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A woman's purity certificate went viral. Time to talk about that whole 'virginity' thing.

The conversation about virginity doesn't seem to go away. So let's set the record straight.

A woman's purity certificate went viral. Time to talk about that whole 'virginity' thing.

Are you a virgin?

Sure, the question might seem simple at first glance...

Nope. Not so fast.


When we dig into what "virginity" really means, it gets a little more complicated.

Just like this photo that went viral. Check it out: Just a young woman in a wedding dress beaming as she stands next to her father on her big day.

Nope. Not so fast. Take a closer look...


Image via ABC News/YouTube.

They're both holding a "Certificate of Purity" from her doctor.

Now, I'm not here to knock the fact that Brelyn Bowman had a goal that was important to her that she achieved. But there is something messed up about the, um, measurement of that goal.

Here's the thing: It's impossible to "prove" someone is a virgin using a hymen test.

The basis for Bowman's test was whether her hymen — a membrane in the vaginal canal — was still intact. While the test worked for her, it has long been debunked as a useful tool to determine whether someone has engaged in sex.

There are two big issues here: First, not all hymens are created equal. Some people are born with hymens that are not intact. And, second, even if someone is born with it intact, the hymen can tear due to a variety of nonsexual activities, like horseback riding or gymnastics.


Quick! Someone tell her to get off that horse or it'll render all obsolete virginity tests useless! Photo by richard266/pixabay.

OK, so if the hymen test doesn't work. What does?

Wait! Back that horse up because we're putting it before the cart.

There's no set definition for virginity. People commonly say that a virgin is someone who has never had sex. But what counts as sex?

Does oral sex count? Anal intercourse? Conventionally, people have tended to believe that only penis-in-vagina intercourse counts. But then ... are gay people always virgins? What about people who engage in other sexual contact?

I wouldn't blame you if you're scratching your head right now because it all seems pretty complicated and confusing.

It's hard to parse it all because virginity isn't a biological state. It's a social construct.



Think about it: The valuation of virginity is only targeted toward women.

There's no test for people without vaginas.

That's because virginity and sexual purity emerged way back in ye olden times as a way to control women's behavior. And we see that in all the sexual double standards we have between men and women.

See what I mean? GIF from "How To Lose Your Virginity."

In spite of the fact that virginity can't be proven, it's still used as a way to measure a woman's so-called "purity."

Look at the phenomenon of purity balls: A girl's "sanctity" is promised to a male protector (father) until it's (presumably) handed off to a male spouse. (The possibility that the young woman won't be with a man or ever get married? IMPOSSIBLE.)


Fathers and daughters dance during a purity ball. Image via ABC News/YouTube.

There's nothing wrong with choosing to wait to have sex. But let's make sure we provide young people with fact-based information to help them make that decision.

Providing comprehensive sex education, which would explain that a hymen test isn't an accurate test of virginity, could be a great start. Comparing people who have multiple sexual partners to chewed gum doesn't provide the proper foundation to make a fully informed decision.

A Harvard study revealed that abstinence-only education does not make a student less likely to engage in premarital sex. They're just as likely to have it, but less likely to use contraception the first time. You know what actually helps students delay sex (and use contraception to boot)? Comprehensive sex ed education.

Behold, the power of accurate knowledge!

The whole notion that a woman's "purity" — and thus her value — is tied to whether she has had sex or not is just plain wrong.

As Jessica Valenti, author of "The Purity Myth," says:

The purity myth is the lie that women's sexuality has some bearing on who we are and how good we are. Because, really, I think that we all know that young women are so much more than whether or not they have sex.

We really should be teaching our daughters that our ability to be good people is based on their intelligence, their compassion, their kindness — not what they do with their bodies.

I'm not judging Bowman for her decision.

Instead, I'm aiming my judgment at a society that perpetuates misinformation about sex and our bodies.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.