Long ago if a woman was getting married, whether she was a virgin was never asked – it was expected. And while things have changed, the belief is still evident in many cultures, such as Catholicism, Judaism and Islam that a woman is supposed to be a virgin before marriage.
In some cultures, women are encouraged to be virgins and not “air their dirty laundry” in public – the dirty laundry being that they are not virgins. Father Allan Weber from the Catholic Student Center said, in Catholicism, abstinence before marriage is preferred. However, if the woman is not a virgin, then it’s not something detrimental to the relationship or marriage. Instead, Weber said, this is something the couple has to deal with themselves.
“As far as the couple goes (sex before marriage) is something they have to address themselves,” he said.
The Catholic Church prepares its followers for marriage. Before marriage, the couple is advised to have sessions with a priest in which they discuss such things as communication and sexuality.
“The questions that a couple responds to are meant to be a guided discussion about issues dealing with engagement and marriage,” Weber said.
Sexuality is something that is addressed in the Catholic Church.
“In general, the Catholic Church uses human sexuality as a gift from God,” Weber said. “It’s a gift that is intended to be used responsibly for the betterment of the couple and the betterment of society.”
While Catholicism views sexuality as a gift, not many other religions share this point of view.
In Islam, sex before marriage is unacceptable. Many Muslims are not allowed to date, therefore not giving males and females any “private” time together.
Rumana Rabbani, a sophomore from Bangladesh, was raised participating in Islamic traditions. She said sex before marriage is also cultural and based on morals and values.In Bangladesh, where the majority is of Islamic descent, a woman who is not a virgin suffers many consequences, some of which are more severe than others.
For example, Rabbani said that in Bangladesh, if it is revealed that a girl is not a virgin, she can be publicly humiliated, and the chances of her getting married after this are slim.
“At the point of marriage, if the girl’s future husband or his parents find out that she is not a virgin, then the marriage is canceled,” Rabbani said. “The view of any girl who is not a virgin is that she is a slut. You have to be a virgin before marriage.”Rabbani said it is very humiliating for the girl, as well as her parents, if it is exposed that she is not a virgin.
“If, after marriage, the husband finds out that the girl is not a virgin, the girl is returned to her parents,” she said. “This is very shameful to the parents of the girl and the guy’s family too.”Rabbani said that in the United States, customs are different among the Bengali people.
“Most of the Bengali people are Americanized,” she said. “A lot of the girls date, and the guys have sex with girls (before marriage).”
Rabbani said this is easier to do in the United States than it is in Bangladesh.
“In the U.S, the kids date but their parents don’t know,” she said. “When the parents find out that their daughter is not a virgin, then they are forced to cover it up to save their reputation and the reputation of the girl.”
And according to Rabbani, the only way a parent finds out if their child is not a virgin is if something drastic happens – like their daughter getting pregnant. Other than that, most sexual experiences are concealed by both males and females.
Unlike Islam, in Judaism there are many different viewpoints. According to Nicky Spivak, director for the Hillel Foundation USF, the liberal Jews and the Orthodox Jews adhere to the laws of Judaism differently.
“In Orthodox Judaism, the general practice is that there is not touching of the opposite sex prior to being wed,” Spivak said. “In celebrations men dance with men and women dance with women. And even when they date, they are chaperoned.”
Therefore, in Orthodox Judaism, there are few, if any, chances for a male and female to have sex.
But according to Spivak, the liberal Jews adapt the laws of Judaism into modern times and there are no consequences if a person is not a virgin before marriage.
As for an unwed woman or man who is not a virgin in Orthodox Judaism, Spivak said that chances are very rare.
“I am not sure if that is going to be known,” he said. ” The chances are minuscule unless someone goes from liberal to orthodox.”