It’s all about virginity loss. Or is it?
When I began this project I was like a dog with a bone. We all lose our virginity and I couldn’t wait to get out there, wrestle a few subjects to the ground and ‘listen’ to the stories. Well, I have. I continue to. And I love it. I love listening to the episodes in people’s lives that are imprinted into our psyches like hot wax into a seal. The moment itself could be as dull as dishwater but it doesn’t matter because the beauty is in the detail and the connective tissue of emotions that frame this unique story.
‘You never fall in love like you do when you’re eighteen. Shot though the heart. I’ll have that again, any day of the week.’ Russell, lost virginity aged 17
Virginity loss is the backdrop to a thousand visceral teenage moments…
‘For me, the first hands-down-the-pants experience was far more significant. That was earth shattering. I mean, there is a hole there. How bizarre is that?’ Tim, lost virginity aged 16
Virginity loss is the swing door between child and adulthood. A door that we all want to push…even if we’re unsure of what we may find on the other side….
‘It was a pivotal moment, not only because I lost my virginity but also because it was a first taste of freedom, of what life could be like out in the big wide world and it was totally thrilling’. Heidi, lost virginity aged 15
In a Carrie Bradshaw moment of contemplation recently, I got to thinking. What happens if you never got around to having a ‘first time’? Or even a second or third time? What happens if you don’t actually have a sex life at all? Because believe me, it does happen. My inbox will attest to this. There are a whole lot of people in this sex sodden world that can’t, won’t or don’t have sex. They are sidelined, different, square pegs in round holes, whatever you want to call them, my inbox is full of people with no place else to go.
In the old days it wouldn’t have mattered because nobody talked about sex. It wasn’t on page 3. It wasn’t even on the top shelf. It was alluded to. In the words of one of my interviewees, ‘My grandmother used to buy ‘Woman’s Own’ and we got a lot of information from reading the problem pages despite the fact that the problems were never spelt out. We had to do an awful lot of reading between the lines to guess what they were talking about.’
It’s not like that now. Talking about our sex lives is virtually an Olympic sport. Sex is everywhere and as such, we have a ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ type situation on our hands. A sex life is a bit like a new house or a car. We all want to know if ours is as good as the next person’s. Is it as fast, shiny and fabulous as my neighbours? Do the posh curtains reflect the reality of what lies behind them? (Quite possibly not), and if it isn’t up to par, can I trade it in for a new one?
It’s all about the sex. The quality, the quantity, the ups and the downs, the literal in’s and the outs. Ok, I’m done with the metaphors and I fear I am driving this car in another direction but my point is this: Is it necessary to have sex in today’s society and is there something wrong with you if you don’t?
Of course, one must differentiate between those that have tried and didn’t want to buy and the ones that never even got to first base. I was looming around the toaster the other morning. For anyone who knows me, this is my edible version of the water cooler. The toaster always has the answers – and food. As I smeared butter and marmite over two lucky pieces of bread, a work colleague suddenly confided in me. ‘I’m not really bothered about sex at all. I’m quite happy with a cuddle. If I never had sex again, I wouldn’t be that fussed’.
I almost choked on my breakfast. She is twenty-five, healthy and engaged to be married. Is there something wrong with her? I can’t say. I am not a scientist but it wasn’t something that she wanted to shout about. Why would you? Everything in today’s society pushes women towards the idea of being sexy – and sexy equals having sex. Admitting you don’t have sex is virtually akin to being a non-functioning member of the human race.
We can ask questions. Is her relationship as it 'should' be? How does her future husband feel about this? Does he even know? And why do we care so much? People posses varying degrees of sex drive. Some people want to have a lot of sex and some people don’t. It probably is that simple but we still want to dig a little deeper and ask what is really wrong with a person who could have a lot of sex - but chooses not to. Women after all, are the only species on the planet with a body part dedicated solely to the pursuit of pleasure.
I fear I am asking more questions than I can answer. Modern life is complicated and I sometimes wonder if the proliferation of sex in today’s society has created more questions than it can answer. Older generations had less expectation for their lives but modern life commands us to ‘have it all’ – careers, families and oodles of sex. Excuse the pun but life can be a juggling act and sometimes a ball has to be dropped.
For those who don’t get past first base, religion is often a barrier and guilt is another. Sometimes both at the same time. But we can’t blame everything on religion. The number one enemy of virginity loss is the C word - confidence - and lack of. Like anything else in life, the longer you take to get around to something, the bigger deal it becomes. The unknown can begin to assume scary proportions and before you know it, you’ve got a low-grade phobia standing in your way. I see it all the time. As the days, months and years tick by; people feel they have been excluded from a race that everybody else seems to be winning. Can they ever catch up?
With guts and determination, anything is possible. Check the story I posted on the 21st of October. Its an extreme example but its owner was a sixty year old man who lost his virginity FOUR years ago, so no. It’s never too late and if it makes you feel any better, you are not alone. There are so many people out there who have never had sex. It’s just that you’re not wearing badges advertising the fact. I recently got this email from Lisa* in the States:
‘I see the majority of your project has to do with collecting stories on people losing their virginity. My problem is little different. I am a virgin who is looking for a male virgin to have a long-term relationship with which will hopefully lead to a sexual relationship that is based on love and not just the physical act. Some people try to advise me to go church to meet someone, but that's the thing: I'm not Christian. I'd consider myself agnostic.’
Frustrated with her own visibility and that of other virgins, she has decided to take action:
Several days ago I set up a simple forum for virgins seeking virgins.In my willingness to try to be more inclusive, I'm not completely against people joining who are coming from a religious stance with their virginity. However, as I have explained to more than one person, it seems like there are many dating websites our there for Christian singles and other religious persons. I wanted to take this in a more non-religious slant.
If you'd still like to mention the forum that I set up, here it is:
I saw Donny Deutsch on TV yesterday talking about how men should use business strategies in their personal lives in order to find someone special. ‘Have a plan and don't wait for things to just happen.’ I'm smart enough to know that when it comes to something so imprecise as picking the right time, place, and person to fall in love with, making a plan isn't always going to work. But the idea that I took from that is this: you have to make yourself visible. I figure, if people can ask for things like a BDSM relationship on an Internet ad, why should I feel weird about asking for a virgin relationship?’
Here, here. I concur, and I am back where I began. I began to collect stories about virginity loss but along the way, I learnt just as much about life, longing and love from the people who don’t have sex as the ones who do. It isn't all about virginity loss. No matter who you are or what you are, all your stories have their place and their purpose. Sexuality isn’t all about having sex and life is so much more than just a series of milestones.
*All names changed to protect identity.