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SEXIST BEATDOWN: You Will Always Remember That Very Special Time When You Were Like “Oh, Just Stick It In Already” Edition

SO! Guess who’s going to Harvard?

NO, NOT RIVERS CUOMO. He was there already! But on Monday, I will be there as well, at the delightful Rethinking Virginity conference, discussing with some other far more qualified ladies (seriously: look at all these ladies) my very favorite topic of all. Which is, of course, your hymen.

Your hymen! Is it a big deal? Lots of people seem to think so! They fetishize it, creepily, and also tell you to keep it around, for the other option is to fall into a life of Sin and Denigration! Now: I myself live a life of Sin and Denigration, so perhaps I am not one to talk. But the clean-living Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I have some thoughts to share, on things that we find far more important than your hymen! They include: Slut-shaming, first-time (or second-time, or third-time, or: Look, sometimes it takes us a WHILE TO FIGURE THINGS OUT, okay) being SO TERRIBLE, the fine line between consent and abstinence, and the many parallels between your personal sex life and the fine feature film “Dune” by David Lynch. Also, punning?

So join us, in this exceptionally late-posted (I refuse to apologize, because I spent much of the day not conscious? And other parts throwing up? I share these things only so you will not be tempted TO JUDGE ME; first it’s all “happy beer on the stoop Tweeting” time and then your body is like undermining your WHOLE SITUATION twenty minutes later) Sexist Beatdown!

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ILLUSTRATION: Dear God, do yourself a favor and never Google image-search “virgins” or “virginity.” I did, and now I wish I had some of this, FOR MY EYES.

SADY: LADY! I think it is time for me to lose my Having This Particular Chat Virginity! As opposed to my Oral Sex (Receiving) Virginity, my Oral Sex (Delivering) Virginity, my Various Other Stuff Virginity, and my Virginity Virginity. All of which are gone already. I HAVE SQUANDERED MY PRECIOUS TREASURE!

AMANDA: Oh wonderful! Well I’m personally excited to commence Rethinking Virginity … out of existence! For it has never really worked for me.

SADY: Oh, no? Please do detail the manner in which it failed to work!

AMANDA: “Failed to work” may actually be the operative term here? Because if someone were to ask me When I Lost My Virginity, they would then be subjected to a series of stories about Those Times It Almost Went In, But Didn’t. I tried REALLY HARD to lose my virginity! I was like, Out, Out, Damned Virginity, but it just … it just didn’t work. Physically. For a long time. And now I don’t fucking know/remember when it happened. It was late.

SADY: Right. The definitive moment at which you become an Anti-Virgin is hard to peg! In fact! And, honestly, gives too much credit to the first person to definitively Stick It In. Like, it’s not like no-one has visited these territories before! Those dudes are like Christopher Columbus. They, like, Claim This Land for Spain, but fail to notice all the people who were already there. Uh. Sort of.

AMANDA: RIGHT. (?) And everyone pretends it’s this really objective moment that’s defined from the outside, but I’ve found for most people you just have to Decide when it is, and pretend that that time syncs up with whatever everyone else is talking about. I count myself as lucky to not have a very intimate relationship with Virginity and Non-Virginity, though. Fuck that noise.

SADY: Yeah. I mean, I myself was at one point one of those girls who went around telling everybody that I was totally not going to sex it up until I met the dude I was going to marry. And people would laugh at me, and I would be like, “WHY MUST YOU DEVALUE MY MORAL CHOICES?” But then something magical happened, which was that I went to college. And there were like three dudes with whom it could very plausibly have happened, and I was just so tired of trying to figure out which one was going to be my husband (HINT: None) that I had sex with the WORST ONE just to get it over with. Which is also not a choice I recommend!

AMANDA: Haha! STRATEGY. I waited a long time to (try) to have sex, and it wasn’t for some sort of sense of morality. I was never surrounded by any religious influences or anything like that growing up. But I did feel really, really, really, really uncomfortable with the idea of having sex, and a lot of that had to do with stuff imposed on me on the outside about how sex was bad. Like I was worried about getting AIDS if my boyfriend’s penis got too close to me.

SADY: Yeah. That is also part of it. Like, there are so many risks to sex — AIDS, all the other terrifying illnesses, etc — that delaying sex can feel, really, like the best of all possible options. And also, there are other risks of sex If You Are A Lady, which include: Getting Knocked Up (I would basically consider this to be a terrible illness, in my current circumstance) and Getting Called a Slut. But here is the magic thing: All of these things can happen to you EVEN if you are not a virgin! And I feel like the emphasis on virginity, or the lack thereof, encourages everyone to place the emphasis on this ONE sexual encounter, your FIRST (and hopefully not last), instead of being like: Sex! You’re going to be doing this eventually! Here’s a realistic risk evaluation!

AMANDA: Exactly. And the emphasis on virginity didn’t really help what I was going through either. The message was, “Don’t have sex! And if you do, just wear a condom!” Which didn’t speak to any of the issues I had with sex, or how to decide how to do it and when and with whom and why. Like, I am very much anti-abstinence-only education – and in high school, having sex was NOT going to be a productive option for me, in the place that I was. I was a VIRGIN and wanted to stay one, for a while. And still the emphasis on the virginity stuff really did not help me.

SADY: Right! And, like, a while ago, there was this headline all over the place, which was “Abstinence Only Education: Totally Works!” And what it actually WORKED at, apparently, was delaying vagina-to-weiner intercourse for a few years among the preteens. Good job! But also, this magically effective abstinence-only education program taught abstinence this way: Don’t have sex until you are totally comfortable with having sex and know how to make good sexual decisions for you. This program that worked? NOT TEACHING ABSTINENCE, actually. What it was teaching was SEXUAL CONSENT.
Like, “Hey, when you decide to have sex, your decision should probably be full and informed!” Uh, OK. But feminists have been teaching this for approximately FOREVER? I guess we never thought to call it “abstinence.” I guess that’s why we don’t get the credit for our revolutionary sex-education technology!

AMANDA: Exactly. SEX ED EDUCATORS: PLEASE TEACH CONSENT. Because honestly, I’ve been having sex for a while now, and it took me a long time to be “totally comfortable” with it. A lot of that had to do with body-image stuff and all the connotations that went along with not being a virgin anymore, and so being a slut, but some of it had to do with people not respecting my right to make decisions about when I have sex and when I don’t.

SADY: Right. I mean, I think my thing is: My first few sex experiences were kind of HORRIBLE, which I think had a lot to do with choosing the worst of all possible contenders so that I wouldn’t have to think about being a virgin or not being a virgin any more. Because when I say “the worst,” I mean we were at TWILIGHT LEVELS OF AWFUL. But also, I think they would have been awful anyway, because I had been taught “don’t have sex,” and I had been taught about the importance of putting a little rubber outfit on his apparatus if I ever DID have sex. But what I had NEVER been taught, apparently, was how to respect what I wanted, and to ask for it, and how to say “no” if I did NOT want something he wanted. I mean, I didn’t even know how to say “ow” or “yikes.” My impression was that one could Have Sex or Not Have Sex, and so my first few experiences were like, “oh, so apparently sex is AWFUL? It seems weird that people are so into it! But, OK! I am Having Sex!”

AMANDA: EXACTLY. GOD. I very much had the experience of something like, happening to me—-”Having” “Sex”—not participating or enjoying something, but like, enduring it. And part of that was necessary to come to a time when I would figure out how to like it, and assert myself, and that stuff. But surely, we can do better about the way we talk about things and prepare people for them, and how to know when Bad Sex is not bad sex and when it’s Rape. We don’t do enough of that.

SADY: Right. And I think it goes back to what we were talking about before, which is: Sex being defined as this very heterosexual experience of having a Penile Apparatus stuck into our Vaginal Apparatus in an Act That Could Potentially Produce Offspring (if you don’t make his weiner wear an outfit, or whatever). Like, OK: There are a lot of things that are pretty darn sexual, which this description of Sex does not cover! And I am struggling to say this without sounding like some kind of creepy Tantric sex instructor, but: If you’re like, “OK. So somebody is going to stick that into the other thing, and then you will Have Had Sex,” you’re missing out on (a) much of what makes sex fun or enjoyable, (b) much of the potential complications, and (c) the fact that sex, ideally, should not be some sort of terrifying Bene Gesserit test of fortitude? Like, that thing where they stick Kyle McLachlan’s hand in the box and are like, “WITHSTAND THE PAIN OR DIE” so he can’t take his hand out or the space nun will kill him instantly: Sex should, ideally, have little or nothing in common with this experience. Why can’t we all just enjoy ourselves? By, like, respecting what feels good and what doesn’t?

dune

ILLUSTRATION: Kyle sticks one in a girl’s box… OF PAIN!!!!

AMANDA: Right! And I’ll add that making the definition of “sex” “Penile Apparatus stuck into our Vaginal Apparatus in an Act That Could Potentially Produce Offspring” also includes “rape” as a thing that is “sex,” and so perhaps we should move toward a definition that includes shit that people want to do, and also expels the word Virginity from existence, because it doesn’t mean anything and it’s stupid.

SADY: RIGHT? Okay, so: Here’s another reason why making “virginity” important is scary. There was, some time ago, an Ohio-based abstinence education group, and they had this little online “game” for students. This game, it was kind of a downer! In that it was about deciding whether a lady had been raped or not! So, lady SAYS she’s raped. And, as we all know, rape accusations are totally fun to make for kicks! So you have to evaluate the testimonies of the people she knows, about her character. And one of them — A GIRL CHARACTER! IN THE GAME! I BELIEVE! — mentions that she’s had sex before, and is thus probably a liar. Guess which conclusion you are supposed to draw?

