Whether or not your proverbial cherry’s been popped, chances are you may still be boxed in by one or even several virginity delusions. After all, much fuss is still made over the subject in our part of the world. While there are Pinays who think that virginity is just a nine-letter word, there are also those who believe it’s “the greatest gift a woman can give her husband.”
Either way, as long as every woman fearlessly stands by her choice, there’s no need to hard-sell either virginity’s benefits or the joys of sexual liberation. Cosmo, however, sees the need to empower all women by busting these persistent virginity myths.
“Once your hymen is broken, you’re no longer a virgin.”
Myth Source: For the longest time, the hymen—the mucous membrane found at the vaginal opening—has been regarded as the ultimate proof of virginity. “This belief is still widespread today,” write women’s studies experts Dr. Susan E. Stiritz and Dr. Britt-Marie Schiller in Transforming Feminine Categories: Genealogies of Virginity and Sainthood. “The hymen is traditionally taken as the sign of virginity [because it] supposedly seals off a female’s generative organs, until torn by an act of penetration,” they explain.
Thus, most women believe that the loss of the hymen—be it through sexual or non-sexual activities—already “robs them” of their virginity. “When I was growing up, I had an aunt who always told my cousins and me not to ride bikes or use tampons because it would make us lose our virginity. ‘’Di na kayo virgin n’yan!’ That was how she put it,” recalls Marby, 35, a teacher.
Cosmo Clue-In: The presence or absence of a hymen shouldn’t be such a big deal. “The hymen can be torn through many ways—when you go biking, horseback riding, or through any strenuous activity,” points out clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes. “Strictly speaking, you only stop being a virgin when you’ve had sexual intercourse with a partner.”
Holmes’ explanation only emphasizes that the concept of virginity is very subjective and that, for the most part, it’s a state of mind. Besides, a hymen-focused definition of virginity only exposes the existing Filipino double standard of requiring women to be “pure” even as men are permitted to be sexually active.
“A virgin should bleed on her first time.”
Myth Source: This myth is closely tied with the notion of the hymen being a difficult-to-break “seal” and is made even more popular by, among other things, romance novels. Consider this passage submitted in the US-based All About Romance Parody Contest in 1998: “The small smudge of virgin’s blood on the pristine white sheet was the only evidence of their lovemaking.”
“Aside from romance novels, I guess semi-racy local flicks and the occasional soap opera episodes, where they showed bloody sheets as proof that sex had happened, contributed to this belief,” speculates Patricia, 32, a lawyer. Meanwhile, Yedda, 29, a chef, relates: “I think a lot of people believe this myth because I know someone who got into a huge fight with her husband on their wedding night because she didn’t bleed. He accused her of lying about being a virgin.”
Cosmo Clue-In: “A lot of people tell you that you’re going to bleed when you do it for the first time. But that’s not necessarily true for everyone,” says Ella, 27, a call center agent. Lea, a 30-year-old pre-school teacher, agrees, “I didn’t bleed at all on my first time. It just hurt a bit and I felt sore the morning after.”
“Bleeding isn’t really a definite sign of virginity,” states Dr. Strix Toledo, who specializes in occupational and general medicine. “You shouldn’t feel like you’re ‘less than a woman’ if you don’t bleed. If you haven’t had sex, then you’re a virgin. Your partner shouldn’t have an issue with you bleeding or not. If he does, maybe he needs to have his sex education facts corrected.”
“Women who remain virgins until their wedding night have more successful marriages.”
Myth Source: “The Philippines today is still predominantly Catholic, so personal and community values echo the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, which dictates that [women should remain virgins] until marriage and have sex only for [the sole purpose of getting pregnant],” observe women’s issues advocates Dee Dicen Hunt and Cora Sta. Ana-Gatbonton in Filipino Women and Sexual Violence: Speaking Out and Providing Services. “Thus, young women who lose their virginity before marriage, whether through rape or in a relationship, [are thought to have less chances of having] a ‘good’ marriage,” they explain.
Cosmo Clue-In: “Virginity is no longer a universally expected prerequisite for
[marriage],” declares Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson under the Philippine segment of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. “Today, sexual attitudes are more liberal and accepting of radical changes in sexuality and love because of the influences of the media and global communications,” he says.
Citing the 1994 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey conducted by Dr. Zelda C. Zablan, which had 11,000 respondents aged 15 to 24, Leyson further revealed that “a large number of female college graduates residing in urban areas were exercising their liberal roles, both in their personal and professional lives, and had flexible sexual attitudes.”
“In general, sophisticated, well-educated Filipinas are more comfortable than older women in taking the initiative in foreplay and learning new erotic techniques to introduce a variety of sexual [moves] in their sexual lives,” Leyson writes. Indeed, these days, well-educated Filipino men like Andrew, 30, a physical therapist, no longer discriminate based on a woman’s virginity. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” he says. “I don’t think it’s fair to judge a woman by what’s between her legs.”
