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What does it mean to be a virgin?

The answer to this question is actually tricky because depending on someone’s culture, religion, and life experience, a guy, girl, teen or adult may have different ideas about what virginity means. Many people would say “you are a virgin until you have had sexual intercourse,” but the term “sexual intercourse” can have many interpretations. When most people talk about sexual intercourse, they mean when a penis is inserted into a vagina, but it could also refer to oral or anal sex, being “fingered,” or any other kind of sexual activity with a partner of the same or different gender.

How do I know if I’m a virgin?

The answer to this question depends on how you define “virginity.”  There’s no medical definition of “virginity.” You may decide you’re a virgin until you’ve had penis-in-vagina sex, until you’ve had oral sex, or until you’ve been sexually intimate in any way with your partner. There is nothing wrong with being a virgin or not being a virgin, and it’s up to you to decide what “losing your virginity” means to you. What’s more important than knowing whether or not you are a “virgin” is making sure you feel safe with your partner and you don’t ever feel pressured into having sex. Becoming sexually active is not only a big decision, it should always be YOUR choice and no one else’s.

Some people believe that you are a virgin until your hymen “breaks.” This is a myth. The hymen is a crescent-shaped thin membrane that covers part of the vaginal opening (see diagram below). It does not “break” or “pop,” but usually stretches a little when something is inserted into the vagina (fingers, penis,  etc.), Sometimes the stretching can cause small tears, which may lead to small amounts of blood. This occurs especially if the opening in the hymen is small or there is pain with insertion. Some women may have a few spots of blood the first time they have sex, others do not.

How can you tell if someone has had sex before?

There is no sure way of knowing if someone has ever had sexual intercourse. In the old days, people believed that a woman was a virgin only if she bled the first time she had vaginal intercourse (with a male partner). While some people still believe this myth, many people realize that sex can be with someone of the same or different gender and many women do not bleed from their hymen the first time they have vaginal sex. If a woman does bleed, it is usually just a few drops of blood. There’s also no real way to tell if a guy has had sex before (other than asking), which is why it’s especially important to use condoms every time you have sex to lessen the chance of getting sexually transmitted diseases.

If you are sexually active in any way, it’s important to let your health care provider know so you can find out how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.

Will I lose my virginity if I use tampons?

No. Most people agree that a virgin is someone who has never had sex with a partner. Sex means different things to different people, but using a tampon does not change your virginity. Some cultures, however, don’t approve of the use of tampons in women who haven’t had sex.