AMANDA: UM. That she’s a liar?

SADY: YES. Like, the idea that you can either want NONE of the penises or ALL of the penises: That is an idea that is taught! By “education” “groups!” They had to take the game down. But we can’t take it out of the equation, when we look at the cultural ideals around virginity.

AMANDA: Well I know that there’s a direct correlation between how much sex I’m having and how much I lie about everything!

SADY: LIAR. I mean, I would classify several of my experiences, especially early experiences, in the “consensual but not okay” zone of sexual activity. Not to make this a big downer of a chat. But, the idea of Sex or Not Sex means that sometimes you don’t say “no” because you don’t totally have it in your mind that you CAN say “no,” because you don’t have any idea in your mind that Sex is not just one big package that you are either OK or not OK with. So, like: You go along with it, and you even say “yes,” so there is consent although it’s not enthusiastic, but that is in large part because Boundaries are not really a part of the understanding you have of Sex. Or maybe that is just me! Maybe I am just a people-pleaser! But I don’t think I am! Because I please very few people, really, on a daily basis.

AMANDA: Yeah, well, you either want to Have Sex (slut) or you want to Not Have Sex (virgin), and so if you decide to have sex, then—”SEX”! Sometimes, you don’t really know all the possibilities of what that could mean, but you do know that you’ve consented to It, Sex, and that’s as far as the conversation goes.

SADY: Right. And I think a lot of girls struggle with it. Like: My frequent yelling about slut-shaming and my frequent yelling about rape culture are actually the same yelling. Because the devaluation of female sexuality devalues female pleasure which in turn devalues your ability to say, “I don’t like this, but I do like something else, can we do that instead?”

AMANDA: And some people who have had sex many, many times, when confronted with the opportunity to pass judgment in a rape case, still believe that. Even though it’s plainly obvious that sex is not all or nothing.

SADY: Right. Exactly. That’s where it gets really kind of scary. And, I mean, if I look at my various virginities: Every time you do something new for the first time, you are basically a virgin at it. You have no idea how anything works and you are probably kind of bad at it and you just sort of muddle through. Like this chat! Which for some reason I am terrible at expressing any ideas within!

AMANDA: We are virgins at rethinking virginity! It’s OK! But now we’re rethinking virginity sluts. And there was much rejoicing.

SADY: Yes. Next time I do this, hopefully I will know more about what is happening, and be able to contribute! Or something!

AMANDA: Instead of being like, Ow! You are inserting your opinions into mine quite vigorously, and in a way I am unprepared to respond to! Can we try this on e-mail!

SADY: I am just sort of lying here. I am like, “okay, you take it from here, I’m just going to scope out the whole operation.” I didn’t mean for this to end in a really inappropriate sex metaphor between two heterosexual ladies with dudepartners, Amanda. IT IS JUST PART OF THE PROCESS!

AMANDA: And I’m like, ouch, my position … on virginity is beginning to form a cramp, in my brainparts. OK! I have finished! After dragging this on for far too long, after you have grown bored with it!

SADY: Yeah. I think we’re done. And now, to go on and have Rethinking Virginity Chats… WITH MANY OTHERS!  Truly, after doing this one-on-one, the only other option is to do it with four other people. Simultaneously! In public! And possibly on film! THEY WERE RIGHT! THEY WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE ABSTINENCE! THE DAM HAS BROKEN, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK NOW.

75 Comments

  1. Michelle wrote:

    I am reallyyyyyy tired (saw this right before logging off and could not resist) and so should probably have my commenting privileges revoked, but! this is a great post!

    I have had personal run ins lately with the aftereffects of shitty abstinence only sex ed (together 3 years, married now, we had the “tested” talk when we first started dating, only for it to come up in conversation that the test he’d had was a blood test, which! as it turns out, does not cover everything, but he had no idea. he just got a slip back from the blood center saying “std free”, so yeah. getting tested as soon as we can afford it.). It’s a really bizarre thing to think about, this abstinence only sex ed. I just have to wonder what some of the super far right would say about situations like mine that are pretty much an indirect result of them refusing to give any, you know, education, during sex ed. I…deserve it because we had sex before we got married? Who knows! Their logic is like a minefield, covered in mines of slut shaming and rape culture. Or something, see above re: tired. My point being! Abstinence only sex ed is a nonsensical idea.

    Also, I’m not sure if this is the case everywhere in the country, but our sex ed class in high school had very very Christian overtones which annoyed my pagan self back then and annoys me more looking back. I just asked Matt if his did too and he responded that he didn’t have sex ed in high school. That explains a lot. (Also, isn’t that illegal?)

    Anyways! I am going to bed now, but good post!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 2:00 am | Permalink
  2. HelenB wrote:

    The message was, “Don’t have sex! And if you do, just wear a condom!” Which didn’t speak to any of the issues I had with sex, or how to decide how to do it and when and with whom and why.

    Oh man, this just summarised my whole life! Or at least the parts of my life which have sex in them. I was taught safe sex in school, and even the importance of consensual sex, but after I left school and was in situations where sex might actually happen, there were so many questions I had that no one had ever given me answers for! Like: apparently I’m a loser if I’m a virgin, but if I have sex I’m a slut! Which is the right one to be? And if I sleep with a guy, do I tell him I’m a virgin? Because I’ve heard guys freak out about that! But I’ve also heard guys like to think that you are a virgin, even if you’re not!

    Anyway, I’m glad that there is to be a conference on Rethinking Virginity. Perhaps in the future young ladies will have the answers to these questions, or better yet, won’t even have to ask them.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 2:37 am | Permalink
  3. Ayla wrote:

    Can we also talk about the conflation of having a hymen and virginity? I didn’t have one of the damn things at all by the time I started exploring down there at a relatively young age, and I frankly have a hard time believing I ever had one at all. I find it really hard to believe I’m the only hymen-less one.

    If this is the case, then how can cultures through the ages which have placed (and in some cases, still do) so much emphasis on bloody honeymoon sheets manage to get along without an actual reliable virginity test?

    Oh right, because patriarchy doesn’t have to make sense.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 4:07 am | Permalink
  4. Vee wrote:

    I went to a very hippie middle school (and I mean that literally, not just as a descriptor, it was started in the sixties and the teachers in the nineties were still very recognizably of that generation) and I probably got the most thorough sex ed out of anyone I’ve ever met and discussed this with. By the time the unit was finished, we’d talked about everything from STDs to abuse to pregnancy (and we’d worn the fake belly) and we’d practiced putting condoms on and we knew how much babies cost–as it turns out, this was much more of an incentive to be careful than the abstinence version some of my friends got. Go figure!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 4:17 am | Permalink
  5. Christen wrote:

    Ohhhhh my GOD. I did so much nodding and fist-pumping and giggling and also shed a couple of tears while reading this. I have a lot to say about the loss of my own virginity (which fell squarely into the “consensual but not OK” department”), but the thing that seems most important is this one anecdote, which I thought about a while back when Amanda wrote about how very little young men seem to know about contraception and perhaps this whole general business of stickinitinthere too. (By the way, I linked to that on my Facebook, and a recent ex — who dumped me after a fairly brief trial period and I was not happy about it, though obviously, we are still friends in the Facebook sense — commented, “The moral of the story is, Don’t fuck idiots.” And I 1) laughed and 2) was like MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY BEING A STRAIGHT LADY SOMETIME AND TRY TAKING THAT ADVICE. ESPECIALLY WHEN THE DUDES WHO KNOW WHICH HOLE IS WHICH KEEP BREAKING UP WITH YOU, JERKWAD.)

    Anyway, so. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was getting my Very First Pap Smear, and while tne nurse practictioner at the student health center (who is still one of the best lady-health people I have ever visited) was looking at my junk and said, “Have you been sexually active?”

    Now, I had written on the medical history form (which she and I had just reviewed together, while I still had pants on) that I had had two “sexual partners” up to that point, and I think I probably also said they had both been male. I’m not sure the conversation got more detailed than that, but yes, I had The Penetration with both of those fellows. I was no longer Involved With (read: still fucking) either of them.

    The NP informed me that I still had some hymenal tissue. Which I could probably get, like, surgically removed, or even remove myself (she did not elaborate, which is too bad, because I think I was probably unclear on what she meant, which, hindsight, was obviously GIRLFRIEND, YOU NEED TO GO GET YOURSELF A DILDO), but it would “probably just happen eventually with intercourse.” I was like, OK!

    So, fast forward to…sometime later. I’m dating a new chap, and one night we’re Getting Busy, and it seems appropriate to inform him of that thing I had learned about myself at the Student Health Center. Awkward groping continues. And then sometime LATER he tells me he had this e-mail exchange with his best friend who lived across the country about My Issue, and said best friend had told him, dude, the hymen always breaks the first time! All of it!

