WHO IS REALLY A VIRGIN
It is common to come across reports of virginity tests been done for girls in schools ,hostels and even within communities by some totally untrained of poor trained adults in our environment. In my over 2 decades in practice as a medical doctor, it has never been required of me to carry out a virginity test until very recently when a client came to see me requesting for a virginity test. Matter of fact, I cannot recall that as a medical undergraduate or postgraduate student, I ever passed through any training on virginity testing.
Since being a virgin is typically associated with the female sex, your guess is as good as mine that it was a lady, 19 years old and a student. I know about girls walking in to request pregnancy test or specific tests for sexually transmitted infections, but this is a somewhat novel request. The way she asked, it was like she expected me to just take her blood sample, sent it to the laboratory and pronto I will be able to determine if she is a virgin or not just like one will carry out malaria or any other such tests.
My immediate concern is why would a young female come unaccompanied to a doctor’s office requesting for a virginity test. So I asked her, young lady, could young please tell me why you need to do virginity test? She became very evasive and it took a lot prodding and assurance of confidentially of any information before she decided to come out.
A few days ago she had visited her boyfriend and engaged with him in serious smooching and caressing. She denied penetration but she was touched generously on the genitals and gave oral sex to him. Now she fears she has lost her virginity and her father who has been consistently threatening to subject her to virginity test will find out anytime soon. So is my client a virgin and what is the place of virginity testing in monitoring the sexual activity of young people. The other question is whether virginity is just about female or are males concerned.
Virginity has gender discrimination context because it is often perceived as applicable to females. In most culture particularly in Africa and Asia, the state of being a virgin is only important in consideration for females such that proof of virginity constitutes the parameter for determining if a newly married lady has brought honour or disgrace on her family. For males, nobody bothers and it will appear that the more ladies a guy has slept with, the more his standing in the public eye which make men to frequently lie about their sexual escapades.
Back to my client, is she still a virgin after the experience with her boyfriend? I will tend to say that she is not even though there was no penetration. Though virginity in females is usually seen in the context of penetration and loss of virginity often signaled with breaking of the hymen, I see a virgin in a broader sense of somebody who have never had sexual experience which is not limited to penile penetration. A girl who fondles herself to sexual pleasure cannot be described as a virgin even though the hymen may be unbroken. On the other hand, a girl whose hymen is broken from other activities like sport, cycling, horse riding etc but who had never experience sexual pleasure to me is a virgin.
In the final analysis, the state of being a virgin is a personal thing and only the person concerned can actually confirm it either way except of course if somebody comes forward with proof of sexual intimacy. In essence, parents though may be able to instill fear into their daughters, virginity test is very subjective and is never a good proof of being sexually active.
Parents often do more harm than good by using threat and half information in an attempt to curtail the sexuality of their children especially girls. In this particular instance, she didn’t see the risks like sexually transmitted infections inherent in oral sex having been schooled to see sex and the risks associated with it from the prism of vaginal intercourse only. Virginity test is humiliating, can be psychologically traumatic and carries the risk of introducing infections. It is a gender based and should be stopped.
Dr. Iziaq Kunle Salako,
President, Health and Wellness Optimization Foundation