There – you did it! You and your partner decided to share a bit about your sexual histories and feel like you know each other a little better. But do you really?
Whether seeking to learn about one’s sexual health risks, hoping to gain a better understanding of another’s sexual agenda, or longing to simply feel closer, lovers may actually be speaking different languages in having those tough sex talks. This is because key words are often defined in very different ways.
If, for example, a potential sexual partner claims, “I’m a virgin,” what does it mean to that person to be a “virgin”? It may be far from typical dictionary definitions, like those in Merriam Webster’s, which capture the term as one who has been “absolutely chaste” or who “has not had sexual intercourse.”
I remember a story one of my graduate school professors shared as a case in point. He recounted a research study that had been administered to high school girls in the West Philly area. When participants answered the question, “Are you a virgin?” a number confirmed that they were. Yet later in the questionnaire, when asked, “Have you ever had anal sex?” many of these same girls checked the box marked “Yes.” To them, losing one’s virginity was only about having had vaginal-penile intercourse.