Today’s story comes straight from the valleys. The Welsh valleys that is and I like it very much. You’re a good story teller I wrote to ‘Bronwyn’. Quick as a flash she replied with another. This time, the story of someone else’s virginity loss - with herself cast as the ‘taker’. From the green fields of North Wales to the beaches and hot dusty streets of West Africa, virginity loss is a universal experience, just with a different set of characters. As today’s stories will surely show….
‘Bronwyn, Born North Wales 10.08.1966 - year of the fire horse - unmarriageable and unmanageable we are apparently.....
I grew up an excruciatingly shy child, an ugly duckling with one eye bigger than another. Hid myself away in books and the ubiquitous ponies. Ascending to secondary school I became know as the class nerd. No tits or pubes until 15 years of age. Torment ensued via the communal showers after PE with the usual developed girl’s comments. A controlling Victorian father who had one set of rules for girls and quite another for boys only compounded a sense of isolation.
Arriving at 16, I progressed to Sixth Form College with my partner in crime and best friend who I used to hitch hike all over North Wales with, going to parties getting drunk and stoned. I landed at college with the firmly planted aspiration of losing my virginity ASAP. I felt it to be an embarrassment, a hindrance to my developing to adulthood, but waited till this age so that nothing was illegal, even having sorted myself out on the pill cannily 3 months before. Generally my attitude was good riddance when it's gone.
I briefly dated a couple of guys who were, bluntly put, rather brainless. Then one day, I found myself walking down a corridor behind a very cute biker with very revealing leather trousers on. Gorgeous, working (=independence) and at 21, well he was quite a catch. The usual clumsy teenage flirtations followed. We ended up going out together. How sweet, his name meant 'blackbird'.
I fell in love with him as much as anyone can during their unformed teenage years. Six weeks into this I decided this was the time. We went out to a nightclub in North Wales and I was staying at his parents on the sofa. Wasn't drunk or stoned just decided now is the time. I like him, thought I loved him. The experience was brief, extremely clumsy. He had no idea about a woman's body despite not being a virgin himself. He had no idea about foreplay or preparing a woman, no fuss, no frills or lubricant. It was agony for me but fortunately over quickly due to his utter ineptitude.
After the act off he went to bed and I was on the sofa. So much for chivalry ha ha. All I could think was 'thank god for that.' Whatever - clumsy yes, a wasted opportunity - maybe, it remained my launch pad into adult life. It was a huge relief. We remained together for a year but went our separate ways. Him never having the desire to leave North Wales, me: couldn't wait to get out. He was sweet but did not have a shining intellect.
I remain grateful to him however due to his general kindness as a person, his sense of humour, his physical beauty and his innate sense of privacy - certainly did not go round advertising he had had a 'virgin'. We remained friends and I think fondly of him to this day. He launched me onto the adult world with a generosity of spirit that is rare to find these days. I have become a very confident independent woman able to hold my own and can smile gently at my past youthful experiences.
I do have another story of a man's virginity I can tell. Age 27, I found myself living in Liverpool doing my training as a midwife. I was half way through a 3 year course that was challenging on every level. Prior to moving to Liverpool, I had finished work and gone travelling solo for 6 months, covering India, Nepal, Czech Republic ending up in a squatted town in Holland at an artists festival. Landing in Liverpool I found it extremely difficult to acclimatise, with monumental work loads and total social isolation. It was difficult to get out due to work and although fond of my other student colleagues we didn't really see eye to eye about places to go out. I was by this time dreadlocks, tattoos and piercings, active in the free party and festival scene. Bernie Inns were not really me cup of tea.
Half way through the course I was fit to blow due to the pressure of work and the realisation of just how conservative the profession really was. Round peg in a square hole was an understatement. One night, I found an advert in the back of a tabloid paper for vey cheap flights to West Africa. I vacillated for 30 minutes and then said stuff it I'm going. I knew I would be missing a couple of things at college and that I would be in serious trouble but it felt like make or break time. My flight booked, I had to get myself from Liverpool to Gatwick airport for 7am the next morning. It mattered little that there were no bus or train services, my house mate dropped me off at the motorway at 9pm that night. I’d spent years hitching alone in the UK and Europe. I met some interesting folk, had a safe journey and arrived at Gatwick at about 4am the next morning.
I started talking to a middle aged business man in the departure lounge who told me he was building a school for philanthropic reasons out there. We sat next to each other on the plane and he said he would introduce me to his middleman, who he had met on the beach when said chap was 12. This guy was now 24 years old. Landing in Banjul a few hours later we disembarked and introductions were made. The business man was dropped at his hotel and I was sent off with Tunde the middleman to go sort out somewhere for me to stay with arrangements for us all to meet up for dinner later.
