V for *ahem* not me.

Warning: contains brief references to abuse

It’s often thought of as one of those easy ice breaker conversations amongst sexually open people. “When did you lose your virginity?” “How did you lose you virginity?” I have never given a clear answer. If the question has been asked online, I have often actually walked away from the computer and avoided the conversation.

This week’s prompt has made me think about this. First of all, I didn’t lose my virginity. I really dislike that phrase. We don’t describe other new experiences in our lives as losing something. Other parts of our lives are described in terms of progress and learning instead of loss.

That isn’t the main reason though. I don’t  like negative conversations and it is rare for the situation to be right for me to be out and truthful. When I say that I was first forcibly penetrated with a penis at age 11, one week after my first period, it causes a whole set of reactions in others that I have to manage. When I say that I was forcibly penetrated with fingers at a much younger age than that, it opens a whole set of questions that I might have no wish to answer.

A friend once advised me to forget about that and just count when I first had consensual sex as my virginity moment. This is a much more positive outlook and if I could remember the who and when, it could be really useful.

My teenage years were unusual. I had totally blocked out the abuse and yet, I knew that I wasn’t a virgin. Strangely enough, that gave me a whole different freedom than I might have had otherwise. If I had not blocked out the abusive experiences, I might have been too traumatised to explore my sexual desires and possibilities. If I had not known that I wasn’t a virgin, I might have worried about what the significance of what I was about to do would prove to be. I was brought up in a very strict, christian household where the weight of possible sin and the damnation that would result was ever present.

The threat of damnation really was pointless. I had blocked out what had happened to me but I knew that if damnation is a thing then it was going to be too late. Also, if I was already damned, I may as well stop worrying and enjoy life.

That really was my approach to sexual exploration. If I wanted it, if it felt good, and if I was sure that it was my choice and not something I was being pressurised into, I went for it. I was in no way someone who actively sought out experiences, I was lucky in having a range of opportunities.

Since then, I do strongly believe that active consent is the most important thing that we can teach our young people. We need to stop focussing on the first time and focus on the skills that allow us to make good choices every time. I think there is a myth that losing your virginity is special, important or hugely significant. This myth puts too much pressure on people to either think that they have to do it, or that they have to have to make it so special that it can never live up to expectations.

I have had a very happy sex life and I intend to continue to. The upside of my abuse is that my teenage decisions were utterly uncomplicated by the pressure of peers, of myths and of fears about significance and consequences. I explored sex because it felt good to me. I didn’t wrap it up with love and everlasting commitment. I am very definite that if I chose to have sex with you, it was because I wanted to share that physical intimacy and fun with you. That fact is another of the wonderful things about being me.

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44 Comments

  1. “We don’t describe other new experiences in our lives as losing something. Other parts of our lives are described in terms of progress and learning instead of loss.”

    Brilliantly stated, Honey! I cringe at this question, at this concept, and share your feelings on the subject.

    Very moved and humbled by reading this, but I wanted to let you know that you are an amazing woman and I adore you in every way!

    xoxoxox

  2. “I didn’t lose my virginity. I really dislike that phrase. We don’t describe other new experiences in our lives as losing something.”

    YES! This is so on-point. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we looked at sex from the very beginning as a journey of discovery? Of ‘finding’ rather than ‘losing’?

    And as to the issue of teaching consent to young people, I can’t tell you how strongly I agree with you on this. I have already started working on this with my kids, and, in particular, with my nine-year-old son. Can’t start early enough, in my opinion.

    Jane
    xxx

    • Active consent and a journey of discovery are a very much healthier way to teach about all aspects of relationships and especially our relationships with ourselves. Oh, and I have been actively teaching that to age 3 and up. Thank you, Jane.

  3. I totally agree with you about losing virginity, and then again, I don’t agree. I ‘lost’ my virginity when I was 9. It was taken from me. It was not by my own choice. I would much rather have given it to someone by conscious decision than had it taken from me.

    That said, it’s striking how similar our younger years were. Virginity taken at 9, blocking out the abuse and concentrating on positive things and making conscious decisions about sex. I won’t say my decisions were always the right ones, but they made me grow into who I am today – aware of my sexuality and definitely doing only the things that I want, and not have anything taken from me without consent.

    I love all the things that make you you!

    Rebel xox

  4. “We need to stop focussing on the first time and focus on the skills that allow us to make good choices every time”

    I see a lot of other people are quoting too, but this whole piece is brilliant. I love it.

  5. So many wise lines in this essay that have already been commended in the comments. I agree with those and will add that I love this:

    “I am very definite that if I chose to have sex with you, it was because I wanted to share that physical intimacy and fun with you. That fact is another of the wonderful things about being me.”

    I agree — that fact is wonderful about you. You’re victorious!

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing your story. As others have quoted you, your thoughts on virginity and would we treat other things as something to be lost are spot on. Our society focuses way, way too much on it. To the detriment of women. Hopefully that is changing.

  8. We tackled similar thoughts about the language that is used when it comes to virginity. Like you I hate the negative connotations that we loose something when we have sex. It is such a damaging and old fashioned message.

    Mollyxxx

  9. I hate the term ‘lose’ too and yet that is the language we all seem to use. I think we gain experience rather than losing anything even if that experience isn’t a positive one.

    Like you I hate the question. I don’t know if ‘losing’ my virginity was consensual or not. I played around with fingers and oral sex but my first PIV experience wasn’t consensual so I never know how to answer the question but I do try to think of the consensual time as ‘my moment’. Although as you say the big build up lead to a massive anticlimax!

  10. i really love so many of the points that you made about experience and choice in this post…

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  12. Oh Honey…I had wanted to comment on this when I first read it but I couldn’t. We intersect in some very concrete ways and this resonated more than I had words to express it with. Honestly, I still don’t have the words, but I needed to let you know. Thank you for this post, and for your perspective and grace. You are an incredible woman and it’s a privilege to call you my (wonderful) friend. Xxxxxx

    • Thank you, my beautiful friend. I am both glad and saddened that this resonated with you as I always wish my friends had easier lives. Xxxxxxx

  13. I couldn’t read and not comment – I’m so sorry this happened to you, and your perspective on reclaiming sex for yourself is amazing.

    Consent… when my son’s playing rough with his friends, I make them choose a safeword… this may come back to bite me on the ass, but it’s very hard to tell the difference between happy screaming and agony screaming with 8 year old boys.

  14. Mine was ‘lost’ at age twelve by a boyfriend I had that was nineteen at the time. He had an apartment and everything. The first time I hated it and it hurt really bad. I’m like, if this is what sex is like count me out.

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