Losing our virginity…it happens to almost all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. How did it happen for you? Ever wondered what other people think and feel about this never-to-be-repeated experience?
I am on a mission to find out. Follow my journey as I collect stories from as wide a selection of people as possible. From men and women, old and young, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim and Catholic, from the funny and the sad, to the happy and occasionally, the unbelievable. I am in search of the one story that we rarely share. Come and join my adventure.
Contribute your story?
Have you got a story you would like to post? Or an opinion you would like to share? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember to tell me when you were born and what country you come from. All names will be changed to protect identity.
It’s Thursday and I am back from a place where real oranges grow on real trees. Yes, it’s true. I am such a townie that the sight, no, the apparition, of edible fruit growing on actual trees was an almost continual source of fascination during my trip overseas. Needless to say - and taking the credit crunch into account - I was apprehended at Palma Airport attempting to smuggle six tons of Mallorca’s finest through customs. Enough oranges and lemons to prevent an entire ship’s worth of sailors suffering from scurvy. Not really. I was a little nervous though and I’ll tell you why. Just before I left for the airport I got an email from the BBC’s World Service asking if I could take part in a global debate about virginity that very night. Now I love doing radio, but not so much in a busy international airport with Spain’s scariest flight attendant telling me that if I don’t get on the bus NOW and board the plane that is just about to leave then it will go without me and I will be forced to purchase another plane ticket. Sadly it seemed, my window of opportunity was too short and I couldn’t make the debate. It’s a shame because it was an interesting subject. The topic on everyone’s lips was this: ‘Should a woman be a virgin when she gets married?’ Now, just before you check to see you haven’t crash-landed in another century by accident, consider the following figures: 33% (or 2.1 billion people) of the planets population are Christians (I include Catholics, Protestants, Anglican’s, Evangelicals etc in this figure) 21% (or 1.5 billion people) are followers of Islam 16% or 1.1 billion people are Atheist, non-religious or Agnostic The remaining 30% are a melting pot of Hindu’s, Buddhists, Sikhs, Rastafarians and other assorted religions. The point I am attempting to make without involving too much maths is that this stuff matters to people. A high proportion of the world’s population do believe that a woman should be a virgin when she gets married. Shocking but true. Of course, if you asked me the question I would say ‘not in a month of Sundays’. I might consider it if my male partner was prepared to follow suit but that’s not going to happen. Plus, the words ‘shutting' and 'stable door’ and ‘horse has already bolted’ spring to mind. That ship, my dears, and hopefully the one with all the oranges on it, has already sailed. It’s too late and it doesn’t really matter, at least not to me. But to some people it does, and so once again I find myself asking the question ‘why?’ I respect the individual’s choice to do as they please with their bodies. If someone makes a conscious decision to hold onto their virginity until such point they deem appropriate, I am down with that. Sadly ‘doing’ and ‘pleasing’ are not part of the modern vernacular of many religions. Critical choices are being made for people – mainly women it has to be said - on their behalves. How does this work? What is the reason for this? Are we not able to make these decisions for ourselves? In this day and age, I genuinely do not understand why this is happening. Viola Anderson sums up my confusion thus: ‘viola anderson June 12, 2008 at 5:14 am
Try to remember a time when the only reliable birth control was total abstinence from sex. It follows then that men would insist that their wives be virgin before the marriage in order to be certain that any child born would be his own. The virginity was not the object – assurance of paternity was. Nowadays, at least where reliable birth control is available, insisting on virginity (for that reason) is an outdated practice. However, if the object of requiring the virginity of the bride is to prevent the woman’s comparing her husband’s sexual practices to any other man’s, then it is a whole different matter and is surely an unreasonable requirement. It is another example of how a man’s fear (in this case, of not being as good as some other man) has been foisted onto the woman who is required to save the man from his fears of inadequacy.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. This is one of over 400 comments that were posted on the worldhaveyoursay site where the topic was first raised. It is an emotive issue and the comments on the site reflect that. I cannot help but come back to the same blindingly simple thought again. In the modern age, women, as well as men must be able to make these choices for themselves. It really is that simple. Now for the facetious bit. I can’t help it but honestly, this story is worth telling twice. I posted it on my blog last year but if you didn’t see it then, try it now. This story tells you everything you want to know about the word ‘unbelieeeeeevable’.
