On being totally ok with losing your V-card.

Once a friend of mine got her hands on a whole library of sex ed tapes from around the world, and held a viewing party at her house. There were two: the first, an abstinence-happy 1980s piece of work (featuring one of the Coreys!) that warned you were like a delicate flower, and each time you had sex it was like pulling off one of the petals until there was nothing left and you died.

The second one was an amazing video from the Netherlands that went into everything — masturbation, sexuality, attraction, changes etc, but the most controversial part was not in fact the two cartoon teenage bodies writhing together on a bed but the message that came next: that it was ok to say no. And even more controversially, that it was ok to want to have sex and still not be ready, to want to make out but not “go all the way” and to tell someone to stop and they were supposed to then listen to you.

That’s what stuck in my mind when I read the below story, a part of my “losing your virginity series” (the string of comments on the first post are amazing by the way, I highly recommend reading them). I’m not sure about the rest of you, but that “it’s ok to say no” message wasn’t one I got as a kid — you either made out and had sex, or you didn’t make out at all. There was no “waiting until you were actually ready” in-between. Anyways, enjoy:

    How I learned about sex:
    When I was in the third grade, I had a crush on a boy in my class. Some kids were teasing me about it and kept saying, “You want to do IT with Mike!” But no one would tell me what “it” was. I went home from school that afternoon and asked my mom to explain “it.” Little did I know that she had books prepared in her nightstand! She sat down with me and, with the help of some photo illustrations, explained how a man and woman have sex. She told me that sex was something that only married men and women did. I was so grossed out that I hoped to never have sex with anyone! (Only later did I form my own opinions about who should be having sex with whom and when.) 

    How I lost my virginity: 
    I had been dating Kevin for months. We were both virgins and had discussed becoming sexually active. He was ready, but I wasn’t. He didn’t pressure me; he was willing to wait until I was comfortable. Having been raised under the premise that I would save myself for marriage, I was torn between my own desire to share my sexuality with someone I was truly in love with and the terror of my parents finding out that I hadn’t upheld their standards. Many of my friends were having sex, and it sounded like fun. I wanted to see what all the excitement was about.  

    Kevin’s parents were out of town that summer before our junior year of high school. As we showered together, Kevin gently asked if I might want to have sex. I declined, and he didn’t bring it up again. After the shower, we continued fooling around, but my mind wasn’t on Kevin. What was I waiting for? If I wasn’t ready to have sex with someone I was deeply committed to, then when would I have sex? I realized that no one was going to give me permission to be sexually active; I had to grant myself that privilege. It felt right to me, and I was tired of conforming to my parents’ moral code.  

    I pulled away from Kevin. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, what?” he asked. I explained that I was ready, and he pulled out a condom from his nightstand. We were together for the next four years, and I have very positive feelings about losing my virginity to him. 

PS – As I mentioned in my first post — Planned Parenthood of New York City has some great guides on how to talk to your kids about sex, and is currently running a campaign to make sure all kids in NYC are taught accurate, age-appropriate sex education.


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19 comments for “On being totally ok with losing your V-card.

  1. Kim
    June 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Great story. Working with your ideas about re-framing sexuality in a much more open and personalized manner, I propose that we discard the term “losing my virginity” all together.

    I completely understand why you used the phrase in your article—this is the terminology we are taught to use when talking about virginity. But I think in our efforts to reclaim sexuality, we also need to reclaim our language. “Losing your virginity” implies that something has been lost, and can never be regained and plays into the whole idea that women are delicate flowers and we have to choose who to give our flower too, etc…

    What are your thoughts?

  2. June 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Agreed — too often I hear stories about girls (or boys) who were already having all sorts of sex before they actually “lost” their virginity. I’m more curious about what our perception was — did you consider it something you “lost”? How? Why?

  3. June 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Hey Erica – Readers might be interested in a series we run on my blog “The American Virgin” called First Person. They’re a collection of stories told by people about how they ‘lost their virginity’ or why they’re hanging on to it for now. It’s part of a larger project that includes a documentary called “How to Lose Your Virginity” and we’re running a mega-campaign right now to get editing funds. Hope you enjoy!

  4. Ami
    June 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I would say I rid of mine…not lost because my partner and I knew what we wanted and went after it :) but that is of course my case, not all.

  5. Paraxeni
    June 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Our school sex ed was pretty great, it would have been even better had it not been overshadowed by Clause 28 which banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’.

