By Mathu H. Liyanage –
Virginity has caused and is causing many a personal and social problem to individuals and the members of their families as a result of rigid customs, norms and societal attitudes veiled by misunderstanding and ignorance.
Virginity is a state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse before marriage, and especially in the case of girls, it is associated with notions of purity, honour and worth like the colour of white, which has traditionally been associated with ritual purity, innocence and virginity.
The main cause of the loss of virginity is the rupture of the hymen through penile-penetration, consensual or not consensual.
The hymen is a thin film of membrane just outside the vulva which partially closes the opening of the vagina. However, a hymen may also be broken by physical activity. Many women possess thin fragile hymens, easily stretched and perforated at birth that it can be broken in childhood without the girl even been aware of it, often as a result of engaging in athletic sports and games.
It is possible to repair or replace the hymens by hymenorrhapy or hymenoplasty that may cause vaginal bleeding in the next intercourse as proof of virginity and become “born again virgins”.
Some cultures in the past, and even now, in certain Asian countries insist on proof of bride’s virginity before her marriage, by medical examination, by a “proof of blood” spotted in the bed sheet or on a white sheet of cloth provided for this purpose by the bride’s family which displays as proof of both consummation of marriage and that the bride was a virgin.
As a result of the rigid application of this obnoxious and unsavoury practice, there have been break-downs in marriages ending in divorce, inter-personal tensions between the couple, and honour killings to turn the anticipated bliss of life into a bizarre end.
Historically, and in the present age, some cultures, which have treated female virginity more significant than male virginity on the pretext that sexual prowess is fundamental to masculinity, have lowered the expectation of the male virginity without lowering the social status.
This raises the inequality and widens the gap between the genders, bringing about “double standards” to the fore.
In a highly civilized and enlightened society, these man-made manoeuvres and traditional expectations should be resisted so that both sexes can enjoy their sexual life by avoiding inter-personal relationships pitied against one another intentionally from outside.
All major religions have moral codes governing issues of sexuality, morality and ethics but they are less practised today.
Sex education is the need of the hour so that the younger generation could sort out the problems involved in sex and also become aware of the expectations of their parents and the society in general. They may thus be able to make necessary behavioural adjustments to lead a harmonious sex life and enjoy the bliss of life.
*The writer was a senior professional Social Worker and a Lecturer in Social Work