The Psycholinguistics of Contemporary American Sexuality: Losing Your Virginity

After the first time you have sex, it is said that you have “lost your virginity.” With this phrase comes the connotation that we have lost our innocence and in some ways lost ourselves to another person. Our virginity is something that is taken from us; it is something that can never be regained or reinstated. But to use this kind of language paints the initial sexual experience as a necessarily negative one. To be robbed of something, to lose something does not imply anything pleasant. By saying that a virginity has been lost or taken, we fail to admit to the fact that with the initial sexual encounter there is so much to be gained. By exploring our sexuality, we begin our journey of sexuality, and after the initial sexual encounter we gain the opportunity to better know another person, to better know ourselves, and to better know our own sexuality. With the initial sexual encounter, we learn a new way to relate to other people, and by relating to other people we can learn about ourselves, as well. Initial sexual experiences range in their intensity, pleasure and impact, yet if we were to tell people that initiating sexual experiences with other people were a gateway to better self knowledge, better love and better pleasure then this would set the stage for a better overall experience of the sexual journey. Instead, however, we tell people that they have lost part of themselves to the sexual experience, that they have become bestial or unclean in some way. We tell people that the initial sexual experience is a loss rather than an opportunity, and that sets the stage for a sexual journey that is wracked with guilt and shame. It is in the details of the language that we use to discuss our sexuality that our negative attitude towards sexuality is ultimately revealed; the smallest words, the shortest phrases frame our underlying subconscious feelings about our sexuality, and so far they are not positive. So how can we tell people who are newly sexual active that they have not lost their virginity but instead have the opportunity to gain the world?