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.