    I was flabbergasted. I mean, I still am! I still get mad about it now. I mean, that little story says a lot about the state of sex ed in this country, and that dudes might actually get the shorter end of the stick in terms of knowing what the fuck is up. But the thing that left me speechless at the time was not only that dude in question 1) apparently didn’t believe me (though why I would lie about such a thing, I have NO IDEA), enough that he had to double-check my story with an Expert, 2) that the expert he decided to consult was, um, a dude he went to high school with? I mean, like I said, I’m pretty sure this whole conversation happened over e-mail. It was 2001, a simpler time! A less Internet-saturated world, to be sure! A world where it was not possible to simply remove one’s telephone from one’s pocket and say, “You might be right about that, but I’m going to double-check your assertion against those made on a GLOBALLY EDITED DIGITAL ENCYCLOPEDIA THAT IS A PRETTY RELIABLE FIRST REFERENCE EVEN IF PEOPLE DO VANDALIZE IT WITH POOP JOKES SOMETIMES.” Still. We had GOOGLE. I am guessing GOOGLE knew a thing or two about hymens, even back in 2001!

    It was so strange. And it really hurt, and hurts now, for reasons that I can’t quite discern. Something about not just being second-guessed, but being second-guessed so clumsily; about having this experience of my anatomy having defied the rules of Virginity Loss, and feeling a little uncomfortable about that in more than one way (because duh), and then having that experience second-guessed by someone who didn’t know me or have any medical expertise whatsoever. Because what I needed to hear was not “My friend says what you’re telling me is impossible,” but instead, “That’s kind of weird and funny, but totally OK. Let’s talk about how you want to deal with it. We don’t have to have penetrative sex if you don’t want to, and if you do, we’ll try and figure out some ways that it can actually feel good to you, or at least not horrible.” Because I am pretty sure Google knew a thing or two not only about hymens, but also about how to have sex with someone who still has one in such a way that she doesn’t yelp in pain or just pray it will be over soon. But having access to the answers doesn’t mean a whole lot if your culture doesn’t equip you to ask the questions.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:09 am | Permalink
  6. Cecile wrote:

    I also was hymenless by the time I got round to having The Sex and too think the hymen is a very useless tool to determine virginity.

    I went to school in England so we had fairly decent sex ed, though mostly focusing on the “That goes in there and also you can make babies and get sick” aspects, though I vaguely remember a bit about no means no. My main qualms with sex ed is that there is actually no mention AT ALL of ways of female pleasure – I was a nerd and looked things up in encyclopeadias, but many of my peers were shocked by the fact that hey, they had a clitoris and touching it felt pretty nice.

    I was also pretty lucky in the sense of my first sexual experiences – both me and the guy in question were pretty young, completely inexperienced and massively nerdy, and for a while we treated the whole thing as a massive experiment. “Okay so if I touch here, whats that like? How about here? What about if you move your leg over there?” Which until I was a bit older was how I assumed everyone was doing it.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  7. Lauren wrote:

    I’m not sure if I had a hymen or not, but I know that by the time I first had sex there was blood. I don’t think it was so much from the hymen breaking as from the stretching of the vagina.

    Is that normal? I don’t know…

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  8. Danielle LaBove wrote:

    Christen!

    I am so super sorry that you had this awful experience! But I’m very glad that you were brave enough to share it here. It’s another one of those situations where dudes are like “hey let me invalidate you real fast because no way could you know more about your body/sexual health than I could, especially because I am male and have absolutely no knowledge to back me up.”

    Mansplaining a hymen and shaming you during sexual activities? Wow. Just … just wow. That’s … just really fucking mind-blowing.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink
  9. smadin wrote:

    first it’s all “happy beer on the stoop Tweeting” time and then your body is like undermining your WHOLE SITUATION twenty minutes later)

    If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when my situation gets undermined, goddamn. Hope you’re feeling better!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  10. Maggie wrote:

    Hee, awesome post as always. As someone for whom this is basically becoming relevant, um, kind of in the vicinity of *right now* I’m glad to see some frank discussion of the concepts involved. (also, y’all have some horror stories! I feel very good about my choice in dudes at the moment!)

    I mean, a month or two ago I was asked if I was a virgin (by some random at a party, natch) and did that wiggly hand thing and said “sorta.” I am rapidly approaching the point where wiggly hand gestures will no longer be required, but can’t and don’t really feel like pinpointing a particular moment for that to flip over.

    I have not had the “benefit” of an American sex-ed class, but I haven’t thought of virginity in such a binary way for a long time. Actually I don’t remember my sex-ed classes AT ALL so this might just be down to the internet? And having kinda lived on it since I was fourteen? Mostly the bits that can spell? That probably helped.

    Point is I am long-since comfortable with the idea that virginity, if it has a useful meaning, means “knowing what you’re doing at least a bit” rather than “something has happened.” But even so, it’s really reassuring just to have it, somewhere, not be a Thing We Don’t Talk About. So thanks for that.

    Also: LOL.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  11. Jen wrote:

    Oh my God, all so true! I was 14 and had no idea it was ok to say “no” to sex. I mean, it never crossed my mind. I worried constantly about whether I could avoid it–I guess by manipulation and stealth–but saying “no”? Not an option, in spite of several years of sexual “education” (not even abstinence-only, BTW). Also, once I did have sex (at 15), not only was it painful and a downer, there was no real turning back. I was suddenly the Girl Who Had Sex. Where’s education for young girls about self-respect, taking care of your body and making decisions based on what feels awesome?

    I’m 32 now, and I STILL have problems saying “no,” because I feel like I’ll hurt someone’s man-feeling. I know that has partly to do with the oh-so-sensitive nerd boys I hung out with for too many years (that Rivers Cuomo thing? I hear that), but it comes from the devaluation of girl-selves generally.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  12. Jenn wrote:

    OHHHHH, THIS. This this this. For YEARS I have done the handwave, because I had sex with ladies for some time before I had sex with dudes.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  13. goldengirl wrote:

    oh my god! you just described my early sexual activity, especially the ‘endure rather than enjoy’- only mine did indeed veer into bf-pretending-not-to-notice-while-i-bawl-in-pain rape territory.

    this is a very important conversation to have, because lots of folks in my age group (college- i’m 21) either are just starting to become sexually active, or have been sexually active and now aren’t, or have been consistently sexually active for a while, and it’s all a very messy road to navigate, and sometimes i feel like the lone voice of “bad sex is MUCH worse than no sex at all! don’t have sex for the sake of sex- have sex on your own terms!” among my friends. i’ll be forwarding this post to people, that’s for sure!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  14. Mongoose6 wrote:

    Firstly I am so excited you will be at Harvard, because when I tell people about Tiger Beatdown I say “it’s what would happen if you sent a feminist LOLCat to Harvard – you must read it!”

    Also, losing my virginity was both consensual and OK, but not much fun – high school boyfriend and I were very much in love but had no skillz. Presumably one could teach such things in high school sex ed, but oh the awkward pain of learning it from a teacher in a room with thirty other teenagers could be too much.

    Also, masturbation (especially lady masturbation) and virginity – thoughts? Like, I consider that as part of sexual activity, and certainly there is more social taboo around it that PIV or oral, so that means it is a further virginity, even with no hymen implications?

    Love love love the blog – keep it up!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  15. Sophie wrote:

    Oh, the “consensual but not OK” thing. I “lost it” with my now-husband when I was 18, but honestly the experience was pretty unmemorable (other than it took forever to not be like “OW. OW.”), and what I DO remember well is the guy I dated for a couple of weeks just prior to him (my first semester of college, it was busy!) and how we went from “kissing” to “naked and even though I told him I’m not ready for sex I’m still kind of worried he might try to stick it in anyhow” in three dates. I really didn’t know it was OK to say no, not because of societal pressure or education, but my own supposed desires — I’d been desperately horny since I was 14 (and gotten dumped by my first boyfriend because he wasn’t ready for that), reading awesome fanfic erotica for years, and was dying to start having sex once I left home. However, nothing had prepared me for the fact that, while I might be dating an experienced guy with a sexy tongue piercing who went down on me right away, two weeks was still not enough acquaintance for the whole thing to be anything more than “AUGH STRANGER’S TONGUE ON MY LADYBITS.” In fact, that evening was the first time I ever understood why someone might “fake it” (previously something that made zero sense to my horny little teen-feminist mind), because I just wanted it to be over and that seemed like the quickest way.

    So it’s pretty sad that even someone who didn’t buy into slut-shaming or anything along those lines (thanks to my horny divorced mother, a serial monogamist since I was seven, except those times when she wasn’t monogamous) could still find themselves thinking “I said yes, so I guess I have to keep going with this horrible awkward thing”, which honestly feels more like when I lost my virginity (if we follow the old “virginity = innocence”) than when a penis entered my vagina a few months later.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  16. Jen wrote:

    I sent my friend this post, and she mentioned that it’s also considered freakish for women to have retained their virginity after a certain age. So, if you haven’t had penetrative sex by 30, you are some kind of creepy, frigid spinster. As one such self-identified “virgin,” she feels left out of great conversations such as this one, because she doesn’t feel represented anywhere. Thought that might be important to bring up.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  17. ozymandias wrote:

    “TWILIGHT LEVELS OF AWFUL” made me lol.

    An excellent post! Personally I think the only meaningful way to think about virginity is to think about virginities: The First Time I Got Kissed, The First Time I Saw Someone Else’s Genitals With Carnal Intent, The First Time I Did That Thing With The Iced Tea, Two Palm Trees And A Copy of T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland– whatever. And not to privilege the PIV intercourse over all the other ones!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  18. Lynn wrote:

    Jen:

    I think the phrase ‘frigid spinster’ as an epithet is particularly interesting, since its actual meaning is (a) says no and (b) legally status that permits her to keep her own earnings (unlike a wife).

    I’m not so much amazed as saddened that ‘spinster’ itself is still used but still creepy while bachelor just means freedom.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  19. This post was awesome, and the “terrifying Bene Gesserit test of fortitude” bit made me laugh so hard I died. (But then I got better.)

