This post will address the contradicting societal perceptions of virginity among people in Mexican society mainly during the late 1900’s and among American colleges students today.
In order to fully comprehend the perception of sex that is rooted in Mexican society, understanding how the term capital feminino applies to this culture is very important. Capital feminino refers to how people come to regard virginity in a positive way or negative way. This perception can be dependent upon socioeconomic factors that contribute to how women are educated in patriarchal societies.
In Mexican communities of the late 1900’s, the idea that virginity is a gift prevailed, and this idea still manifests in Mexican societies today. It is highly valued to have your virginity intact, as it is seen as a symbol of morality. These values in Gloria González-López’s article, “Mexican Immigrants, Heterosexual Sex and Loving Relationships in the United States,” reveal how in Mexican society, particularly in the late 1900’s, people view being a virgin in a positive way. In this culture, some people even chose to get hymen reconstruction surgery in an effort to escape society’s criticism for having sex. Doctors make sure that after surgery women will bleed during the next time they have sex, so that when they settle down and have intercourse, their future partner will not reject them. This practice is commonly used amongst rape victims in this culture, as “repairing a women’s virginity” medically can provide people who have had sexual intercourse with an opportunity to gain some social forgiveness (González-López’s 539).
For female Mexican immigrants, they can give a man their virginity for the chance to get married and gain financial security. Essentially, having your virginity intact could be promising to overcome societal adversity and could give immigrant women a sense of power over their difficult situation.
Furthermore, in Mexican communities, the idea that people should wait until marriage to have sex is prevalent. This belief may contribute to how being a virgin is viewed in such a positive light, for this means your behavior is in agreement with the social expectation to save yourself for marriage. For women particularly, being a virgin implies that you are pure and not promiscuous, which gives women more acceptance and status in society.
The notion that people should wait until marriage to have sex in Mexican communities juxtaposes the rampant hookup culture at American universities. In the United States, students engage in sexual acts with people they have no emotional connection to nor are in a relationship with. This compels people to view normal sexual college behavior in this way. This makes people feel that being a virgin is abnormal. Many college students feel as though everyone is having sex and that in order to fit in, they need to conform to normality and be sexually active. This creates a societal pressure for college students to lose their virginity as fast as they can in college, as being a virgin has a negative stigma.
In American colleges, it is common for people use the term “hooking up” as a way of broadly describing their sexual experience with someone. Many people make assumptions and presume that “hooking up” implies having sex. This creates a commonly held misconception that everyone is having sex, which compels students to engage in sexual intercourse for the sake of being like their peers.
However, it is interesting to note that although a fair share of students have engaged in sexual intercourse, many students have not. In the book, Hooking Up, “A national study on college women, conducted in 2001, found a 39 percent virginity rate. This study also found that the virginity rate was still 31 percent among college women their senior year. Other national data on both college men and women indicates that the virginity rate is approximately 25 percent” (Bogle, 85). Although students often think that everyone is not a virgin because of umbrella terms like “hooking up,” this is definitely not the case. However, hookup culture and misconceptions feed into the idea that being a virgin is undesirable, and this compels students to lose their virginity in meaningless ways.
As a freshman at Vanderbilt University, I have noticed that for many students not being a virgin is important, and losing one’s virginity is desirable. This was very much the case in the beginning of the school year. Some students would talk about how they hate being a virgin and how they feel that in order to be a true college student they needed to be sexually active. Some college students opt to have sexual intercourse with people they barely knew, just so that they would no longer have carry the burden of being a virgin. It may be difficult for students to feel that they have adjusted to school if they hold onto their desire to have sex in a caring a loving relationship. This is not at common at Vanderbilt because hookup culture highly influences the social scene. Furthermore, the media confirms this view of unattached and uncommitted sex as desirable. Furthermore, movies, like American Pie, may contribute to this disapproving perception of being a virgin, as it instills the idea in American teenagers that losing one’s virginity is expected of college students and is a right of passage.
I honestly feel that people should not feel pressured to lose their virginity in college because of social influences. People should have sex because they want to, not because they think they have to lose their virginity to be like their peers. After all, people in other cultures, like in Mexican communities, view sex as a gift that should be cherished. Maybe if college students learn about Mexican views regarding virginity, they would feel better about being a virgin if they have not had sex yet. This culture awareness could also compel students who are not virgin to put more thought into whom they want to have sex with and not have sex with people haphazardly.
How do you view virginity? Do you feel social pressure to lose your virginity? Did the college virginity statistics surprise you? How do you feel about hymen reconstruction surgery? Are your views regarding virginity more in alignment with the common American college student’s view of sex or with people in Mexican communities perception of virginity? Is virginity a gift or a burden?