Generation Action Panel: Is virginity a social construct?

Three panelists have the “sex talk” with students and expose the contrasts in how society views sexuality in men and women.


Panelists discuss the societal pressures on women to lose their virginity. Photo by Elyscia Saint-Hilaire

Elyscia Saint-Hilaire, Contributing Writer

Slut. Whore. Mastubation. Virginity. These were just some of the terms scrutinized by panelists from Generation Action on Thursday night.

The purpose of the event was to explore the stigmas, stereotypes, and concepts of sexuality in regard to women.

The panel featured Sophie Siegel, a sophomore political science major with minors in women’s studies and theatre, Jill Rubin, a professor and coordinator for the women and gender equity resource center, Bella Goris, a senior sociology major, and Jeffrey Coltman-Cormier, a junior political science major, who moderated the event.

The main topic of discussion dissected the contrasting principles in society between the sexualization of women and men. For example, if a man has multiple partners, he is seen as a “stud,” but a women is labeled “impure”.

The event was hosted by Generation Action, a student organization that seeks to raise public awareness about various social and political issues.

“When we talk about the concept of virginity we want women to be seen as nurturing, but we constantly sexualize women,” said Siegel, who also serves as president of Generation Action.

During the presentation, a trailer to the movie The To Do List was screened. It’s about high school graduate who makes a checklist of things to do before she starts college to shed her innocent demeanorーa priority being losing her virginity.

“How we define virginity is in context to heterosexual norms,” said Rubin, in response to the trailer. “It can be very limiting. The value of a woman is placed on her sexuality rather than her personality.”

Another video presented was a news program that interviewed a priest and his family. The priest’s daughters took a pledge of abstinence until marriage and the father addressed himself as the ‘boyfriend of his daughters’.

“Virginity is a concept and it shouldn’t be placed as a value on people,” said Sophie.

The three panelists explained that the father forcing his daughters to pledge their cellabcy to themselves, God, and their fathers, was a way for the men to control autonomy of women and control their sexuality.

The panel discussed a double standard for women on how virginity is defined by talking about term commonly used when describing a woman losing her virginity: “de-flowering”.

“De-flowering, a women is less beautiful and lost womanhood,” was the definition Goris gave.

Goris explained that terms like “deflowering” and “popping her cherry” carry a negative connotation and make females form a fear of having sex for the first time.

Generation Action panelists: Bella Goris, Sophie Siegel, Jeffrey Coltman-Cormier, and Jill Rubin. Photo by Elyscia Saint-Hilaire

One of the final topics discussed was sex safety, or lack thereof, in the LGBTQ community.

When Goris said she’d held a sex-ed class on campus, she realized that many students did not understand how many sexually transmitted diseases were spread.

“Not many people knew how AIDS was transmitted through people,” said Goris. “Most students thought it was transmitted through saliva or toilet seats. Sex Ed is lacking for both straight kids and queer kids.”

The panel addressed the importance of changing how society views women’s sexuality, that we need to give autonomy back to women, let them lead their lives with their own sexuality, and not let it be dependent on the male figures in their lives.

The full video of the panel discussion is located on the Generation Action Facebook page.

Elyscia Saint-Hilaire is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].