12 Dec 2018

Are we still talking about this? Myths and nonsense about virginity worldwide

Virginity, some news websites would have you believe, is a near-mystical trait which manifests itself in women’s noses, cheeks, earlobes, and foreheads and even in the way they walk. 

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Biljana Livančić-Milić NewsMavens, Europe
Are we still talking about this? Myths and nonsense about virginity worldwide - NewsMavens
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In the spring of 2018, several online news sites in the Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian language published an article titled “7 Signs of Women Who are Not Virgins (They Can't Lie to You Anymore)”, with the oldest version found here. Since then, the story was shared multiple times through social media and many clickbait websites.


The article claimed that by observing a woman’s forehead, nose, breasts, fingers, eyes, ears, and lips, you could know if she has ever had sex or not:

NOSE -- If you touch nose of a virgin woman, believe it or not, her nose will look red. This redness disappears after sexual intercourse. With this method you can't always be sure.

FOREHEAD -- It usually looks smooth in girls who are virgins. After they have intercourse, small lines appear.

BREASTS -- upright and firm in girls who are virgins, the other ones have more relaxed and bigger breasts. Women who gave birth have sagging breasts

EARS -- Girls who are virgins, their earlobes are upright and firm.

The most likely source of the article in Bosnian is a YouTube video read by ‎TTSReader (text to speech reader), titled 10 Signs of Women Who are Not Virgin (They Can't Lie to You Anymore). The video, uploaded in 08/2017, probably originated from somewhere in the Indian subcontinent. Since then it has accumulated more than 3.8 million views. In the description of the video, it says that women can “receive lower ratings from some people if they are not virgins”.

We traced the origin of this collection of nonsense to Indonesia in a 2010 article written in Malayan. In a search for the original source, we found many articles in the English language with similar claims in Nigeria, India, and the Philippines.

Myths about "signs of virginity" across Europe

Curious if the same narrative had appeared elsewhere in Europe, we used Google Translate to translate keywords such as “signs + woman + virgin + mentioned body parts” in many languages spoken in Europe -- German, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Danish, Norwegian, Belarussian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Icelandic, Czech, Slovak, Latvian, Ukrainian, Italian, French and Spanish. The articles with an Indonesian background, and naming some of the same body parts as “signs of virginity”, surfaced in Poland and Russia.

In Polish, we came across an article “8 differences between a virgin and a used girl. How do you recognize a tease?”, published on the user generated website “Bezux.pl” in January 2018.  

Hands: Worn girls have veiny palms covered with hard skin. Such is the price of entering the world of sex and bodily pleasures

Buttocks: Flabby, sloping buttocks are a characteristic feature of girls who have already done it.

In Russian, we found several of these articles, published on at least three anonymous sites, two of which described themselves as “women’s web journals” (Zerkalo, DirteamSpletnitsi, etc). There were also several examples of claims that virgins dress, talk or behave differently from young women who have had sex. For example in a blog post “How to identify a virgin?”, Igor Lapin, who runs a “school of male success” claims that “an experienced pick up artist, as a rule, will easily notice if a girl is a virgin”, by whether or not her appearance has “bloomed”, or if she “looks you in the eyes” during a conversation. Similar “How to identify a virgin” articles appear in Ukrainian as well.

In both Polish and Russian, we also found articles where all these claims were mocked and ridiculed -- as is the case with comments on the Youtube video mentioned above.

We also had results returned in French and Spanish, but the content was published mostly in Senegal when it appears in French; and Mexico, and the Dominican Republic for Spanish results.

Even though the initial story hasn’t spread in all the languages we searched, there was a considerable amount of articles across the globe about how “losing virginity” fundamentally changes women -- the way they laugh, walk, sit, stand, how “happy” they are, etc.


None of these claims are based in any facts. Virginity is not much more than a social construct, primarily applied to women and grounded in sexual taboos. The change in social status which comes with “losing virginity” is a purely cultural thing, unrelatable to any physical manifestations. Judging by the comments on most of these articles and videos, this is also very clear to most of the people who read it.

However, the very fact that these texts and videos gain attention and additional distribution -- global, even -- are problematic. For teenagers in countries with little or no sex education and a conservative environment where sexuality is taboo, such narratives may be particularly confusing. Inciting young men to look for “signs of virginity” is just a step away from explicitly “rating” young women based on their sexual history. And that’s as far from a healthy and educated attitude about sex as you can get.


All these claims are entirely inaccurate, which earns them the fake news rating. Claims that “virginity” can be manifested in someone’s physique is also an example of pseudoscience one, and at the same time one which encourages sexual objectification of women and girls.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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