Why reduce woman to her reputation and virginity. Why care so much if she’s a virgin or not?
If you are asking why things are so from a religious perspective (not from an evolutionary psychology perspective), then the reason is that when a woman has sex before marriage, this means one of two things: Either does not take the Quran seriously and thinks she has the right to disobey it, meaning that she is not worth marrying for a man who wants a devout woman, or that she is unable to control her urges, that she doesn’t have sufficient intelligence and upbringing to stop herself from engaging in that.
Both of these things make her undesirable as a wife, because if she has a casual attitude toward sex outside of marriage, or if she is unable to control her urges, then the man who marries her suffers being married to a woman who does not take religion seriously and breaks its commandments when she wants, or if she is unable to control her urges, it means she has a higher chance of cheating on him or abandoning him. After years of marriage, after the man has worked years to build the family and provide for it and raise it, she may fall in love with someone else and abandon him, or she may cheat on him and get pregnant by another man, so that he brings up another man’s child.
Therefore ideally, a religious man wants to marry a woman who takes Islam’s commandments very seriously, and just as importantly, has the ability to follow them. And needless to say, a woman who has sex outside of marriage fails at one or both of these.
The same way that women have criteria for deciding whether a man is “husband material”, men have criteria for deciding whether a woman is “wife material”.
For a man to be considered husband material, he must have a job, he must be reasonably successful, he must have sufficient social skills and masculinity to be an attractive male, and many women also require that he must be taller than themselves. This means that women discriminate against men who do not have a job, are unsuccessful, are without social skills or are short by preferring other men over them. Most women couldn’t care less how much of a nice and moral person a man is if he is extremely awkward (”creepy”), destitute and has no job or prospects. He may wish to be loved for who he is instead of being judged for factors that might be outside of his control, but his wishes do not matter, the majority of women will care about the above factors and will reject him for not having them.
Similarly, for a woman to be considered wife material, men use certain criteria to judge her, regardless of how nice of a person she is.
Both sexes look for those qualities in the other sex that increases the likelihood of having a successful marriage and bringing up healthy and successful children. Women look for husbands who are strong and successful men, because such men are good at taking care of them and their children. Men look for wives who are virgins and have a good reputation, because such women are good at following Islam and remaining loyal to the marriage.
If a woman has lost her hymen from some accident and she can prove this, then if she is still judged because of it, then that is really foolish, since she has done nothing wrong. The problem is that most people are not geniuses and jump to conclusions in all kinds of matters on a daily basis.
And a woman who has lost her hymen due to some accident but has no way of proving it, and she marries and her husband finds this out, then if he is a good man then he will judge her by what he knows of her reputation, and will not hold this fact against her, but will take her at her word.
So the important thing about virginity is not the piece of flesh (the hymen), the thing by itself doesn’t mean anything, it is just a piece of flesh and perhaps plastic surgeons will be able to reconstruct it, it is the implications of it that matter. A never-married woman who doesn’t have a hymen has either lost it due to some accident, or due to having sex outside of marriage, or due to using sex toys. Usually everyone assumes the worst (including all of the female relatives of the man), because marriage is an extremely serious business that determines a person’s fate for the rest of their lives, therefore they believe a woman who does not have a hymen when she is expected to has some explaining to do, the man’s family do not want him to marry someone who has sex outside of marriage.
So, in a traditional society, if society reduces a woman to her reputation and virginity when it comes to being considered for marriage, a man too is reduced to his success and prospects. Both are reduced to those qualities that are most crucial for a successful marriage. When a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, the first thing the woman’s family thinks about is his job. If he has a high-status job like being an architect, her family may exult at the fact, saying “Wow! An architect wants our daughter!” What kind of person he is deep inside is rarely given a thought, and if a poor man with zero prospects asks for their daughter’s hand in marriage, they will think, “What a loser! We will never give him our daughter!” even if he is a very good and kind man inside.
Meanwhile, the man’s family will not think in such terms, they have different criteria for judging whether the woman their son wants is worthy or not. They will talk about her attractiveness, her manners, and her history, especially her history. They will gossip about her history for days and months and make use of the Old Wives and Grandmas Intelligence Organization to find out everything they can about her, because they want to make sure their son does not marry someone who does not take religion seriously, or someone who finds it easy to be disloyal and have sex outside of marriage.
