How does the Church define Virginity?

For women, is virginity the absence of any experience of sexual intercourse or is it more rigid and the absence of any and all experiences of lust? I thought I had saved myself for marriage until I read something that made me question that notion. I did fall into lust before I was married but I drew a strong line when it came to sex before marriage. I, of course, confessed those sins (and feel incredibly foolish for falling into them), but I’m wondering now if I may have unknowingly lost my virginity before the marriage. I read the Catholic encyclopedia but it doesn’t go into enough detail to answer my question.

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There are different definitions of virginity. One is the state of never having had intercourse. My favorite is the one Pope St. John Paul ll used. Virginity is sexual integration, that is, the proper intellectual and volitional view of sexuality.

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Modern Catholic Dictionary:

VIRGINITY. The state of bodily integrity in either sex. This integrity may be physical or moral, and either factual or intentional. Physical virginity is sometimes defined as the absence of any sinfully experienced lustful sensation. But, strictly speaking, a person is physically a virgin unless he or she has had sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. Moral virginity means the absence of any willful consent to venereal pleasure; again, strictly speaking, with a person of the opposite sex. Virginity is factual when, de facto, a person has not in the past sought or indulged in sexual pleasure; it is intentional when a person intends never to experience such pleasure, according to the previous distinctions made. (Etym. Latin virgo , maiden, virgin.)

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So, It sounds like I was half a virgin when I got married. :cry:

Secular definitions apparently don’t match up with Church definitions. Maybe this thread can at least serve as a cautionary tale for faithful Catholics who think makeout sessions before marriage are okay. Just because it’s in a PG movie doesn’t make it moral.

Sins of the mind can be repented and moral virginity recovered. Sins or actions (e.g. lawful intercourse between husband and wife) involving consented venereal pleasure (including unnatural ones) that involves mind + touch destroy virginity forever.

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As said above, there are various definitions… but really the title Virgin in the formal sense is only ever given to holy, chaste women who remained physical virgins their entire lives.

I understand that. But I thought I could rightfully state that I saved myself for marriage. But I guess that is wrong.

While being a virgin is admirable for marriage, we don’t “give” our virginity to our spouse. Nor is it a Catholic notion to “save ourselves” for our prospective spouse. Virginity isn’t something you “hand over”. It is an accidental state to the person.

The virtue of virginity consists not only of the absence of venereal pleasure, but the will to remain virginal for the remainder of life. Obviously, a person intending to get married usually loses the virtue of virginity (if they had it to begin with) because he/she is willing to give up control over his/her own body to the other, but does not lose the virtue of chastity. Note that someone who simply wants to be a virgin (as required by the virtue of chastity for singles) until marriage does not possess the virtue of virginity but simply chastity because the will to remain a virgin for life for the sake of the kingdom is not present.


Thank you for clarifying this.

There are a lot of fetishes in this area, and many are fueled by Protestant notions. Catholics don’t remain in a virginal state in order to be virgins for their human spouse. Single Catholics remain continent (whether they are virgins or not) because this is God’s will for them and they are obeying the commandments out of love for Him. Marriage, thank goodness, is about the mutual surrender of the right to acts apt for the generation of children to the spouse. It is not about whether the fiancees are virgins, widows, or non-virgins.

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Yes, I have little patience for Catholic men who demand a physically virgin bride. We should believe in the power of the confessional.

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As long as there is no STDs to worry about, men are not ready for marriage if they can’t get over jealousy or insecurity in this area. And sin is not the only way virginity is lost. Think of the chaste widow/widower. And personally, if I had the vocation of marriage, I would never marry a person who put virginity above a person. A person who actually loves a person loves them as a person. For a lot of “I only want a virgin” men, this is a method of objectifying the woman rather than simply not wanting possible baggage. Often, these are the same guys who heavily objectify women by porn addiction.


I may be wrong, but the criteria to be a consecrated virgin is a woman who did not have sex willingly.

We aren’t talking about consecrated virgins or the requirements for becoming one; we are discussing virginity in general.

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I don’t think making out counts.

Many times in the writings of the early church fathers, a woman/older girl is mentioned as virgin if she is not/has not been married. Also in the calendar for example “St Agnes, virgin and martyr” is Jan 21st.

I think you’re over thinking this.

You’re married now.

Let the past go.


Yeah… gotta say I never heard of someone losing virginity, moral or otherwise, by making out.

I have heard, for example, that you don’t really morally maintain virginity if you, for example, have oral sex. But making out? Probably a bad idea, but doesn’t constitute “losing virginity”. As far as I’m concerned.

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The Church celebrates virgins who possessed the virtue of virginity. Some virgins were married but remained virgins. The prime example is the Blessed Virgin Mary who was married to a guy named St. Joseph.


Yes, but if they consider a woman who has engaged in sexual sin (eg making out) a virgin, then it makes sense to say that it would be the same for a general definition of a virgin.

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