the country where the marriage takes place. In some cultures, a female is encouraged or required to marry at a very early age so that she will not have the opportunity to lose her virginity before marriage, or so that a girl can experience her sexuality from an early age. In some cultures, for example in many modern-day Western cultures, sexual abstinence before marriage is not valued, and in some cultures, abstention is discouraged.

In a cross-cultural study, At what age do women and men have their first sexual intercourse? (2003), Michael Bozon of the French Institut national d'études démographiques found that contemporary cultures to fall into three broad categories.[36]

In the first group, the data indicated families arranging marriage for daughters as close to puberty as possible with significantly older men. Age of men at sexual initiation in these societies is at later ages than that of women, but is often extra-marital. This group included sub-Saharan Africa (the study listed Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia). The study considered the Indian subcontinent also fell into this group, although data were only available from Nepal.[36]

In the second group, the data indicated families encouraged daughters to delay marriage, and to abstain from sexual activity prior to it. However, sons are encouraged to gain experience with older women or prostitutes prior to marriage. Age of men at sexual initiation in these societies is at lower ages than that of women. This group includes Latin cultures, both from southern Europe (Portugal, Greece and Romania are noted) and from Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic). The study considered many Asian societies also fell into this group, although matching data were only available from Thailand.[36]

In the third group, age of men and women at sexual initiation was more closely matched. There were two sub-groups, however. In non-Latin, Catholic countries (Poland and Lithuania are mentioned), age at sexual initiation was higher, suggesting later marriage and reciprocal valuing of male and female virginity. The same pattern of late marriage and reciprocal valuing of virginity was reflected in Singapore and Sri Lanka. The study considered China and Vietnam also fell into this group, although data were not available.[36]

Finally, in northern and eastern European countries, age at sexual initiation was lower, with both men and women involved in sexual activity prior to any union formation. The study listed Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic as members of this group.[36]

Consistent with the northern European findings above, a 2008 survey of UK teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 (conducted by YouGov for Channel 4), showed that only 6% of these teenagers intended waiting until marriage before having sex.[37] Some studies have shown that people commence sexual activity at an earlier age than previous generations.[38][39] The 2005 Durex Global sex survey found that people worldwide are having sex for the first time at an average age of 17.3, ranging from 15.6 in Iceland to 19.8 in India.[39]

According to a 2001 UNICEF survey, in 10 out of 12 developed nations with available data, more than two thirds of young people have had sexual intercourse while still in their teens. In Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, the proportion is over 80%. In Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, approximately 25% of 15 year olds and 50% of 17 year olds have had sex.[40] In a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study of US teenagers, 29% of teens reported feeling pressure to have sex, 33% of sexually active teens reported "being in a relationship where they felt things were moving too fast sexually", and 24% had "done something sexual they didn’t really want to do".[41] Several polls have indicated peer pressure as a factor in encouraging both girls and boys to have sex.[42][43] The increased sexual activity among adolescents is manifested in increased teenage pregnancies and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The rates of teenage pregnancy vary and range from 143 per 1000 girls in some sub-Saharan African countries to 2.9 per 1000 in South Korea. The rate for the United States is 52.1 per 1000, the highest in the developed world – and about four times the European Union average.[44][40] The teenage pregnancy rates between countries must take into account the level of general sex education available and access to contraceptive options.

A 2002 international survey sought to study the sexual behavior of teenagers. 33,943 students aged 15, from 24 countries, completed a self-administered, anonymous, classroom survey, consisting of a standard questionnaire, developed by the HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) international research network. The survey revealed that the majority of the students were still virgins (they had no experience of sexual intercourse), and, among those who were sexually active, the majority (82%) used contraception.[45]

In an attempt to reverse this trend, governments in many Western countries have instituted sex education programs, the main objective of which is to reduce such pregnancies and STD's. In 1996, the United States federal government shifted the objective of sex education towards "abstinence-only sex education" programs, promoting sexual abstinence before marriage (ie., virginity) and prohibiting information on birth control and contraception. In 2004, President George W. Bush announced a Five-Year Global HIV/AIDS Strategy, also known as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),[46] which committed the U.S. to provide $15 billion over five years toward AIDS relief in 15 countries in Africa and the Caribbean, and in Vietnam.[47] A part of the funding was earmarked specifically for "abstinence-only-until-marriage" programs.

