Sex, virginity and your self worth

Students pose for a photo for the Weal newspaper story, 'Virgin Shaming' on March. 4, 2017. (Photo by Katerina Kotsaftis/SAIT)

Students pose for a photo for the Weal newspaper story, ‘Virgin Shaming’ on March. 4, 2017. (Photo by Katerina Kotsaftis/SAIT)

The connotations around virginity are complicated and can make people feel anxious, but decisions regarding sex should be made based on what one’s comfortable with.

Emily Ophus, the Community Programs Manager at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, said that there are many different perceptions of virginity, and while some people believe that any sexual touches or activities are an end to virginity, others believe virginity only ends when someone has vaginal sex.

“Scientifically speaking, there is no way for a doctor to look for a sign of virginity,” Ophus said.

“There is also a group of the population who believe the concept of virginity is defined so diversely that it has lost meaning all together and thus should be thrown away entirely.”

Ophus also said sexual activity can contribute to a person’s sense of self-worth.

“Often, people feel a pressure to be sexually active and if they feel the frequency of sexual activity in their life does not meet their standards, their self-worth may be impacted in a negative way,” Ophus said.

On the other side of the spectrum, if someone acts according to their own feelings or beliefs, it positively affects their self-worth.

“If someone waits until a certain time period in the relationship, or for a specific person to start having sex with, then the lack of sexual activity in their life could feel validating.”

She also said that a person’s frequency of sexual activity does not make them any more or less valuable as a human being.

However, Ophus said that many young people feel a societal pressure to have sex, and they see it as an activity that opens the door into adulthood.

“Because we live in a society that hides sexuality away from young people, and talks about sexuality as something only suitable for adults to know about, it is no surprise that the act of sex would be marked as some right of passage into the ‘adult’ world.”

With this being the case, Ophus emphasized that engaging in sex because of pressure is often a bad experience, and that simply the action of having sex is unlikely to change feelings of low self-worth.

“Keep in mind that it is okay to have boundaries and limits around sex.”

Ophus also said that if someone doesn’t feel ready for sex, it’s important for that person to express that feeling to their prospective partner.

It never feels good to disappoint another person, and although guilt is a natural feeling in that situation, Ophus said it’s perfectly fine for a person to give themselves permission to feel good about their decision, because it’s a way they can take care of themselves and stay true to their feelings.

“It is okay for someone to talk to a person they trust about feeling pressured or uncomfortable, including a counsellor at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, in order to get some clarity around what is important to them.”

The Calgary Sexual Health Centre is an organization that works towards normalizing sexual health in Alberta by providing non-judgemental and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health programs and services.

They can be can be contacted by phone at 403-283-5580 or by email at

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