On Tuesday, we heard about Darcy's dilemma. Today, the people talk back!
First up is Ted, the sixty-year-old owner of a story that I posted on October 21st last year. I don't mind admitting that there are times when I think Ted lives between the fictional pages of a Mills and Boon novel, such is his attachment to an old fashioned approach to 'married love'. But despite this affliction, Mr T can always be relied upon for a well thought out and brilliantly written response. What I particularly like about his reply today is his rather brilliant shopping analogy. Turns out, sex and shopping are related after all….
'Darcy, I am something of an authority on virginity and the associated Christian guilt-complex in that I was a virgin for a VERY long time. But the more I think about the topic of virginity, the less qualified I feel to speak! There is so much I realize that I do not know. Nonetheless, here are a few reflections, and a plea, following your piece.
Plea first: do not think yourself into a 'no win' situation in your understandable concerns about the end of your virgin state. Rather, try to think yourself into a 'no lose' frame of mind. I don't mean, ' no lose virginity'. I see this as your 'property' to control as YOU wish and change, when you, and only you, want to. Think of it like this:
Imagine that someone gave you the gift of a sum of money, and you went out looking around stores and saw lots of quite tempting things on display for sale...yet, tempting as these items may have been, there was nothing that seemed 'just right', nothing that you would have been completely happy at parting with your money in order that you might own it. On returning home, you might have a pang of sadness that you did not have a tangible object in your arms, and feel 'left out' when you saw your friends proudly clutching things, but you would still, I should think, feel a secret glow of knowledge that you had retained your full 'purchasing power' for possible use at a future date when a range of even more attractive produce might be on offer.
It might also be worth remembering the comment of the pianist Liberace, who, when asked if the taunts of critics upset him, replied: 'I cry all the way to the bank!'
Well said, Ted.
Next up is my blogging friend DJ Kirkby. DJ does more than just blog. She is a midwife and as such, the owner of some practical advice for the aspiring non-virgin. I know I said this wasn't about me but I have pulled her last point up front and made it the first point. I think it’s the most important one:
'My thoughts after reading Darcy's letter:
8) Life is written in pencil, nothing so wrong that it cannot be remedied in at least a small measure and nothing so gloriously perfect that it cannot be improved upon.
1) She is an amazing person, very brave and strong even if she may not believe this about herself.
2) She is not ready to have sex/make love yet. We all mature sexually at different times and all have to meet the right guy to turn our 'sexy' switch on, even if it is just someone we do not know on an intimate level. It could be someone we see regularly like a teacher or a friend. It does not have to be the guy that she actually has sex with the first time, but she should wait until she feels that all-important urge of a sexual nature.
3) For some people this never happens at all and they choose to embrace a life of celibacy, there are many websites with forums for like-minded people on this topic.
4) She may bleed a bit, but if both her and they guy are expecting it, it shouldn't be an issue. Have some baby wipes close by.
5) Do not be ashamed to use lubricant for your first or even subsequent times, the wetter the better and more comfortable making love will be.
6) The position that Darcy should use the first time or anytime she makes love with someone is whatever position they end up in, these things are better if not planned out to the nth degree.
7) If she has sex with a man she later finds out has betrayed her or was not the one she considered to be the 'one', she will recover from this, even though she does not believe she can'.
Short and to the point. Thank you DJ. Last up is Sophie.I interviewed her for my book last year. At twenty-three years old, she may be the baby of our panel, but that doesn’t make her any less qualified to have an opinion. Here we go:
Well, I think the first thing that comes to mind is that everything you've said is extremely normal. I've had the same background as you - no abuse, no bullying - but that doesn't mean that you or I aren't allowed to be scared!
My current boyfriend comes from a Catholic background, so I completely relate to the pressure that puts on you. We're open in all parts of our relationship but it’s taken a long time of talking and patience to deal with some of his 'religion-related' issues.
