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date: 17 April 2024

Virginity. 

Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History
Author(s):
Lillian I. LarsenLillian I. Larsen

The Oxford English Dictionary defines virginity first as a mode of life characterized by “abstinence from or avoidance of all sexual relations,” second as “the natural or normal condition of an unmarried woman,” and third as the “state of being virgin, fresh, or new with its accompanying virtue of integrity, innocence, and inexperience.” In popular nomenclature, the term is most specifically used in describing a woman's physical state before vaginal penetration through heterosexual intercourse. It is more broadly used to refer to the stage of life that precedes sexual activity, and the physical status associated with such activity. Though the term “virgin” may metaphorically be applied to either man or woman, the gendering inherent in framing virginity with reference to sexual penetration has historically focused discussions on female sexuality. Traditionally a woman's abstinence from sexual activity during the period that precedes marriage is linked to understandings of chastity and propriety in ways that only rarely apply to male sexual practice. In short, virginity as a physical state and as a life phase looms larger for women than for men.... ...

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