Looking at Virginity
I don’t know how we arrived at the topic except that my sister and I were having one of those long conversations that touches all sorts of topics, political and familial, when somehow we arrived at the topic of sex. She told me how she’d lost her virginity. I was impressed with what she shared.
In fact, she didn’t lose her virginity, rather she planned its demise. She and her best friend in high school decided to lose their virginities on the night of their senior prom with their respective boyfriends. They researched birth control, determined appropriate hotels, and plotted how to actually get to spend the entire night away from home (not a fait accompli when they were seniors). They also got books on sexual techniques and ways to make the first time less painful and traumatic. “Be prepared” remains my sister’s motto although she was never a Boy Scout.
I was impressed with how thoughtful she had been about “losing” her virginity.
I, on the other hand, had two different virginity-losing encounters. The first was so painful and ineptly attempted by my then boyfriend (who may have also been a virgin at the time) that I waited over a year to attempt intercourse again. The second attempt succeeded but was no less painful and dispiriting as the first.
Whereas foreplay -- kissing, hugging, rubbing and so forth and so on -- had been quite pleasurable, intercourse was not. It wasn’t until well into my freshman year at college that sex became enjoyable and, truth be told, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I actually found the intercourse part of sex fulfilling when I met a guy who was skilled, patient and experienced.
Despite the assertion of the lyrics in a song by Sade that say, “it’s never as good as the first time,” sex did get better and better subsequently. (Practice makes, if not perfect, certainly much better.) It has been my experience that most of the lovers I’ve had who were technically masterful weren’t particularly good as actual companions. But that may be just my experience.
I have come to understand the value of being highly discriminating when it comes to choosing when to become sexual and with whom. The sharing of DNA is not to be taken lightly or casually, and should not happen hastily or clandestinely. The physical and emotional consequences of sexual intercourse are significant. I have come to believe -– and I shudder to think how conservative this all sounds -– that we should give children information about sex, normalize it as a core human pursuit and activity, and discourage them from becoming sexual before college (at the very least).
Losing one’s virginity should be thoughtfully planned and should be treated with special consideration and leisure. It should occur in a suitably beautiful if not luxurious environment -– after all, once it’s gone, it’s gone (although there are now artificial hymens that can be purchased as well as medical procedures that can recreate an approximation of a real hymen –- yuck.)
As my daughter and son grew up, I talked to them about the birds and the bees and birth control. I talked to them about responsibility. I gave them access to books about their bodies. Despite what I think was my openness, neither of them talked to me about when they were ready to lose their virginity. I have a couple of friend’s whose daughters did inform them that they were ready to take that momentous step. While both friends were glad their daughters felt close enough to share the information, the discussions were still anguishing. As a parent, it’s hard to feel your child is ready.
I realize, that in the discussions my mother had with me, the many conversations I had with friends about “doing it” and in the information I gave my children, a discussion of the emotions that surround the sexual act were basically non-existent. To correct that, I wrote a post on my personal blog called, Real Questions to Discuss about Sex and Relationships with Teens. The questions are thoughtful and practical and sure to promote useful discussion with teens.
A particularly well-written and strongly-worded post, Like a Virgin, that appeared on BlogHer.com discusses what virginity means.
Virginity faces girls with some serious contradictions. It is something that is hugely built up. The messages we get are all about virginity being a precious gift. Something that should be held onto tightly and given away with reverence and gravity. Yet in the teen world virginity was something that my friends and I were more than ready to get rid of. Strong cultural expectations come into play as well, we are supposed to be “good” girls yet are also taught to be sexy, creating a sexual dilemma. Personally, I thought of losing my virginity as a crucial experience, a profound part of growing up, a symbol of womanhood and childhood left behind.
After I’d done it, my giddy crush quickly escalated into an obsession.
The American Virgin blog is written to support a documentary film in progress, “How to Lose Your Virginity.” The trailers are informative and provocative.
On Tales of a 36-Year-Old-Virgin, Chapter 1, a woman shared her harrowing experience living with what she had been told was an abnormally small vagina:
When I was 22, I finally went to an OBGYN for the first time, to ask for birth control pills. I had heard they could help manage heavy periods. The doctor attempted a female exam on me. After a great deal of pain, shame, and embarrassment was suffered through, she finally gave up. She said my vagina was unusually small, she had no speculum small enough to work on me, and couldn’t even give me a pap smear. She said there was nothing to do about this issue, but sadly tampons would be out of the question for me, to say nothing of sex.
She said it like she was breaking the news to me that the milk in my refrigerator had gone bad; it was unfortunate news, to be sure; but she clearly saw no reason to cry over my extremely personal spilt milk.
She did, however, jot down a script for birth control pills that she handed me airily.
I left her office befuddled and numb. Over the course of the next 5 years I would see 4 more doctors, 3 of which were OBGYN’s and all of whom would provide the same diagnosis with the same lack of interest. No sex for you. Who’s next in the waiting room? One mentioned I had been "born wrong".
It turns out what she needed was a hymenectomy. (A what?!) Read more to find out what that means.
BlogHer.com contributing editor Gena talks about the importance of sex education for children and the two camps that exist: Abstinence and Comprehensive Sexual Education in Sexual Education - Can Sex Ed Save Us From Ourselves? As always with Gena’s entries, this post is chock-full of resources from both camps as well as about people who define themselves as asexual and for parents.
Here is my frustration. There are elements in abstinence education that are valuable to teach young people. Yes, teach respect for your body, techniques for defusing criticism about not having sex and consideration for future goals and aspirations. Those are very important concepts for all of us to learn and incorporate.
Having said that, I strongly do not like fear based abstinence instruction. Equating sex with drinking or other unhealthy behaviors is not a thought a young woman should try to wipe out of her head on her honeymoon. Sex is not a pathology or something to invoke shame. Linking sexual activity to disease is not, in my opinion, a mentally healthy thing to do to another human.
Dewhug discusses whether (and how) we can delay sexual activity in teens in the post, Can We Make ‘Em Wait?
I saw a re-run of the Tyra show a few weeks ago with teens and tweens talking about sex. One 15 year old girl said she’d had sex with eight boys already- that’s more sexual partners that I’ve had in my whole life! Tyra asked her if she thought eight was a lot and she said no. What?! So casual.
What I also found interesting was that there was a young boy on there with his mom. He said he is a virgin because his mom has big dreams for him- but he lies and tells his friends that he’s having sex to fit in because they are all saying they are having sex. He said he had lots of questions like: what does it feel like when you “put it in” and what it felt like to have an orgasm and how do you put on a condom, etc…
I don’t think I ever thought sex was casual, regardless of how my friends and I spoke about it.
I encourage you to read the rest of her post to find out the rules around sex her very honest and direct parents gave her and her siblings.
The reality is that we are hard-wired as humans for sex. When, how, and why we become non-virgins is a momentous decision. Once it's gone, it's gone (despite the comments of several friends who've been non-sexual for quite some years and feel like they've been re-virginized...Not!).
Good and plenty!