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Brought to my attention August 8 2018, let’s change this terrible heading. —Violet

Submitted for revision August 14 2018 (see proposal below). —Violet

Here’s the heading for Defloration as it stands:

hierarchical structure of "defloration" LCSH

The good news is that there are only 8 resources in the LC catalog which have been given this heading. Another piece of good news is that there’s a good heading for a somewhat related term, First sexual experiences:

hierarchical structure of "First sexual experiences" LCSH

Jenna wrote about Defloration when it was approved back in the bad ol’ days of 2009. (She assures us it’s okay to click through security warnings to her blog.)

Take a look at the kinds of resources which have been assigned the Defloration heading: search in LC and in WorldCat.

Another argument against Defloration is that it’s confusing: it’s been used incorrectly at least once: OCLC #976672518, which is about defloration in the botanical sense.

I see two options going forward.

Option 1: Keep the Defloration authority record but ask for Loss of virginity to become the preferred term. That’s the easiest path forward.

Option 2: Request to delete (cancel) the heading Defloration, and add a 450 (see reference) for Defloration in the record for Virginity. In this option there would not be a heading for Loss of virginity; works about the loss of virginity would be assigned the heading Virginity. (My argument for that: I see “loss of virginity” and “virginity” as two sides of the same subject. After all, the concept of “virginity” is centered around whether one has it or has “lost” it.)

If we were to request deletion of of Defloration, we’d have to deal with Jus primae noctis (authority record, Wikipedia article) which is currently a narrower term of Defloration. Is it necessary/appropriate to make Jus primae noctis a narrower term of Virginity? The heading seems adequately served by its other broader terms of Feudalism and Marriage customs and rites.

Are there other options we should consider?

Here’s the narrative proposal submitted August 14 2018 by Violet:


The subject heading for Defloration (sh 85036460) should be cancelled.

Within the subject heading for Virginity (sh 85143788), add three cross-references (450 Defloration, 450 Loss of virginity, 450 Virginity, Loss of) and remove 550 Defloration.

Within the subject heading for Jus primae noctis (sh 85071110), remove 550 Defloration.


There should not be a separate heading for the concept of loss of virginity, as the ideas of virginity and loss of virginity are essentially about the same subject. The concept of virginity throughout history has been centered around whether one maintains it or has lost it.

Of the nine titles in the LC catalog which have the heading Defloration, all would be equally well served with the Virginity subject heading.

Of the 100+ titles in the LC catalog which have been assigned the heading Virginity, there are a number of recent works which could also have been assigned Defloration, which indicates LC catalogers are not able to find/determine the appropriateness of Defloration. Examples of these works include: The V-word : true stories about first-time sex (LCCN 2015019131) as well as Losing it : how we popped our cherry over the last 80 years (LCCN 2016417938).

Defloration is also a confusing heading, as it has been used incorrectly at least once (in OCLC #976672518, which is about defloration in the botanical sense). Out of the 14 English-language books in WorldCat which use the word defloration in their title, six are about plants.

Regarding the Jus primae noctis cross reference: of the ten works in the LC catalog which have been assigned this heading, none are classed in HQ. Instead, they are all classed in politics, law, or manners (JC116.S5, KJV4094, and GT2680). This indicates that the two existing broader terms (Feudalism and Marriage customs and rites) are sufficient.

Regarding the Marriage customs and rites cross reference: all the other narrower terms of this heading consist of wedding-specific practices such as Bachelor parties and Wedding dances. Defloration is a bit of an odd duck there. It seems awkward to add a broader term for Marriage customs and rites to Virginity, but not much more awkward than it is for Marriage customs and rites to be a broader term for Defloration.


3 Replies to “Defloration”

  1. I’m an old-timer for who the “bad ol’ days of 2009” seem like just yesterday, so weight my opinion with that in mind. I see advantages to Option 1, keeping the SAR but prefering “Loss of virginity.” It preserves the connection to Jus primae noctis better than moving that NT to “Virginity” would.
    And while I share the implied perception that the whole notion of “defloration” maps poorly against contemporary understandings of sexual experience, the concept is culturally important in historical, literary, and even operatic contexts where the notion that the heroine of Liaisons dangereuses, or Gilda in Rigoletto, is having a “first sexual experience” seems culturally insensitive.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment, Christopher. I understand where you’re coming from, and I think you’re getting at a larger question about LCSH: is it intended to represent concepts from throughout history and throughout world cultures? Or is it intended to represent our understanding of the world today? We frequently assign headings that are 20th century constructs to earlier works and people (such as “Lesbians” to books about Sappho). We assign current science taxonomy to earlier works whose authors would not have understood scientific principles in the same way we do.

      As far as I can tell, LCSH is a constantly updated vocabulary that does not have the intention or technological capability to represent historical conceptions of the world. It’d be great if we can built a vocabulary that *can* do that at some point, but LCSH is not structured to do so.

  2. Weighing in…
    Even though Jus primae noctis is nested under Defloration in subjects…in ClassWeb, there are two call numbers it is associated with and one that Jus primae noctis–History are associated with. The most common of these is JC116.S5, which means these works are nested under “Political theory. The state. Theories of the state—Medieval state. Feudal institutions—Special topics, A-Z—Seigneur, Right of. Jus primae noctis”. The other two call numbers are KJV4094 “Law of France—Constitutional law. Droit constitutionnel—Constitutional history—By period—Ancien Régime (to 1789)—Feudal system. Seigniorial rights. Régime féodal. Droits seigneuriaux—General works” and GT2680 “Manners and customs (General)—Customs relative to private life—Love. Courtship. Marriage. Sex customs—Marriage customs—By period—Medieval.” The fact that this subject heading is not associated a single time with HQ23 “The Family. Marriage. Woman—Human sexuality. Sex—Sexual behavior and attitudes—General—General special (Special aspects of the subject as a whole)” seems to indicate that you are correct that the narrower term is covered adequately by its other broader terms.

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