Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE (www.oxfordreference.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 17 April 2024


The Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History
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.... ...

Access to the complete content on Oxford Reference requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.