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A virgin is a person (especially a female) who has not yet had sexual intercourse .

Originally, the term was used similarly to Maid or Fräulein for a young and unmarried (therefore presumably virgin) woman, initially by the nobility, then also by the bourgeoisie . As a term for a young girl or an unmarried woman, however, the term is now considered out of date.

" Jungfer " is derived from this as a form of address for female domestic staff (such as chambermaid ). The male counter-term to the virgin is the youth or bachelor . The importance of virginity (professional and educational terminology also virginity ) in a marriage that with the consummation of the marriage legitimized and by the nuptials was accompanied ceremonial partly declined since the Middle Ages to the part of the 19th century in European culture. Until the end of the 1990s, virginity was the subject of German case law. In patriarchal societies in particular , the valuation of virginity - in addition to the degree of polygyny and competition for dowry  - plays a role and leads to a culture-specific lowering of the age of marriage up to and including child marriage .

Word history and neighboring terms

The word virgin comes from the Middle High German juncfrou (we) or Old High German juncfrouwa and referred to a young mistress or a noble lady . According to Wolfgang Pfeifer , the word was also used by transferring the honorable designation of the Virgin Mary venerated as the Mother of God and represents an equivalent for Latin virgo and a synonym for Middle High German maget ( maid ). Later it became generally "young, sexually untouched girl". As virginal for 'untouched, pure, fresh', mhd. Juncvrouwelich , a bachelor for 'unmarried man' was also referred to, in the 15th century an unmarried 'young craftsperson', since the 16th century generally for 'unmarried (young) man' .

Corresponding words for men are rarely used in the German language today, or if they are rather derogatory or ironic for “immaturity”. Until the 19th century, the term youth (also Junker ) was used to describe male chastity (but also poor beard growth). For example, at this time youth and virgin associations were formed , which still have successor organizations today (see also chastity movement ). The term Hagestolz , which describes older bachelors, has also become rare . Male virginity is sometimes referred to by the English word virgin . The corresponding word for sexually inexperienced youths or men in Japanese-speaking countries is dōtei .

Importance in culture and law

Vestal Virgins remained virgins in ancient Rome during their entire priesthood of 30 years
Painting by Frederic Leighton († 1896)

The virginity of the bride was very important in the Middle Ages. In general, historical research refers to the formative influence of the church. Thus, in the papal decretal Aliter (1140) and thus in canon law on marriage was stipulated:

"How a true real wife should be: a chaste virgin, betrothed in virginity and endowed according to the law."

Ethnographically , however, there is speculation about other factors, such as the parental exchange of goods and the bride price . Virginality thus increased the bride's value.

Sigmund Freud wrote in his essays on sex theory in 1908:

“Few details of the sexual life of primitive peoples are as strange as their assessment of virginity, of feminine virginity. To us the valuation of virginity on the part of the advertising man seems so fixed and self-evident that we are almost embarrassed if we are to justify this judgment. The demand that the girl should not bring the memory of sexual intercourse with another into the marriage with one man is nothing but the consistent continuation of the exclusive right of possession to the woman, which constitutes the right to monogamy, the extension of this monopoly to the Past."

- Sigmund Freud in The Taboo of Virginity :

The virginity of a woman is very important in patriarchal societies and was often considered a condition for her marriage . This is still the case today in many cultures, for example with arranged marriages . If an unmarried woman was no longer a virgin at the wedding and this was known, she could be forced to be led to the altar instead of the virgin wreath (made of myrtle ) without a wreath or, to her shame, with a wreath made of straw. So everyone could see that she had lived unchaste.

Until the 20th century in Europe, the virginity of the woman was protected legally before marriage: men, her fiance deflowered, then but not married, threatened in Germany by § 1300 of the Civil Code, the payment of a so-called ring money . An innocent fiancé should be awarded “compensation for pain and suffering” for the reduced chances on the marriage market as a result of the loss of her virginity, because because of the promise of marriage she only allowed the fiancé to live with him in confidence that the marriage would be entered into. As the social isolation (no longer the possibility of getting married, disadvantages for single women and the reputation of shame) decreased, which had previously led to the social decline of women, this legal protection was gradually reduced and finally no longer applied. The last judgments date from the early 1970s and each awarded a few DM 100 in damages. In 1998, Section 1300 of the German Civil Code was deleted without replacement.

