Date of Award


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Public Health



First Advisor

Cheleen Mahar


In Mexican-American society, where women and men still deal with the forces of machismo and marianismo in combination with the cultural norms of the United States, women are often forced to contend with strict regulations on their sexuality and sexual practices. Though a virgin is traditionally defined as someone who has never had sex, “sex” itself could refer to a number of sexual practices, thus rendering the definition of virginity ambiguous. With the reduced importance of virginity in the United States, women also experience a loss of feminine capital, a power that they may have gained by remaining virgins until marriage. As individuals of Mexican heritage living in the United States struggle with the changing definitions of virginity, the effects of feminine capital, machismo and marianismo, gender roles, and family dynamics are left in a state of flux. Through a series of five interviews with individuals of Mexican descent living in the United States, supplemented with anthropological, sociological, and literary research, this study aims to understand what phenomena influence Mexican-American understandings of virginity, as well as the importance of virginity in today’s society.


Honorable Mention, 2014 CommonKnowledge Senior Project Writing Award