• Dr Sarah Lantz


F#@k, I have to say, I don’t like this word. Say something to get me riled up, and this is it. My daughter asked me about the word yesterday. She’d heard it in a song... and at school mass...and it was certainly a talking point at school recess.

Consider that the word ‘virgin’ is one of the most mistranslated, misrepresented, misused, distorted and perverted terms by the early church, and used in the commodification of women, our bodys’, our sexuality. And it is still used in the same commodified way today - being a valuable thing to have, if you’re a young woman, and a very perplexing thing to have if you’re a young man.

Today, the word continues to refer to somebody who has not had penetrative sex. Yes, heteronormativity and conservatism have been cosy bed-partners for as long as the word ‘virgin’ has been appropriated and employed to govern women.

In fact, it was poor ole’ Mother Marys ‘virginity’, so to speak, that resulted in a total linguistic shift of the term. Early Church translators were more comfortable having Mary’s autonomy be discounted in the name of innocence, chastity and purity. In other words, for her womb to be the home to a God-like figure, it had to be the purest and unsullied of wombs. Yes, Virginity is deemed to exist hand-in-hand with purity—at least when considering a woman’s sexual autonomy (or lack thereof) - which is almost granted the status as being a tangible ‘product’; something to clutch onto, preserve, conserve AND then sacrifice and serve up on a platter in the name of love, or if not love, marriage.

But the word did not always mean ‘untouched’ or ‘pure’. Consider, once upon a time, the term ‘virgin’ was first used to describe priestesses in Mediterranean temples, especially during Rome’s pagan period. The term identified a free woman, a complete entity unto herself, independent, autonomous, untied and one who was not bound by secular law, not belonging to a man. Her own sovereign. Her own lover.

I like this original definition of virginity a whole lot more, and as I open and awaken just that that little bit more, grow fuller and rounder, I find I’m a premenopausal woman basking in her maidenhood, alongside an entire band of other dignified virgins who hold circle with me. I, like my sisters, am no doubt more of a virgin now, than my sixteen-year-old self.

Words @DrSarahLantz


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