Any Sexually Inexperienced Person's worst fear is being at a party and someone suggesting a game of Never Have I Ever. Panic sets in. You begin a game of distraction: HEY! Anyone want tequila? START WITHOUT ME! I'll just go to the toilet, OH LOOK! I'm dancing to 'Wrecking Ball' all by myself. The game of distraction is usually in vain because for some reason people seem to love this fucking game. The game begins, you're clutching your rum and coke, your not-so-dirty secret is going to get found out. If the game gets wild straight away it's a good sign. So what if you've never had a threesome or done it in public, plenty of people haven't. More often than not however, people are unimaginative and start with never have I ever had sex. That's it. Virgin outed. If no one asks the question directly, the suspiciously not drinking, the diversion tactics, and the red face will eventually give the game away.
When you are outed as a Sexually Inexperienced Person people react in surprisingly similar ways. Commonly it is a patronising 'AWW thats nice! WELL DONE YOU' putting you on some kind of a moral pedestal, that you can't wait to climb down from. Congratulations on fighting off all those potential lovers with your sword of chastity. Then they add 'It's really nice you should stay that way', and you think to yourself 'I bloody hope not'.
Other common reactions include creepily offering to relieve you of your sexual burden. Or, striking fear into your heart by describing the blood and pain, physical and emotional, that comes with it. Or, at least the how unspectacular it will be.
More annoyingly, as I've heard from some friends, when you're about to sleep with someone and they find out you're Sexually Inexperienced, they panic and refuse to put it in you. Making excuses like:
“I don't want to be your first.”
As if upon penetration you'll explode with hormones and fall in love with them whether they want you to or not. A shot gun sexing if you will. The Sexually Inexperienced sign flashing above your head suddenly makes them unable to treat you with the respect you should treat any lover.
By the time I was 21, I was well aware that having sexual intercourse for the first time wasn't going to change the world. I was never waiting for a perfect time, relationship or marriage. I wasn't religious and very sex positive. Nor did I believe that my own sexuality and desires began and ended with another person or a man inside me, it was for me to define and explore on my own terms. I wasn't hideous, had no trouble meeting new people, and an excellent social life. I had had the opportunity to 'lose it' many times before but for some reason I never felt totally comfortable and relaxed with a person to 'give it away'.
A virgin is defined as 'Someone who has never had sexual intercourse' aka. a penis being inserted into a vagina. For starters this definition is reductive and heteronormative. It denies the sexuality of LGBTQ people, making intimacy and sexual acts only 'count' when it is between cis gender boys and girls. A Myth is a 'A widely held but false belief or idea' OR 'A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon and typically involving supernatural beings or events'.
So, I define virginity as a myth. It's a social phenomenon, in no way biological. In which by intercourse, supernaturally, this invisible thing we are told we somehow posses is 'lost'. You can't lose something you never had.
Many people and cultures think that losing virginity is synonymous with breaking the hymen. The hymen is a thin tissue that stretches across part of the opening of the vagina. It can be broken by, sex, masturbation but also more commonly by sport or even riding a bike. Having or not having a hymen is no indicator of or lack of sexual activity that is a false idea, a myth. This is shown by the existence of the Virginity Kits available worldwide on www.artificiel-hymen.info. Such is the supernatural power of this irrelevant little piece of tissue.
'Losing virginity' and 'giving it away' conjure up images of clumsily misplacing something, an expensive gift you didn't keep the receipt for so the receiver can't exchange it for something better or more appropriate for them. Or of a cheapening or worthlessness.
Cultural systems will tend to endow female sexuality with value, whereas male sexuality is treated by society as relatively worthless. As a result, sexual intercourse by itself is not an equal exchange, but rather an instance of the man getting something of value from the woman. 'Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions'
The idea of sex being a female resource of value is applied further in sexual economic terms by good old capitalist theories of supply and demand. When something is desirable (sex) but supply is low (a virgin or someone who is sexually inexperienced) their sexual value increases in the eyes of society. This also explains why male virginity is considered more of a sign of social ineptitude or as comedic, see American Pie or The 40 Year Old Virgin. Whether or not we have this mythical state of Virginity somehow gives us worth and currency.
The idea of of virginity as currency also comes from marriage as traditionally being a business contract between two families. The idea of a bride being 'given away' at her wedding from her father to her husband literally symbolises the transfer of the women from the property of her father to her husband. If a bride is considered to be a virgin before marriage traditionally it was and is still in many cultures a kind of paternity test to ensure the correct inheritance and name being passed down the generations. The same pressure and expectation is not the same for men. It is from this that that old sexist double standard rears its ugly head again. Boy has lots of sex, stud, respect. Girl has lots of sex, slut, shame. It's a tale as old as time. Perhaps I'm generalising and attitudes towards sex and it's true relationships do vary massively between generations, people and places; however, as women, we're always tiptoeing on that tightrope of being a Whore or a Virgin in the eyes of the world.
