Certain fans have a lot of feelings about Miley Cyrus' quote about virginity being a social construct. And not in a good way. It all started with Cyrus' "Mother's Daughter" video that originally came out on July 2. If any of you were paying close attention, there's a particularly graphic part of the video in which "VIRGINITY IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT" seems to be stitched in white onto black fabric below a red plastic vulva cradled by red plastic hands.
Cyrus shared a still of that moment in the video on Instagram on July 9, a week after the video's release. And let's just say fans weren't exactly here for it.
"Basic biology," one of Cyrus' commenters began. "Why is science being attacked everyday by these celebrities.. who’ll win? a science book or a Miley Cyrus post with a billion likes?"
Another chimed in, "What? That's like saying puberty or menstration [sic] is a social contract. They're physical things, they involve physical changes. The strange stigmas people place on them are certainly through social constructs, but virginity itself is not. The 'value' we place on it is."
For those of you who aren't familiar with what Cyrus means by virginity being a social construct, allow me to explain. Merriam Webster defines a social construct as "an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society." For example, race is a social construct because of the way people have decided who counts as "white," "brown," "black," and so on. It's subjective.
So, does virginity count as a social construct? Well, according to Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of SiriusXM’s Sex With Emily, it most definitely is. In fact, she even wrote an entire article titled, "VIRGINITY: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT." Within the article, she explained that the first clue that virginity is a social construct is that the definition for what typically constitutes as "losing it" is not broad enough.
"First and foremost, the typical definition of losing your virginity, is penetrative sex between a penis and a vagina," she wrote. "So what if your sex doesn’t involve a penis? Or a vagina? Does that mean you’ll be a virgin forever? No, it doesn’t." She also added that the same limitations go for people who have oral sex, but not penetrative sex. Does having oral count as losing your virginity? There's no real right or wrong answer to that question.
Additionally, Morse highlighted a point Cyrus is most likely trying to drive home with her posts in that the entire concept of virginity has historically been used to oppress women. "When it comes to losing your v-card, society has long decided that, for women, it is a valuable thing that should be treasured and only be given to the love of your life," she explained. Once it’s gone, your value has somehow depreciated. And, the more sex you have, the more your value goes down (a.k.a. slut-shaming)."
Of course, Morse noted that the sexism tied to the concept of virginity works both ways. She explained that while women are pressured to remain "virgins" (whatever that means), men are often pressured to have sex.
So, that's what Cyrus means. It's a fascinating subject — and it's awesome that Cyrus has sparked a conversation around it.