Once Was, Virgins Had Sex
In some times and places virgins had sex.
I first discovered this while reading the story of Arianrhod in Welsh mythology.
In this tale the Welsh King, Math, must keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever he is not in battle. And he was always losing virgins because the job was dull. After losing one young maiden Arianrhod’s brother volunteered her for the job.
Arianrhod was not thrilled with the nomination, but she knew she would easily pass the virginity test which entailed stepping over Math’s magic rod. A stiff rod indicated a virgin, a limp rod indicted she was not. When Arianrhod jumped over the rod two children jumped from her womb.
But Arianrhod declared herself a virgin because she was a woman who owned herself.
Virgin: a woman who owns herself
A virgin just bore two children?
I checked the footnote, which explained that at this time and place in Wales “virgin” simply signified a woman who took ownership of herself. She was autonomous, complete and holding status in her own right — not bound to any man. And she could certainly have sex if she wanted to.
By that count Arianrhod was most definitely a virgin.
I did a bit more research and discovered Marilyn Frye’s Willful Virgin which explains that the word originally had nothing to do with a penis penetrating a vagina. Instead, “virgin” had once designated a free woman who was not bound to or possessed by a man. Rather, she was a woman who was both sexually and socially her own person.
Virgo vs virgo intacta
Rattray Taylor’s Sex In History similarly explains that,
The term “virgin” did not mean to the Classical world what it means to us. The Romans distinguished between virgo, an unmarried woman, and virgo intacta, a women who had never known a man; and the Greeks likewise. To them, a virgin was a woman who had kept her own personal autonomy, instead of submitting herself to the narrow, caged life of marriage… It was the married woman who had sold her independence, who had lost her virginity.
So as it turns out, virgins once had plenty of sex, if they wanted to.
Beyond that, there is no clear medical definition of virginity even today. Some young religious people have oral or anal sex to keep their virginity oaths. Does that mean that gays and lesbians are forever virgins?
Virginity: not what you thought it was.