Losing our virginity…it happens to almost all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. How did it happen for you? Ever wondered what other people think and feel about this never-to-be-repeated experience?
I am on a mission to find out. Follow my journey as I collect stories from as wide a selection of people as possible. From men and women, old and young, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim and Catholic, from the funny and the sad, to the happy and occasionally, the unbelievable. I am in search of the one story that we rarely share. Come and join my adventure.
Contribute your story?
Have you got a story you would like to post? Or an opinion you would like to share? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember to tell me when you were born and what country you come from. All names will be changed to protect identity.
When I began this project way back when, my original mission was to cover off as many different ‘types’ of stories as I possibly could. I wanted to interview old people, young people, gay people, straight people, black people, white people, people from as many different cultural or religious backgrounds as I could and as many different ‘situations’ as I could. I wanted to interview people with disabilities for instance and in this regard I got lucky. One of my favourite interviews of all time was from the disabled man who told me pretty much the best virginity loss story I had ever heard. But culture, being what it is, has made it trickier to get the more diverse interviews that I want and to this end readers, I am posting a plea!
Lots of cultures consider the idea of talking about sex and virginity a repellent idea and I dig that.Sexuality is alive and kicking in Islamic culture – the Koran talks widely about sexuality but that doesn’t mean that people are encouraged to talk openly to each other, let alone a stranger about their sexual lives. As it happens, I do have a story from a young Muslim woman about virginity loss but because this woman lost her virginity before marriage, I have never felt able to include this account without its more traditional counterpart – a story from a young person who waited for marriage – sitting by its side.
Quite apart from anything else, this is a story that I personally, would find far more interesting. There was nothing standing between me and the loss of my virginity. Whilst I would hardly say I was encouraged to lose it, I wasn’t exactly held back from it either. For me, finding out what is going on inside the mind of a young woman – or a man – who is living alongside the endemic temptations of modern society but knows that they will not have sexual intercourse until the day that they get married is a fascinating counterpoint to my own life and that of many of the people who write into me at this blog…..so my question to you is this: do you know anyone who would be prepared to be interviewed by me, not for my blog but for my book?
Anonymity would be a given. They can choose to tell me as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. I am more interested in what was going on in their heads than the gory details – although gory details are fine too! In the end, I am looking to interview people from interesting religious or cultural backgrounds who waited until they got married to lose their virginity. The younger and more contemporary the better but it’s not a deal breaker. You’d be contributing towards a unique snapshot of British society in the 21st Century and I would love to have you on board, whoever you are. I can be contacted at email@example.com
Ok, so travels to foreign climes might be over but that doesn’t mean its all doom and gloom. August is a lovely month to be in London.Nearly everyone goes away and those that are left are free to enjoy a city that on any average day of the week is busting a blood vessel to get every thing done on time. Traffic, deadlines, workflow, it all normally happens at breakneck speed - usually so that we can get to the weekend and ‘enjoy’ ourselves with an equal amount of fervour. Not so in August.
A languid air settles over the city. People walk slower, the roads are emptier. A journey by car that usually takes me an hour takes me twenty minutes. On a Saturday. This is unheard of. Queues are shorter; people are nicer to each other. And all of a sudden, all of the things that seem so important…..just don’t. I don’t mean that I stop paying attention to my personal hygiene or anything as drastic as that. Just that one realise’s that there is time to stop and smell the roses and that pleasure can be found in small things. Relaxing at the pool with the locals, sitting in the garden on a warm evening…..perhaps this is what people have been banging on about when they talk about ‘stay-cations’. That’s certainly what I tell myself as I realise that I have enough commitments to tie me to this city for another good while yet.
But I do have a response to my Muslim plea that I posted the other day. It’s not quite the story I was after but it’s a good start. I talked about my long and fruitless quest for the Muslim virginity loss story on this blog the other day. I have searched high and low for this story, considered asking complete strangers in the street, attended conferences and generally followed up every lead that I have ever been given with the enthusiasm of Sherlock Holmes, the Pink Panther and Magnum P.I combined. (although not wearing a monocle, a raincoat and tight shorts). But to no avail. It’s a tough call. These are not conversations that Muslims deem appropriate for public consumption.