    We were told “Sex and love are not always combined. You can have sex with people you don’t love, but you should never be forced into sex by the words ‘If you loved me…’. You have final say in what happens to your body, love means respecting that.”

    We were never told to save sex for marriage, we were told that sex was supposed to be fun and that it was natural to be curious, but that preventing unwanted pregnancy and STIs was paramount. We were given condoms, pill packets and IUDs to pass around and handle, told the locations, opening times and phone numbers of sexual health clinics in our town, and informed that we could get free confidential sex advice, free contraception and pregnancy/disease testing at said clinics. ECP was prescription only at the time, but again we were informed of our right to confidentiality, and told how to access a GP other than the family doctor.

    We were shown how condoms worked, given extensive HIV/AIDS education (including safe sex with PWHIV, debunking myths about catching it from kissing, sharing drinks etc.), and informed about pregnancy-based choices like adoption or abortion, with info provided about the various types of termination available, and plenty of reminders that time is of the essence if you want to end an unwanted pregnancy.

    All in all they did a pretty good job of educating us in matters of consent, giving separate classes during personal & social education lessons about assertiveness, the right to say ‘No’ to anything we weren’t comfortable with, and conducting roleplay exercises and demonstrating techniques that could help in worrisome scenarios.

    This was from 1989-1994 in the UK, in a regular comprehensive school setting with mixed genders and abilities.

  6. Paraxeni
    June 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    As for my ‘virginity’, I took that myself with my first orgasm I think! I was a very, very pale-looking ten year old that summer, I don’t think I spent more than an hour outside my bedroom or the bathroom. :)

    My first partnered sexual experience (apart from awkward snogging) was at 20, drunk, and not entirely consensual as it all happened incredibly quickly and I wasn’t in control. It was at a party, and not with someone I’d known before then. I didn’t really feel anything except “Hmm. I don’t think I’m wired for this”.

    My first same-sex experience at 23ish was an entirely different matter, and although it was drunken fumbling (and another one-off) it was entirely consensual and 100% affirmed my identity as someone who loved women.

    I didn’t have sex again until I met my partner (I was 27) and I’m more than happy with only ever having sex three times before her. I don’t feel ashamed or guilty about any of my experiences, I don’t even regret sleeping with two men, especially as the second was entirely consensual and was basically my attempt at ‘proving’ I was heterosexual. So glad that I did that now!

  7. June 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I’m glad to hear that people retain positive memories of their first time to have intercourse. My memories are not unpleasant, but they are a bit embarrassing. For starters, neither I nor my first girlfriend had a clue about what we were doing.

    I think I had this belief that I was supposed to be perfect, flawless, and totally confident in bed, and I was in many ways completely terrified. This was, after all, a BIG deal, or at least that’s what everyone and everything I encountered told me. Nearly fifteen years later, I do see it as more endearing and sweet, though I also acknowledge how awkward it was for the both of us.

    And to be asked halfway through “So, how many times have you done this?” which implied that I wasn’t all that good at it, was certainly not comforting to my ego. I recall either that I lied and said that I’d done it before or just ignored the question altogether. And we did get a little better before we broke up about six or seven months later, but I think my initial dismay that first time out is what spurned me on to be a better lover.

  8. Personal failure
    June 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I second losing “losing virginity”. It’s so silly and sex negative. I nominate “first time”: it’s accurate, easy to say and neutral. It’s what i say. Nobody gets confused as to what I’m talking about.

  9. Personal failure
    June 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I second losing “losing virginity”. It’s so silly and sex negative. I nominate “first time”: it’s accurate, easy to say and neutral. It’s what i say. Nobody gets confused as to what I’m talking about.

  10. Flutterby
    June 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I don’t even bother with the concept of virginity. I mean, I do in discussions regarding it and it’s impact on social relations, culture, etc., but in day-to-day life, it’s just not relevant to me.

    Whenever I get asked if I’m a virgin, the conversation usually goes like this:
    “Are you a virgin?”
    “Define virginity.”
    “[something about PIV intercourse]”
    “What about lesbians?”
    [Here, it either gets derailed from my personal sex life, or they ask:] “Are you a lesbian?”
    “Maybe…”

    Most of ’em give up at that point. I have fun with it, and hopefully it urges people to think differently and question the concept of virginity. Everybody wins! Except those idiots who tell women to save their ‘diamond’ or they’re worthless!