    I particularly appreciated it because I too was a virgin-and-totally-going-to-stay-that-way-FOREVER type throughout high school, due to lack of exposure to any sort of behavior or ideas that made sex seems like it could actually have upsides besides “proving how totally totally grown-up you are because you are TRANSPARENTLY INSECURE AND A SHEEP-PERSON,” and I was not an insecure sheep-person, and it is very irritating when people just laugh it off when you decide you’re totally not getting involved in this bullshit, therefore contributing to the problem where it all looks like bullshit instead of politely suggesting that, perhaps, someday you will meet people that suck less than all the ones you know right now, and whose viewpoints on sex are not so odious, and maybe you won’t, and maybe you’re asexual, but anyway here’s some real sex ed just in case you ever need to actually know stuff. All the low-information mandates, whether they’re “DON’T HAVE SEX!!!!” or “YOU MUST AND WILL HAVE SEX IT’S INEVITABLE!!!!!” or “YOU HAVE TO BE IN LOVE!!!!!” or the liberaldudist “LOVE IS STUPID YOU ARE MORALLY OBLIGATED TO HAVE SEX WITH PEOPLE YOU DON’T LOVE!!!!!” are all super, super unhelpful. They are all wrong. They are all dehumanizing. They all turn the decision they are advocating into a Chore with a capital C, therefore, they are all major fucking turnoffs. When I changed my mind, it wasn’t because all the people who were like PFFFFFFFT YES YOU WILL when I said I wouldn’t were right, it’s because I’d gotten them the fuck out of my life and so their viewpoints weren’t constantly dumping cold water on my libido to the point where even thinking of the possibility of sex was so tiresome I had to go take a nap.

    Anyway, I rant, I was just really happy to see someone acknowledge that there can be factors that make delaying sexual activity seem like a good option other than being a repressed brainwashed pleasure-phobic woman-hating Jesus freak.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  20. Christen wrote:

    Danielle, thank you. It occurred to me that I should do some more writing about this somewhere else, but then I was like, Aughhh! My dad Googles me! So I don’t know.

    In defense of my ex (sort of), it was really his buddy doing the mansplaining, and it didn’t feel like he was trying to shame me. But yes, ultimately, he seemed to privilege that dude’s assumption that I was lying, over my, my NP’s, and even, now that I think about it, HIS OWN experience of my body. It’s so weird to me, but it’s one of those recurring themes you see in articles on, say, Snopes. People will believe really weird things, things that are not or cannot be verified (like that we swallow eight spiders every year in our sleep), that contradict both empirical studies AND our own experience or reasoning, IF they are told to us by someone we trust.

    I think this might be even more true as relates to sex and illicit drugs, because so much of what so many of The Authorities tell us turns out not to be true, once we get out and start experiencing those things for ourselves. So a lot of us might not be inclined to consult Authorities for advice on how to deal with problems in those areas — we’re going to ask our more-experienced friends. And in a patriarchical culture, we’re going to defer to the explanation of the experienced /male/ friend over that of a woman we just met, /or/ her health care provider.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  21. Sady wrote:

    @Jen: I feel like I’ve talked to straight dudes about That Time They Finally Stuck It In also, though! And no matter HOW early it was, they ALWAYS feel like it was not early ENOUGH. The expectation for dudes to have had 9 gazillion sexual partners by the time they vote in their first Presidential election is, like, not easy on their souls. And leads to all sorts of fucked-up behavior. Girls are expected to keep it (but not TOO long) and dudes are expected to lose it (RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW). And, unsurprisingly, when the dudes and the ladies consider each other as sexual partners, this shit tends to fuck them up extremely!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  22. Sady wrote:

    @Lauren: I feel like, unless your partner was exceptionally rough or incautious with you and ended up nicking or tearing the inner labia (which can happen even if you don’t have a hymen any more), the blood was probably a hymenal thing. Not to overshare, but by the time I wound up having sex, mine didn’t bleed, because: Tampons, duh. But, yeah, it’s common for there to be a little blood during first-time sex, though often not a lot, and sometimes NONE even if the girl’s never been penetrated or had her hymen broken previously (which happens all the time; horseback riding, exercise, tampons, all sorts of shit can do it) because some girls’ hymens just don’t really cover the whole area or pose an obstacle. Which is why it was common for a lady to receive a bag of chicken blood as a Very Special Wedding Present, so that she could “prove” her “womanly virtue.” Oddly, this is not a common feature at Renaissance Faires?

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  23. Melusin wrote:

    @Lauren- did anyone else read about the renaming of the hymen a few months back? (http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/12/hymen_renamed)

    Apparently it never breaks, just wears away a bit, but might bleed during sex (especially first time sex) owing to the person who’s vaginal apparatus it is not being especially relaxed or aroused. I know I did bleed at the time, and definitely wasn’t especially relaxed.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  24. Melusin wrote:

    Thank you for this post, Sady and Amanda. The first time I had sex I said “ow” pretty early on, and while the dude in question stopped, I was definitely given the impression that this was not okay and Very Unfair On Him, for me to express feelings of pain or discomfort. But then, this was the guy who sent me a FB message the day afterwards asking if I’d felt pressured (I id-ed as gay at the time, but after nearly two years of being anti sex and pro unconsummated sexual platonic love and sapphic hand holding, I just wanted rid “virginity” in some form)

    And I very much agree that virginity should be rethought, as that guy did only Stick It In for a short time, and it was nothing like actually pleasant, negotiated sex.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  25. Jennifer S. wrote:

    @Ayla, I, too have never recalled having a hymen. I remember finding out about tampons at like age 14 and being all “these are the best things ever!! Why did you have me use pads for so long?!” And my mom was all “er, I thought you… never mind.”

    In a possibly related note, sometimes I think I had the most positive virginity-losing experience of any lady on the planet. But, since my sexual hang-ups were (in this order) him touching my bits, me touching his bits, and sex, we had done a loooooot of other stuff by that point. It was actually really nice. So yeah.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  26. attica wrote:

    I often wonder why we don’t make more of an effort to rebrand the thing. It’s not ‘losing virginity’, it’s gaining experience! There is no other developmental milestone that we tag with such negative nomenclature. We don’t ‘lose unambulation’, we take our first steps! We don’t ‘lose prepubescence’, we reach puberty!

    And in each developmental milestone, we have fits and starts; some shit works, some shit doesn’t, and we work it out.

    The first time I had sex, I came to it eagerly. I was ready. I have no idea if I was late or early to the party (Discussions of this kind were NOT held amongst my acquaintance). It wasn’t skyrockets in flight, but it was pleasant and overall okay, even with the awkwardnesses of the moment. I look back on it fondly.

    Teaching consent, including how to discern among prospective partners is a good thing. The mechanics will work themselves out.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  27. speedbudget wrote:

    Seconding (fourthing?) the “consensual but not okay” first-time sex. Really, second, third, fourth…until recently, I’ve not really been into it too much. It’s been a grin and bear it situation.

    Also, I think hymens and virginity are a social construct. I could be wrong. Why, yes, I do wiki. Don’t you? I never bled once, but I do tend to have pain if it’s been a while between times I’ve had sex, which is, like, EVERY SINGLE TIME. I mean, really. We are talking EPIC dry spells. And each time, it feels like the first time (feels like the very first time *sung with much feeling*).

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  28. maggie wrote:

    Virginity is a huge load. But then I’m also the sort of person who defines sex as any activity that has a general intent of hopefully getting someone off.

    PIV hurt, but I didn’t bleed. Now it just hurts all the time anyway, and doctors like to dismiss the bejesus out of me. Man do I ever miss pain-free PIV.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  29. Farore wrote:

    OK OK OK UHM. I’m sorry if this was already covered but I can only see the phrase “hymen broke” or “still had my hymen” or “hymen and virginity” SO MANY TIMES before I snap and start spewing information.

    THE HYMEN IS NOT A THING THAT BREAKS. Oh my goodness. The reason some ladies bleed their ‘first time’ is because they are nervous and kinda dry and tight because of that and the dude is all nervous and not sure what he is supposed to be doing OR he is just very poorly informed by mainstream pornography and the patriarchy and whatnot about how hard and rough and whatnot one is supposed to be.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read this everybody holy crap oh my god.

    http://www.rfsu.se/en/Engelska/Sex-and-Politics/Hymen-renamed-vaginal-corona/

    Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  30. Elizabeth wrote:

    Ugh, virginity. I’m really delighted at 23 to have finally reached the end of the, like, eight-year-long slog, among my cohort, of who is a virgin, and who isn’t, and how many blowjobs until you’re just a “technical” virgin, and are you a virgin if it didn’t go all the way in, and what are the criteria for lesbians, and- my LEAST FAVORITE- let’s all tell the bound-to-be-hilarious stories of how we each lost our virginity. My first experience of penetration (wow, awkwardly worded) was rape, which scared me off sex for a long time, and while I’m sort of okay with talking about it (seeing as I just told ALL Y’ALL) my friends are definitely of the What A Fascinating Intellectual Exercise persuasion and talking about it could easily kick off a “debate” about whether losing one’s virginity to rape actually makes one no longer a virgin, while the debaters are totally oblivious to the fact that it’s a real thing that happened to me. (In case you’re wondering, the arguments break down to: Still a Virgin, rape isn’t sex; Not a Virgin, rape is greater loss of innocence than sex. I mostly come down on the side of Not.)