Our story teller today, from Syria, makes some interesting points. I concur with these types of stories far more than people think. I do think that people don’t value their virginity half as much as they could. For most people that I know, it would never have occurred to them to wait longer than ten minutes to lose their virginity. Wait for someone who might have actually taken the time to make it a pleasant experience for them? Forget it. Our urge to ‘belong’ far outweighs our desire to wait for a potentially worthy experience. No one wants to be the odd one out so we doggedly follow the pack and avail ourselves of virginity at the earliest opportunity. But the alternative, as suggested below, also seems a bit drastic to me.
Waiting for marriage is a risky strategy. Sex and intimacy are too much of an integral part of any relationship to take a chance on. This is the glue that could hold you together through the rocky moments. One needs to know that it ‘works’ so to speak. And in the end, this story isn’t really about that anyway, it’s about the second-class citizen role that women continue to play in society. Our author tries to make sense of this: ‘By the way, im just mentioning girls but its not allowed to have sex in our religion for both sexes. But society pays more attention to what a girl should not do….’ Yes it does, and it has terrible consequences for some people.
Believe it or not, I genuinely did not mean to stray into this territory today. What I really want to know is this: why does society place more value on a woman’s virginity than a man’s? Our author puts the dilemma beautifully when she says this: ‘if they see a girl that is not a virgin then she’s not worthy enough for a guy to marry her.’
Why do you think it is that a woman’s virginity has always been regarded as something more precious, more sought after and therefore, more important than a man’s?
Gut reaction. Be as blatant and as honest as you like. I know what I think but I want to know what you think. I won't be publishing these, they are purely for my own use. Its part of the research for my book!
Please send your point of view/rant/ten cents worth to me here:
In advance of any replies, thank you, it is a HUGE help. And in the meanwhile, here is nineteen year old Zaima from Syria with her very interesting ten cents worth…
‘HELLO kate I just read ur article about the VIRGINITY PROJECT, i was reading random stuff on the net and i came across ur article so as a muslim girl i wanted you to hear my opinion and my side of the story.
Im not strict about religious issues but i believe in certain issues God has asked us to do and i know that there’s a genuine reason behind every one of those issues. One of them is staying a virgin, clean, pure, and untouched. Here in the Syrian society there is a very large amount of people who are very strict concerning religious issues and if they see a girl that is not a virgin then she’s not worthy enough for a guy to marry her.
It’s like a gift a girl has to keep till her wedding day. By the way, im just mentioning girls but its not allowed to have sex in our religion for both sexes. But society pays more attention to what a girl should not do and if she is following what religion and society accepts. As for me, i have been around the world and i know that it’s very normal for a girl to loose her virginity at a very early age.
Im gonna express the way i really feel about this issue. i think bonding with the person who you have feelings for is really important – kissing, hugging and all these physical things, u cant really be close to some one without them. But sex is something forbidden for us. Some muslims may have had sex but not as u said at the beginning of ur article. Its not true that they all do but the only difference is that they don’t talk about it ....(the author mistook my meaning at this point. I was referencing the point that Muslims have sex lives, but that they don’t discuss them openly in the way that we do) because if a guy marries a young lady and on their wedding night he finds out that she is not a virgin then many actions will be taken if he is able to forgive her then that’s fine but if his parents or family hear about that then her picture and reputation will be long damaged and destroyed.
I know u may think that this is unfair and that she should decide her own destiny and what she wants to do with her body….if this is what ur thinking then i agree with u cuz i think every human being has the right to decide what to do with their own body but i wanna tell u something - don’t u think that there’s a reason in some religions they don’t allow people to have sex before marriage because it keeps u both excited about exploring each others bodies, it keeps a certain passion for each other like really strong passion u just wana be close to this person in a physical way but after u are sure that he is emotionally right for you.
i think having sex in an early age is really wrong not only for these religious reasons because everyone has their own beliefs but also for the risk of these diseases that we keep hearing about that are caused due to sexual intercourse. Another reason is that if a girl is immature and doesn’t have protected sex it may lead her to be pregnant, maybe dropping out of school that is really bad in my opinion and in the US its all u hear.... shes missing school because she’s sick or pregnant... by the way im 19 years old and i have had relationships but i am a virgin and i plan on keeping it this way... i was just trying to show u another side of the story here’.