On the other hand, I wonder if perhaps the stigma has swung the other way even for women. Is it stigmatised to be sexually inexperienced past your teenage years? I guess it just depends on your culture, country, gender, generation, sexuality or even who you hang out with. Let's face it, who's business is it but your own? Unless you live in Iran, Morocco, Malaysia (consensual sex between non-Muslims is not prohibited), Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait,Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and the Maldives in which case sex outside of marriage is against the law. Even growing up in the UK in a normal secular state high school part of the inadequate sex education we did receive (which at the time was not compulsory) was delivered by a local church group. They stated to a group of confused, hormonal teenagers that losing your virginity outside of marriage WOULD inevitably lead to regret and heartbreak, that condoms didn't work and that sex between gay people was a sin. This was in 2008, WTF. Also, they didn't even mention anything other than hetero, mechanical, baby-making sex in the few classes we had. No mention of other forms of intimacy, different sexualities and genders, getting to know your own body or consent. It's shocking.
Teacher: Sex CAN BE amazing, when you are in a loving committed relationship. CAN BE.
(to me this sounded like sex could be alright but was too fraught with difficulties to be really fun)
Teacher: Take a look at these.
(passes around laminated pages with images of worst case scenario genital warts and herpes)
I was a late bloomer. Until 21 my only sexploits had been with myself or some awkward fingerings, where I didn't feel comfortable or confident enough to say when something felt good or bad or to reciprocate. The average age for someone to lose their virginity in the UK is 17 years old, 2 months and 2 weeks. Interestingly on average British women will experience their first orgasm at 18. Isn't that depressing? While trying to find some stats I stumbled across Medindia's helpful Virginity calculator. It's only for girls and it's all in pink (naturally). It congratulated me on holding on to my 'precious gift' longer than my other friends. On the homepage it happily reports that 'virginity is in vogue again' and 'girls want to preserve their chastity until they get married'. Don't know where they are getting these 'facts' from.
Even in my most chaste days I never thought never having a penis inside me made me better or worse than anybody, nor did I ever think I was waiting for it to be special or with someone I was in a relationship with, in love with or god forbid married to. The only questions you need to ask yourself when deciding to have sex with someone for the first time or the 100th time is, do I feel comfortable, safe, do I want to have sex with this person and does this person want to have sex with me? When the answers are yes, go for it. Understanding your sexuality is like a career path that requires curiosity, practice and work to climb that sexual ladder. Your desires and needs continually developing and changing.
When it happened, we were in your bed, kissing, touching, clothes coming off. Yep, it's happening. I could feel your dick getting harder; pressing into my thigh. I'm stroking it and it gets harder still. Your head, your tongue between my legs. I'm ticking off a mental list of sexual acts I'm doing for the first time. Is it normal to check things off like this? Getting to the next level in a video game,
Hands here, hands there, mouth here, penetrate.
Check, check, check. Tick
I'm lying on my side as you stand up, go to the drawer and take out a square silver packet, open it, pinch the top and roll it down. You lie back down on the bed, we're face to face.
I didn't want to tell you before, because I didn't want to put you off or for you to treat me differently. In my mind the fact that we've got this far means that you'll just have to sleep with me now whether or not you find it weird that you're the first one to do so.
I put my hand on your face and arm, say wait a moment (in English so I hope you'll understand).
Me: Just so you know, I've never done this before.
You say nothing. Your eyes are wide.
You: No way
Me: I mean, I'm okay if you're okay.
And I really do feel good about this, excited and only a little bit nervous.
Me: I want to do this.
You: Oh. Well, okay let's do it.
And we did. It was fun.
Why do we or I often remember our first time/popping the cherry/losing our v card so vividly? I believe Virginity to be a myth but the memory still feels significant. I'd like to think even though we have many firsts throughout our lives, it's often more thrilling as it is a step into the unknown. Why not consider our entire sex lives, our lives, to be a string of firsts. Not just the first time a penis goes in a vagina. First time with someone new, first time kissing someone, first time getting gently spanked and realising you like it. First getting your period, first day of a new job, first time you drove a car. Having said that there are also a lot of firsts I don't remember at all or care about. A first of anything can be considered as important, unimportant or downright revolutionary as you want it to. Live your own story of firsts, or seconds or thirds or one hundredths. You decide how significant they are or not, it's much more interesting than the myths that came before you.
WRITTEN BY BETHAN SCREEN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ASHUNI LUCÍA PÉREZ