In a peer-reviewed study about virginity pledges (commitments made by teenagers and young adults to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage), sociologists Peter Bearman of Columbia and Hannah Brueckner of Yale estimated that male pledgers were 4.1 times more likely to remain virgins by age 25 than those who did not pledge (25% vs 6%), and estimated that female pledgers were 3.5 times more likely to remain virgins by age 25 than those who did not pledge (21% vs 6%).[48][49]

"Technical virginity"

There are varying understandings as to which types of sexual activities result in loss of virginity. The traditional view is that virginity is only lost through vaginal penetration by the penis, and that acts of oral sex, anal sex and mutual masturbation do not constitute virginity loss. Engaging in such acts with no history of having engaged in vaginal intercourse is considered "technical virginity" among differing heterosexuals and researchers.[4][29][50][51][52] Contrasting this are gay or lesbian individuals who may describe any of the latter acts as constituting virginity loss. Gay males may regard oral sex as preserving virginity in comparison to anal penetration,[5] and lesbians may regard oral sex and/or fingering as loss of virginity.[3][6][53] Some gay men consider any type of sexual intimacy to constitute virginity loss,[5][6] while some lesbians contend and/or debate that technically, according to society, they are virgins.[53] Other LGBT members argue that the term "virginity" is useless to gays and lesbians and that the prevailing definition of virginity loss – penile-vaginal penetration – is heterosexist.[5][29]

Since the early 1990s, the concept of "technical virginity" has been popular among heterosexual US teenagers.[51][52] For example, there are reports in the media from time to time that oral sex is common among adolescent girls who fellate their boyfriends to create and maintain intimacy while preserving their virginity and/or avoiding pregnancy.[51][52] In a 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the definition of sex was examined based on a 1991 random sample of 599 college students from 29 US states; it found that 60% said oral-genital contact (like fellatio, cunnilingus) did not constitute having sex. "That's the 'technical virginity' thing that's going on," said Stephanie Sanders, associate director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. Sanders, as the co-author of the study, and along with other researchers, titled the findings "Would You Say You 'Had Sex' If ...?"[52] In another study, published in 2001 in The Journal of Sex Research, over half of respondents considered that virginity could only be lost through having consensual sex.[2]

Virginity pledges (or abstinence pledges) made by heterosexual teenagers and young adults may also include the practice of "technical virginity." In a peer-reviewed study by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Brueckner, which looked at virginity pledgers five years after their pledge, they found that the pledgers have similar proportions of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and at least as high proportions of anal and oral sex as those who have not made a virginity pledge. They deduced that pledgers may substitute oral and anal sex for vaginal sex. However, the data for anal sex without vaginal sex reported by males does not reflect this directly.[48][49]

Some historians and anthropologists note that many societies before the sexual revolution that place a high value on maintaining virginity for marriage actually have a large amount of premarital sexual activity that does not involve vaginal penetration.

Social psychology

Some cultural anthropologists argue that romantic love and sexual jealousy are universal features of human relationships.[54] Social values related to virginity reflect both sexual jealousy and ideals of romantic love, and appear to be deeply embedded in human nature.[citation needed]

Psychology explores the connection between thought and behavior. Seeking understanding of social (or anti-social) behaviors includes sexual behavior. Joan Kahn and Kathryn London studied U.S. women married between 1965 and 1985 to see if virginity at marriage influenced risk of divorce.

