My parents expect me to be a virgin when I get married.  Can this be proven? Sophia, 20

Sophia, proving the virginity of daughters has been very important in cultures where a bride’s value was measured by her purity (rather than her sexual skills!)  It was important for these girls to be virgins to ensure that they were not pregnant by another man’s seed, thus causing their husband to  raise a child that was not genetically his.  

Displaying a blood-stained sheet from the wedding night has often been considered the standard proof.  And girl’s who did not produce the requisite blood could be murdered.  In the 19th century there were “professional” virgin prostitutes who used astringents to tighten their vaginas and inserted small fish bladders that were filled with blood to produce the requisite sensation.

These days if you have a broken hymen (the site that ruptures when a girl loses her virginity) a surgery called gynoplasty can repair the “damage.”  Considering that using tampons as well as participating in sports like bicycle riding and gymnastics can rupture a hymen, women in the Western world tend to regard virginity as a state of mind rather than a physical condition.  If you know in your heart of hearts that you are a virgin then for most intents and purposes you are!

If a girl has foreplay and a guy’s semen gets around her vaginal area will there be a chance for her to get pregnant if she is still a virgin?   Malvina, 18  

Yes Malvina that can happen.  Moreover infections such as herpes and crabs can be spread with skin-to-skin contact that does not include sexual intercourse.  As for pregnancy if a girl has become a bit wet, sperm that is deposited anywhere near her vaginal opening can certainly find it’s way through her intact hymen on into her uterus, up along her fallopian tubes and into a freshly ripened egg.  

If there are cultural reasons that you must remain a virgin before marrying, then pretty much no one will be be interested in considering that you are a pregnant technical virgin.  If such an unplanned pregnancy does occur, taking the abortion pill, RU-486 does enable a girl to slough off her pregnancy without disturbing her hymen.  To avoid pregnancy altogether, keep more of your clothes on or if you must get naked don’t let your boyfriend ejaculate anywhere near your vagina.

I had sex with my boyfriend when I was 16.  And now I am not with him.  Being Armenian, I feel so disgusting like no Armenian guy is going to want me.  What can I do about my negative thoughts?  Will I live the rest of my life with it haunting me? Armine, 17

Armine, fortunately for you, you live in a world that is no longer monolithic.  In your midst there are many beliefs...and many practices.  Moreover, Armenian culture in America is under rapid transformation.  While publicly single Armenian women are expected to present themselves as virgins, growing numbers are not.  My research reveals that they are as sexually active as white and Hispanic young women.  For many of them, their sexual exploration occurs with non-Armenians, thus leaving their reputations intact.  What seems to be different is that they don’t talk about it publicly (not even to their best friends) and that if they do become pregnant by accident they are much more likely than young Hispanic women to seek an abortion.  For them their reputations far override their religious beliefs.

And you?  You have several options.  You can live as many young Armenian women do and keep your loss of virginity a private matter.  If that feels too hypocritical you can spearhead the Armenian sexual revolution by publicly owning your past.  Finally, you can step aside from the Armenian mores of  virginity and endogamy (marrying one of your own) and become a 21st century metrosexual.  In the world of metrosexuality, your value would be as confident skilled erotic communicator rather than a chaste Armenian.  Ready?