This story confirms something that I have seen with my own eyes and it is this. If you ask people about the first time they had sex and the first time they had sex and it meant something, you will get two different answers. It also brings to mind an intriguing book that I recently read. Laura M Carpenter is an academic who divides people who have lost their virginity into three distinct groups. The first are ‘gifters’. These are people for whom virginity is something very precious. They are conscious of the fact that they will only ever lose it once, therefore they want it to be perfect because if you are going to give away your most precious gift then you want it to be under the most delightful circumstances possible. As you can imagine, this exchange is fraught with difficulties because when we give something very precious away, we often require something in return….
The second group are called the ‘stigmatized’ and I am raising my own hand as I write these words because I couldn’t get rid of my virginity fast enough. It felt like an ugly, itchy old jumper that I wanted to peel off at the first opportunity. I didn’t give a monkeys what the experience was like (although in retrospect I would have preferred it to be sexier), the most important part of the equation was that I felt stigmatized by my virginal status and there was only one obvious solution to the problem.
The third and by far the most well balanced of the bunch are ‘the processors’. The processors see virginity loss for what it is. It is something that will happen in its own time and if it is a lovely experience, great, and if not, well, it doesn’t matter too much because it is the first of hopefully many wonderful sexual experiences.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I wanted to explain to you a little bit about what might be going on in Teresa’s head. She is 16 years old, she is a fabulous story teller and she wants to lose her virginity. But she also wants the full Monty. She wants the romance, the meaning, the connection because as we all find out as we get older, sex with the elusive ‘connection’ is by far the best type of sex to be having. Or as Teresa terms it, the ‘emotional giving of herself’.
At Teresa’s age, I made the misguided assumption that any kind of sexual encounter would involve intimacy but on reflection - and growing up - sex can be the most un-intimate act in the world with someone that you don’t care for. It’s a bit like eating one of those nasty low calorie sandwiches – which I am at pains to point out, I have only ever done once and that was by mistake – and having done so, I ask you, what is the point of the diet sandwich? None. At some point in our lives, we all arrive at this conclusion but for Maria, in my opinion a classic 'gifter', she wants her first time to have the kind of emotional intensity that you can only achieve by ingesting the full fat version. The culinary equivalent, for me, might be ‘the Californian Burger’ which is served at Lucky 7 on Westbourne Park Road. An organic Aberdeen Angus burger, bacon, cheese, guacamole, roasted tomatoes, sour cream, pickles and mustard. If the best sexual experience ever were like a burger, then it would surely be like this one? But then as I have already pointed out, I was the stigmatized, dressed in my horrible itchy jersey and frankly, a trip to Macdonalds would have done the trick. Teresa, on the other hand, wants the very best from the get go.
I had no idea that I was going to compare virginity loss to a hamburger when I started writing this but there you go. Once you start writing you can never be sure of where the words might take you. And in the end, perhaps it’s all down to expectations. We expect the best but sex is like any other part of your life. You might pop out for a snack and end up eating the best sandwich you have ever encountered in your entire life. Conversely, you might go down to Lucky 7 with the sole intention of eating a Californian burger and the chef might have changed. The numbskull that has replaced him might forget to put the guacamole on and it could be the worst day of your life. Sex can be like that. Earth shattering, funny, pedestrian, perfectly acceptable, heart warming, surprising, dull, out of control, you really can’t predict what might happen and frankly, it would probably get a bit boring if you could. Shooting for perfection every time is not realistic but I do know this much, when it means something Teresa, you’ll know about it. You might, as I once did, go into a shop and buy a tiny heart shaped earl grey scented tea cake and it might be the best and most unexpected pleasure that you have ever experienced. Just like that.
‘My name is Teresa and I am 16 and I have kissed around 12 boys, and done more with some of them. I think the main reason I am writing this is to clarify in my head my sexual experiences. I go to an all-girls private school and unsurprisingly we talk about sex, who is a virgin, who isn’t and who is the latest person to do something scandalous (latest shocker: threesome).
Technically, I have lost my virginity, but there is this part of me that feels because I didn’t lose it in a relationship, because it was on holiday and I’ll never see the guy again, that there is still a part of me that is very much a virgin. And I’m not exactly experienced. I wonder if it is fair to say there is a distinction between sex and sleeping with someone or making love. Because whilst I know I’ve done the physical act, I don’t think I’ve felt the emotional giving of myself (if we even believe that’s what sex is. But I’ve seen the films and read the books and I feel that’s what sex is meant to be like. This huge emotional ordeal where you feel complete and connected…blah blah blah…)It sounds nerdy but I know a lot of my friends still think I’m a virgin, as do my parents. And honestly, if I were to now get into a relationship I can’t genuinely argue I would say I wasn’t a virgin.
I’ve had two boyfriends and a lot of kissing boys at parties whilst mildly drunk. But Tom was a bit different. He was a family friend with a girlfriend. And when we went on holiday to Spain, me aged 12, and I fell asleep and woke up in his arms, I think I fell in love with him a little bit. But turns out, Tom wasn’t a nice guy and ever since then he cheated on his girlfriend with me. I’m a teenage girl, I’m insecure, I loved him, it was going to happen. And I can only speak so honestly about it now I’ve cut him out of my life. But anyway, I digress.
May 2009. Parents and sister out, Tom at my house. Fooling around in my bed, and we started having sex (I should mention that Tom has lots of sex. Not a virgin in the slightest). No condom, but at that point, I wasn’t that concerned. And I was okay for a while, until I fully registered what was going on, and I wanted to stop, so Tom pulled out. And it sounds ridiculous when you consider that I’d had oral sex with Tom, which I think is very intimate, but something wasn’t right. It wasn’t how I imagined this allegedly momentous occasion to happen.
So, after getting checked out and all cleaned up, life continued. I didn’t tell anyone, tried to act like it had never happened and was just a sort of accidental thing. The following summer, I had a boyfriend for a while who I didn’t have sex with, thankfully, as he turned out to be a total prick (no pun intended).
2010. February. Holiday with the family. I had lots of independence to go out to bars and fooled around a lot, almost trying to get Tom and everyone else out of my system. A group of us all went back to this guy’s flat, and the two of us were fooling around and for whatever reason, I wanted sex. And so that’s what happened. No crash of lightening, no choir of angels, no sudden realisation. But I was different. And although I didn’t regret it then, once I was home and the holiday magic had worn off, I was upset. Because I had these expectations for myself, stemming from society and religion and parents and perhaps, the single most important reason, the basic principle of self-respect, and I had let myself down.
So no, I’m not really a virgin, but I think, if asked by a boyfriend, I would say I was. It’s lying, it’s dishonest. But I want a chance to lose my virginity physically and emotionally, to someone who’s parents I’ve met and who I’ve known for more than five minutes. Because I think I deserve that. Hell, everyone does.’