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:04 am | Permalink
  31. Ooooh oooh, way upthread, Christen’s comment about having her own personal body expertly disagreed with by a man who had literally never met her, made me think of this really funny anecdote that I blogged about a year ago.

    One time, when I was about 20, I got into an officially not-relationship with a somewhat older than me cis guy. A guy who, (I’ll add), I still think is mostly swell, though we don’t keep in great touch, and who finds it really embarrassing when I tell this story because he just doesn’t remember himself saying anything nearly this ignorant and backwards, but I swear to you Tiger Beatdown and assorted commenters, it is true, as true as the fact that Arizona’s recent legislative activity is fucked up like woah, that is how true it is.
    I dubbed this conversation (shortly after having it), the Magic Penis conversation. It was had after we had basically spent multiple days in bed together all day except for eating (and a shower or two).
    It went something like so:
    Him: uhhh, so about sex, I don’t want to have [penetrative penile/vaginal]* sex with you because I’ve heard that the first time a girl has [penile/vaginal] sex, she becomes really attached to the guy. It’s a chemical thing.” (This was while I was identifying as a girl).
    Me: UMMMMMMMM????????? “Chemical process”?

    He also just called it “sex,” because apparently spending days on end in bed with someone naked or half naked while getting mutual enjoyment from touching and kissing one another, and maybe having one or both participants orgasm, that could never count as “sex,” right?

    He put a lot of thought into what it would mean to be “my first,” a lot of thought that I honestly didn’t put into it.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 1:43 am | Permalink
  32. ukenagashi wrote:

    I’m another one who can’t reall pinpoint the First Time. But maybe for different reasons? We went all the way as a kind of definitive thing (today we will devirginate ourselves!), but it hurt *so much* that we “discounted” it (apparently you can do that) and tried again. Same thing. I thought maybe we hadn’t been rough enough on the hymen or something, but nope, even unto this day PIV sex is the most unbelievable pain. Which is really awkward in SO MANY WAYS, because I’ve had to explain it to all my boyfriends since, and I feel so guilty for being “defective”, and most of the time it’s been easier just to grit my teeth and muscle through. And only very recently have I been thinking about how the way I’ve been going about this is wrong. I mean, I can still have a very satisfying sex life. Just not in that one thing that seems to be the be-all and end-all of sex and human happiness.

    I know I should go to a doctor, but after having horrible experiences with doctors for menstrual issues, I don’t really want to do that to myself ._.

    Basically, thank you so much for having this conversation.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 3:44 am | Permalink
  33. Vee wrote:

    @Christen: OH MY GOD YOU TOO? Well, I had an experience that was like your two experiences conflated–I had a gynecological exam as part of a more extensive-let’s-investigate-everything-that-could-possibly-be-wrong-with-you-exam when I went to the ER in December, and the (male) doctor that was rushing me through the preliminaries a) told me I still had a lot of hymenal tissue, b) told me I was obviously lying about my sexual history as there was no way I wasn’t still a virgin (I told him I’d had PIV-sex twice), and c) told me when I yelled at him because part of what was wrong with me at the time meant that everything was really sore and he wasn’t helping, “Oh, I didn’t break your hymen, if that’s what you’re worrying about.” Yes.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 4:37 am | Permalink
  34. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    When I started having sex in high school, it was my idea and with someone I liked very much, I was under the impression that the first time was supposed to hurt, it was like a right of passage thing you had to get through (exactly like you said, with the Dune box of pain). Even though the guy was a decent person, and following my lead, it still didn’t occur to me that once we began I could suggest we slow it down, try something else for a bit, etc. And it hurt. It took me years (around a decade, actually) to get comfortable with penetrative sex. I kept doing it, explaining to each new partner that there was something weird about my body (and I wonder why I wasn’t comfortable, thinking of myself that way!), that sex hurt and I was trying to get used to it so that wouldn’t happen anymore. I thought I just needed to keep it up and eventually I would stretch out, or whatever. This wasn’t about pressure from any particular dude, as most of my partners have been pretty non-pushy; it was about expectations I’d been led to have about PIV sex, and my own nervousness in intimate situations and insecurities about my body. A fine example of how the patriarchy sneaks into the bedrooom no matter what kind of a person the individual guy you’re with is, and no matter how in control you think you are. I wish I’d read this particular Sexist Beatdown freshman year of HS. Hell, I wish Tiger Beatdown had been around then.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  35. Ethyl wrote:

    @Ukenagashi — I don’t want to overstep, but this website might be useful for you:
    http://feministswithfsd.wordpress.com/about/

    I loved this edition of Sexist Beatdown, especially since I’m the only person I know who remotely enjoyed that Dune movie. My First Time was pretty meh, but it wasn’t (thankfully) “not ok,” or downright traumatizing. I luckily was dating a pretty great, considerate guy who seemed to understand the idea of “enthusiastic consent” and although our breakup was messy I look back with great fondness on our sexual explorations.

    @TDE — that is freaking funny. Magical Penis! WTF!

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  36. K. wrote:

    @Jen I feel like my sexual experiences have followed a similar trajectory. I lost my virginity when I was 15 and had absolutely no inkling that it would be okay to say no (especially not to someone who was my “boyfriend.”) I still have issues with saying no because once I became a Girl Who Has Sex, I feel like I narrowed the number of choices I was allowed to make regarding sex to: 1. have sex. (Not unlike what Sady describes when she says you either “want all of the penises of none of the penises.”) I can also identify with the worry of somehow “hurting” someone or “letting them down” by not having sex with them — it’s weird, I definitely recognize the total fucked up-ness of thinking this way, but can’t seem to unlearn it, which places me into the terrible cycle of engaging in sexual activity under the premise of making someone else “feel better” and ending up feeling awful about it.

    My high school (located in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, OH) outsourced its sex ed to a company called Operation Keepsake which provided a week long abstinence only sex ed curriculum. Things I remember from this week long experience include: a graphic slideshow of the physical side effects of STIs (namely oozing sores) underscored by the assertion that people who contracted an STI “chose to do so” by having sex, a “slut shaming” series of role playing scenarios where girls in the class were made to “confess” to their male partners that they had engaged in prior sexual activity only to be broken up with or left at the altar, a “learning simulation” where we were all given a piece of tape and told to stick it on other people in the class (the idea here was that the tape was symbolic of your sexuality and if you stuck it to too many people, you would end up in a situation where your tape was ALL GROSS and wouldn’t stick to ANYTHING so you would probably DIE ALONE.) The week culminated in a ceremony where we were all encouraged to sign virginity pledges in exchange for a roll of life savers. I was already sexually active by the time I participated in this curriculum.

    What really interested me about Operation Keepsake was the way it offered you a window into the role that class played in sex ed, at least, in the greater Cleveland area. The “inner city” schools largely relied on local Planned Parenthood centers for sex ed services while private and suburban schools outsourced their sex ed to abstinence only outfits like Operation Keepsake, which presents the interesting question of why we teach who we teach what we teach.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  37. Tavi wrote:

    Aha! Ah! AHHHH!

    Can you please, like, come to my school?

    I have a little story about these past couple days in The Grade Of The Eighth (I feel like a spy!)

    So! My friends, who we’ll call Bert and Ernie, are good friends, and both dislike Elmo, who has gone very far in terms of The Bases, and who they dislike because of this fact. So then, Bert meets this dude, Coochie Monster, and they’ve known each other for a month, and then they go out, and they’ve been going out for less than two weeks, and have made out once, and then Bert talks to Ernie and is all “I think I’ll let him get stick in his finger!” and Ernie is all “That’s not very wise! Because he is moving in a month, and is probably going to dump you the next day, because he just wants to hook up with as many ladies as possible!” and Bert is all “Shut up you’re not my mom!”

    So Bert does it, the same day her other pal does it, which is weird, because that’s like, a weird pact thing.

    So after it happens, Bert has softball practice, and Coochie Monster hangs out with Ernie & co., and is bragging about it, and describing, in, like, full detail. And Bert texts Ernie and is like “Omg did you hear!” which is like, GAHHHHH. They’re both bragging, and it’s annoying. And isn’t that why Bert disliked Elmo so much? I think so!

    But! Then! It’s the next day-the next MORNING, actually, so it’s been like, 12 hours-and Coochie Monster dumps Bert! For the exact same reasons Ernie said he would dump Bert! So Ernie is kind of like “SEE?” and Bert says, “Why can’t you just be happy for me like everyone else?”

    Well, uh, because that’s the same thing you shamed Elmo and many other girls for doing, and because he dumped you the next day, and you seem to not really care about that, and you barely knew each other, and you barely LIKED each other, because you even *said* *so* *yourself*. So, uh, what reason is there for people to be happy for you, other than the mere fact that you got fingered-not by someone you really knew or cared about, and not by someone who really knew or cared about you.

    Does this make me a slut-shamer? Ernie is getting all told-you-so, and said she now doesn’t want to be associated with Bert because that would apparently make HER a slut, and said her reason for thinking Bert shouldn’t have done it was that it was “against” her “beliefs”. I mean, CALM DOWN. I don’t think I would really care all that much as long as Bert and Coochie Monster actually knew each other and it wasn’t just for the sake of some weird status validity. It’s not a personal choice I would make. But I’ll still be her friend. Because she will probably realize how she maybe wasn’t ready for it, and then she might feel icky and sad and won’t want to hear “I told you so” or “slut” or any of that.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  38. Tavi wrote:

    Oh my goodness, longest comment ever! I like how this comment section has become my personal diary!