Determination of virginity

The presence of an undamaged hymen or its tearing during the first sexual intercourse is often seen as evidence of virginity. However, more than half of all women have no bleeding during their first sexual intercourse and the hymen is not damaged. It is therefore not suitable for determining virginity.

From a legal point of view, the medical establishment of the intactness of the hymen is often equated with virginity in court proceedings, and it is therefore assumed that sexual intercourse could not have taken place. The lack of medical findings that indicate penetration is - contrary to popular opinion - not a sure sign for or against virginity, since the hymen is not necessarily injured during the first sexual intercourse or it heals completely again. Only in rare cases can it have already been damaged by penetrating accidental injuries, but not by tampons, sport, doing splits or the like. There is no congenital lack of the hymen - except for complex malformations of the urinary and genital system.

In order to be able to provide an alleged “proof of virginity” before a wedding, the woman can have a hymenal reconstruction carried out beforehand . Particularly in European countries with a high proportion of Muslims such as France, a higher rate of these surgical measures is recorded. Some also released with a so-called "virginity certificate" for their families and future spouses. In the Netherlands, Hymen has its own educational brochure on this subject. Verina Wild from the Ethics Center of the University of Zurich referred to increasing demand in Germany and Switzerland in Deutsches Ärzteblatt (volume 106, p. C284). 90 percent of those who want the operation are young Turkish women. She advocates weighing up the individual needs of women as well as social and cultural problems.

Importance in religions


In the Babylonian culture, the goddess Ishtar was considered a virgin and a prostitute at the same time. The temple priestesses were considered virgins, even if they already had several children. These children were called the "virgin-born". The rating as temple prostitution is now largely out of date.

Greece and Rome

Replica of the virgin Athena in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

In Greek mythology , the goddesses Athena , Artemis and Hestia are virgins, Athene even by name: Athena Parthénos . According to Mithraistic tradition, the god Mithras was born of a virgin.

In ancient Rome, virginity was religiously protected and valued highly. The duty of the Vestals to live virginally during their priesthood was unique; the priests of all other indigenous Greek and Roman cults were not affected by such restrictions.


Hinduism also regards virginity as a high value, but does not place its violation under religiously justified punishments, as can occur in societies characterized by Islam.


In Judaism, sexual intercourse is generally not viewed as dirty, disreputable, or undesirable. The sex life in marriage is much more than a mitzvah , that is, a positive commandment.

Orthodox religious Jewish law contains interpretations, generally also for the protection of virgins, with regard to consensual and non-consensual premarital intercourse . The direction of action of this legal culture argues that sexual intercourse should not be rejected, but still remain part of a holistic moral life. The Torah also contains legal texts that deal with engagement , marriage and divorce , some of which refer to virginity ( Deuteronomy 22).

Although there are legal provisions for sexual intercourse outside of marriage, in the sense of a Pilegesch , these are rarely used because, among other things, the emphasis on the value of marriage applies and famous rabbis such as B. Maimonides opposed this.

In numerous currents of Judaism, such as Reform Judaism , Conservative Judaism or Reconstructionism , premarital intercourse is not encouraged, but neither is it ignored or condemned. The respective legal provisions that deal with sexuality remain in effect. In more orthodox currents, such as the Hasidim , intercourse before marriage can be unusual. Religious practice includes weddings or young adult marriages arranged through a Schadchen (marriage broker).

Examples from Torah and the Bible

Virginity appears for the first time in the Torah, in the Book of Genesis , where it is reported that Eliezer is looking for a wife for his master's son. He meets Rebekah at the well: Now the maiden was very beautiful to look at; a virgin no man had yet recognized. ( Gen 24.16  EU ). The book of Genesis also reports that Israel's (= Jacob's ) only daughter Dina is raped. Virginity is a recurring motif; In prophetic poetry, the people of Israel is symbolized variously as the “virgin daughter”.

One passage in the book of the prophet Isaiah is translated and interpreted differently by Judaism and Christianity:

"That is why the Lord will give you a sign of his own accord: Look, the virgin will conceive a child, she will give birth to a son and she will give him the name Immanuel (God with us)."

