Yeah, yeah, I'm gonna talk about sex, so yanno, be prepared.
I don't believe in virginity, I don't believe in it as a concept. I think there are a lot of really interesting and misogynistic ideals wrapped up in the whole virginity thing, and I'm just going to start at the top and unpack. But to start with, here's my ultimate favorite quote on virginity (aside from the one I used as the title, which is by the inestimable Kurt Cobain):
“I think the concept of virginity was created by men who thought their penises were so important it changes who a woman is.”
(I found this lovely quote on tumblr, here, where the page background is a bunch of vulvas, which is cool ^-^)
So, virginity. What is it? Lets get specific for a minute, Merriam Webster considers virginity to be "the quality or state of being virgin; especially maidenhood". What's maidenhood you ask? Back to Merriam Webster we go, " the quality, state, or time of being a maiden". Maidenhood is also an old euphemism for the hymen (along with maidenhead), but we'll discuss anatomy in a moment.
So, essentially, a virgin is a woman who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. Wait, what, men can be virgins too? But the word is almost exclusively used on women and is feminine in origin*. Virginity is a lady thing, I'm going to explain why.
Here's where we return to the hymen, in ye olde days (and today) an intact hymen was considered the proof of virginity. A woman could be (and still can be) examined by a doctor and presented with a certificate of virginity. Vaginal bleeding on the wedding night is also considered proof of maidenhood. This actually still happens among some intensely patriarchal cultures, and hymenoplasty (reconstruction of the hymen) is more common that you would expect. And it doesn't only happen way off in wherever you think patriarchy still happens, because, yanno, patriarchy still happens everywhere.
So, if the hymen is how we tell who is and isn't a virgin, people with penises are incapable of being virgins, and people with vaginas who engage in penetrative anal sex are still virgins. Obviously there's the whole "letter of the law vs. spirit of the law" but that's the problem, we don't even know what "sex" constitutes. If a girl masturbates, is she still a virgin? If she gives a guy a blowjob, has she lost her virginity? What if she has sex with another girl?
The point is, virginity is meaningless. It is a socially constructed ideal that upholds women's sexuality as a commodity for men. That is what certificates of virginity are all about, proving that a woman is unsullied, not damaged goods. The entire concept of virginity is based in women being objectified.
*the word virgin is descended from the Latin word for "young woman". The constellation Virgo, for instance, is "the young woman". Not "the virgin" as English would use the word now. She's been linked to fertility goddesses, so not a virgin. Also, consider how virgin is a compliment and an expectation when applied to an unmarried woman, but an insult when applied to a man. Now keep considering it. Go on, think hard. And while you're at it, think about what that says about our culture.