This article examines the relationship between premarital sexual activity and the long-term risk of divorce among U.S. women married between 1965 and 1985. Simple cross-tabulations from the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth indicate that women who were sexually active prior to marriage faced a considerably higher risk of marital disruption than women who were virgin brides. A bivariate probit model is employed to examine three possible explanations for this positive relationship: (a) a direct causal effect, (b) an indirect effect through intervening "high risk" behaviors (such as having a premarital birth or marrying at a young age), and (c) a selectivity effect representing prior differences between virgins and non-virgins (such as family background or attitudes and values). After a variety of observable characteristics are controlled, non-virgins still face a much higher risk of divorce than virgins. However, when the analysis controls for unobserved characteristics affecting both the likelihood of having premarital sex and the likelihood of divorce, the differential is no longer significant. These results suggest that the positive relationship between premarital sex and the risk of divorce can be attributed to prior unobserved differences (e.g., the willingness to break traditional norms) rather than to a direct causal effect.[55]

This study makes no recommendation; it simply notes that the women most likely to exercise freedom to enter sexual relationships prior to marriage, overlap significantly with the women most likely to exercise freedom to leave a relationship after marriage. Men were not the subject of this study.

Sexual morality and social norms

Most world religions have sought to address the moral issues that arise from people's sexuality in society and in human interactions. Each major religion has developed moral codes covering issues of sexuality, morality, ethics etc. Though these moral codes do not address issues of sexuality directly, they seek to regulate the situations which can give rise to sexual interest and to influence people's sexual activities and practices. However, the impact of religious teaching has at times been limited. For example, though most religions disapprove of premarital sexual relations, it has always been widely practiced. Nevertheless, these religious codes have always had a strong influence on peoples' attitudes to sexual issues.

Human sexual activity, even among adolescents, like many other kinds of activity engaged in by humans, is generally influenced by social rules that are culturally specific and vary widely. These social rules are referred to as sexual morality (what can and can not be done by society's rules) and sexual norms (what is and is not expected). There are a number of religious groups within societies promoting their views of sexual morality in a variety of ways, including through sex education, religious teachings, seeking commitments or virginity pledges, and other means.

Most countries have laws which set a minimum age at which a person is permitted to engage in sex. This age is commonly called the age of consent and varies from 12 years to 18, but 16 to 18 is the most common range of ages of consent. Some countries outlaw any sex outside of marriage entirely.

Religious views


In conservative Hindu societies in India, any form of premarital sexual intercourse is frowned upon. No legal statutes exist that explicitly require virginity as a requirement for marriage.

References in the Bible

There are references to virginity in Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. In the first reference, in Genesis 19:8, Lot offers his virgin daughters to the people of Sodom for undetermined sexual purposes in an attempt to protect his guests, with the implication that the people of Sodom would be more likely to accept the offer in view of the girls' virginity than they would otherwise. The next reference is at Genesis 24:16, where Eliezer is seeking a wife for his master, Abraham's son. He meets Rebekah, and the narrative tells us, "the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her" (in biblical terms, "to know" is a euphemism for sexual relations). It is noteworthy that Eliezer was not instructed to find a virgin bride, nor is anything further said about the prospective bride's virgin status. Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 deal with the requirement for a man who seduces or rapes a virgin to marry her and pay a bride price at the virgin rate, which presumably is higher than that for a non-virgin.

Virginity is a recurring theme in the Bible — the nation is frequently personified as "the virgin daughter of Israel" in the prophetic poetry. It is a wistful phrase, since Genesis also says that Israel's (Jacob's) only daughter Dinah was, in fact, raped as she entered the promised land. The Torah also contains laws governing betrothal, marriage and divorce, with particular provisions regarding virginity in Deuteronomy 22.


In Judaism, sex is not considered to be sinful. Though premarital sex is disapproved, there is no requirement for a female to be a virgin at her marriage, and a child born to an unmarried female is not regarded as illegitimate (mamzer) or subject to any social or religious disabilities.

Sex within marriage is considered a virtue (mitzvah, literally a 'commandment'). Jewish law contains rules related to protecting female virgins and dealing with consensual and non-consensual pre-marital sex. The thrust of Jewish law's guidance on sex is effectively that it should not be rejected, but should be lived as a wholesome part of life.

Greece and Rome

Virginity was often considered a virtue denoting purity and physical self-restraint and is an important characteristic of Greek goddesses Athena, Artemis, and Hestia.