It's a difficult toss up (excuse the pun) as we're born into a modern society and our lives reflect this - yet we are still entrenched in a very traditional way of thinking. There's nothing wrong with that, but it’s something to keep in mind. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to live by these sets of rules; getting the right balance isn’t easy.
As for the deed itself, four months is a good amount of time to be with someone - but its still not that long. If you think that doing something will create feelings of regret - chances are your instincts are right and it just not worth pushing yourself.
Unfortunately, I can't say whether your boyfriend is or isn't serious about you, but a four month relationship says to me that it’s not purely sexually driven. Ask yourself if he's pressuring you to do it and that will give you a better answer than I can.
I can tell you though that my first time was a very good experience, I had been with my boyfriend for about the same time as you. We hadn't discussed it or planned it - it just happened. I didn't bleed (probably because I'd been very sporty in my early teens), and it didn't hurt. I think that negative experiences are usually more memorable, and are often over-exaggerated.
I think that taking advice from friends is a fantastic thing, but remember that they too are in the same position as you. I'd really hate to be thought of as condescending, but I certainly didn't know enough about sex at seventeen to be giving sound advice. Also, being on top doesn't make a whole lot of difference from a pain perspective, but as you grow to enjoy sex, it makes it more pleasurable.
It's a bit of a cliché - but when things are right for you, you'll know it and you wont feel so uncertain. I'd suggest waiting a little longer until things become clearer.’
Darcy, I hope my contributors have helped you to make a tricky decision a little easier and on that note, 'The Virginity Project' is planning a little ‘self help’ of another kind. I am off for some serious R&R on the sunny isle of Mallorca. See you in a week or two, adios amigos!
Today I shall turn the reigns of power over to you, the readers of and contributors to ‘The Virginity Project. In short, I got bored of the sound of my own voice so I decided to let someone else do the talking. Power to the people and all that. I'm not the only one with an opinion. To this end, I sent the following story to some of the people I am lucky enough to correspond with. It'll be interesting to see how they reply to Darcy's dilemma.
Story today. My panelists and their replies tomorrow:
My name is Darcy and I was born in 1991. Virginity Loss: TBC.
I recently found The Virginity Project and it's actually boosted my confidence considerably. I'm still a virgin and feel a bit of a freak if I’m honest. I've never been bullied or sexually abused or anything like that so I don't see why I have the feelings I do about sex.
I think, deep down, it may have something to do with my religion. I was raised as a relatively strict catholic, so I feel very guilty when I even think about sex. I have never even...er...’self-helped’...and if my boyfriend does anything like that for me then I don't particularly feel any kind of sensation - mental or physical, apart from ‘oh...this is happening’.
The actual idea of sex doesn't scare me. I think I probably would have sex with my boyfriend (of four months) if he asked me, because it may make him happy and I wouldn't feel like I've missed out on a teenage milestone. I just don't know how I'd deal with the guilty feelings, and if everything went wrong, the feelings of regret.
I think the way I end up loosing my virginity will matter immensely for all my future relationships and my future thoughts on men because I've only ever had two boyfriends before. I've also been researching around the topic to try and get some answers to my problems and what I decipher thus far is this: women are told they will get nothing from their first time apart from pain or possibly pregnancy. They are told they will bleed and that the boy will probably freak out if he's bled on and then they will be labeled a 'slut’, so nothing really fills me with confidence.
I had a conversation recently too with a friend of mine, and she said that for a first time it is advisable ‘for the girl to be on top because then she can control what happens. Missionary is just plain painful’ but I don't think I'd have the confidence to go ‘on top’, so I'd just have to deal with whatever pain comes my way (And I don't really fancy bleeding on anyone!)
If you haven't got bored of me ranting about my status, then thank you for reading this far. It's nice to be able to write all my 'V-thoughts' and rants down and tell someone how I'm feeling about it because I really don't know what to do. And if I talk to anyone properly about it then they could just say I'm making a big deal out of nothing. It's nice to know you're not alone with these things.