Digest of terms

virginity

sexual innocence, most commonly understood as referring to the physically intact state of a female prior to sexual penetration, and by implication to the male prior to his engagement in full sexual intercourse. Pre-coital and other forms of sexual activity may also involve loss of sexual innocence. To insist that someone has retained their virginity in spite of such activity, may be technically true, but may also be regarded as a form of self-deception. In cultures which are sexually 'heavy laden', with images, suggestive songs and adverts, the face of innocence is changed from a very early age. In moral terms, both sexual innocence and sexual fulfilment may be prized as a welcome means for expressing personal integrity.

In Christianity virginity came to be highly prized because of the alleged virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus. Critics observe that this claim rests on a mistranslation of an Old Testament prophecy about a 'young woman' (as opposed to a virgin) giving birth; and that virgin births are accredited to several heroic figures in the ancient world as a mark of their special status - the latter are today not taken seriously, so why should the Christian version be?

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