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  39. Katie wrote:

    I’m going to have to re-read Dune now,my entire understanding of that book, has completely gone out the window.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  40. Caitlin wrote:

    THIS. So much. In regard to mansplaining The Sex, I was once informed by a male friend that “No, no, no, no, women aren’t taught that the first time hurts.” What exactly was I supposed to say to that? “You’re right, I must have imagined the last ten years of fear tactics?”

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  41. Kristin wrote:

    Count me another well-educated-about-sex lady who has had the misinformation of partners bite me in the ass!

    Last year I was dating someone for a few months and we had the “I got tested. You got tested? Good. You are on the pill. Let us commence sex minus condoms.”

    Of course he brought up the no condom thing. All well and good until it turned out he had several other women he was sleeping with at the same time minus condoms (I had been under the impression – mistakenly! – that our no-condom conversation had also been a “no other vaginas” conversation). And then I had to shower for days because, ew.

    But when I confronted him about the fact that if at least one of the other women he was sleeping with was ALSO having unprotected sex with others then we were ALL at serious risk for diseases he was like “Nooooo. No one has diseases! You are crazy! I can tell from looking at them that they are clean!” Zuh? Turn out he had never had ANY FORMAL sex education. AT ALL. I took common knowledge about the prevalence of diseases/infections for granted.

    So I sent him some Planned Parenthood statistics, got myself tested and learned a valuable lesson: When you think you’ve had the monogamy talk, have it again, just in case! Before the condom comes off!

    Also: Virginity. I got through high school with mine still in tact (BARELY) and when I got to college, I had a similar reaction to Sady. I just wanted to get it over with by the time I was 19, so I picked up a dude in a bar and had sex with him and it was terrible because we were drunk and didn’t know each other at all. He didn’t know it was my first time and I didn’t tell him and I never spoke to him again. I wish I had had a more pleasure-affirming first time. If I hadn’t been so concerned with getting the Plague of Virginity off of me, I might have been inclined to do more exploration before the penis actually went in. As it was I just kind of laid there and thought of England.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  42. Sady wrote:

    @Tavi: Haha, that was a long comment, but it was also THE BEST comment! That, I think, we’ve ever had! So, you know. You can Livejournal over here any time.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  43. theviciouspixie wrote:

    I also went through the phase of banging on about how I was going to Give my Virginity to the Right Dude when I was about 15. By the time I actually got around to having PIV sex for the first time, it was actually quite a positive experience, because I’d decided by that point that romance movies were full of crap and, this being the case, having sex for the first time probably wasn’t going to be that big a deal. And this was a good mindset to go in with, and I have been trying to pass it on to other people! Also, my parents have always been happy to talk to me frankly about these things, and I can’t put a value on that.

    It still amazes me, though, how little dudes learn about the lady bits. I’m 23, my male partners have nearly all been older than me, and I have had to explain to nearly all of them at some point that It Doesn’t Work The Way You Think It Does, and its sister lesson All Women Do Not Work Exactly The Same Way. And I went to a girl’s school, so even in the relatively enlightened English way of teaching it I still got a mostly lady-centric learning experience. So not only should sex ed be more comprehensive and sex-positive just in general, but also guys and girls should get the same curriculum so that they maybe have some idea of how any opposite sex partners they have actually function.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  44. Ethyl wrote:

    @Katie — Don’t worry about it — that version of the movie and the book are pretty different, although there is a certain amount in the movie that doesn’t make much sense unless you have read the book. It’s all very fraught, really.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  45. Michelle wrote:

    Oh, while reading the comments I thought of a great piece of mansplaining. I have NO IDEA how the topic came up, but once, while discussing sex or genitals or something in a room with three ladies and three guys (I think I was 19 at the time, the other two girls were 17 and then the three guys were 23, 21, and 17). And NONE of the guys knew that urine does, in fact, not come out of the vagina. WHAT THE HELL. Two of them tried to argue with me when I told them otherwise (which was interesting), and also in fact, one of the other ladies there did not know that.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  46. Okapifoot wrote:

    Just a quick comment. I think the perfect accompanied reading for this post would be “Virgin: The Untouched History” by Hanne Blank. There’s also a pretty neat interview with the author on Scarleteen.com too (http://www.scarleteen.com/article/politics/20_questions_about_virginity_scarleteen_interviews_hanne_blank).

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  47. Seraph wrote:

    Agh, virginity. Where to start…

    Sooooo, I’ve been with my partner for three years and some, and we’ve never have piv intercourse, for reasons including 1. religious upbringing 2. fear of pain 3. OH GOD OUR PARENTS WOULD KILL US AND OVER SOMETHING SO STUPID and we do still rely on them for some things and just argh and 4. fear of pain. Did I mention fear of pain? That.*

    So we’re both eh, kinda, virgins. And staying that way for now, even though that will change sometime, even though I’m more or less satisfied with our sex life right now. Which begs the question why have piv intercourse at all? Other than we’d like to do something that is really mutually pleasurable, at the same time, in ways our current connection is not. It feels really tangly sometimes.

    And THEN, I work with this guy who wants in my pants, and simultaneously has fetishized my virginity (or rather, his idealized fantasy of my virginity) to a ridiculous degree, and I’m like wow, I only see you at work and you’re like, a year older than me and dumb as hell so why are you getting all up in my business with this stupid, unaskedfor advice? Argh. And he keeps saying things like “don’t have sex, it’ll ruin your life,” despite the fact that his life has not, in fact, been ruined. Even though he also says things like “the worst moments in my life have involved sex,” and I counter that that happens to be because he has really bad sex while incredibly drunk. And why is he all up in my business anyway? He overheard a conversation I had with a female coworker about sex, and my lack thereof, and then later heard me say that I’d been out of work for a day because the birth control I’d just started made me sick (taking it so my period doesn’t kill me, which also took me out of work one day a month), so apparently that makes My Business, His Business. Because somebody has be the shining white knight, protecting my precious hymen, even if it’s that skeezy guy I work with who constantly says creepy double entendres to me and does creepy stuff like picking me up off the ground for fun and shooting rubber bands at my butt, because he’s a dumb fourteen-year-old trapped in a 25-year-old’s body.**

    So right this moment I wish the whole idea of Virginity and the Importance Thereof would just GO AWAY, argh.

    Also, my sex life with my partner has been relatively healthy because I found scarletteen.com pretty much as soon as I started using the Internet in highschool, thank god. My sex ed in school wasn’t just terrible, but it had an abstinence slant in the curriculum despite the fact that the teacher was actually kind of cool, looking back on it. But the kids discounted her because she was middle-aged and fat. *facepalm*

    *ps, have you noticed that, after reading Tiger Beatdown, you start writing like Sady? The style, it overpowers! I cannot escape!

    **Also I’ve joined Tavi*** in using Tiger Beatdown as a diary. But I did it because I couldn’t figure out a way to make this sound coherent on a blog, without linking here AGAIN.

    ***Also, I just remembered how much I hated the eighth grade, my god. Kudos to you for being a cooler chick than I was at that time in my life.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  48. ukenagashi wrote:

    @Ethyl You’re not overstepping at all! I think that’s probably the nicest thing anyone on the internet has ever done for me, thank you so much!

    Monday, May 3, 2010 at 4:56 am | Permalink
  49. speedbudget wrote:

    Kristin, don’t feel bad. Among me and my lady friends, the first time was pretty much what you describe even if it was involving a TWU WUV. Read Theviciouspixie’s comment to learn why.

    Wow, Seraph. I love how men feel ownership of every. single. female. in their radius. Don’t you? And your story is why I wish PIV sex weren’t seen as the end-all, be-all of sex, cause it sounds like you are having a way better time than I ever did having the PIV.

    It’s like my friend and I used to say, “Once the penis comes out of the boxers, IT’S ALL OVER FOR YOU.”

    Monday, May 3, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  50. Lampdevil wrote:

    @Seraph – Why, yes! The more time I spend reading Tiger Beatdown, the more my words come out all Sady-like. I feel really bad about this. Yes, Sady is very awesome, but… AAAH I’M A BIG AWFUL COPYCAT WITH NO ORIGINAL THOUGHTS *sob*

    Ahem. I’m sitting here, thinking back on my honest-to-Bob first time, and feeling both lucky and like I ought to build a time machine and give myself a thwack upside the head. I was 17 and my INTERNET BOYFRIEND had come to visit. We had been interacting in a textually sexual fashion for quite some time before, but hadn’t actually so much as occupied the same room up until then. Me, I was convinced that if I didn’t jump the guy ASAP I would NEVER EVER EVER GET TO HAVE SEX EVER. We were nerds! I was a nerd, a nerd with bad self-esteem! It seemed like the only proper choice. So I did so. We did so. It was…. meh. He went home. We broke up a few months later. I didn’t feel significantly different. This virginity stuff? Whatta crock.

    …the Internet has had a non-standard effect on my sex life, overall. Scarleteen? Oh yes, that was wonderfully educational, and a good supplement to a fairly decent sex ed course at school. But most of my embarassing awkward fumbling was ON THE INTERNET (and most of the actual fumbling was with myself, hurr hurr) which presents its own strange problems. Too much bad fanfic can give you skewed expectations as to how actual sexings ought to work. Cripes.

    I eventually found myself in the role of some sort of… stealth Scarlet Woman. Or maybe a Tourguide To The Wonders Of The Vajayjay. The anxiety of a guy that is convinced that his lack-of-virginity-loss is a personal moral failing can be considerable. I was the first for more than a few of those anxious, panicky, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME OH GOD kind of dudes. (I was not very impressed with the one that was simply estatic that I had relieved him of his burden, with little associated actual appreciation for me as a person. I was not a girlfriend, I was a symbol of some long-denied-to-him maturity. Yech.)

