Butterfly Cauldron

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What's the big deal about virginity?

Let's talk about sex, shall we?

There's a new article, blogged about here among other places, that details how hard it is for women who are virgins at 'advanced ages' to lose their virginity. Advanced age in this case being into the 30s. The article doesn't talk about male virgins, but I'm assuming they have some of the same difficulties. I'm not sure though, so if I have any male virgin readers, feel free to chime in.

The thing is, I don't see why virginity is such a big deal. You are either a virgin or you are not. You either have green eyes or you don't. You're either left-handed or not. You're either going bald or you're not. It's just one state of being, neither better nor worse than any other state. I also don't understand the apprehension of being someone's first time if they're an older virgin. Or a younger virgin, for that matter. This may be because I've been someone's first time before, but I just don't see why it's an issue. So long as you engage in any sexual act with passion and respect for your partner, why does it matter what he/she hasn't done before?

I was one of those persons who skipped the high school dating/fucking scene. First off, I terrified most of the boys in my school (and wasn't aware or capable of acting on my attraction to women just yet) and I just didn't want to chance ending up pregnant. I had plans, I had things I wanted to do and so...no sex for me. And I admit, at the time I did feel a little weird about it. Everyone else seemed to be hooking up and I wasn't, I didn't even get any offers (see: terrified boys at my school) so I thought something must be wrong with me. There, wasn't, of course, but it seemed that way to me.

I felt ancient as a 17-year-old virgin, so I can imagine how it feels to people much older than that. (And it's not all that uncommon. I have a friend, 32, a lawyer, who is a virgin. I had another friend, a professor, who was a virgin until she was 30. I have male friends in the same boat, I'm sure.) At 19, when I slept with my boyfriend for the first time, I thought I was the oldest virgin on the planet. Dumb, but that's how it felt at that age.

Our society is way too sexualized. (Duh!) We put so much pressure on people to have sex, or to not have sex or to conform to some unrealistic idea of sexual behavior. I grew up in FundyLand, so I got the No-Sex-Until-Marriage lecture over and over and over again. Partially, it stuck. Even when I was embarking into sexual activity, I was scared and nervous and ready to be struck down at any moment. I was, however, more practical than most. I didn't expect the first time to be incredible. In fact, I expected it to be terribly painful.

It wasn't, thank god. It wasn't particularly wonderful, either. It was fast and over with before I could get a real handle on what I was feeling. Afterward, I felt lied too. Not by my BF, who was great, but by all those people who made such a big, fucking deal out of virginity and the first time and how it was so important and would change your life forever. No, it didn't. It really, really didn't. All it meant was, hey, I'd had sex. I was still the same person, with the same thoughts and passions and ideas and problems and whatever as I had been before. So, what was the big deal?

The idea that everyone is running around having all this hot, crazy sex? Bullshit. Some people are, I'm sure, but I don't know these people. Their life doesn't look anything like mine or most of the people I know. Most of the people I know my age are focused on work and paying the bills, not trying to get laid. So, if someone is a virgin at 35 or 40? So what?

The truth is, if you're enthusiastic and engaged and willing to talk to your partner and find out what they like, it's unlikely anyone is going to be able to tell you're a virgin. The pressure to be amazing the first time is stupid. No one can live up to it, but that doesn't mean it has to be awful. I wouldn't have a problem dating a virgin -- unless they were hyper-religious and wanted to convert me. But that wouldn't be about them being a virgin, that'd be about them being fundyish.

Also, we seriously need to revisit our definition of sex. Just because someone hasn't had PIV sex, doesn't mean they're a virgin or inexperienced. There is soooo much sex that can be had without penetration, to limit your defination seems counterproductive to me.

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posted by Zan at 11:54 AM

10 Comments:

I totally agree with your views on virginity/sexuality.

BTW, I was a virgin until age 23... and I thought that was early. (due to an overly religious upbringing)

12:42 PM  

Since I graduated from high school in 1960, we were expected to be virgins and so I was -- for a while. My experience was that when I was a virgin I didn't have sex and when I wasn't, sometimes I did. Sometimes I was glad I no longer was, sometimes I wished I just stayed out of that arena. But wishing I wasn't having sex really boiled down to wishing I wasn't having sex with this guy.

2:11 PM  

That's a good point -- some of my friends feel they're supposed to have sex with lots of guys, so they do. And they often regret it. But it's not about regretting having sex, as the psycho-religious would have us believe, it's about having sex with that particular person. Personally, I'd rather sleep alone than sleep with someone I wasn't sure of. I can give myself orgasims and I don't hate myself in the morning.

