Bill Clinton and others claim that oral sex is not sex. Much of our culture equates sex with sexual intercourse. I believe both Clinton and our culture are wrong.

Who is a virgin? Our culture says it is someone who has not yet had sexual intercourse. I reanalyzed a national Zogby poll (Roger Libby, The Naked Truth About Sex, 2006), For the youngest cohort, age 18 to 24, only .5% of the never-married women and 1% of the never-married men said they had not had sexual relations.

Are you a virgin if you’ve had oral sex to orgasm, but not had intercourse? Is this a “penetration virgin?” If the same meaning is there, how is one remaining a virgin? Isn’t this an excuse not to feel guilty? And what about religious groups who say you can start all over as a virgin even if you’ve had intercourse by swearing off future intercourse until marriage (a “secondary virgin”).

What if they are lesbian or gay? How would we define virginity for them? Why should we care if we are virgins or not? Why is virginity viewed as something to lose, rather than a gain of freedom? Why is sexual naiveté and inexperience seen as a higher moral value than someone who is a wild sexual enthusiast who enjoys sex for a variety of reasons, sometimes with more than one person?

Virginity is a state of mind more than a physical condition. The traditional definition focused on a girl’s hymen, a thin membrane inside her vagina that is broke by intercourse or riding a horse or other physical activity. In the past, virginity was a way to control female sexual pleasure to assure that girls were “protected” or pressured to refrain from intercourse until they were prepared to reproduce in marriage.

In the modern era, the only thing the vast majority of bridges and grooms lose on their honeymoon is their baggage! In his famous seventeenth century poem, “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” Robert Herrick advises young people to “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may….” Why feel guilty about intercourse more than other orgasmic sex acts?

Why should sex, primarily intercourse, be viewed as sinful or bad? Even some who are not devout use these distinctions to justify sex: “It was just a blowjob” and “he only went down on me” are rationalizations for orgasms that don’t make you feel guilty. Unless you are coercing or forcing sex, why feel guilty about it?

You don’t have to rationalize that it’s OK to be sexual as long as you are swept away by uncontrollable lust or love or if someone else gives you permission. It is better to “lose” your virginity than to lose your integrity. Be honest with yourself and your lovers.

Wouldn’t you prefer someone who is experienced rather than an inexperienced person who has no clue how to satisfy her or himself and you?