  11. June 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    This makes me want to do the same thing– write about my “first time and all of the emotions behind the decision. If there’s not already some kind of link round-up, we should start one. I think it could be quite illuminating– for women and men, equally.

  12. Queen Emily
    June 23, 2010 at 12:56 am

    @Flutterby

    Yeah. I mean, “when I lost my virginity” isn’t even necessarily constant for the same person. I fooled around with someone, had PIV with someone else (which I considered to be losing my virginity at the time), then came out as a lesbean and went huh actually that first time counted, since the sex I’m having now certainly does… I think the whole concept is heteronormative and of dubious use to say the least…

  13. evil_fizz
    June 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

    I think the whole concept is heteronormative and of dubious use to say the least…

    Agreed. I’ve heard “age at first intercourse” used in public health settings as a way of trying to clarify what kind of sexual behavior is being discussed, but it’s not all that helpful when defining personal experience.

  14. Corbin
    June 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Lets see…my first time with the whole PIV sex, I was 15, very curious. It was kind of awkward, and my opinion was “Wow, that wasn’t all that fun…hmmm, yeah I would be fine with never doing that again, although I suppose I could be convinced to take another shot at it.” Turns out I got pregnant (and I thought the sex was awkward!). Hey, I am now 30 years old with a terrific 14 year old son. Wouldn’t trade him for the world, but it was a rough intro to the world of sex!

    First time with a woman blew.my.mind. It was great. When I want to have the warm fuzzy “losing virginity” memory, that is the one I use. (For the record, I also dislike the standard terminology for the first sexual experience. Losing your virginity sounds like you left it on the bus…)

  15. EDZ
    June 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I think another interesting aspect to our cultural obsession with virginity (and losing it) is how it confuses what a “normal” sexual experience should look like and feel. When I was 16, I had my first hetero intercourse experience with my also teenage boyfriend who I was very much in love with. Besides being a little nervous the first few minutes, the overall experience was pretty great. But, somehow, the fact that it was good freaked me out! It was very much “known” by me and my friends that the first time was supposed to hurt, be scary, not feel that good. And not only did it not hurt but I thought it felt pretty darn good that first time… which got me thinking- what is wrong with me? Am I “loose” or a “slut” because it didn’t hurt? Am I not ready for sex because I don’t feel “different” or “more emotionally attached” to my boyfriend?

    So despite the fact that I had whole heartedly rejected the “if you’re not a virgin, you’re basically worthless” meme, I was still overwhelmed by these insidious messages that my experience was not a valid, healthy one because it was not in line with the “sex changes you FOREVER” idea that abstinence folks love to talk up. Rather than feeling comfortable in my new found sexuality, my ease with it made me anxious! Looking back, I wish there had been more positive examples of young women exploring their sexuality. Instead of “oh, it’s okay if you’re not a virgin” (I was always defined as being a “not” something) what I really needed was someone to yell out, “it’s okay if you’re having sex, as long as you feel good about it!”

  16. Allison
    June 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I was fifteen and my boyfriend was a couple years older. We had already broken up and gotten back together twice. He was talking in the car one day about how he would wait as long as I needed to, and I was, like, ‘fuck that, I am ready now.’ Anyway, he bought condoms and we had sex in his van.

    Neither of us made it to orgasm, haha. As it happens, the dude I lost my virginity to has remained the dude I’ve boned with the most… stamina. Jesus H.

    Anyway, totally okay with it. It wasn’t traumatic, wasn’t a let-down (I think I was prepared for it to suck) and I was ready.

  17. ACG
    June 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    My first time was awful – I was 19, I wasn’t ready, and I was only doing it because I thought he was cheating on me/would cheat on me because he wasn’t getting it at home. I was no good at it, of course; he was no good at it in a “but that’s how they do it in pr0nos” kind of way; and we broke up a month later. But the good thing that came of it was that with my next boyfriend, I’d already “lost my V-card,” and so there wasn’t as much pressure in having some really fun, enjoyable, exploratory sex.