Moody, at 23, you'd have been considered a very late bloomer. Which makes no sense, you bloom whenever you're ready. I don't know how you've dealt with your religious upbringing, but I've had to go through therapy and do lots of self-work to get over the damage mine did to me. It warped me in terms of relationships so that now, even though I know they can be different than I was taught, I'm still reticent to get involved. It sucks bigtime.

6:33 PM  

Well, and that last bit, perzackly. Hello, can we drop the heterocentricity of the assumptions, here? Are we talking about actually putting a flesh penis in a vaginal orifice here, or penetration of vaginal orifice, or contact with a penis, or erotic contact with another human, or breaking of the hymen, or what, exactly? Because if it's that last, well, shit, lots of women lose their "virginity" without being touched sexually at all. Some few women who have had PIV intercourse may retain their hymen to some degree. Gay men and (fewer, perhaps, given the whole compulsory het thing that i think maybe women are more socialized to somehow) lesbians may be big slutty sluttertons, every sexual act in the book, even including vigorous intercourse both giving and receiving, but are still "technical" virgins if we're only counting (flesh) PIV. and so on.

I took my own "virginity," or what remained of it, with a toy, quite late in life, relatively speaking. and then went about making up for lost time/experience (the lesbian delayed adolescence thing) in rather unorthodox ways. At the moment my let's say resume is still extremely unconventional, especially by traditional heteronormative standards: i have done things that most "normal" straight and even a number of lesbian/bi folks would think terribly outre, even shocking; and at the same time, there are a few "mundane" things I haven't yet done, if indeed I ever do at all.

but it's never too late to have a debauched adolescence, i feel. if anything i haven't had ENOUGH debauchery.

as for the difficulty in popping the cherry: i think not so much, you know; esp. for a straight woman, if that's ALL you want (as opposed to, you know, having it be good or Meaningful); two ways:

1) Put an ad in your local alternative rag that you are an older virgin who wants a special or just hot, sexxxy guy to take that special cherry, no strings. You'll be beating 'em off with a stick.

2) A bit of disingenuousness or at least mystery: just don't tell 'em until you've established a real connection and things are going hot and heavy and hormones and romance are flying. Yeah, they may back off if it's beforehand, which would kind of suck, but then hey, at least you know; and they probably will be at least somewhat pissed if you wait until AFTER you've done the deed to tell them, not without justification in my book; but, you know, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

or if that's -not- what you're about, why then

3) put an ad in your local conservative Christian/Orthodox/whatever paper that you are looking for a nice old-fashioned boy to date and eventually marry, only after which does the doin' the nasty come.

It's all doable. It's just the hurdle of the Fear, i think really, which believe me, I understand.

For straight men i expect it's harder, on account of it's considered even more unnatural for a man to be a later virgin, plus there is that whole performance anxiety thing (which I -also- understand, actually, albeit in a slightly different way), but even still, I think 1) or 3) will do you pretty nicely, yeah, even 1) believe it or not. Women love challenges too. it may not be your IDEAL encounter, but again. 2) is where it gets hinkier on account of, again, the whole performance anxiety and social expectation business, sure.

On the other hand, gotta say it, especially if you're a straight man and ALL you want is to pop the cherry (whatever that really means--dip the wick, whatever, you know, crude, but it is what it is if that's what you really want), well, there are plenty of nice professional women who'd be more than happy to take it from you. Straightforward transaction, really much more honest to my mind than all the futzing around with mental games of I-bought-her-dinner-with-champagne-so-put-OUT -dammit crapola which yes is still alive and well, I am aware. You just have to get past the whole, you know, "oh, not a WHORE, the shame! the stigma! the BADNESS! the patriarchal exploitation of it all! and oh yeah technically illegal, even though the chances of actually getting caught are relatively quite low, esp. if you're careful about whom you go to. Ideally someone closer to the "sacred intimate" side of things (these are the professionals of my own personal acquaintance, for the most part; rather radically different from the abused deluded sexbots People keep wringing their hands over, ime), rather than "random woman from random escort agency picked blindly from back-page ad," much less "woman on the street."

3:22 AM  

as for that last comment, zan, you know, I have been thinking that "religious or spiritual abuse" is really worth a topic/long conversation of its own, at least.

3:24 AM  

Oh, don't worry Belle, I am so there ;) That post is still brewing in my head atm. I'm sorting out just what I want to say :)

And yeah, I just want to scream everytime I hear someone say a lesbian who has never had sex with a man is still a virgin. What? How, exactly, does that work? Because the penis is the end-all-be-all? Because she's never had the joy of freaking out because the condom broke or slipped? Or the joy of the agonizingly late period?? Please. I feel these people would die of shock if they looked in my toy drawer.

