This article dissects the unconscious heterosexual bias our society has towards sex and virginity, offering a queer lens that encourages the breakdown of patriarchal, heteronormative binaries and narratives.
Squeeze: the act of getting into, or through, a narrow and restricted space. That’s the definition that good ol’ Dr Google gave me. Now, how many of you read that definition and instantly imagined a sexual act between a man and a woman? I know I did. But why specifically is it a heterosexual act that we envision when we hear such provoking words? Here’s my guess: the patriarchal context that society has been built upon.
The foundations of society were created with a man’s views and needs as the top priority, whereby sexual acts and desires have found no immunity from this. We are shown throughout a variety of art, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Netflix’s Bridgerton, that sex was something to be conducted on a couple’s wedding night for the purpose of creating the next generation, and anything other than this was shameful. Sex was seen as the duty of the woman to fulfil the pleasures and business of the man. But times have changed. Sex is now perceived as a pleasurable act, not merely a chore or a duty to be carried out. And sex is no longer viewed as a strictly heterosexual act… or so we think.
As a bisexual woman myself, I have somewhat struggled with the heterosexual context that virginity is placed within. I have had queer friends answer the question: “Did you lose your virginity?!” with a mediocre “Umm, kind of?” purely because the act was not performed with a man. I have often perceived the contradictory and juxtaposing reactions queer women face when stating that they have lost their virginity. They are received with a response of invalidation, claiming that they haven’t really lost their virginity based on some guy “not sticking it in her.” But also, they are received with a sense of desire. This desire can be seen within a whole range of movies that have presented women-loving women for the male gaze, hence fueling the male fetish. Still now, in 2023, queer women are constantly reminded of this patriarchal fetish. Being a bisexual woman, I have had many encounters, both in-person and on dating apps, where some men have discovered my sexuality and immediately suggested a threesome with another woman. My sexuality, in these instances, is viewed only as a fetish and source of desire for men, rather than as something real, valid, and a part of me and my identity. Even when viewing virginity through a heterosexual lens, women who are yet to lose their virginity are often seen as more desirable. Often so because they are seen as “untouched” and are therefore viewed as somewhat more “valuable” than women who have already had sex. This again reflects the view that society’s foundations were built on a woman’s virginity being some kind of “right” awarded to men.
There is a sense of humour in all this to me when I consider that when thought of objectively, “virginity” and “fetish” should be considered as opposite. One is a lack of sexual acts, whilst the other is very much of a sexual nature and drive. But yet, the two are often linked. I find further irony in the invalidation of women-loving women, yet also their sexual acts being a source of many male desires and fetishes. To me, these contrasts demonstrate that although society has moved beyond the bounds of a Pride and Prejudice arrangement, there is still more growth to be done. There are still excess patriarchal and heterosexual contexts and narratives surrounding sex and virginity that are yet to be fully squeezed out.