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There are cultural and religious traditions that place special value and significance on this state, predominantly towards unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth.

Like chastity, the concept of virginity has traditionally involved sexual abstinence.

The English cognate "maid" was often used to imply virginity, especially in poetry - e.g.

Maid Marian, the love interest of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood in English folklore.

Fräulein was used in German as a title of respect, equivalent to current usage of Miss in English.

This distinction is necessary due to there being no specific word for wife (or husband) in Greek." By contrast, in a study released in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute, author of the findings Laura Lindberg stated that there "is a widespread belief that teens engage in nonvaginal forms of sex, especially oral sex, as a way to be sexually active while still claiming that technically, they are virgins", but that her study drew the conclusion that "research shows that this supposed substitution of oral sex for vaginal sex is largely a myth".A 2003 study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality focusing on definitions of having sex and noting studies concerning university students from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia reported that "[w]hile the vast majority of respondents (more than 97%) in these three studies included penile-vaginal intercourse in their definition of sex, fewer (between 70% and 90%) respondents considered penile-anal intercourse to constitute having sex" and that "oral-genital behaviours were defined as sex by between 32% and 58% of respondents"."About 80 percent of respondents said penile-anal intercourse meant 'had sex.' About 70 percent of people believed oral sex was sex." Virginity pledges (or abstinence pledges) made by heterosexual teenagers and young adults may also include the practice of "technical virginity".In a peer-reviewed study by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Brueckner, which looked at virginity pledgers five years after their pledge, they found that the pledgers have similar proportions of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and at least as high proportions of anal and oral sex as those who have not made a virginity pledge, and deduced that there was substitution of oral and anal sex for vaginal sex among the pledgers.

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