Virginity — to be a virgin, comes from virgo (virginis), which is like unto virga, a twig, a slender branch, a young sprouting shoot. In other words, someone young, male or female, who does not know willing sexual intercourse. Saint John, a priest, uses the word virgin for men in Apocalypse 14,4. The beloved disciple himself is thought to have always been a virgin. The same word, παρθένος (virgin), is used for the Blessed Mother of God (Luke 1,27, etc.). Continence, celibacy and chastity can be thought to have primarily negative meanings to which positive spiritual motivations must be added. Virginity has a primarily positive meaning, the pristine, wonderful, lively goodness of men and women who, for even very positive reasons, have not (yet) known willing sexual intercourse (or willing sexual compromise for that matter). Saint Augustine, not a virgin, came to know chaste, continent celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven more than many virgins.
I should add here that unwilling sexual intercourse, such as being raped, would not disqualify one from being a virgin even in the strict sense. The hymen may be missing for many reasons, including disease or disfigurement or birth defect. Whatever. Can women who have been raped be admitted, for instance, to the order of consecrated virgins? Yes, of course they can. Much has been made of comments to the contrary, but I would bet that those who made such comments did not have rape in mind! Honestly!
What about those who have known willing compromise? Let’s review: Saint Augustine, not a virgin, came to know chaste, continent celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven more than many virgins. Does that make him a virgin? No.
However, I don’t think people should be singled out for a past life. Women who were previously married, but, for instance, their spouse died, and they want to get remarried, don’t want to wear a white dress since that would somehow negate the great married life they had with their beloved who have now died.
But should women who fell in weakness before getting married be forced to wear a non-white dress? That, in my opinion, would be perverse. And what about the men? Honestly!
Also, by the way, our ever virgin Blessed Mother remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. Why? There are many reasons. A very important one was the her Son was the Son, by whom we all exist, and with whom we are to be unified as members, so to speak, of His Mystical Body, of which He is the Head. She is the mother of us all, giving birth to the rest of us in her Son by way of her perfect intercession for us under the Cross, those birth pangs which brought us to see the light of day in the Son of God. She is not the mother of a monster — as I think Saint Bernard said — the mother of only a Head, for instead, she is mother of the whole Christ, the Head, Jesus, and us, the members. This divine work was first wrought by Holy Spirit, not the intervention of man. This divine work continued by the Holy Spirit, not the intervention of man. The virginity of Mary is a sign of all of this.