When did you lose your virginity?
Think back to the first time you had sex. Think of the scent of sweat and deodorant and the room or the grass or the seats. Was it planned? Did it happen in the moment? How did you feel about it afterward?
I was twenty-three. I’d been saving myself for marriage, or at least ‘the one’. So after a romantic upset and a religious deconversion, I decided “screw it (ha!)” and slept with a girl who’d been asking me out. We had a fling for about a month before I realised I wasn’t really into her, and broke it off.
I wondered whether I wasn’t as emotionally attached as I expected to be, because I’d fooled around (up to oral sex) with just a little into the double digits of girls by then. I’d been a virgin, but like…
‘Half-a-virgin’ – What an open ended concept. In nine words, Regina George colours a grey area where virginity fades but hasn’t disappeared. What does it mean? Where is the halfway mark to virginity? Did she give a hand/blowjob to someone else who didn’t touch her in return? Was it the other way around? Was it mutual masturbation? Maybe it was under-the-sweater or over-the-pants fondling?
It’s one of my favourite move lines because everyone fills in the sexual blank for themselves. Your ideas about sex determine your interpretation.
What is ‘sex’?
The religious and secular polar opposites
In church, we’d been taught ‘kissing’ is upstairs shopping for downstairs goods. We considered kissing an expression of lust, and Matthew 5:27-28 says imagining pre/extra-marital sex is as bad as being an adulterer. By biblical canon, many people lose their virginity to pornography.
So I had some strange conflicting ideas about my own position. I hadn’t had penetrative sex before, but I had fooled around. By my standards I’d lost some portion my virginity, and baptism restored it but, by the Church’s standards, I had completely lost my virginity before having it restored. Writing this, I realise that that confusion played a big part in my decision to sleep with the girl because, bluntly, it helped me keep things simple by every standard I knew about.
The popular secular idea where you can be half a virgin means you can be sexual without having sex. This seems painfully, near-stupidly obvious to anyone who thinks this way, but…
Where it becomes complicated
If oral doesn’t count, does anal count as sex? Is sex with an animal or inanimate object still sex? Do toys count if they’re dick-esque enough? Would banging a robot designed to look, act, and feel exactly like a human be sex or masturbation (and would it depend on an erotic Turing test)? How about homosexual sex? If a man only ever has sex with men, is he ever really having sex? If a woman only ever has sex with woman, will she die a virgin? Can sex only be sex when it includes two opposite gendered human beings with fifteen blood-engorged centimetres between them? I mean…
But I digress
If you shift your opinion on what sex is, does it change your memory of your first time? Is your first sexual experience a different occasion to your first time having sex? Was it your first encounter with pornography rather than a real person? Would that make it less/more meaningful?
The more thought I put to virginity, the more I think ‘This is stupid’.I believe it’s an outmoded way of gauging women’s marital value for bloodline-continuation and family pride reasons. It’s a draconian social construct whereby men take ownership of women’s sexuality (virginity is a hell of a lot more meaningful to girls).
Regardless, it’s an enduring idea that will probably stick around forever. In trying to figure out what it ‘is’, I drew a parallel to my experiences, and what they taught me about what it ‘means’: For me, sex is exactly as meaningful as you decide it is. Whether you see it as a casual bop with some inconsequential bag of bones, or the most sincere way of saying ‘I love you’ to the person who you feel you’ve tied you’re soul to, you’re right (you’ve found something special if the other person(s) agree).
In keeping with this, I’ve come to believe sex ‘is’ what you think it is. It’s a box we use to store an unimaginable amount of scenarios, and it should be up to you to decide which of them you’re going with.
It’s probably for your own good, psychologically, to go with the one that doesn’t make you feel ashamed. Everyone mature enough to do so, should enjoy their bodies. Hopefully, some day, we’ll be able to dissolve the boxes of definitions around sexuality, and let the contents fall where they may.
It’s all a spectrum and too many people never feel comfortable acting out who they are.