But I also feel sorry for those people, because can you imagine a life of two, maybe three positions? No toys, no kinks, no nothing but the most vanilla sex possible? Or do they not consider anything but PIV sex real because it allows them to mess around with a a clear conscious? (Well, it wasn't really cheating. I mean, we didn't have sex sex, ya know?)

7:31 AM  

yeah i dunno. I am still sort of burning over a, well i am still assuming well-meant straight woman who is currently getting politely reamed from hell to breakfast (and rightfully so i have to say) wrt having said and done some shit that, well -if- it wasn't racist, it played it on TV well enough to not make much difference, anyway a while back, you know, very tolerant and trying to understand and communicate, sure "gets it" at some level, can say all the right things, apologizes for having offended...and yet, you know, stuff like, "why a parade" (for sexual minorities, in this case BDSM but, well, you know, Keep It Private), had to avert her tender eyes from a discussion in which lesbians were talking about FISTING imagine, had never understood why younger women needed lube for PIV sex (or, at all? women needed lube at all?), sex discussions invariably about POSITIONS of the ACT, just not getting the whole anal sex thing, nope. the word "pornstitution:" is used frequently, though she is able to distinguish between say Annie Sprinkle and a trafficked woman, and with the need for erotica for LGBT folk and kinky folk and other marginalized folk, all very nuanced, all very, well, why i kept going to her site.

and you know, all of those other things, well except for the why a parade which pissed me off and i called her on it and she did apologize and seem to see what the problem was, all of those things, well, she's entitled, sure. No doubt. She calls herself "square," she's entitled to be "square." (and well yes heterocentric, that part is well more annoying, but whatever. i mean i know lesbians who are appalled at the idea of fisting, too, but)

as am I entitled to my feelings of irritation.

anyway this latest mess is a whole nother pile of something or other, i don't even know. it's amazing how different you may turn out being from someone who thought you mostly shared most political opinions with, isn't it? and vice-versa, sometimes.

4:17 PM  

Why not a parade? I mean, they're fun and everyone else gets to have them. (Although, I'm imagining a Pride parade or a buncha leather queens marching in my tiny southern town and it just makes me snicker. The poor Baptists would never recover.)

There are a lot of things other people get off on that I just don't get. But you know, most of it doesn't offend me or whatever. And I don't feel the need to avert my eyes when others around me are discussing them. Sure, it may not be my thing, but so?

I think, for a lot of people, the realization that there are people who are not only just a little different than they are, but a LOT different than they are in certain respects is just too much for them. Like, once I did a story for the paper, when the Supreme Court struck down the sodomy laws. I was calling lots and lots and lots of people to get their reaction. Well, this one woman I talked to didn't believe straight people had oral or anal sex. Seriously. I could not convince her that anyone who was not homosexual would ever have oral or anal sex.

She was like "But why would they do that?" Honest, it's a quote from her. She could not understand why any straight person would have oral or anal sex. (And, frankly, I expect she probably never had an orgasm in her life either, but hey...) It was completely beyond her, something as relatively common as that. I'm pretty sure I'd have blown her mind if I'd asked her about fisting or bondage or whatever. (I didn't, but ooooh, it was soo tempting.)

But that goes both ways, ya know. Lots of people don't understand that when I say I'm bisexual, I mean honestly, really, not a phase or a step on the path to coming out of the closet. I really like men and women, sorry. Just because it's not your thing doesn't mean it's not real. What really bums me out is when I get that from lesbians or gay men because, hey, aren't we all sorta on the same team? Come the Rapture, we're all gonna be in the same boat, sayeth the Fundies.

5:58 PM  

Well, and you know, that was the real eye-opener for me wrt the wretched BJ wars (what did YOU do in the War, mommy?...): that 1) this was apparently still such a big fucking deal for so many--not even talking about people who had abuse experiences, that i get, just, you know, OMG BLOWJOBS, really, was the not-so-subtext.

and then you had one admittedly addlepated woman convinced that anal sex was some sort of sinister patriarchal plot.

among other things, it made me realize that some Rilly Radical Persons must not have any gay (male at least; or hell, most of the lesbians/bifolk -i- know) friends. Like, at all.

and that some peoples' radical feminism is like a (sensibly clear) nail polish varnish over decades' worth of nice traditional keep-it-behind-closed-doors-please-no-that's-ICKY upbringing, which all the radical hoo-ha not only hasn't touched the root of, but has barely scratched the surface.

12:44 PM  

Hey Zan, good post! I just wrote something very similar, and Belledame pointed me your way.

9:26 PM  

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