In Roman times, Vestal Virgins were strictly celibate priestesses of Vesta. They were brought to the temple before puberty and were required to remain celibate for 30 years, on penalty of death.[56] In the documentary, What is a Virgin? it is mentioned that the vestal's virginity was more important for the state than to herself, because the sacred fire that they attended could not be allowed to go out. If a vestal virgin was found having sexual relations she would be buried alive.[57]


Detail of The Reading Madonna by Giorgione (c. 1500)

Paul the Apostle expressed the view that a person's body belongs to God and is God's temple (1 Corinthians 6:13, 3:16) and that premarital sex is sexual immorality and fornication, and is sinful (1 Corinthians 6:18), on an equal level as adultery. (1 Corinthians 6:9) Paul also expressed the view in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 that sexual abstinence is the preferred state for both men and women. However, recognizing human weakness in matters of sexuality, he countenanced sexual relations, but only between marriage partners within marriage, with premarital and extramarital sex not to be allowed.

According to classicist Evelyn Stagg and New Testament scholar Frank Stagg, the New Testament holds that sex is reserved for marriage.[58] They maintain that the New Testament teaches that sex outside of marriage is a sin of adultery if either sexual participant is married, otherwise the sin of fornication if both sexual participants are unmarried. An imperative given in 1 Corinthians says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies."[1 Cor 6:18] Those who are sexually immoral or adulterers are listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9 in a list of "wrongdoers who...will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 7:2 also address fornication. The Apostolic Decree of the Council of Jerusalem also includes a prohibition of fornication.

Aquinas went further, emphasizing that acts other than copulation destroy virginity, but also clarifying that involuntary sexual pleasure or pollution does not destroy virginity says in his Summa Theologica, "Pleasure resulting from resolution of semen may arise in two ways. If this be the result of the mind's purpose, it destroys virginity, whether copulation takes place or not. Augustine, however, mentions copulation, because such like resolution is the ordinary and natural result thereof. On another way this may happen beside the purpose of the mind, either during sleep, or through violence and without the mind's consent, although the flesh derives pleasure from it, or again through weakness of nature, as in the case of those who are subject to a flow of semen. On such cases virginity is not forfeit, because such like pollution is not the result of impurity which excludes virginity."[59][60]

Some have theorized that the New Testament was not against sex before marriage.[61] The discussion turns on two Greek words — moicheia (μοιχεία, adultery) and porneia (el:πορνεία, fornication see also pornography). The first word is restricted to contexts involving sexual betrayal of a spouse, however the second word is used as a generic term for illegitimate sexual activity. As such it is not specific about which particular behaviours are considered illegitimate. Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians , incest, homosexual intercourse (according to some interpretations)[62] and prostitution are all explicitly forbidden by name. Paul is preaching about activities based on levitical sexual prohibitions in the context of achieving holiness while the (non-canonical) Acts of Thomas use porneia as only those activities outside of a monogamous sexual relationship such as adultery and multiple partners which implies he does not see premarital sex as a hindrance to holiness. The theory suggests it is these, and only these behaviours that are intended by Paul's prohibition in chapter seven.[63] The strongest argument against this theory is that the modern interpretation of the New Testament, outside Corinthians, speaks against prejmarital sex;[64]

Christian orthodoxy accepts that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin at the time Jesus was conceived, based on the accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.[65] The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox denominations, additionally hold to the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary.[66][67][68] However, some Protestant denominations[who?] reject the dogma, citing sources such as Mark 6:3: "Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren't His sisters here with us?". The Catholic Church holds[69] that in Semitic usage the terms "brother," "sister" are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters. Catholics, Orthodox Christians and other groups may refer to Mary as the Virgin Mary or the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Catholic view

Virgo inter Virgines (The Blessed virgin Mary with other holy virgins), anonymous, Bruges, last quarter of the 15th Century.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says: "There are two elements in virginity: the material element, that is to say, the absence, in the past and in the present, of all complete and voluntary delectation, whether from lust or from the lawful use of marriage; and the formal element, that is the firm resolution to abstain forever from sexual pleasure." And, "Virginity is irreparably lost by sexual pleasure, voluntarily and completely experienced."[70] However, for the purposes of consecrated virgins it is canonically enough that they have never been married or lived in open violation of chastity.

