When was your “sexual debut”?
The term “virginity” has come under fire from some woke folks, who suggested calling the act of having intercourse for the first time a “debut.”
As the BBC reports, feminist scholars have long called for a term to replace “virginity,” which traditionally places female sexuality on a pedestal as a souvenir that can be “taken” or “lost.”
But some believe the language around the act should evolve to better include people of myriad identities by rebranding and replacing words like “virginity” — evocative of innocent young maidens in the throes of adolescence and burgeoning womanhood — especially as society’s understanding of what exactly constitutes “sex” has broadened to previously unspeakable acts.
“We still have this old, rickety word that encapsulates what’s supposed to be an expansive time,” said cultural critic Nicolle Hodges. The Toronto-based author of sex-positive Dr. Seussian parody book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go Oh Oh!” told BBC it’s “such a limiting idea.”
“It’s not just replacing ‘virginity’ with a new term – it’s saying virginity is a concept that doesn’t exist, because your sexual journey never ends,” she added.
In the spirit of sexual autonomy, Hodges needed a term to use in her book that embraced the various moments in our lives where sexuality blooms. A “sexual debut,” she suggests, would be more fitting. The term had been used in the past, mostly seen in academic publications as a softer euphemism for “virginity loss.”
“Sexual debut” caught on with Hodges’ fans, leading her to launch a campaign to include the term in the discourse — even producing cheeky sweatshirts with the rebrand.
“Time to rebrand virginity to sexual debut so girls don’t begin their journey at a deficit, feeling like they have lost or given something up,” she wrote last year on Twitter. “We have few modern rites of passage, and the fact that this transition/discovery is shrouded in shame has to change. It is a celebration!”
However, some gender studies experts aren’t quite satisfied with the “sexual debut” proposal, as one argued to BBC that the implication of an audience in the word “debut” carries the subtext that someone — or more? — else would necessarily be present during the big event. In other words, it boxes out folks who sexually emerge in a solo endeavor.
“When you use a term like virginity – or sexual debut – you’re necessarily defining a person’s sexuality in the context of being intimate with another person. It requires partnered sex to define a person’s sexual experience and identity,” said Julia Feldman-DeCoudreaux, a sex educator in Oakland, California. “The logical extension of that is that one’s ability to feel sexual pleasure, or to feel sexually satisfied, must also require someone else’s involvement.”
And, as many know all too well, relying on someone else to wholly fulfill your sexual satisfaction is liable to result in “confusion and failure and disappointment,” she added.
Feldman-DeCoudreaux agrees that the concept of virginity needs work. “The problem is the notion that our sexuality has an onset, that there’s one time where it suddenly becomes real,” she said.
“That’s invalidating,” she continued. “What about the rest of our lives? What about the rest of the pleasure we experience? What about the other eye-opening experiences we’ve had? Do those not count?”
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