'Virgin' -- a term that in recent times can increasingly be a flashpoint, dividing a room, or society, into for and against camps. Virgin -- something that many women are now embarrassed to claim that they are but, paradoxically, is also a boasting point for the macho Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan. Virgin -- something that your nosy relatives and neighbours, and your parents secretly hope you are and your friends hope you are not. Virgin -- the one attribute that will increase your 'value' in the marriage market while simultaneously bringing down your cool quotient. Virgin -- a prime example of damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Is it good or bad to be a virgin? The debate is unlikely to get over any time soon. In the meantime, there are people who are suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to accept that they are virgins and are unable to say that they are not. One such individual asked people on Quora if it is acceptable to be a virgin at 25. She posted, "Is it bad being a virgin in India for a female who is 25 years old?"
First point, all the respondents, except for one, were men. The responses also highlighted the unnecessary pressure a lot of women put on themselves.
Posting her query, the user also mentioned, "Most of my friends aren't virgins and they always pester me to explore the sexual world which makes me think that being a virgin is bad." Which goes to show that it is not just the society but us who put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
There is no way to win this.
As one respondent, Varun Khullar, put it, "I mean why is there a fuss around being virgin? I mean if someone is a virgin then people have an issue and if someone is not then also it's a problem. We need to ignore all this."
Others in the thread mostly agreed that virginity is simply a matter of choice, one that we should respect and accept. No one should be put under pressure to do something with their bodies that they are not comfortable doing.
"Being virgin should be your choice," Rohan Malhotra wrote. "Whether to explore or not depends on whether your want to explore it or not... It depends on your sexual appetite... Remember sex is just a part of life, not everything."
Almas Sheikh seemed to agree. "No, its your choice. Do it when u feel like it," he wrote. "It's actually not needed to impress people... Just live the way u want to."
Vasu Tri seemed to feel that one should not remain in a state of confusion and simply follow one's own wishes. He cautioned though that one should be careful while taking such decisions. "Being a virgin or not to be a virgin before marriage is based on a person's state of mind," he posted. "Being a virgin is okay at your age. You continue to be yourself and decide. It is your life."
Echoing the sentiment, Raj Beau wrote, "If you feel that you should explore sex then you are free to explore it. You are not making a mistake or committing a crime."
Aman Sharma also stressed that personal choice is paramount, before adding that making an informed decision and practising safe-sex are also important.
"No, there is nothing wrong" he wrote. "If you haven't experienced, it's neither a crime nor a mistake. Any experience, sexual or otherwise, is only good when it's chosen. If you haven't got any moment or opportunity to experience anything sexual, it's just fine... Yes, you should read about this subject, talk to your nears and dears about it to understand cos being a totally naive person may not be that good... I hope whenever you get to have the experience, it's going to be good one and memorable one. And ensure that it's going to safe."
As the thread clearly shows, attitudes towards virginity, especially female virginity before marriage have evolved. The male respondents seem to agree that there are no rules that one must follow here, nor any compulsions. Forcing oneself into a sexual encounter just for the sake of it is probably not worth it. Whether to have sex, when to have it and with who -- it is all a matter of personal choice. Without saying it in as many words, 'society' has been told to butt out.
(Some of the Quora responses have been mildly edited for clarity and brevity.)