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Did he break my virginity with dry humping?

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Anonymous asks:

I am a 23 year old virgin and have pledged to remain so until marriage. I recently had an intimate moment with one of my guy friends. I sat on his lap while he kissed my neck but he had an erection and I felt his pennis almost at the entrance of my vagina thought I had all my clothes including trousers on. We had agreed from the start that we wouldn't have penetration as that would break my virginity.

At some point he wanted to demonstrate to me the so-called "doggy style" and he did but still with my trousers tight on. However I did feel his erect pennis around my virginal area but no entrance. This was quite a vigorous activity and I did get well stimulated and wet and some bumps up and down!

All through this I did feel his erect pennis round my vagina even with my trousers on but didn't feel any penetration nor had any bleeding or pain afterwards. My concern is that could I have lost my virginity by any chance through this??

Heather Corinna replies:

Virginity isn't something physical we can "break." And virginity isn't your hymen: it's an idea, or a set of values and concepts which varies from person to person, not a body part.

In other words, you define what virginity is for yourself, or, if this is based in something religious, or a set of values you share and are agreeing on with some other group or community, on that agreed-upon definition.

The idea that virginity is about a woman's hymen -- usually what folks are talking about when "breaking" and "virginity" are in the same sentence -- is a flawed idea, based in ignorance about female sexual anatomy. The hymen is a thin membrane we're all born with that covers the vaginal opening: it's not somewhere deep inside the vagina, when it's present, fully or partially, it's tethered just behind the vaginal opening and covers that opening, fully or partially. Over time, that membrane wears away gradually: there's really no reason for it to be there, after all. Slowly, micro-openings in it just widen and widen, until it gets to a point where all that's left of it are trace amounts of the edges, just behind and around the vaginal opening. And it wears away due to a lot of things: general physical activity, hormones during puberty, vaginal fluids and your period, tampon use, and yep; masturbation or genital partnered sex. But there are plenty of women who have NOT had penis-in-vagina intercourse who have partial hymens or whose hymens have worn away without it. There are also plenty of women who HAVE had intercourse, yet still have a partial hymen.

If you want to see what the state of your hymen is, you can do that simply by looking at a hand mirror you're holding in front of your open legs, and seeing what your vaginal opening looks like. Sometimes you can feel parts of it, especially if it's started to wear away in a certain way, but at other times, the way it wears away is such that it's hard to distinguish from the rest of the vaginal opening. The hymen often tends to be a lot less distinct than many people expect. Given your age, if you have been menstruating, you absolutely only have a partial hymen at this point, and it's entirely possible it's nearly all worn away by now. As well, given your age, you most certainly should be seeing a gynecologist for a pelvic exam every year -- even without having had intercourse -- and you could also ask that doctor to show you where your hymen may be and what the state of it is.

Either way, it's not an intelligent or sensible way to figure out who has had sex or who isn't, or a reasonable way to prove "virginity." People who are informed about the realities of female sexual anatomy know that. Same goes with "proving" virginity by who has pain or bleeding with or after intercourse: many people have neither with first-time intercourse, especially if they're aroused and relaxed throughout, and have a sensitive, responsive partner.

If you're going to subscribe to virginity concepts, for those to have any meaning, they've got to be about what a person chose to do sexually -- actively and of their own accord -- not about what someone's genitals look like, what a person does to someone else without their consent, or about outdated ideas of women's bodies that people came up with before we knew the real scoop on women's bodies. So, it's more sensible, if you're going to use the V-word at all, to, for instance, say -- as many people do -- that losing one's virginity is about choosing to have a certain kind of sex with someone, such as vaginal intercourse, or about having ANY kind of sex with someone else (which would really be the most accurate and inclusive way to look at it). Even then, a lot of those concepts have flaws, but they're less flawed than all that silly business with hymens that's so meaningless and flat-out wrong.

For more information on virginity, what it means, and what it's history is, take a look at these:

To find out more about the hymen and the whole of your genitals, see: Pink Parts - Female Sexual Anatomy.

Here's what I'm hearing in your post: you're engaging in sexual activity.

Yes, you're dressed, but this stuff going on is about sex, is about one or both of you exploring sex, and that's just as real as intercourse or anything else. If you really do not want to be having sex with someone, then no one should be behind you, pressing their penis against you to show you or anyone else sexual positioning. If the two of you were dry humping, and everyone is all turned on and looking to get off, you were having a form of sex, and it's just as much sex as intercourse or anything else, even though it doesn't present the pregnancy or STI risks vaginal intercourse and some other sexual activities do. (This is some of why so many people are so underwhelmed if and when they DO have intercourse: they expect it to feel like something wildly different than dry humping or oral sex and it really doesn't: it's just one other way to do the same sort of thing.)

It should also be noted that at a certain point, experimenting with other kinds of sex like this does eventually lead to someone trying to push things further. It's pretty darn common for us to field questions from teens and young adults who had no plans to have a given kind of sex, nor any preparation for sex -- either emotional or practical, such as having condoms around and knowing how and when to use them -- but had it anyway. Some go with that flow because in that moment, they just change their minds in terms of what they want and what their boundaries are: others simply aren't prepared to be assertive in saying no when that still is not what they want.

Having the kind of sex you've been having certainly doesn't obligate you (or anyone else) to have another kind of sex: none of us are ever obligated to have any kind of sex for any reason. But it does tend to lead a person further down that slippery (literally!) slope, and does tend to lead to one or both partners tacking on one more thing each time that's sort-of okay, or maybe-okay, or lets-try-it-and-see okay. So, if you either don't WANT to be having any kind of sex, or aren't prepared to use safer sex methods and to be assertive about your limits and boundaries, it's usually a good idea not to be grinding on someone's lap, or have them showing you sexual positioning, especially at an age where most people are going to presume (even if it's not right for them to do so) that you're willing to have various kinds of sex. If you have a particularly hard time asserting yourself, or feel that the person you're with is going to push your boundaries a lot, it's likely best to not even put yourself in situations alone with someone where even making out will happen.

You need to figure out what your own boundaries are: you need to be able to set them with others, and they need to respect them. That's the case for anyone, no matter what those boundaries are, and that's integral for people who are having every kind of sex possible just as much as it is for those who are having none at all.

Neither I nor anyone else can tell you what those boundaries and limits are, nor what they should be: that's something only you can figure out for yourself. Like I said, for those who subscribe to ideas of or about virginity --plenty of us don't, some never did, especially since most ideas about virginity don't include some of us, such as those of us who are sexual abuse survivors, or who aren't heterosexual, or who know full well that while intercourse presents higher risks than other sexual activity, it's no more sex than other kinds of sex are -- there are an awful lot of ways people define what it is in general, and/or what it is for them personally. What your ideas on this are, I can't tell you, save to say that one can't define virginity by the state of the hymen for the reasons I explained to you up there.

But it's also really important for ANYONE having any kind of sex with someone else -- or heck, just for yourself -- to be sure they're pretty informed before they make those choices. Things like even knowing the real names for your genitalia and their own, knowing the real scoop on your anatomy, knowing what risks you're taking with any sexual activity and how to reduce them, having enough information to be able to set clear boundaries and discuss them with shared language you both understand: this is all really critical stuff.

So, I'm going to load up your arsenal of information with a generous handful of pieces here, beyond the links I already gave you. No matter how you decide you define virginity and what your boundaries are going to be from now on, all of these pieces will help you work that out better, and help inform you with what you need to make sound choices for your heart -- including whatever your personal values are -- and your body alike.

written 05 Oct 2007 . updated 24 Jan 2014

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