I don’t get too many stories like this one. Today’s author, by my calculations, is probably in his mid sixties now. Men of this age were by far the hardest to interview when it came to my book because they had little incentive to reveal their intimate lives and feelings. Women of this era were a different kettle of fish. They had lived closed lives. They were expected to guard their virginity closely or woe betide the consequences. Fast forward a few decades and they were itching to tell me the truth about how life had been for them in the late 1950’s and early 1960s.
Today’s man, however, is an exception to the rule. He is honest - sometimes alarmingly so - and open. But I love that. Sexuality is what it is. As he points out, so many different factors form what we think of as our ‘sexual identity’ and we have very little control over that as young people and particularly as children. Parts of this story make me feel slightly uncomfortable but I like it for its candour and of course because it is a window into a bygone era. Tellingly, he also confirms what I have long suspected about the older generations. They were more creative lovers than we are today because they were petrified about getting pregnant. They knew, as today’s author reveals that ‘sexual intercourse is only a small part of love-making’.
‘Here is my contribution to the Virginity Project. It is possible that you may disagree with my definition of “losing my virginity” but it might fit into what you want.
Probably my first sexual experience occurred during my birthday party that was celebrating the fact that I was six years old. We did not have much money and my mother had only invited a small group of boys about my age who lived in our street. One boy had a twin sister and she was invited as well. While my mother was out in the kitchen preparing the food, Maureen, who was the same age as me, took me to the corner of the room, and told me she had a present for me. She then turned her back on me and pulled down her knickers to show me her lovely bottom. I was very confused by what had happened. I knew it was wrong because my older sister had always covered up her body. My parents were the same. Up until that time I do not remember seeing anybody’s naked body. However, it was an enjoyable experience, and it had definitely been a pleasurable gift. To my eternal shame, when my mother returned to the room, I told her what had happened. My mother, who up to her dying day, never liked to upset anyone, told me that there was nothing wrong with what Maureen had done. It is possible that this brief flash of enlightened thinking by my mother preserved me from the feelings of guilt that it often associated with the naked body. I felt deep warmth towards Maureen for what she had given me. A few months later we moved house and I never saw her again. But every so often, when I meet a woman who looks like a grown-up Maureen, my body begins to tingle.
My first conscious sexual experience took place when I was about nine years old. I can’t remember why, but for some reason, that night I had to share a bedroom with my sister. As I was four years younger than her, I had to go to bed first. She woke me up when she entered the room but I knew better than to make a fuss. In the dark she could not see that I was awake and had opened my eyes. The curtains were open and rays of moonlight provided enough light to show her undressing. She stood briefly naked in front of the window before getting into bed beside me. That event that lasted less than a couple of minutes is etched forever in my memory. Nearly sixty years later, every time I see an image that reminds me of my sister undressing on that moonlit night, I become aroused. I expect it is the human version of Konrad Lorenz's imprinting theory.
The third important sexual experience took place two years later. I was in hospital having my tonsils out. After my operation I had a blanket bath from a beautiful young nurse. It was the first time I had felt sexual love. The day before I was due to be released she told me that she would not be working tomorrow and that she would say goodbye before she left the hospital. I became very nervous as the time she was due to leave approached. Then I watched as she left the ward without looking back at me. I was distraught but about ten minutes later she returned and sat by my bed, apologizing for forgetting about her promise. After a few words of comfort she kissed me on the forehead and left my life forever. Of course, I am aware that the nurse did not have any sexual feelings for me. She probably was treating me like her much younger brother. However, I was convinced, rightly or wrongly, that at that moment in time, she looked at me in a way that told me that she loved me. The nurse, like Maureen and my sister were constructing a framework to my sexual personality.
I got on well with girls at secondary school. In fact, I enjoyed their company more than boys. As my father had been killed when I was eleven and I was very close to my mother and sister. At the age of thirteen, when I was just entering the stage where I was beginning to see my female classmates as sexual beings, my mother decided to move house. Instead of the modern council house on the estate, we now lived in a prefab in Catford. What was worse, the nearest school was only for boys. Denied the company of girls, my final two years at secondary school was a painful experience. Living on a council estate all my life, all the schools I attended were tough. Girls help to humanize schooling and without them, a school is a brutal experience.
I left school at fifteen but unfortunately I went to work at a small factory where there were only men and married women. There were a couple of other apprentices but they were older than me and already had girlfriends and so I had no one to go with to dances, which was the main way teenagers, found partners in the early 1960s. I could only watch women from afar. This was mainly on the bus on the way to work. At that age I had no idea how you could bridge the gap between them and you.
On Friday’s I was sent to the local technical school to learn my trade as a printer. Every Friday night there was a beautiful blonde woman about my age on the station platform. Unfortunately for me she was going in the opposite direction. On the surface she did not look anything like my sister, Maureen or my nurse, who were all very dark. However, she did have a narrow waist and slender hips that reminded me of my imprinted desires. Several of my fellow students got on the same train as me. They also thought this girl was incredibly beautiful. I did not know it at the time but she looked just like a young Catherine Deneuve. We all agreed that she was unavailable to the likes of us.
A few weeks after seeing the blonde beauty on the platform, Tony, another apprentice at the factory, broke-up with his girlfriend. He asked me if I would be willing to go with him to a dance in town. I readily agreed and saw this as my first opportunity to get a girlfriend. It did not take me long to see a girl on the dance-floor that could have been a grown-up Maureen. She was a couple of years older than me and I found it impossible to build up the necessary confidence to talk to her. However, I did have the courage to ask her less attractive friend for a dance. She accepted and in between dances I managed to exchange a few words with her, but of course she was loyal to her friend, and gave me no encouragement. I probably stood no chance with her anyway, but as I was to learn later, you have no chance with women unless you make it perfectly clear that you desire them. I went out a couple of times with my new girlfriend but it soon became clear to her that I was interested in someone else.
I had just joined a football team that played on a Saturday afternoon. The vast majority of the team were married men. The one exception was Jimmy. My confidence on the up, I asked him if he was interested in going dancing. He agreed and suggested we go to a dance that night being organized by his local church. It turns out that Jimmy was a devout Catholic. He argued that they would not check my religious credentials on the door. Jimmy was right and I had no difficulty in getting into a large hall full of young people. To my amazement, through the crowd I saw the blonde from the railway station. This time I did not have a railway-line between us and I walked towards her before I had a chance to think about the possible rejection. Much to my surprise, she said it wasn’t her and that she travelled home from work on a bus. She had a double. Not that this mattered, for I was now talking to a young woman I was strongly attracted to. I was in love and was to remain that way until her death many years later.
I took Haley home that night. I found out later that her real name was Helen but that Haley sounded much more modern. As it happens she lived on the same council estate as I did but Haley did not talk like other people from the estate. Her mother had come from a prosperous family that had fallen on hard-times. Mrs Conner was also a terrible snob and insisted that her six children did not talk like the other children on the estate. It was also this that gave Haley a kind of unapproachable look that I found so attractive. Mrs Conner was also a devout Roman Catholic and not too happy when Hayley turned up with me. She had sent her to the dance to find a good Catholic and instead she had come home with a committed atheist.
A few weeks after we met I was booked to go on holiday to Rye. Hayley was working that week but I suggested that she should come away with us on the Friday night and that she could return home on the Sunday. Much to my surprise, Mrs Conner allowed her daughter to join us the first weekend of the holiday. Mr Conner was to drive us down and Hayley’s elder brother, John, agreed to collect her on Sunday evening. I have never understood why Mrs Conner had accepted this arrangement only weeks after we had first met. She never did it again during the rest of our courtship.
That Sunday morning we got up very early to sit on the beach on our own. Although dressed in our swimsuits it was far too cold to go into the water. Instead, we lay on the pebbles and kissed. I then said: ‘do you ever get curious about a man’s body’. Before she had a chance to reply I placed her hand on my erect penis. When she did not take her hand away I lowered my trunks so that she could hold it in the flesh. Within seconds my penis seemed to explode. It was the most marvellous sensation I had experienced. I also felt a deep wave of love for Hayley.
Friedrich Nietzsche was wrong when he said that love was ‘frustrated sexuality’. Love takes place as a result of sex. I agree with D.H. Lawrence when he said he only knew what love was after he had sex with Frieda von Richthofen in 1912. This appears to be the point he is making in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I suspect it was this dangerous idea, rather than the four letter words, that made the novel so shocking when it was first published in Florence in 1928. As Sebastian Faulkes has recently pointed out, up until this time, in novels, love had always come before sex.
Although I did not have sexual intercourse in Rye, to my mind, that is when I lost my virginity. A few weeks after returning home from holiday, my mother took my younger brother out for the day. I picked Hayley up from church that Sunday morning and went to my mother’s empty flat. We took all our clothes off and spent the next few hours exploring each other’s naked bodies. We discovered where we liked to be touched and kissed and we both had several orgasms that day. The knowledge that we were not going to have sexual intercourse was not a problem. In fact, it was that realization that made us better lovers. It was not until two years later, on the first night of our honeymoon that we officially ‘lost our virginity’. But by that time, we had learnt that sexual intercourse is only a small part of love-making.
I have had many lovers since those early months with Helen. Most have remarked that I make love differently from most men. I will have to take their word for it because I have very little idea of how other men behave in bed. What I do know is that my ideas on sexuality owes a great deal to Maureen’s lovely birthday present, my sister undressing in the moonlight, a kind and loving nurse, and a Catholic girl who knew she must not have sexual intercourse before marriage, but loved giving me pleasure.’