Christian Mysticism and Gnostic Christianity

In Christian mysticism, Gnosticism, as well as some Hellenistic religions, there is a female spirit or goddess named Sophia that is said to embody wisdom and who is sometimes described as a virgin.[citation needed] In Roman Catholic mysticism, Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Sophia as a cosmic figure both in her writing and art. Within the Protestant tradition in England, 17th Century Christian Mystic, Universalist and founder of the Philadelphian Society Jane Leade wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the "Virgin Sophia" who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe. Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of 16th Century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ.[71] Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society. The Harmony Society was a religious pietist group that lived communally, were pacifistic, and advocated celibacy among its membership.


Islam considers premarital sex to be sinful, though of a lesser quality than adultery. Most forms of sexual contact within marriage are permissible.

See also


  1. ^ a b Richard D. McAnulty, M. Michele Burnette (2000). Exploring human sexuality: making healthy decisions. Allyn and Bacon. pp. 692 pages. ISBN 0205195199, 9780205195190. 
  2. ^ a b c d Friedman, Mindy (September 20, 2005). "Sex on Tuesday: Virginity: A Fluid Issue". The Daily Californian. Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Bryan Strong, Christine DeVault, Theodore F. Cohen (2010). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationship in a Changing Society. Cengage Learning. pp. 615 pages. ISBN 0534624251, 9780534624255. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d Joseph Gross, Michael (2003). Like a Virgin. The Advocate, Here Publishing. pp. 104 pages, Page 44. 0001-8996. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  5. ^ a b c Hanne Blank (2008). Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 304 pages. ISBN 1596910119, 9781596910119. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, 'virgo', in A Latin Dictionary.
  7. ^ 'virgin' in American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
  8. ^ 'Virgin', Online Etymology Dictionary.
  9. ^ 'Consecrated virgins and widows', Catechism of the Catholic Church 922–24.
  10. ^ Release dates for The 40-Year-Old Virgin at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "The emotional stress of serial non-marriage plays havoc with the possibility of partnering for life." Angela Shanahan, 'Sex revolution robbed us of fertility', The Australian 15 September 2007.
  13. ^ a b "Muslim women in France regain virginity in clinics". Reuters. April 30, 2007. 
  14. ^ a b c Linda Rae Bennett (2005). Women, Islam and modernity: single women, sexuality and reproductive health in contemporary Indonesia. Psychology Press. pp. 183 pages. ISBN 0415329299, 9780415329293. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  15. ^ Exodus 22:16-17, Deuteronomy 22:28-29. See also Shotgun wedding.
  16. ^ Brockhaus 2004, Kranzgeld
  17. ^
  18. ^ Squires, Nick (2008-09-16). "Italian model plans to sell virginity for 1m euros". United Kingdom: Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  19. ^ "Shock jock to auction off girl's virginity: Howard Stern announces his most controversial stunt yet". United Kingdom: Daily Mail. 2008-09-09. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  20. ^ "Calif. College Grad Sells Virginity For Tuition". Baltimore: WJZ-TV (CBS). 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  21. ^ a b Perlman, Sally E.; Nakajyma, Steven T. and Hertweck, S. Paige (2004). Clinical protocols in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Parthenon. pp. 131. ISBN 1842141996. 
  22. ^ a b The London medical and physical journal, Volume 51. Harvard University. Digitized May 15, 2007. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b Kathleen Coyne Kelly (2000). Performing virginity and testing chastity in the Middle Ages. Volume 2 of Routledge research in medieval studies. Psychology Press. pp. 197. ISBN 0415221811, 9780415221818. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  24. ^ Torn hymen (virgin or not?)]
  25. ^ Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 61-65
  26. ^ McCann, J; Rosas, A. and Boos, S. (2003) "Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse)" in Payne-James, Jason; Busuttil, Anthony and Smock, William (eds). Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects, Greenwich Medical Media: London, a)p.453, b)p.455 c)p.460.
  27. ^ The Marks of Childhood or the Marks of Abuse?, The New York Times
  28. ^ a b c d e f Laura M. Carpenter (2005). Virginity lost: an intimate portrait of first sexual experiences. NYU Press. pp. 295 pages. ISBN 0814716520, 9780814716526. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b c d Marysol Asencio (2002). Sex and sexuality among New York's Puerto Rican youth. Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 197 pages. ISBN 1588260739, 9781588260734. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b Christine A. Colón, Bonnie E. Field (2009). Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today's Church. Brazos Press. pp. 256 pages. ISBN 1587432374, 9781587432378. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  31. ^ a b c d A. Leigh, Jennifer (June 27, 2009). "Male Virginity Myths". Psychology Today. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  32. ^ Guttmacher Institute (2003) In Their Own Right: Addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Men Worldwide. pages 19–21.