Tunde was a sweet character. An honourable character with an honest loyal heart, a winning smile and even more winning face and to be honest a body to die for. These are just things women notice. I had no particular intention of going out to Africa with any agenda of physical fun or seducing someone.
We looked all afternoon without any luck. People saw the colour of my skin, who I was with and obviously thought I was in the same financial bracket as the business man - despite the dreadlocks and piercings. Tunde suggested I stay with his family in their compound and I would be a paying guest. Seemed fine by me. His mother was most welcoming. A teacher and ex midwife, I thought it would be interesting and beneficial for all concerned. Retrospectively his mother had a hidden financial agenda; I can't say I blame her really.
We settled on a price which, having spent a lot of time in the developing world was generous. It was more than a month’s salary for a professional and I only intended staying 3-4 days as I was planning to go to Senegal to Dakar. I was mortified to find that she had thrown one of her daughters out of her bed and was making her sleep on the floor. I stayed one night in their house and after becoming friendly with one of the guys in the compound he offered me his spare room. I had eaten twice with Tunde’s family and spent one night with them. I explained I did not wish to evict her daughter from her bed and that the money would cover all. My friend was unemployed and would benefit more from some extra income. This all seemed to be accepted with good grace.
Two days after arriving in Gambia a military coup took place. The whole country was sealed in, curfews ensued and armed military were on the streets with a fully armed American warship sitting in the gulf. Bang went the Senegal trip. I remained living at Kwaiko’s house with the middleman Tunde staying occasionally. We became good friends and he was very gentlemanly in an old world sense. Such as (I thought ridiculously at the time) picking me up and carrying me out of the sea when I stood on a broken bottle, but very sweet. Our common love of music brought us closer together. I enjoyed his company, I was used to pushy cocky Europeans and he was a breath of fresh air.
I could see all this being observed in an increasingly disapproving manner by his mother. After staying at Kwaiko’s for a week Tunde’s mother called me to her house for a conference. To sum up, she stated that I owed her money for accommodation and food, neither of which I had received since leaving her house. She stated she had incurred expenses for my staying. This unfortunately escalated from my asking how this could be as I was not staying with her and what I had paid previously was overly adequate and generous. The result was her crying and shouting, pulling her hair saying I had abused her hospitality, that she had treated me like a daughter....It went on and on it was excruciating. I stood my ground saying I am sorry you are upset but this is emotional blackmail. Conference ended, I went back to Kwaiko’s. The whole compound was gossiping. Poor Tunde was stuck between loyalty for his family and his obvious embarrassment at how his mother was behaving. It took Kwaiko having to go and talk to her and be frank saying this is ridiculous and wrong for this lady to calm down.
Everyone was upset that evening. Tunde in particular. We had become closer and as result, he came and stayed with me that night. He was sweet and loving. Having had African boyfriends before my experience was of them being a little proscriptive in what they are prepared to do sexually. Tunde would not contemplate any of my gentle suggestions and the experience being a little clumsy and no frills, I realised after the act that he had been a virgin. His embarrassed response to my gentle questioning confirmed this.
Knowing the reputation of Gambia for the sex trade reversed, older women going there to find themselves a young handsome fit thing, well I was frankly mortified. I didn't even want to contemplate where his mother was coming from, was she trying to pimp him out? Make some money out of him? It was all rather too horrible to think about. We stayed friends but I insisted that nothing more could happen. Of course his mother hated my guts. I was stuck there for a further 10 days till flight restrictions were lifted.
Returning to the UK I received a flood of letters from poor Tunde. Declarations of love, pleas to come back and marry him. I felt really bad about it. What would have been seen by other more experienced men as a lovely thing that happened between friends when they were both in a state of emotional upset morphed into a whole different scenario when the issue of virginity was placed in the equation. Had I known him to be a virgin I would not have touched him with a bargepole.
Seeing how unequal we were retrospectively, in sexual and financial terms as well as life experiences, I feel like he must have thought I took advantage. I have never used another person sexually and still look back at myself and think I was a bit of a dope. Still I suppose he had an experience a lot of men out there never would have, friendship and a sexual liaison with a sassy independent woman who was beautiful (was being the operative word as now being 44 it's all naturally gone to pot - I'm nothing special to look at now).
I think of him fondly when I remember my time out here, despite cringing at my naivety and would like to think he may think of me with some affection when or if he ever gets time to think amongst the hurly burly of scrabbling round trying to earn your daily crust in West Africa. Perhaps he gained something. At least I wasn't demanding marriage, babies and financial support. It was for him a pure experience clouded by none of the usual implications that are inevitably associated with any sexual liaison in the developed world - social position and community responsibility.’