Which Persons Are Virgins?

According to canon lawyer Ed Peters: “a woman who has not freely engaged in penile-vaginal sexual intercourse is a ‘virgin’ while one who has engaged in that act is not.” This ridiculously narrow definition permits a woman to commit all manner of unnatural sexual acts, while still claiming to be a virgin.

According to St. Thomas: “the purpose of perpetually abstaining from this pleasure is the formal and completive element in virginity.” The pleasure in question is sexual climax. So if a person obtains sexual pleasure, willingly, by any means, whether masturbation, natural intercourse, or any unnatural sexual acts, that person loses their virginity.

What if a young woman decides to have sex with a young man, both being of legal age, and the woman does not reach climax during her first sexual encounter? Is she still a virgin? Clearly, she is not. She willingly chose to have sexual intercourse, thereby losing her virginity. So the definition of St. Thomas needs to be broadened somewhat. Not only a person who willingly obtains sexual pleasure loses their virginity, but also anyone who willingly chooses a per se sexual act of any kind, with or without climax. For the definition of a sexual act does not, of necessity, include climax. For example, amplexus reservatus is a gravely immoral sexual act which lacks climax for both the man and the woman by definition. In another example, if a wife has natural sex with her neighbor, but she does not reach climax, she has still committed adultery. There is no loophole which permits someone to call themselves a virgin, as long as they have not reached climax, or have not had penile-vaginal sex.

In my definition, a virgin is a human person who has never willingly engaged in any sexual act, with or without climax, including the sexual acts of masturbation, natural intercourse, and any type of unnatural sexual act. Moreover, if a person deliberately uses pornography for the purpose of sexual pleasure, virginity is lost.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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11 Responses to Which Persons Are Virgins?

  1. Marco says:

    “In my definition, a virgin is a human person who has never willingly engaged in any sexual act, with or without climax, including the sexual acts of masturbation, natural intercourse, and any type of unnatural sexual act.”

    Damn… I think that virgins basically don’t exist according to this definition. Even in the most ultraconservative middle east countries those who fit these extremely narrow criteria are very very few.

  2. Christine says:

    They do exist, Marco. You just haven’t met them.
    I would add to that list, no phantasy thoughts, no impure thoughts. We already sin, when we have impure thoughts. We are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

    • Marco says:

      I never said they don’t exist in the absolute sense. I wrote “even in the most ultraconservative middle east countries those who fit these extremely narrow criteria are very very few“.

      Even people who live without eating for a year exist https://www.sciencealert.com/the-true-story-of-a-man-who-survived-without-any-food-for-382-days , for that matter.

    • stefano says:

      Marco, virginity is not a political category. It has nothing to do with conservatorism. You overimpose layers that do not overlap.

    • Marco says:

      “Marco, virginity is not a political category. It has nothing to do with conservatorism. You overimpose layers that do not overlap.L

      This has nothing to do with what i actually said. My point was that in those extremely conservative countries there are much stricter views and practices when it comes to human sexuality and yet, according to Ron’s definition, even in those countries virgins are nearly non existent.

  3. Tom Mazanec says:

    Are there any Saints who are male virgins?

  4. matthieu says:

    A very good document to read about virginity is the consecrated virgin vocation pdf : https://consecratedvirgins.org/usacv/sites/default/files/documents/VocRes1-1InfoPkt_new.pdf

  5. Maria says:

    According to this definition, there is no difference between virginity and chastity. Spouses who have some children and decide not to have anymore by abstaing from any sexual acts are chaste but no longer virgins. A teenager who has never engaged a sexual act with anyone but for example makes use of masturbation is not chaste but still a virgin. I don’t know if it makes sense.

    • Marco says:

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Francisco says:

      Maria,
      My understanding is the following, virginity and chastity are two related by different things. A person who never engaged in a sexual act but masturbates for the first time looses his virginity; but if the person repents and does not engages in sexual acts apart from marital, unitive and procreative acts, remains chaste. A married couple can have a chaste marriage (though they loose their virginity). Another example, a man looses his virginity, but then becomes a Priests, thus becoming and remaining chaste.

      If a person *consents* to a lustful thought also looses his virginity (Matt 5:28).

      There are few grown virgin persons compared to the rest of the world, but there are by their testimonies.

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