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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Defloration is the act of taking the virginity of a woman or girl.

The act of losing one's virginity, that is, of a first sexual experience, is commonly considered within Western culture to be an important life event and a rite of passage. It is highlighted by many mainstream Western movies (particularly films aimed at a teenaged audience). The loss of virginity can be viewed as a milestone to be proud of or as a failure to be ashamed of, depending on cultural perceptions. Historically, these perceptions were heavily influenced by perceived gender roles, such that for a male the association was more often with pride and for a female the association was more often with shame.

In human females, the hymen is a membrane, part of the vulva, which partially occludes the entrance to the vagina, and which stretches, or is sometimes torn, when the woman first engages in sexual intercourse. The human hymen can vary widely in thickness, shape, and flexibility. Throughout history, the presence of an intact membrane has been seen by some as physical evidence of virginity in the broader technical sense, though the hymen can be easily broken by other means.

In the majority of women, the hymen is sufficiently vestigial as to pose no obstruction to the entryway of the vagina. The presence of a broken hymen may therefore indicate that the vagina has been penetrated but also that it was broken via physical activity or the use of a tampon or dildo. Many women possess such thin, fragile hymens, easily stretched and already perforated at birth, that the hymen can be broken, or merely disappear, in childhood, without the woman even being aware of it.

In contrast to the common cases of an absent or partial hymen, in rare cases a woman may possess an imperforate hymen, such as prevents the release of menstrual discharge. A surgical procedure known as hymenotomy, which creates an opening in the hymen, is sometimes required to avert deleterious health effects. The playwright Ben Jonson claimed that Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen, had a "membranum" that made her "incapable of Man", and that a friend of hers, a "chirurgeon", had offered to remedy the problem with his scalpel and that Elizabeth had demurred.

The presence of a hymen is a possible indication, but no guarantee, of virginity, given that it is speculated that some degree of sexual activity may occur without rupturing the hymen and because there may exist varying definitions as to the type and extent of sexual activity that is required to terminate the state of "virginity". This is further complicated by the availability of hymenorrhaphy surgical procedures to repair or replace the hymen. (This procedure is more common in countries where virginity is greatly prized, as in the Middle East.)

In males, there is no physically visible indicator of virginity.

In some countries until the late 20th century, if a man did not marry a woman whose virginity he had taken, the woman was allowed to sue the man for money, in some languages named "wreath money". Emphasizing the monetary value of female virginity, some women have offered their virginity for sale. In 2008, Italian model Raffella Fico, then 20 years old, offered her virginity for 1 million Euros.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Defloration" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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