    Incidentally, sex ed all the way through school for me (public school in the U.S. Deep South) was worthless. Outline this chapter on STDs, copy this chart on birth control, and now shut up for the rest of the period. Nothing about emotional or cultural or societal involvement, nothing about sexuality, no demonstrations of anything, certainly no mention of abortion. I was lucky in that my first discussion regarding sex was around five years old and involved frank, clear language from my mother and also a fun pop-up book. The fact that we had six baby showers in homeroom my senior year makes me wonder if that isn’t a more effective approach than “write an outline and don’t ask questions.”

  18. trichmous
    June 24, 2010 at 3:57 am

    oh man, my first time was AWESOME. is this bragging? should I not say this? it’s not something I usually get to talk about, but seriously, it was super fun.

    i’d been dating the bf for two years and had been ready and raring for some PIV for, oh, a year and a half… but he wasn’t. and if a year and a half sounds like a long time to wait, well, it felt like a long time. but i realized pretty quickly that i needed to respect the fact that he wasn’t feeling it – and, shout-out! it was feminism that made me realize “gee, just like it’s ok for me to want to have sex, it’s okay for a guy not to! despite what pop culture says guys aren’t and shouldn’t be always ready for PIV sex no matter what… these gender-based stereotypes are lame!” so, thanks, feminist blogosphere, because of you I didn’t sexually pressure my boyfriend!

    anyway, the plus side of waiting so long is that after two years we were pretty much awesome at giving each other orgasms. and as a direct result, our first PIV-experience was super fun, because we already knew each others’ bodies, uh, inside and out… awkward phrasing but whatever.

    so yeah. summer after senior year (we were both legal!). at my parents house while they were out of town for a while. we came back from our dinner date, shut the curtains, locked the door, dragged my mattress into the living room, ate dessert, lit candles, stole my parents’ wine, figured out the condom thing and went at it HARD. and while i didn’t orgasm the first time, we worked out the angles (it involved lots of laughing and falling over) and the second time was very, very memorable.

    and since we had the house to ourselves we spent the next few days bangin’, eatin’, sleepin’ and not doing much else. good memories!!

    it was a 100% wonderful experience and it didn’t feel like “losing” anything. V for Victory. oh, and i guess i should put this in a comment on the other post, but i def. think my parents attitude towards sex was part of the reason i had such a positive experience – they were very “your body, your choice” about it.

  19. LadyJ
    June 24, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    At the time I certainly thought of my first PiV experience as “losing it” but even more than that it was just getting past something. For reasons I won’t bother going in to, I had been told to expect that my first time wouldn’t be very comfortable, to say the least. Having that expectation really made it more of an ordeal to get through so that I could go on to have the good, fun sex later.

    I was with my first serious boyfriend at the time. We’d been together for a while. Long enough for my mother to be concerned (and awesome) enough to take me to Planned Parenthood and get me on the pill. I didn’t tell my BF about that for a while, though. I didn’t want him to expect anything until I was sure I was ready.

    Meanwhile, we’d been doing a lot of making out, fondling, grinding, etc, though no oral, because for some reason that seems way more intimate to me. Still does, really. The truth was, I’d had quite a few orgasms with the guy already. We’d make out for a while, then he’d play with my nipples while I would grind on him and that was all it took.

    Fast forward to an afternoon when my parents went out of town and I decided it was time to “get it over with”.

    We started out doing all the usual things, but it just wasn’t working for me. I guess the pressure was getting to me, but I’d made up my mind and was determined to go through with it. So I excused myself to the bathroom to “get myself ready”. Once I came back, as ready as I was going to get, we fooled around a little more and got to the “main event”. I didn’t know it at the time but my BF was a bit larger than average. It took some effort to get it in there, but we did. It didn’t feel all that great, but I’d expected that. So we went at it for a while until I couldn’t take it any more and we stopped. That was when we realized that there was blood everywhere.

    We got cleaned up and went about the rest of our day. Neither one of us got off, but as I said, I hadn’t really expected much. He didn’t really say anything, but I’m sure he was disappointed.

    After that, sex got a lot better for me. I would get all worked up and would actually get off during the PiV sex from grinding against him. The funny thing is, now that I look back, I don’t think he ever got off with me. We’d go at it until I stopped being into it and then we’d stop. I tried to get him off with my hand or mouth, but nothing ever worked and he didn’t really complain. Looking back I assume he must have been one of those that had too tight of a grip during masturbation.

    After we broke up and I had sex with somebody who had an easier time getting off, it was like a revelation. I really learned to love getting my partners off. It’s almost more important than my orgasm. Almost. :)

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