- ( Isa 7.14  EU )

The word in the original Hebrew text describes a woman who has not yet given birth. The question of whether the latest from the middle of the 2nd century BC According to Peter Stuhlmacher , the Greek translation of “alma” in 7.14 EU with Παρθένος (Parthénos) already presupposes the idea of ​​a virgin birth of the Messiah, remains “unanswerable” according to Peter Stuhlmacher, since the Septuagint Παρθ imνος archaic as in early Greek as a young girl or young woman could understand. There was nothing unusual about the prophet Isaiah's announcement that “a young woman” would conceive and give birth to a son.

The New Testament uses the word Parthenos , and the Gospels assume the virginity of Mary at the birth of her son Jesus of Nazareth .

“All this happened so that what the Lord said through the prophet could come true: Look, the virgin will conceive a child, she will give birth to a son, and he will be given the name Immanuel, which means: God is with us."

- ( Mt 1,22-23  EU )


The Virgin Mary , detail of a painting by Giorgione

The virgin birth , that is, the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit and his birth by the Virgin Mary , has been a creed of Christianity in all three early church creeds since the 2nd century . According to the Bible , Mary , mother of Jesus Christ, did not conceive her child through the act of a man, but from the Holy Spirit. That is why Mary is also called the Holy or Blessed Virgin.

In Christianity, in imitation of the way of life of Jesus Christ, there is the state of celibacy or virginity “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches know the rite of the consecration of a virgin , which can be donated to women living in the world as well as to nuns .

Many churches teach that sexual intercourse only between marriage partners morally permitted and should be called chaste. However, virginity was never considered a mandatory requirement for marriage. Several church fathers praise men who are willing to marry a former prostitute and thus to free themselves from this "dishonor".


Virginity is highly regarded in the Koran, the Koran forbids extramarital sexual intercourse in sura 17 , 32. However, Islam also knows the separation of a marriage and remarriage (and in Shi'a even time marriages , which are only valid for cohabitation) and recognizes that virginity does not have to exist in the event of remarriage.

In Islamic societies, a young man is recommended to marry a virgin, but this does not have to be absolutely necessary, since even the Prophet Mohammed took a divorced wife as his first consort. Both young women and young men are required to abstain from marriage.

For Muslim brides, it can become a problem if, after no bleeding on the wedding night, it is assumed that the bride had premarital intercourse.


  • Anke Bernau: The Jungfrau Myth. The cultural history of female innocence . Parthas Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86601-062-8 .
  • Giulia Sissa : Le corps virginal. La virginité féminine en Grèce ancienne. (= Études de psychologie et de philosophie. 22). Vrin, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-7116-0934-0 .

Web links

Commons : Virgo  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Virgo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jungfrau in, accessed on November 5, 2016.
  2. U. Mueller, B. Nauck, Andreas Diekmann: Handbook of Demography 1: Models and Methods. Springer-Verlag, 2013, p. 401. ( online in Google books)
  3. Jungfrau in DWDS , accessed on November 5, 2016.
  4. Jüngling ,, accessed on November 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Brockhaus, Mannheim 2004, Jungfrau
  6. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica. London 2004, virgin
  7. Jörg Wettläufer: The gentlemen's right of the first night: marriage, rule and marriage interest in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period. Campus 1999, p. 88.
  8. Sigmund Freud: Collected works on sexuality. Google Books
  9. J. McCann, A. Rosas, S. Boos: Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse). In: Jason Payne-James, Anthony Busuttil , William Smock (Eds.): Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects . Greenwich Medical Media, London 2003, p. 460.
  10. B. Herrmann, R. Dettmeyer, S. Banaschak, U. Thyen: Child abuse. Medical diagnostics, intervention and legal basics. 2., revised. Edition. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin / New York 2010, pp. 113–151.
  11. ^ R. Kaplan et al.: Medical response to child sexual abuse. A resource for professionals working with children and families . STM Learning, St. Louis 2011, pp. 117-145.
  12. Martina Lenzen-Schulte: Risky manipulations. from June 5, 2009, accessed on November 6, 2016.
  13. a b Biblical Theology of the New Testament
  14. Martina Lenzen-Schulte: Risky manipulations. from June 5, 2009, accessed on November 6, 2016.