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The purpose of this study is to analyze and interpret what virginity loss means to young, cisgender women in present-day sexual culture. Based on qualitative interviews with 30 diverse college women, I found that virginity is a highly stigmatized identity. The stigmatization of virginity loss has been historically situated in regards to having sex before marriage; women faced backlash for not upholding virginal purity and for being too sexual. However, the shift to stigmatized virginity represents a radical change in sexual norms and culture; being labelled a virgin is often more stigmatized than being labelled a “slut.” In my analysis, I develop the concept of “masculinized intimacy” to examine how stigmatized virginity reflects the pervasive endorsement of masculinity and the fervent devaluation of femininity. Furthermore, I unpack the concept of “emotional virginity” in order to highlight how current sexual culture is denying women’s sexual desires by negating the value of feminized intimacy. I argue that contemporary sexual culture is not more liberating, nor more beneficial, to women now than in the past. Rather, there are new restrictions and pressures put on young women in regards to their sexual behavior. The guise of freedom and empowerment masks the deeply entrenched patriarchal roots of sexual culture and society at large.
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Corliss, Aja Renee, "I’d Rather Be a Slut: An Analysis of Stigmatized Virginity in Contemporary Sexual Culture" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 397.
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