Losing one’s virginity comes with stigma

In 2017 Sex Issue

As a young woman, you are given one of two labels: a slut or a prude. These labels usually rely on when you choose to lose your virginity.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” said liberal arts major Amanda Gomez. “For girls, we have to be more conservative, we have to hold back and think ‘Oh no, I can’t have sex because I’ll basically be called a slut.’”

Gomez said she was called a prude in high school.

“I was embarrassed that I wasn’t having sex, which is weird because that’s not something you should be embarrassed about.”

In high school and college, women are faced with harsh stigmas with little middle ground. The woman who chooses to lose her virginity in her mid-teens is looked at as dirty or easy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the woman who waits until her junior year of college to have sex is labelled as uptight or out of the ordinary.

“Media perpetuates these ideas,” said Ian Roberson, professor of psychology of human sexual behavior. “I think a lot of it has to do with education and learning that sex is a natural part of the human experience and that it shouldn’t be anything that you should be ashamed of and we do have to tackle that double standard. We shouldn’t shame someone who has sex early or someone who doesn’t have sex early.”

Roberson said this creates a lot of pressure for women in particular. “They are getting information from their media, from their friends who may have had sex and that might pressure them to be like their friends.”

These stigmas affect the way women look at themselves, and while it’s easy to say that other people’s views of you shouldn’t affect you, they usually do.

Gomez said she has seen the stigmas pressure her friends. One in particular, a junior in college, says she “just wants to get it over with.”

In an article in the Journal of Sex Research, Jonas Eriksson and Terry P. Humphreys explained that there are three different groups people can be put into when losing their virginity: gift, stigma and process.

“Individuals who endorsed the stigma script viewed their status as virgins as something negative and embarrassing that they needed to shed as soon as possible,” wrote Eriksson and Humphreys.

While the other two groups were more positive. Those who associated their virginity with a gift viewed it as precious and usually waited longer to lose it. The ‘process’ group viewed losing their virginity as a practical matter.

The individuals who associated their virginity loss with stigma were inevitably ashamed of how they lost it and had shorter relationships.

In society, there is an understood timeframe of when it is acceptable for women to lose their virginity. This is usually from late high school to early college years. If one is not within this timeline, they are pressured to do something they may not be ready for.

Roberson said the remedy for this trend is education. When young people aren’t educated on the issue, they have less information, it becomes more of a mystery and they are more likely to be pressured into it, he said.

“Parents and educators are afraid to talk about these things because they fear that if you talk about it then they’re going to go and do it. But most of the research shows the opposite,” Roberson said.

Unfortunately, women who are struggling with these stigmas just need to ignore the noise, Gomez said. “Live your life. You don’t have to please anyone.”

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