It’s a no-brainer, right – had a penis in your vagina? Not a virgin. But who cares about penises. We’re here to chat vag on vag.
Warning: contains a discussion regarding rape and sexual assault and how that relates to virginity, at the very end of the article.
How do queer ladies lose their virginity if there are just two vaginas to wet the stamp?
There are a few key ways that lady lovers may get it on together, often involving fingers, tongues and objects. There may be penetration, there may be anal, there may be scissoring.
All of these activities involve sex, because the behaviour is sexy in intention, but settling on a definition of ‘sex’ is pretty hard. This gets even harder when we start talking virginity.
The concept of virginity starts to leak through the underwear of our culture with two main opposing views: save it or lose it. How we rate sexy activities on the virginity and ‘was it real sex’ scale looks different depending on who you ask.
Whether you have ‘had sex’ or not is tied up in our beliefs about virginity and sex. This needs reassessing for many reasons, including keeping ourselves safe. If we don’t think it’s sex, then we may not protect ourselves, for example.
Sex research has focused some attention on what we do and don’t consider to be ‘sex’ by asking a bunch of young ‘uns.
This segues into what behaviours could possibly be capable of causing the loss of virginity. Technically speaking, if a person has had ‘sex’, they have lost their virginity as the baseline.
Right? Well, sort of.
But what is ‘sex’?
Eating someone out in a bathroom at a party? Maybe. Making sweet love to your girlfriend in your shared bed? Sure. Using a dildo to masturbate? No.
Sex is understood as something you do with someone else, generally, so wanking is out.
When it comes to the crunch, we all have pretty wide views about what is and isn’t sex, and this colours what activities we think can cause a loss of virginity, and which ‘preserve’ us.
Lesbians, bi folks and virginity
Some queer folk may dream up multiple virginities. For example, if you had any kind of sex with a woman for the first time, that’s one virginity down the tubes. A man, another. If you have a threesome for the first time, one more virginity is lit on fire, and so on.
Some lesbians say that they consider they lost their virginity when they had their first orgasm, or had oral sex, or anal sex. Lesbians who have never had a penis in their vagina may consider themselves to remain a virgin, despite sex with women.
Depending on who you talk to, losing your virginity as a lesbian may include:
- First orgasm
- First orgasm with a woman
- First time you had good sex with a woman
- First time you had sex with a woman
- First time you had sex with anyone
- First fingering that resulted in an orgasm
- First fingering
- First oral sex that resulted in an orgasm
- First oral sex
- First anal sex
- And whatever thousand other variations you can dream up
Conclusion, virgins? You lose your virginity when you say you do.
What more general research tells us about what we reckon is ‘sex’
There is no research really on gal-on-gal action in terms of virginity – it’s not niche exactly, but as we know, past researchers were almost all exclusively men, and newer sex researchers have bigger fish to fry. Watch this space.
A 1996 study found that many college students did not consider someone a sexual partner if they had only given or gotten oral sex. When asked ‘is oral sex ‘real’ sex?’, about half of women and men said yes.
This means a lot of the time, we don’t think sexy stuff is sex unless it fits a certain arbitrary criteria. This criteria is very personal and therefore completely made-up.
Here’s the nuts and bolts of the research:
In a study entitled Would you say you ‘had sex’ if… we found the following droplets of data-driven juice for us:
- Almost everyone agreed that penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse qualified as having ‘had sex’
- Eighty-one per cent said anal sex (penile-anal) counted as sex, but 19 per cent did not count anal sex as ‘real’ sex
- Deep kissing was almost always not sex, but a wild two per cent said it was
- Same with boobie touching – three per cent said it was sex
- Fingering/handjobs was also not high up on anyone’s list of real sex, with just 14 per cent saying yes, it’s having sex
- About 40 per cent said that they had ‘had sex’ if oral sex was involved, but 60 per cent did not count oral as ‘real’ sex
- Seventy-four per cent of women and 80 per cent of men had previously had p-in-v sex, and about the same amount had had oral sex
- Whether people had had sexual experience of the oral or p-in-v variety before did not colour what they determined as ‘having sex’
- If a person had only experienced oral sex, ever, they were much more likely to say oral sex was definitely not sex
What we think of sex when we are abstaining
- Twenty-four per cent of college students in one study said that anal sex kept their virginity intact
- Thirty-seven per cent regard oral sex as abstinent behaviour
- And 10 per cent said that vaginal intercourse was not sex
- Wet kissing and wanking another person off were considered abstinent behaviour (75 per cent and 61 per cent respectively)
Do you lose your virginity if you are raped or sexually assaulted?
This is where things get a little trickier, but illustrate a point well: virginity, while based in physical sexual acts, is a made-up idea that we decide when is ‘lost’.
Many research respondents have argued that you can’t lose your virginity to rape or sexual assault. Basically, that’s not fair and you can’t lose your virginity to something like that.
It also plays into the notion that sex is something you do with someone else, not to someone else. If you don’t participate willingly, then it doesn’t count, which fits in with our general ideas about what is sex and what isn’t.
- Bersamin MM, Fisher DA, Walker S, Hill DL, Grube JW. Defining virginity and abstinence: adolescents’ interpretations of sexual behaviors. J Adolesc Health. 2007;41(2):182–188. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.03.011
- Bogart LM, Cecil H, Wagstaff DA, et al. Is it “sex”?: College Students’ Interpretations of Sexual Behavior Terminology. Journal of Sex Research. 2000;37:108–116.
- Carpenter LM. The ambiguity of “Having Sex”: The subjective experience of virginity loss in the United States. The Journal of Sex Research. 2001;38:127–139.
- Laura M. Carpenter, Associate Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, author of Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences.