Virgin births are claimed by 0.5 percent of pregnant US women, or one in every 200. A 14-year national survey, conducted between 1995 and 2009, discovered that several respondents denied having sex — despite being pregnant and giving birth. No, these women did not get pregnant by in vitro fertilization. The researchers behind the study say this finding was purely anecdotal.
Virgin birth, known scientifically as asexual reproduction, is known to happen among very few animals. So, what is happening exactly? Why did 45 of the 5,340 pregnant women surveyed claim to still be virgins? Unlike the event celebrated by Christians next week, these women do not seem to be divinely influenced.
Perhaps an answer is found in the characteristics of these 45 women. Researchers found that those who claimed virgin birth tended to share similar qualities. The average age of these women was around 19 at the time of pregnancy, compared to the average age of 22 for the rest of the group.
The women claiming virginity were also twice as likely as the others to have taken an abstinence pledge. Such pledges have grown in popularity in recent times, especially among conservative groups. The mothers of these women were also found to be more likely to say they find it stressful to talk about sex with their children if they discussed it at all.
What does this mean? Some of the women, coming from conservative backgrounds, may have been too embarrassed to admit they’d had sex. However, researchers say it is more likely that their virgin birth claims may have come from a lack of reproductive knowledge. A mixture of myths, like ones about toilet seats and swimming pools, are still surprisingly common and could play a role.
It’s also possible these women had differing views of what it means to “lose virginity.” Researchers refer to a study found that one in 10 college students did not consider penis/vagina intercourse with orgasm as having sex. Surprisingly perhaps, but believe it or not, there is no medical definition of “virginity” — it is a cultural construction that varies wildly.
The researchers conclude that reports of virgin births, even at only 0.5 percent, shows a deficiency in sexual education is still an issue in the United States.
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