Whether or not you are a virgin is nobody's business but your own.
I am repeating myself again, but I do not care. The world is sick, and one of its sicknesses is harping on whether women are virgins or not. This topic is a source of endless sniggers, and when a young woman I know chose to wear a gold rather than a white dress to her wedding, one of her female guests sniggered away. She thought the bride was revealing something about her life history. Actually, the bride just liked gold.
My first husband (to new readers: I'm not a widow; I had a a Church annulment) was obsessed with the fact that I was a virgin. You have no idea how much I wish this were a topic that had never come up. I can't remember how it did, although in Catholic circles at the time we were encouraged to be out and proud virgins, especially to non-Catholics. Although I suppose back then it gave comfort to other women to know we weren't "the only ones," what this did was alert every virgin-hunter within earshot.
There are at least two kinds of virgin-hunters. The worst kind is the one who enjoys destroying innocence and thinks he is doing something clever by "being the first." Canada's most notorious sex killer was like that. The other kind is the man who is obsessed with marrying "a virgin". In my eyes, such a fellow is somewhat akin to the woman who wants to marry "a millionaire." Both are valuing a human being for some thing they possess, not for themselves alone.
Anyway, Husband the First was indeed obsessed with the fact that I was a virgin. He mentioned it often, and he was quite interested in our choice of my wedding dress. He enjoyed saying that I, unlike so many other women, "deserved" to wear a white wedding dress. I probably agreed with this sentiment although perhaps it crossed my mind even then that no woman should be forced to confess the state of her hymen on the most public day of her life. He flipped through wedding dress magazines avidly.
His little pet name for me was "my virgin bride," and he called me that for about a year after we married. I hated it. He called me the Parthenona, too, which is one of the names of Athena, celebrating her virginity. I grew to hate that, too. It drove me crazy that my chief value to this person I had married was that I had been a virgin when I did so. And it grew clearer every day that he was horrified by my other, rather more telling, qualities, e.g. courage.
We lived not far from a neighbourhood with a significant incest problem. Neither of us knew that, of course. I found out years later. In short, a village with a terrible incest problem had emigrated, almost en masse, to Canada, and the problem continued there. I mention this to hammer home an unpleasant reality: not all women have the choice of "being virgins" when they marry. Some are seduced by male relations and told it is normal, and some are flat-out raped. The whole notion of "consent" to sexual activity is one scary ball of wax. Let's just say there's a sliding scale. Female virginity is probably more often a historical accident than it is a daily, virtuous moral choice.
Anyway, back to the white dress. The white wedding dress was popularized by Queen Victoria. Before Victoria, everyone just wore her best dress to get married in. There was a superstition that you ought not to get married in green, but beyond that, I can't think of any other pre-Victoria colour rule. And somehow white, which in India (for example) is the colour of mourning, became the western colour of virginity.
From a Catholic perspective, this should seem surprising. Our Lady is most frequently represented by the colour BLUE and in countless paintings she can be found wearing gold and pink as well. But I suppose white = virginity may derive from a sense that white = cleanliness = purity. The alb (albus (L): white) is a sign of Christian baptism. And in some Christian countries, or Chrisitian countries around the Mediterranean, it was once customary to inspect the wedding couple's bridal sheets, to see if the bride had been a virgin or not. (Ignorance of the fact that virgins do not, in fact, always bleed on their wedding nights has probably led to the completely pointless ruinations--and even murders--of thousands of women.)
Today we think inspecting or displaying bloody sheets is absolutely barbaric, but we are doing the exact same thing when we look at a beaming bride in all of her expensive finery and think "Hm. Does she DESERVE to wear that white dress?" It is so mean-spirited it makes me gnash my teeth.
A wedding dress represents not her past but the bride's feelings about her wedding day. A gorgeous white gown says nothing about her private history (which is hers alone), and everything about how she feels about starting a new life with her husband. A white dress, like a christening garment, means a new start. It means hope. It means whatever the past was like, the future is a clean page.
I know this firsthand because I wore a white dress to my second wedding. (So far only one person has been rude enough to question this decision.) I wore it because I did not want the shadow of Mr Virginity-Obsessed to mar my wedding. I wore it because that awful first marriage had been declared by the Church invalid. I wore it because I wanted to look beautiful to my husband and to be a worthy symbol of the Bride of Christ, the Church.
As far as I was concerned, my wedding was about a wonderful second chance: a new life with a completely unexpected (and perfect-for-me) husband. My mother made my dress, and we found the silk in a closing sale, so it cost the princely, extravagant sum of $80. We used lace from my first communion veil for my bridal veil. It all meant so much to me, the bride, on so many levels.
Thus I was made very uncomfortable by a snide remark about the Duchess of Cambridge, who wore a white gown to her wedding yesterday. The Duchess, unlike the late Princess of Wales, did not experience a whirlwind romance with her groom, but a ten year friendship that was probably sexually consumated years ago. Although this is not consistent with Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality, it does give the (mostly nominally Christian) British public a hope that this marriage will be both lasting and an inspiration. The Duchess's white gown was not some claim about her past but a symbol of her--and Britain's--hopes for the future.