Many of these activities are extremely crude and an intelligent and sensitive person will be repulsed by them, but that is how most traditional societies function, and there is some logic to its origins; the woman’s family’s purpose is to ensure that the man can take care of their daughter, the man’s family’s purpose is to ensure that the woman can take care of their son’s children and new family and not abandon it or be disloyal toward it.
No woman enjoys being under the scrutiny of a man’s family, being considered guilty until proven innocent, but she will most likely do the same to a woman her own son or brother wants to marry. I have seen this countless times. And similarly, no man enjoys being under the scrutiny of a woman’s family and being judged by his job and success rather than his innate qualities, but he will do the same if his daughter or sister is about to get married, if he is wise, he will worry about whether the man is able to take care of his daughter or sister for the long term.
If you ask why a man is not scrutinized equally for his virginity, it goes back to evolutionary differences between men and women. A religious family will care very much about his virginity (if he has never married) and will not want their daughter to marry someone who has sex outside of marriage. But, ignoring religion, in traditional societies, it was a man who supported a woman and her children, his function was mostly economic. If he had sex with other women, this did not necessarily affect his economic function, he could continue to provide for his wife and children. For this reason among irreligious folk, there is generally a laxer attitude toward a man cheating than a woman cheating.
On the other hand, in a traditional society, if a woman cheated, that could be the end of the world for the marriage. She could get pregnant by another man and her husband forced to take care of the child born. A man wants to raise his own children, and the purpose of a marriage and family is for him to achieve this. If the wife gets pregnant by someone else, then that destroys the purpose of his marriage. He will be like a slave, not working for his own benefit, but for another man’s. For this reason attitudes toward female cheating or sleeping around have usually been much harsher.
Men have an animal instinct to prefer young and sexually inexperienced women, because this instinct ensures that they are more likely to marry a woman who will be loyal to them and their marriage. Women do not have this instinct, they instead have an animal instinct to prefer successful men. It is these two instincts that come out in the behaviors of traditional societies, which do not always fit religion and are sometimes directly opposed to it.
When it comes to well-educated and intelligent populations (rather than traditional ones), the human brain has more control over their thinking processes, so that they do not judge everything by instinct. Therefore men can be found who do not mind if their wife has sex with other men, and women can be found who do not mind taking care of their families while their husbands do not work and are not successful.
Devout Muslims coming from such populations are more likely to treat the issue of cheating equally between men and women, since that is what Islam demands, and they are more likely to take a woman at her word, giving her the benefit of the doubt if she is not a virgin, and even if she is known to have dated someone, if she says they never had sex, then she may be believed, while in a traditional society she wouldn’t be.
The less intelligent a population is, the more it will judge by its animal instincts, and the more intelligent it is, the more it will judge things by ideals, religious principles and logic. In a traditional population, a woman who admits to having had sex outside of marrying, saying she has now made repentance and wants to be a good and religious person, will probably never be forgiven or given a second chance, while in a better educated and more intelligent Muslim society she will be forgiven and accepted again.
There are many female converts to Islam in the West who admit to having had sex outside of marriage before Islam, but by the middle class Muslims of the West this is not held against them. But the same woman, if she talks to the lower classes of some Middle Eastern society and tells them this fact, they will immediately treat her like she is somehow diseased and gross.
The problem is not Islam but humanity’s animal instincts and the culture that has been derived from this (since culture is a result of genes). The best-educated and most devout Muslims are most likely to have a liberal and open-minded attitude toward a woman’s virginity and to give her second chances. But this does not mean that they should completely ignore her virginity or reputation, because these are indicators of her character, and a man wants to marry a woman of good character, the same way that a woman wants to marry a man of good character. In a traditional society if a woman admits to having lost her virginity due to a mistake she made in her youth, saying that she has repented now, this may never be accepted of her and her life might be ruined, while in a more educated and more devout society, she may be easily forgiven and given another chance.
If part of your question was regarding why a virgin is more attractive than a divorced woman, it goes back to the dynamics of pair-bonding, which means that a never-married woman is far more likely to have a successful marriage than a divorced woman (a first marriage in the US lasts about 25 years, while a second marriage lasts only 10 years). Since both sexes look for those characteristics in the other sex that are more likely to enable them to have a successful and long-lasting marriage, and since a woman’s lack of sexual experience / virginity means that her marriage is much more likely to succeed (as the statistics show), then you’d expect men to have a preference for this type of woman, and it is so. For more details on this please see these two previous answers of mine: