‘It’s that time of year’, I thought as I zipped along the canal this morning by bike. There was a nip in the air and it never fails to remind me of going back to school. A mixture of anxiety and the sensation of cold air on bare legs….I’ll be damned if I’m going to switch to winter clothing though just because the season is changing. My sandals will be prised off my cold dead feet in a month’s time and not before.
I spent the last few weeks in my second favorite country (Greece) and now I’m back in The Smoke. I don’t mind. I can do without the impending dark evenings. I’m human, I’m usually begging for mercy by March but by and large, winter is ok with me. The weather is more conducive to hunkering down and writing and there’s less guilt about staying indoors to watch movies. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
Meanwhile, ‘my friends still don’t agree with the way I lost my virginity’ writes today’s correspondent and I see why. I don’t stand in judgement because virginity, by its very nature is an imperfect act. What else could it be? It’s only going to happen once and rare is the person who can genuinely say that they had a ‘perfect’ first time. Most of us accept it as thus. You don’t think Picasso’s first effort was a masterpiece do you? No, it took time and practice before he produced something of beauty.
What does worry me is this: I worry that the proliferation of pornography on the internet has devalued the sexual experience for young people. The majority of internet porn tells us almost nothing about real sex. Sex begins in the mind for most women, not with being done up the backside whilst making porn approved noises to let our partners know they’re doing a good job. This is what I find myself explaining to girls who write and tell me they are disappointed with their first sexual experiences. Men and women are different and before you say it, yes, I get plenty of emails from men who long for more intimacy in their relationships but generally speaking, it is women that are missing genuine ‘collaboration’.
How do you know when a man is aroused? It’s easy. Generally speaking, men are visually stimulated and when they get there, we know about it. How do you know when a woman is aroused? Not so easy. Women are subtler and we require a different type of engagement. I’m not suggesting our partners recite poetry whilst we make out but when the Ella’s of the world write and tell me they are bored, having followed instructions to ‘kneel down’ and ‘bend over’, it’s hardly surprising. I’m bored reading it.
I wouldn’t expect someone of Ella’s age to understand this. I didn’t when I was 17 but I did begin to get the idea when I finally went out with someone who was interested in what I had to say as well as my smoking 17 year old body. Meaningless sex has its place but generally speaking, you need to get some practice of the physical and the emotional type under your belt first.
It’s not a perfect world and we must travel different paths in order to gain experience. Along the way, it’s worth remembering this: sex is for the benefit of two people, not one. Preferably two people who are able to tell each other what they want and like. On which note, I spoke at a Durex client day last year and we also listened to research collated by marriage guidance councillors. In answer to the question, what percentage of people would like discuss their sex lives with their partners, 90% replied that they would. When asked what percentage actually put this into practice, 10% answered yes. Therein lays the conflict. In direct contrast to the highly sexualized world we live in, our intimate relationships are still one of the hardest things to talk about, even to the people we are having them with. So take heart Ella, we all find this tricky.
The fabulous Cindy Gallop has done some serious talking on our behalves. I’ve posted her TED talk here before but here it is again. You get the gist. She is now spearheading a movement called ‘Make Love Not Porn TV’. It’s USP being ‘pro sex, pro porn, pro knowing the difference’. Life is not a porn movie. And it’s not too much to expect your partner to want you to have a good time. If he/she doesn’t grasp this, move on to someone who does. If you do want life to be a porn movie, albeit temporarily, I suggest you take Cindy’s advice and get involved. Either way, this is the real deal.
‘Hi Kate, I recently read your book and I felt inclined to tell you my story because until now I’ve never thought to confront my own feelings on the whole experience of my virginity. My name is Ella, aged 17 from the UK.
I lost my virginity at the age of 15, extremely drunk, to a 20 year old guy I’ve never seen since. It’s strange because I don’t actually feel like I’ve lost my virginity because quite frankly, the experience meant nothing to me. I hadn’t attached any emotional ties to my virginity, and I’ve always found it hard to understand why it’s supposed to be a big deal.
We had been invited to a party by a girl we didn’t know but my friends and I decided to go and it was a crap party so we left. My friend Liam who was with us said we should all go to his house and get drunk which is exactly what we did apart from we ran out of alcohol early and we were tipsy at best. Liam rang up some friends to see if they wanted to come over and 15 minutes later 3 guys turned up all older than us. They brought beers and a couple of bottles of white rum and soon enough we were all doing shots and drinking from the beer bong.
We again ran out of booze so the older boys, who were aged 18, 20 and 21, decided it would be a good idea to drive to an off-licence to buy some more even though they were pretty drunk. I remember one of them saying I should go with them and in my drunken haze I actually thought it would be a good idea. My friend Sam stepped in and said she wanted to talk to me so I couldn’t go, which was a lie but it stopped me from getting in the car.
The boys came back with vodka and we did more shots and I started flirting with one of them who was 20. I can’t really remember how it happened but we ended up making out on a bed with everyone else sitting on the floor playing ring of fire. How I then got from the bedroom to the kitchen is a blur but apparently I wanted to get some water and Ben followed me in with the last of the vodka. We did shot after shot until we were both too drunk to stand up.
We ended stumbling to a sofa where we immediately began kissing again, he started grabbing my boobs and putting his hands up my dress where he fingered me but I remember thinking ‘I’m really not turned on by you at all’ but I let him carry on. He proceeded to take off my dress and by this time I think I knew where it was heading but again I didn’t stop him when he pulled his dick out and told me to kneel down.
He made me stop giving him a blow job when it was clear I intended to finish him off, so instead he pulled me back on the sofa, took my underwear off and after me drunkenly repeating ‘I’ve never done this before, I’m a virgin’ he put me on his lap. This is the moment where technically I lost my virginity.
I don’t remember it hurting but I guess that was mostly the alcohol and after a few minutes of my uncoordinated drunken attempt he picked me up and told me to kneel on the sofa and he did me from behind. All I remember thinking is that sex is not what it’s cracked up to be because I'm bored. Afterwards he asked me how it was so I lied and said it was good but in reality I thought it was a pretty dull experience. I then left the room and locked myself in the bathroom with girls and told them what had happened.
It weird because looking back on it as they were all outraged at this 20 year old guy who I’d had a one night stand with and lost my virginity to because he took advantage of me. I don’t see it like that because I could have said no but I didn’t. I went along with it and if I was sober I probably would have stopped him but it was still my decision. The worst part of the whole thing was having to go into Boots and get the morning after pill because we didn’t use protection, I was angry at him about this because shouldn’t he be the experienced one? Shouldn’t he have known that having sex with an underage girl without using a condom was stupid?
My friends still don’t agree with the way I lost my virginity but to me it wasn’t a big deal, I’ve always been fiercely independent and never felt the need for emotional support and never wanted a boyfriend as commitment scares the crap out of me. I’ve only recently had sex again but it was even more awkward than the first time but at least it wasn't boring, in fact it felt pretty good. But I still don’t count that as losing my virginity because I didn’t have any strong feelings for him. I’m still waiting for the right person to enter into a relationship with and I know I’m still young and still naïve but I can’t help but worry at the lack of emotion I had about losing my virginity and at subsequent sexual experiences. It worries me that I don’t find sex a big deal.
Thank you Kate for this opportunity to just tell my story which may not be unique or particularly interesting but it’s the most I’ve ever shared with anyone and I feel more comfortable now I’ve accepted the experience for what it was - no big deal.’