*All names are changed. (even if I don’t always say so!).
I’m down with that. Not everybody wants to talk about their private lives and when it is ingrained into the very fibre of your being not to do so, who am I to insist that you do?
However, for two reasons, I continue to search for this story. One. I am nosy and two. It has always been my intention to represent everybody. This was always supposed to be a book/blog about everyone…not just a bunch of people who are the same as me. We all have different backgrounds, cultural, religious or otherwise. I want to see this reflected in the stories.
At the beginning, I used to stand at the counter in my local post office and fight the urge to blurt out to the helpful head-scarved ladies ‘Would you consider telling me your virginity loss story. Assuming you have done it. And I promise that I will preserve your anonymity and not tell anyone who you are’. Whichever way you look at it, this was obviously a really bad idea. You will be glad to know that I managed to fight the feeling.
I also joined the City Circle, a group for young, professional Muslims in London and spent several happy years attending a number of fascinating talks and events. I had many interesting conversations and made some lovely friends including the very fabulous Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, author of groundbreaking tome ‘Love in a Headscarf’. But I still didn’t get the story I wanted. Generally speaking, when I broached the subject of virginity loss at the City Circle, I found that people would start to back away from me. Albeit in a very friendly manner.
And then I did get the interview that I wanted. Or at least the interview that I thought I wanted. After much covert emailing, texting, snow covered mornings waiting for my contact in the Elephant and Castle only to be blown out, re-scheduled and then finally, finally the moment came as me and the young woman I’d waited so long to meet sat down in a friend’s flat and she told me the story that I’d wanted to hear. But my bubble was soon burst. I realised that I couldn’t publish it.
Afsana (not her real name), was twenty-one years old. She was due to get married but her virginity was long gone. I don’t stand in judgement. I simply don’t want to misrepresent a healthy slice of this country’s population. We often assume in our secular society that holding onto virginity must be a real fag for Muslims. And maybe it is but if one has faith, in the literal sense, then perhaps there is a purpose, a rock solid reason to hold onto virginity.
It is all too easy for us to judge a woman – or a man’s - life lacking somewhat if he or she cannot have sex before marriage. I personally would not like to marry someone I have never had sex with but I cannot make the assumption that is the right decision for everyone. In the same manner that I cannot assume that arranged marriage is a travesty for anyone who has found a life partner in this manner. There is no doubt that this cultural practice, as any other, is open to malpractice and abuse but I also cannot condemn it just because it is outside of my own personal experience. And so it is that I will never publish the Muslim story that I have until I have the other side of the story to balance it out. The woman – or man – who decided to wait for marriage.
Besides anything else, it wouldn’t be that interesting to publish Afsana’s story. Western culture knows more than enough about pre marital virginity loss because we are not encouraged to keep it. Once again, no judgement, its just the way things are. It would be far more interesting to hear about young men and women who are similar to us in so many ways except in one exceptional one– they will have no idea what its like to have sexual intercourse until their wedding day.
In today’s society, this is an anomaly. Taking into account the amount of sex that surrounds us, on the television, in magazines, on the internet, whichever way you care to look, it is an astonishing feat of control, faith and optimism that two people who love each other could manage to hold onto themselves so to speak, until ‘the right time’ comes. Now that is a story.
I live in hope. If anyone would like to share this story with me, either by writing it or telling it to me yourself, I am all ears. Anonymity, as with everyone else on this site, is guaranteed. I shan’t hold my breath but if anyone wants to take a leap of faith of quite a different kind, if anyone one wants to help me balance out this rather uneven version of events, please be my guest. Write, call, send a carrier pigeon or alternatively email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Salaams to you all.