There is always a difference between the reason we tell people we are pursuing a project and the actual, deep down, nuts and bolts impetus. The motivation, the thing that gets us out of bed each morning, washes us, dresses us and sets us down in front of our computers for another days journey, in my case, through the sexual recollections of a wide range of characters.
It’s a great idea - we all lose our virginity, therefore we all have a story. Some of them are funny and some of them are sad. Others still, people have painted with detail, social mores of the day, colour and, occasionally, dimensions that younger readers might well find difficult to comprehend. The Harry’s, Dwayne’s and Sophie’s of today might have a hard time visualizing Mary Stuart, one of my first interviewees, laughing at the first sight of her naked husband on her wedding night, but the year was 1940 and despite having two older brothers, Mary had absolutely no idea what a man’s equipment looked like. There was no sex education, no MTV, no Internet, nothing in fact, to buffer young people between themselves and the consummation of marriage.
I have many reasons for pursing this project and education is definitely one of them. But what really gets me going? What pushes me on, when I have harangued all of my contacts, spent my savings and consumed everything in the fridge, bar the tube of anchovy paste and the rusty tin of tonic water?
The reply is that I, like most human beings, am innately insecure. There are questions that I need to ask - but I don’t think I am the only one who wants to know the answers. I want to know what other people really felt about having sex for the first time. Not the version that we tell our friends around the pub table but the no holds barred version. The reality, the joy, the pain, the sheer physical sensation of allowing somebody so close for the very first time. And if we take a step further toward truth, how does this one-off experience compare to our present arrangement? How good have we got?
Because we grow taller, we take exams and we achieve stuff, but how do we truly know how we measure up when it comes to sex? When you consider that we will live for an average of eighty-one years and have sex approximately seven thousand, five hundred and sixty four times (I made that bit up), it would seem a skill worth developing. Perhaps we should have report cards like at school, “Kate did really well at sex this year, her style and technique is really coming along” and “Kate has made great strides in a subject that she has found challenging at times”. Why not? We all want to know that we are improving and we all want to know that we are normal.
I am happy to report, having listened to many tales in the last year, that not only am I normal, but you are too. Obviously until I can provide you with some evidence of this, you’re going to have to take me at my word. Keep your eyes peeled and I will see what I can do.