This story brings to mind ‘the Monro theory’, a little something that I’ve been working on for the last few years. It’s also known as the ‘don’t save things for best’ theory and I’ll tell you why. A few years ago, I was burgled. It wasn’t the first time this had happened but it felt different for one reason. I realized that I had a whole bunch of things that I never wore because I was always ‘saving them for best’.
Dresses, shoes and pristine trainers, still in their boxes and saved for that day when you want to wear the perfect white training shoe. Let me tell you something. Number one, someone, somewhere on the Harrow Road is wearing those trainers and it isn’t me, and number two, today is as good a day as any to wear perfect shoes. Don’t save things for best. Take them out of the box, put them on your goddam feet and wear them. Because if you don’t, someone else might. And then you’ll feel like a big chump.
What has this got to do with virginity loss? Quite a lot actually because there is something to be learnt from this tale. Whilst I am not suggesting that you get out there and lose your virginity to the first stranger you meet, I would like to suggest this: saving it for best does not account for the vagaries of life. It does not allow us to experiment, to mess up and make amends, to experience life with all its ups, downs, ins, outs and whatever other way you want to do it. In short, it doesn’t allow us to take life by the scruff of the neck and grow from the experience.
Losing your virginity is the first step in the right direction. It might be ok, you might even get lucky and enjoy it, but if you don’t, it doesn’t matter because there is plenty of time to improve your game. Don’t shoot for perfection.
That’s what I enjoyed about this story. I like the fact that its author knows this. She is prepared for the fact that her adventures could be pleasurable, fun or emotional – or perhaps all three at the same time. Conversely, she also understands that some of it might not - but she takes responsibility for herself and dives into the melee with the best piece of armour that money can buy: an optimistic attitude.
Make the best of this moment. The past is gone, the future doesn’t exist yet. This is the moment that we do have. Live it like you mean it.
Mary. Aged 26, from North Carolina.
To start with, I wasn't raised religiously, but I became an evangelical Christian when I was sixteen. So I grew up thinking of sex as a natural, value-neutral thing. I looked forward to having it, but it was still something that was a long way off and thus not too worrisome.
Joining the church changed that. I bought into the idea that ‘good Christians’ remained pure and waited until marriage. When I went to college, I immersed myself in another evangelical church, where I basically only knew church people who also felt the same way about relationships and sex.
Although it was common to hear couples talking about ‘struggling with purity’, the public expectation was that everyone was waiting till marriage. My friends today are shocked when I tell them how many of my friends got married so young, right out of college, but when you're waiting (or you at least planned to wait); it begins to make a lot more sense.
I never really had a problem with this system because I believed in it. I thought waiting and not messing around with casual encounters was going to save me a lot of emotional and spiritual angst. And to some degree, I do still see the wisdom of that, or at least I understand the reasoning.
That changed after I graduated and started working. I got involved with a co-worker at my new job pretty quickly - it was kind of a new world where I didn't have to go through a long ‘getting to know you’ process simply to make out with someone. But I was still attached to the church and I told him straight away that I wasn't going to sleep with him. I felt like that was the best for everyone - no surprises later on. He wasn't keen on it however, and every effort I made to continue the relationship always broke on that choice - that I wasn't willing to give him what he wanted.
This earned me a sort of status as a ‘church girl’ who wasn't going to give it up, even though many of my life choices in other respects were edging away from the church. A major turning point for me was going to grad school in another state. Although now I look at it as breaking free of the church, I just continued the process of slipping away from the church lifestyle or culture and its value judgements. I never made an out and out decision that I was going to lose my virginity, but I became more amenable to losing it in certain situations.
Partly that was helped by becoming more confident, interested in non-church people, a part of a culture where sex was accepted or expected, and also by having a handful of casual encounters with escalating sexual intimacy.
The majority of these hook ups have taken place in the last few monthss, and since they've built on each other, they've also built my confidence in myself, my desirability, and my attractiveness, (although the casual/one night stand nature of them can also cause my confidence to fluctuate). These are the experiences that make me start questioning the status of my virginity and the definition of losing one's virginity in general.
When I think about my own virginity in the context of these experiences, I realize that, for me, talking about virginity in terms of ‘losing something’ is totally backwards. Rather, with each encounter, I feel more like I'm building up my sexual experience.
In this realm, there were many firsts, which were always accompanied by a little jolt and a realization that I had a decision to make about whether I was ready for that step: the first time a guy touched me intimately, the first time I took my bra off, the first time I was half naked, the first time I was wholey naked, the first time I touched someone else intimately.
Each of these experiences and the ones in between were like taking steps forward, learning or gaining an understanding of my body and how it worked with other peoples' bodies. In this sense, I never felt like I was losing anything, but rather crossing developmental benchmarks that are good and natural and which it seems we are all meant to experience at some point.
In other ways, I do understand the idea of loss. Each time I crossed one of these benchmarks or made the choice to allow them, that jolt was like a bell saying ‘Now you've done it; there will never be a first time for that again’ and I think some part of my brain catalogues the situation and compares it to how I thought it would be or how I thought it would happen.
Now, post-church, that comparison does not invite self-shame or a feeling of innocence lost. Mostly it's more of a feeling of, ‘Oh, that's different than I expected, but not bad...’ That definitely wasn't always the case, but that's what makes me glad to be where I am now emotionally.
I realize now that I actually think of many of those intimate milestones as fractions of the whole sexual experience, which are not necessarily sex when done alone, but culminate in the final experience. In terms of having sex and ‘losing my virginity’, each first time was like losing a little piece of it. As for the most recent experience I had, when I experienced penetration but not orgasm for the first time, I do think of that as the biggest chunk to date.
Nevertheless, I think of that more as ‘breaking the seal’ than losing my virginity. Right now I'd say I'm probably only 15% a virgin, but that my self status as a virgin, emotionally, is still intact. It's this emotional virginity that I'm actually glad to say I still have, for myself. Most of my sexual encounters have taken place on a one-night-stand basis under the influence of alcohol and are clearly not meant to result in relationship consequences the next day. While I want to be in a relationship, I don't regret that the experiences I've had have happened in this way. Nevertheless, that mental, emotional, and spiritual image of having sex, really, for the first time in a committed relationship stays with me.
I think that's the kind of circumstances that I will need to have to really and truly relax and enjoy good reciprocal sex. Until that scenario comes along, I don't think I'm going to sit idly on the sidelines, but rather, continue to build up my experience. I don't expect it all to be great or even good, but I look forward to trying it all out and moving toward the internal ‘breaking of the seal’, now that it's outwardly occurred.
Thanks for listening to my story, and providing a forum for other people's as well.Mary.’