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Illustration by Davit Jintcharadze

Evolution of Virginity as a Virtue in Georgia

The changing nature of different perceptions of sexual experiences and virginity throughout the history of Georgia.

Mar 16, 2019

Being open about sex and virginity is often a cornerstone for a healthy relationship. The degree of openness, however, varies in each country, and my home, the Republic of Georgia, is no exception.
Virginity is an important aspect of one’s identity in most countries and cultures across the world, and in many countries virginity is still a constantly evolving phenomenon.
The Republic of Georgia is one country where western influence meets the Byzantine-influenced, South-Eastern culture. This mixture of the two cultures influenced many aspects of ideology, including the way we, Georgians, viewed and continue to view and understand virginity.
What has virginity historically meant in Georgia? In the 4th Century, the country accepted Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity played an important role in the daily lives of Georgians. Consequently, the Eastern Orthodox view of virginity was accepted in Georgia as a value.
According to the Orthodox faith, virginity is a virtue. Both men and women are expected to remain celibate until marriage according to doctrine. However, the Georgian perception of virginity is more complex than only looking at it through the lens of Christianity.
Within different regions of Georgia, local culture and the view on virginity varied drastically. What was the case in populated areas, would not have been accepted in the country’s more rural regions. Mountainous parts of Georgia represent an interesting view of the virginity issue. Not many people, including Georgians themselves, know that in mountainous regions of the country, an ancient tradition actually prescribed an erotic expression of love before marriage. This tradition called “tsatsloba” was designed in order to familiarize two growing teenagers with the concept of erotic love. It was usual for two teenagers to spend a night together, talking and engaging in erotic activity, without having intercourse. That way, they still preserved their virginity, but were also encouraged to explore their sexuality.
But how have these views change over centuries?
Virginity in modern Georgia is constantly reevaluated in the minds of a rapidly developing society. It is not always as beautiful of an experience as spending a night in the mountains with a partner; sometimes Georgian youngsters are exposed to less romantic ways of “getting experience.”
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new “tradition” which had nothing to do with country’s Pagan and Orthodox values emerged.
Up until recently, I heard a lot of stories from Georgian neighborhoods, saying that an uncle of a 13-year-old boy took him to a brothel in order to get some sexual experience with a prostitute. This was not a rather unheard story, but something that was somewhat accepted by the society in case of a male having sex even at early age. In the minds of some family members, this is a rite of adulthood that only boys should be exposed to. For many boys, their first experience of sexual intercourse is indeed a night with a sex-worker.
At the same time, females are expected to keep their virginities until marriage. Some parts of society are extremely demanding of this requirement, going as far as not accepting a non-virgin wife into a household. Of course, this hypocrisy has little to do with the Christian values of the country, as well as the tradition or its historical rite.
As a response to the virginity demands, a hymen repair surgery became extremely popular in modern Georgia. The procedure promises to restore the physical aspect of virginity, thus restoring the reputation of a woman as “pure.” Ignored, however, is the aspect of values and virtue of virginity – the promise to keep oneself “pure” for one’s husband cannot be restored via surgery. Rather, it is a way around the society’s hypocritical attitude – if females are expected to be virgins, why are males encouraged to get “pre-marriage experience” and don’t adhere to the standards of the Georgia’s traditional faith?
But this so-called tradition is surely not the end of evolution of virginity as a cultural phenomenon in Georgia. While many male family members still take their teenage boys to brothels and some females still pay from 400 to 1000 USD to restore their virginity a week before the marriage – society demands a change.
When I was discussing the issue of sex among partners with a friend of mine back home, she shared an important observation, “I think, if someone voluntarily chooses to be a virgin before marriage, we should be welcoming of such a decision,” she noted. “At the same time, I think honesty and straightforwardness of sexual expectations between the two partners is key for a healthy society,” she added thoughtfully. And I agreed – if a couple knows what to expect from each other, and openly talks about sexual expectation among many, their union is more likely to last longer. We are, after all, relatively open society.
Then, what is the dominant view of virginity today?
The take on virginity today depends from individual to individual. For some people in conservative regions of Georgia, being a virgin is a social expectation and even a requirement. For many in urban areas, it is no longer a necessity and engaging with pre-marital sex is as accepted as it is in the West. And while it is true that even today society is favoring men’s choices, the situation is ever-changing. From the Orthodox point of view, preserving each other for marriage is a virtue and should be based on the free will of both the male and female partners.
As an idea based on the freedom of choice and perseverance, then virginity truly is a virtue. It loses its value with pressure from society, gender-based discrimination, and “restorative” surgery.
To remain a virgin until marriage is a decision society ought to respect, and to gain sexual experience before marriage is an equally respectable choice. Both of approaches have taken place in Georgia’s historical past, and the issue is highly individual. The culture and religion definitely influence the way we look at it, but in the end, only voluntary action makes virginity a “virtue.”
Davit Jintcharadze is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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