Virginity is a topic many can't seem to agree on. If sex is truly as broad as we say it is, how do we constitute who we consider a virgin and who isn’t? And why does it matter?

Firstly, we need to do away with the idea that penetration is the only way to have sex, while it is in fact only one of many. We often forget about same-sex couples in this discussion. Although a lesbian couple may not be able to be intimate through penetration, this does not mean their own form of intimacy should be demeaned just because it does not fit our social standards of what we consider to be normal.

From a young age, it’s been embedded in me that sex is painful, that it changes us women forever and it should only be done with “the one” because you will find yourself having an attachment to that person to the rest of your life. Men, on the other hand, have been encouraged from that very same young age to experiment with girls in ways they may not be ready for. If by chance they fail to do so by a certain age, they are viewed as weak and not man enough.

Ultimately, I have grown to understand that virginity was coined as a term in order to shame women from their sexual experiences. I grew up assuming that you truly lose a piece of yourself when you decide to engage in sex, that the first time involves a torn hymen and blood. I was surprised to learn that a hymen can tear through innocent activities like sports or an injury, or that this membrane will thin out all on its own by the time we become sexually active. The biggest game changer for me was learning that hymens already have opened slits that stretch during sex and birth, and that it is very uncommon for it to tear, thus doing away with the idea that one's body is forever changed after sex.

Moving forward, we need to stop claiming women are damaged once losing their virginity. We need to stop interpreting her worth based on how many partners she has had. The reality is that we lose no part of ourselves during the process. It is not something we can give and take. It shouldn’t be spoken of to younger girls as a commodity, something special that once given away, they can never get back. With time, my hope is that future generations will not shame others for their own personal experience, but that they will allow others to feel pleasure instead of fear.