    …oh hey, I guess I’m getting all journal-y here, too.

    Monday, May 3, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  51. sarita wrote:

    @ Seraph – if you like and trust your boss, maybe go talk to her/him about this dude, for lo, I am fair certain there is harassment of some kind going on.

    @ Jenn – I, too, had sex with a girl YEARS before having sex with a guy. The girlsex was AMAZING. The guysex was total “jackrabbit sex” for y’all Sex and the City fans. I have since had very good sex with guys, but am glad that my first experience was super positive and with a girl. Sometimes I refer to my “girl virginity” and my “guy virginity” for clarity’s sake, but yeah. I was sexin’ for years prior to experiencing PIV.

    My most recent ex had this thing where he would try and talk me into stuff, or just try stuff and see if I would go along with it, and then sort of chortle about it later, which was so fucking annoying. It’s like, DUDE, I am feeling slightly conflicted about condomless sex with you and you are celebrating a victory? Douchebag.

    Also – I taught sex ed in Peace Corps and it was awesome, b/c they were like “Yo, Americans are so advanced and we will let them teach their SOPHISTICATED SEXUAL EDUCATION STUFF” and so I got to teach WAY MORE than I could in my home state. At the end of the unit, I took anonymous questions about sex and answered all of them that didn’t involve my personal sex life. I wish I’d saved the questions b/c they were hard to beat for sad hilarity, and also a damn good argument for comprehensive sex ed.

    Monday, May 3, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  52. Ethyl wrote:

    @Ukenagashi — aw, ::blush.:: So glad I could help out :)

    Monday, May 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  53. Kate wrote:

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

    I lost mine with my first boyfriend, and technically I would say I ‘lost my virginity’ quite early in the process. But in terms of hymen banishing? It was, like, a month long process. And not a fun one, although there was fun before and after the owie bit, and it was in general a good experience of sexy times. So I always just sort of look embarrased when people talk about their first time, because I don’t really feel like I HAD a first time, as such. Also, because it wasn’t emotionally traumatic, so I usually don’t feel like I have things to add to the conversation.

    Also, @ Christen, since we’re talking about my hymen, I still do have a bit of it, despite years of penisis. It’s like an extra flap bit. So, you know. That’s a thing. Doesn’t bother me a bit, but it’s there.

    I also had an excellent sex education in terms of how to stay safe, and healthy etc, and how not to rape/be raped. But yes, not so much in terms of ‘saying yes to one thing does not give anyone a free pass to all rides’. I still am not great at this, and have done some things that I probably would have been fine with, had a conversation been had beforehand, but as it didn’t I felt awkward and didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes it’s just too hard to speak up, and that’s not ok at all – no fault of the guys involved here, all mine own issues. Thankfully?

    But I remember my general attitude towards my virginity was pretty much ‘stickitinthere’. Or, more appropriately ‘can we just f*&king get rid of it so that I can get on with my life?’ Partly because I was, as has been mentioned, a horny horny teenager with plenty of my own practice (which can I say has stood me in good stead – masturbation may be one of my most important life skills) but mostly because it was A Thing and I just wanted to be able to enjoy sex without it having to be a seminal moment. (pun sort of intended)

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 12:25 am | Permalink
  54. EmilyBites wrote:

    Yup, this. People make way too much out of the first PIV sex you ever have, and all those awkward, collegy ‘So what was your first time?’ chats are really, really awkward for me, because I was raped when still a PIV sex virgin (also was semi-conscious at the time so don’t even remember much).
    Therefore the term ‘losing my virginity’ truly means nothing to me. But did I become Not A Virgin? Yes, according to everybody else!! From RAPE!

    It’s really interesting to join this discussion about first times, because I hate discussing mine in person, with friends, because it’s such a conversational downer. I’ll never know whether I bled/was in pain for a couple of days because the guy was unusually rough, or whether that would’ve been natural for me. I suspect there would have been less blood.

    Also, what is it with men reacting so badly to the phrase ‘Ow, that hurts’?! If a man is banging away at your orifice and you say ouch, they act like you just ate their firstborn child. Many people need to generally understand that one person’s pleasure doesn’t equal another’s!

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  55. Samantha B. wrote:

    I am so dorkily heart warmed that there are places like Tiger Beatdown for Tavi to read about loss of virginity rather than, oh, whatever the fuck it is that I read.

    Also very much recommended: have a look at Tavi’s website if you want to vastly improve your day/year/life. A big crystal bowl of eye candy and infinite wisdom.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  56. assassin wrote:

    OH EM GEE the “Consensual but Not OK” is the perfect descriptor for much of my early sex life. Bene Gesserit Freaky Pain Box = amazeballs, I laughed for ages.

    I lost my hymen to the wonders of Middle School Dance Team, so somewhere in a landfill, a spandex bodysuit is high-fiving a tampon or something like “DUDE! BRAH! I TOOK ASSASSIN’S V-CARD YEAH!”

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  57. nickie03 wrote:

    So, wow. This Sexist Beatdown hit me like a ton of bricks! In a good way! I had a very odd relationship with the sex/virgin thing. Growing up I spent roughly half my time with my mom, who got pregnant with me when she was 18 and unmarried, and was subsequently slut-shamed by my grandmother FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE (she passed away three years ago) and was totally fucked up by it (the shaming), and my grandparents, who were very religious and put lots and lots of emphasis on PURITY and OMG, you CAN’T TURN OUT LIKE YOUR MOTHER OR WE HAVE FAILED! AGAIN! This was in a very small, very religious and judgmental community. Which left me, and a lot of my friends growing up in similar situations, feeling like there were only two sides we could fall under: those, natch, being Madonna or Whore. Our whole value was placed on what, men, or any man thought of us. Like, were we going to be harlot pleasure-holes for every dood, and hated and shamed for it forever? Or were we going to be angelic and pure as freshly-fallen snow, and save our magical, shameful vaginal gift for our husbands? And we had to CHOOSE! NOW!

    Well, having it firmly in my head that I could only be one or the other, I chose slut, because it seemed like it would be more fun. Which sucks, because with that all-or-nothing attitude, I had a whole lot of sex I didn’t want to have. And the dudes of whom I was acquainted, had that same all-or-nothing idea, so I, and girls like me, were very much seen as public dood property. It was a bad scene.

    That is, until one day I met this wonderful young man, who read feminist literature and was all-around awesome. We made out at parties, then one day he asked me over to his dorm room to watch a movie (oddly enough, The Virgin Suicides!). We had teh sex, and for the first time, I got what all the fuss was about! There was zero pressure, and he also cared about if what I was experiencing felt good- and actually cared, not in an if-I-get-her-off-I-am-Teh-Awesome! kind of way. Very much in a let’s-only-do-stuff-that-feels-good-to-both-of-us kinda way. That time with him, in his dorm room, changed my LIFE! I consider it one of my feminist click-moments, and I also feel like my having a healthy sex life now, has a lot to do with him showing me that my pleasure counted, too. I’d shake his hand today, if I could. That time meant so much more than my first time, which was terrible. The first time I LIKED sex- that, to me is worth celebrating.

    Also, for a long time I felt like I had to remember every single time in great detail. Like, forgetting sex? THAT’S what would really make me a slut! I’ve finally gotten to the point where I realize that most of it wasn’t worth remembering, and that I don’t want to give power to the concept of “slut”, even in my own mind, against myself. Thanks feminism, for giving me back some brain space!

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  58. Lily wrote:

    I really love all the comments attached to this post. I love the post, and then it proved to be a portal to realness for the comments…so thanks everybody.

    I grew up a religious person, so I used St.Augustine’s teachings to justify doing the nasty. Namely, there are no “passive” virtues. You aren’t good simply by not-stealing, not-killing. You have to do active good things to be a virtuous person. So it would follow that virgin does not equal virtuous.

    The ecstatic part about de-virginizing for me was that I stayed exactly myself. I didn’t turn into a lusty nympho or lose my self esteem, as slut shaming had taught me I would. I was lucky, I was privileged. I was also secure enough in myself to wait for a guy who stuck around long before and long after, who loved me a lot, and who gave me complete control of how/when/why. Which was especially generous, because it was his first time too. And I’d recommend this setup, because its not a physical thrill for the girl the first couple times, so you might as well have an emotionally thrilling experience.

    its not that there’s any inherent value to being a virgin (unless you are a sexually stunted man and you want a child-woman who cannot compare you sexually to anything) The value is in making, and acting out, your own choice. If you do not want to have sex, do NOT have sex. If you want to have sex, do your homework- birth control, std safe, and literally stay on top of your homework (school counts yall) and make sure the person you’re doing it with is not a giant butthole. …And if you did not get the choice,if you were raped or molested or assaulted, I say reclaim your virginity: you’re a virgin until you CHOOSE to have sex, and that choice is a proud one.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  59. Eneya wrote:

    I was thinking about it and sex with consent but actually not been cool with it is still regular, even if you are not a virgin (sigh).
    I know it’s slightly out of topic but the whole “just lie there and think for England” attitude towards sex which some women and men do is fascinating and frightening at the same time.

    It’s so easy to slip into guilt sex (because he or she wants/because didn’t happen for too long/because regular sex is expected/ because sex is expected/because everybody else is doing it/because I will loose her or him/because whatever reason… it is simultaneously horrible and yet so familiar to each of us.