More importantly, as Mira, 31, an accountant, reveals, remaining a virgin until after a marriage license is inked doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage. “I waited until we were married to get in bed with my ex, but he still fooled around,” she says. “I found myself wishing that I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get hitched just because I saw getting married as a way for me to have sex without guilt.”
“You can’t get pregnant on your first time.”
Myth Source: “I’ve encountered a lot of women who are shocked to find themselves pregnant and they tell me, ‘Doc, how can that be? It was my first time and isang beses lang talaga namin ginawa,’” reveals Dr. Helen Heramil, an oncologist who runs a private clinic. “Honestly, I have to check if it’s really 2007 already because many women still have these outdated beliefs.”
Vicky, 26, a graphic artist, tells the story of Nina, her best friend and college batchmate, who consistently made it to the dean’s list: “When Nina found out she was pregnant, she stared at the whole barkada and exclaimed, ‘But it was just my first time!’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? One time is all it takes! Don’t you read anything?’”
Cosmo Clue-In: “To put it bluntly, don’t be tanga about having sex,” says Dr. Heramil. “Any encyclopedia or website will tell you that any female capable of bearing children can get pregnant on her first time.”
In fact, as scientific studies show, it’s even possible for a girl who hasn’t had her period yet to get pregnant. Do the math: A woman ovulates approximately 14 days before she gets her period. So, if a girl were to have sex about two weeks before she gets her period for the first time, she certainly stands a chance of becoming pregnant.
“You can’t get a sexually transmitted disease or STD if you’re a virgin.”
Myth Source: “People tend to assume that STDs can only be transmitted when there’s penetration,” states nurse and medical school instructor Dr. Genevieve Garcia-Rebaya.
Take the case of Jenny, 20, a college student, a virgin who never thought that “just fooling around” would land her in the hospital. One night, at her dorm, after she had given her boyfriend a blowjob earlier that evening, Jenny felt a burning sensation in her left eye. “I guess when my BF came, some drops got in my eye,” Jenny recalls. “Akala ko it was just sore eyes. But it got worse, so I went to the hospital.”
The lab tests revealed that Jenny’s eye was infected with gonorrhea. Jenny was hit with the double whammy of knowing that a virgin could get an STD and that her boyfriend had cheated on her.
Cosmo Clue-In: “Everyone thinks that they’re safe from STDs as long as there’s no contact between genitals. In reality, even virgins can get STDs,” says Dr. Garcia-Rebaya. “You can get infected with the herpes virus through kissing. You could also get infected with gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia through oral sex. When you’re exposed to body fluids, there’s a always a risk of getting infected.”
“There are ways for people to know that you’re no longer a virgin just by looking at you.”
Myth Source: “There are common hoaxes about virginity that seems popular among [naive] people: that a non-virgin walks with her legs wider apart and that a woman’s backside becomes more flat after she’s already had sex,” says Dr. Heramil.
Adds Amy, 19, a student: “My friends say that you can tell if the girl’s no longer a virgin if her skin looks ‘saggy.’ They heard it from their aunts or something.”
Cosmo Clue-In: “Unless a doctor actually examines your vaginal opening to see if it’s experienced penetration, there’s no way for anyone to tell if you’ve actually had sex. At times, even medical exams are inconclusive,” says Dr. Heramil.
Soraya, 32, an entrepreneur, testifies: “My mom assumed I was already having sex when I was 20—nine years before I actually had sex.”
“A sex partner can always tell if you’re a virgin or not by how ‘tight’ you feel.”
Myth Source: “I heard that a virgin always feels tighter,” says Bernice, a medical technologist who’s still a virgin at 31.
Like Bernice, many people think that women who’ve had sex are no longer “tight enough” down there. “There are a lot of people who believe that the vagina totally loses its elasticity totally after childbirth or sexual encounters,” says Dr. Karina Descartin-Manacsa, a general practitioner.
Cosmo Clue-In: “There’s no foolproof way of telling whether a woman is a virgin or not,” says Alex, 27, an engineer. “Since bleeding isn’t really a reliable sign and virgins can learn hot moves through books and porn, it’s up to the woman to tell the guy that she’s never had sex before. Otherwise, he won’t know.”
“Unless the vagina has experienced extreme trauma, it retains its elasticity,” clarifies Dr. Descartin-Manacsa. “Women who’ve just given birth are told to do Kegel exercises, which help them gain back the tone of the pubococcygeus muscle. The exercises involve the regular clenching and unclenching of the muscles that surround the opening of the rectum, vagina, and bladder.”
Of course, the vagina naturally loses its elasticity during menopause, when estrogen levels decrease significantly. This will happen—whether the woman has been sexually active for years or has chosen to be celibate for life.