  33. ^ a b Ruth Evans, Sarah Salih, Anke Bernau (2003). Medieval virginities. Religion & culture in the Middle Ages. University of Toronto Press. pp. 296 pages. ISBN 0802086373, 9780802086372. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  34. ^ a b Sarah Salih (2001). Versions of virginity in late medieval England. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 278 pages. ISBN 0859916227, 9780859916226. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  35. ^ a b c d e Bozon, Michael. 'At what age do women and men have their first sexual intercourse? World comparisons and recent trends'. Population and Societies 391 (2003) 1–4.
  36. ^ "Teen Sex Survey". Channel 4. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  37. ^ Judith Mackay, The Penguin Atlas of Human Sexual Behavior, Myriad Editions, published by Penguin, 2000; ISBN 978-0140514797 Human Sexual Behavior Atlas
  38. ^ a b Durex 2005 Face of global sex report
  39. ^ a b UNICEF. (2001). A League Table of Teenage Births in Rich NationsPDF (888 KB). Retrieved July 7, 2006.
  40. ^ U.S.Teen Sexual ActivityPDF (147 KB) Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2005. Retrieved 23 Jan 2007
  41. ^ The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (1997). What the Polling Data Tell Us: A Summary of Past Surveys on Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved July 13, 2006.
  42. ^ Allen, Colin. (May 22, 2003). "Peer Pressure and Teen Sex." Psychology Today.'.' Retrieved July 14, 2006.
  43. ^ Treffers PE (November 2003). "[Teenage pregnancy, a worldwide problem]" (in Dutch; Flemish). Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 147 (47): 2320–5. PMID 14669537. 
  44. ^ Godeau E, Nic Gabhainn S, Vignes C, Ross J, Boyce W, Todd J (January 2008). "Contraceptive use by 15-year-old students at their last sexual intercourse: results from 24 countries". Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 162 (1): 66–73. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2007.8. PMID 18180415. 
  45. ^ "Organization". DoS. 
  46. ^ The 15 countries are Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.
  47. ^ a b "Virginity Pledges Don't Cut STD Rates". 
  48. ^ a b Brückner and Bearman; Bearman, Peter (April). "After the promise: The STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges". Journal of Adolescent Health 36 (4): 271–278. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.01.005. PMID 15780782. 
  49. ^ Frederic C. Wood (1968, Digitized July 23, 2008). Sex and the new morality. Association Press, 1968/Original from the University of Michigan. pp. 157 pages. 
  50. ^ a b c Mark Regnerus (2007). "The Technical Virginity Debate: Is Oral Sex Really Sex?". Forbidden fruit: sex & religion in the lives of American teenagers. Oxford University Press US. pp. 290 pages. ISBN 9780195320947. 
  51. ^ a b c d Jayson, Sharon (2005-10-19). "'Technical virginity' becomes part of teens' equation". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  52. ^ a b Karen Bouris (1995). The first time: what parents and teenage girls should know about "losing your virginity". Conari Press. pp. 198. ISBN 0943233933, 9780943233932. 
  53. ^ Donald Brown, Human Universals, 1991.
  54. ^ Joan R. Kahn, Kathryn A. London, 'Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce', Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991): 845-855.
  55. ^ "Life of Numa Pompilius", Plutarch, 9.5–10, 2nd century A.D
  56. ^ [What is a Virgin?c.20083FatesFilms What is a virgin?]
  57. ^ Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978. ISBN 0-664-24195-6
  58. ^ Aquinas. Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 152.
  59. ^ Hannah Blank, Virgin: The Untouched History (2007), ISBN 978-1596910102.
  60. ^ "As a Christian pastor who has faced this problem with people many times, I would say that the following guidelines are absolutely essential. Sex between unmarried adults might be inside that gray area between the ideal and the immoral if, first, no one’s marriage is being violated by either party; second, if it is a union of love and caring, not just a union of convenience and desire; third, if sex is shared only after other things have been shared, other things such as time, values, friendship, communication and a sense of deep trust and emotional responsibility; fourth, if it is both loving and discreet, private, shielded from those who would not or could not understand; if it is valued as a bond between the two people involved and between them alone, never violating the sacredness of the exclusive quality of that moment." John Shelby Spong, The Living Commandments.
  61. ^ arsenokoitēs (masc. noun of fem. 1st declention), literally a man who shares a bed with other men (see LSJ and BDAG).
  62. ^ Syriac- Christian and Rabbinic Notions of Holy Community and Sexuality Naomi Koltun-Fromm April 2006 pdf
  63. ^ Modern interpretation of the significance of "wrong his brother" in 1 Thessalonians 4:6, includes sleeping with the brother's future wife. However, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 only specifically prohibits fornication. This word originally meant prostitution only and the first recorded use of the word in its modern meaning of intercourse between partners who are not married to each other was in the 14th century.
  64. ^ Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:26-35
  65. ^ Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of world religions by Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1999 ISBN 0877790442 page 1134
  66. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church §499
  67. ^ Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Coptic Liturgy of St Basil, Liturgy of St Cyril, Liturgy of St James, Understanding the Orthodox Liturgy etc.
  68. ^ New American Bible
  69. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, 'Virginity'
  70. ^

