“It isn’t a medical term and in our classes we teach medically accurate information,” said Chrissy Cmorik, lead sex educator for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. “Virginity is a social construction that is meant to keep women in their place. Very rarely does anyone talk about male virginity. It is almost always a term used to describe young women.”
Instead of focusing on the loaded term of “virginity”, extensive research has found that discussing abstinence and the various forms of birth control during sexual health classes are much more effective at helping teens take control of their reproductive health and make decisions that are right for them. In the long term, that means that excluding shaming words like “virginity” from her curriculum helps Cmorik’s students delay their first sexual experience, avoid unintended pregnancies, and reduce their chances of getting STDs.
“Virginity is a one and done deal. Once you’ve lost your virginity, you can never get it back. That’s why we focus on abstinence and effective forms of birth control instead. Abstinence is something you can return to throughout your life when that is the right decision for you.”
In other less progressive parts of the country where abstinence-only education is king, young women are taught during sex education that virginity is something to be cherished. During some of these classes, teachers give a live demonstration of what they think virginity is all about by asking students to share a piece of chewed gum, comparing that gum to people who have had sex.
“That makes young women think if they have sex once, no one will ever want to have a relationship with them, and that is simply not true. We need to move far away from this type of shaming and toward sex education that is proven to work.”