Maybe you have heard the word “virgin” or “virginity.” But what exactly do those words mean? The word “virgin” means a person who has not had sex. But if being a virgin is defined by whether a person has had sex, what does it mean to “have sex”? For some people, being a virgin means never having had vaginal sex. Someone may never have vaginal sex but engage in other sexual behaviors, like oral sex. Does this make that person a virgin? Other people believe being a virgin means never having been involved in any type of sexual behavior with another person. People have different ideas about what it means to be a virgin, so it is very important to talk to a partner about what sexual behaviors they have engaged in during past relationships before having sex with them. Just because someone considers themselves a virgin, it does not mean that they have not engaged in behaviors that could put them at risk for a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
In the past, people really cared about whether a girl had or had not had sex. The state of being a virgin—virginity—was thought of as a good quality in a girl. People also believed that you could tell if a girl was a virgin. But we now know that no one can tell if a person is a virgin by looking at them or even from doing a medical exam. Choosing to engage in any type of sexual behavior is an important decision, regardless of a person’s gender.
What is most important is not whether someone is or is not a virgin, but choosing to have sex when a person is ready. Some people wait until they find a partner they love to have sex. Others wait until they are older, maybe in high school or college. Some people know they aren’t ready emotionally to handle the possible consequences. Everyone is different, and each person’s decision should be valued and respected. Having or not having sex does not make you a good or bad person. What is important is choosing to do what is best and healthy for you. Talking to a parent, caregiver or adult you trust—like an older sibling or an aunt—can help you work through figuring out what is right for you.