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  • Virginity — • Morally, virginity signifies the reverence for bodily integrity which is suggested by a virtuous motive Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Virginity     Virginity      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Virginity — Vir*gin i*ty, n. [OE. virgintee, F. virginit[ e], L. virginitas.] 1. The quality or state of being a virgin; undefiled purity or chastity; maidenhood. [1913 Webster] 2. The unmarried life; celibacy. [Obs.] Chaucer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • virginity — (n.) c.1300, from O.Fr. virginite, from L. virginitatem (nom. virginitas), from virgo (see VIRGIN (Cf. virgin)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • virginity — [n] celibacy, chastity abstinence, chasteness, cleanness, continence, honor, immaculacy, innocence, integrity, maidenhood, purity, restraint, sinlessness, spotlessness, virtue; concept 633 …   New thesaurus

  • virginity — ► NOUN ▪ the state of being a virgin …   English terms dictionary

  • virginity — [vər jin′ə tē] n. [ME virginite < OFr virginité < L virginitas] 1. the state or fact of being a virgin; maidenhood, spinsterhood, etc. 2. the state of being virgin, pure, clean, untouched, etc …   English World dictionary

  • virginity — noun VERB + VIRGINITY ▪ lose ▪ take, take away (both literary) ▪ the man who had taken her virginity …   Collocations dictionary

  • virginity — noun (U) the condition of never having had sex: lose your virginity (=have sex for the first time): She was 17 when she lost her virginity compare chastity …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • virginity — vir|gin|i|ty [və:ˈdʒınıti US və:r ] n [U] the condition of never having had sex lose your virginity (=have sex for the first time) …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • virginity — vir|gin|i|ty [ vər dʒınəti ] noun singular the state of being a VIRGIN. When you lose your virginity, you have sex for the first time …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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