    The whole idea about sexual behavior – how, when, with whom… it still needs some serious debunking, if I write down all the stereotypes I had about sex before I turned 16, it would be two or three word pages long. And I was lucky to be in very liberate and women-friendly environment.

    Although on theory everybody knows “do not do something you really don;t want to do”, all of us (I am including myself in it) can point at least one encounter of consensual but not really OK with it. And that’s just wrong on so many levels.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  60. Sooooo, I am still one of these mythical “virgins.” And yes, I am in college. And some days I feel sort of bad about that, like I really should have had more boy/girlfriends or whatever, but mostly I am pretty okay with it. Because of posts like this! And awesome experienced older friends who tell me things like “DO NOT let a man play with your vagina unless you REALLY like him! It is generally a bad idea!” So I suppose what I am trying to say, wordily, is thanks :)

    @Seraph, Lampdevil: I have noticed that I, too, begin to speak in the voice of Sady Doyle after reading her posts! As do many of the commenters! BUT I LOVE IT. It’s like, Sady in the post! AND MORE SADY IN THE COMMENTS! I can just revel in all the Sadyosity (I made that up. It is so a word.) and it is awesome.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  61. Kristin wrote:

    I had a totally perplexing thing happen at summer camp when I was 11 that I think was my hymen tearing. I was just running around playing capture the flag, felt some pain, then went to the bathroom and there was blood in my underwear. I thought I’d gotten my period for the first time but I was sore and in pain, and I didn’t think a period was supposed to hurt…and there was only a little bit of blood.

    I was TERRIFIED. I mean, I locked myself in the girls bathroom and cried and cried and when a friend asked me if I’d gotten my period I told her yes, even though I was pretty sure that wasn’t what had happened just so I’d have an “excuse” to sit out of the day’s activities.

    Reading the above helpful comments on hymens, etc., makes me mad I wasn’t more educated about my body as a younger kid… It would have really been helpful to know that the tearing/bleeding feeling was, you know, not something to be ashamed of or terrified of, especially if you were previously riding horses/running/tumbling, all of which i had done that day.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink
  62. Leila wrote:

    Whee! This is SO teh awesome.

    For the longest time I was all conflicted about the whole ‘Argh, I’ll NEVER lose it and will therefore be a loser FOREVER’ thing, while simultaneously hating the ‘loss’ terminology. If I was gonna have sex it’d be ’cause I WANTED to do it, I’d be giving it away, dammit! Then I was in relationship for a couple of years with a guy sufficiently fucked-up by his fundamentalist Christian Mum that he couldn’t bring himself to have sex before marriage, even though he thought of himself as an athiest. So, the only boyfriend I particularly WANTED to give it too wouldn’t take it. HAH. That ‘fooling around’ we did – oh yeah, NOT sex.

    At 25, I am now beastly careless of my technical virginity, and anyone I may in the future choose to have sex with had better be, too, or beware an earbashing (at the very least).

    I feel pretty damn lucky to’ve been as isolated as I was during high school, ’cause it kept me from some bad decisions I probably would’ve made, and even though 4 years of sex ed bored me to tears (it made up 1/4 of our Health class every year, and I can STILL spell chlamydia), I came out of it much more informed than most of my peers. But I went to public school in Australia, I’m fairly sure that abstinence-only education only happens in private schools of the religious variety here. My sex ed covered anatomy & such as well as the ‘these are the scary things that can happen as a result of sex’ as well as the ‘no is a good word if you don’t want sex’. High school memories can still reduce me to a blubbering maniac, but the lesson where we practiced putting condoms on a dildo that was inside a hollow plastic banana STILL cracks me up.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink
  63. elne wrote:

    i was raped when i was fourteen which was before i had sex, and after that i was pretty effing scared of boys. when i was seventeen everyone around me had started having sex and were asking the questions about virginity, and i hadn’t yet kissed anyone. i was plagued with guilt and confusion about whether i was a virgin or not (from the rape) and figured the best way to deal with it was to get real drunk and have sex with a racist druggie douche (even though a cute nice guy i liked probably would have had much more respectful nicer sex with me!)
    silly silly! nevermind, i have great sex now. no thanks to sex ed. my first boyfriend helped me appreciate sex, at first we were awkward and just about him wriggling about in their til he came, then i bought him a book on cunnilingus (lol-subtle?) and things got a whooooole lot more enjoyable for me from there, haha.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  64. Gnatalby wrote:

    Heh. The last paragraph reminds me of my teenage thinking which was basically that once I had sex, I’d be open for business and it would just be a steady stream of sex from then to the grave.

    I think this was helped along by tv when characters would chastise one another for a dry spell of three months or something like that.

    Turns out there are lots of hiatuses– of well over three months– from sex if you are both picky and sort of ornery.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  65. Speaking as a crone (that is, old enough to be the mother or even grandmother of most of the other people in this conversation, though not all at once pleasegawd), the idea of “virginity” has changed a great deal in my living memory, so I see no reason it shouldn’t change again.

    When I went to college in the mid-1970s, a frequent topic of debate (when hanging out with one’s friends and chatting late at night) in mixed-sex groups was, “can a guy be a virgin?”

    Seriously. This was not a question to which there was obviously a single answer (that one being “Duh!”), it was *debatable*. By maybe 1975 most people would answer “yes”, but “a guy can’t be a virgin, silly” was still being heard. IIRC the proponents of “no male virgins” were mostly themselves male, and were trying to dodge the double shame the word implied: both the shame of not having had sex yet, and the shame of being described by a word that was for women.

    Now, in the 70s sex education in the US was *extremely* spotty: very few schools had what you might call moderately comprehensive sex ed, many states had nothing at all. Even teaching the names of all the body parts was controversial in many areas.

    However, I now see there was an upside to massive ignorance: there were no organized campaigns of *dis*information such as Operation Keepsake, there were no adults making active, coordinated efforts to lie to us on that level. We had to figure out slut-shaming on our own, we didn’t play-act it so adults would know we were doing it right. When I ran into people with bizarre beliefs about sex or virginity — like the guy who only wanted to have sex with a virgin because he didn’t believe it ever got clean again “up there” — I would laugh incredulously, but it wasn’t something he’d been taught *in school*.

    This means that books like “Our Bodies, Our Selves” or “The Joy of Sex” could give us information right away, they didn’t have to fight against pseudo-scientific drivel first. Later, I was a volunteer at an AIDS hotline in the mid-80s, and most of our panicked callers knew *nothing* — but their mistakes were based on rumors, not official propaganda.

    In conclusion, I’ll just set here in my rockin’ chair and you young’uns can play on that lawn, just don’t plant anything you don’t intend to grow, if you catch my drift.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  66. bLUE wrote:

    I just want to say- That’s Tavi from Style Rookie up there, and she is awesome! Srsly right now Style Rookie and Tiger Beatdown are my two fave blogs right now and the fact that they’re mixing is TOTALLY BLOWING MY MIND.
    anyway. This topic (you know, sex?) is VERY MUCH something that needs to be discussed on a daily frickin’ basis. I’m sorry, but it needs to just NOT be taboo to talk about sex in a frank and honest manner. Jeez.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  67. Stace wrote:

    Awesome post and comments.

    Three years ago while talking to my daughter and some of her girlfriends (she was 15, they were 17-18) I mentioned saying no when your partner wanted sex and you didn’t. The girls stopped me and asked me to repeat what I’d just said. So I did and the looks I got from them made me feel alternately sad and angry. They were shocked (and I mean shocked) to HEAR that they could say no. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating, having sex, etc. Everyone, at the end of the day has the right to say no to sex. This revelation led to a very long discussion wherein I cleared up many misconceptions I had.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  68. Stace wrote:

    Ugh, proofread fail. Last sentence should say, I cleared up many misconceptions THEY had.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink
  69. anotheramanda wrote:

    I just have to say how awesome this post is. I recently lost my virginity (several of my virginities?) and although I was initially quite proud of how it came about (I knew I was ready, and I only did it because it felt good), I’d fallen into some unhealthy internal slut-shaming (I wasn’t in a romantic relationship with the guy I did it with. Bad choice?). Reading this post and everyone’s stories, I feel like I should stop worrying.
    I wish that frank discussions about sex like this one would happen more often!

    @Lily: From what I know about St. Augustine, I bet he’s rolling in his grave.

    Btw, 69th comment, yeah?
    Immature, yes. But a fitting immaturity, I think.

    Friday, May 7, 2010 at 2:40 am | Permalink
  70. This actually got me thinking abut the notion of being “ready for” sex. I’m not 100% down with that, I gotta say, since it implies that if you have intercourse with someone, you’re a hypocrite if you ever want to just make out with someone, particularly the person you’ve had intercourse with. Which is not something I myself believe.

    Friday, May 7, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  71. Sady wrote:

    @Hershele: Oh, I don’t think so! I think you can be “ready” to include sex in your range of sexy activities, without necessarily wanting to have sex every time you get sexual with someone.

    Friday, May 7, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  72. Laima wrote:

    To the people upthread who mentioned extreme pain during PIV sex … you might have vaginismus. I did (probably as a result of trauma-onset PTSD), which definitely impacted the enjoyment of my first consensual sexual experiences. Basically, I didn’t enjoy almost *any* sex I had in the 7 years I was sexually active before I got married, and then for a few months into my marriage it was still awful, until I saw a doctor about it.

    We did get rudimentary sex ed in h.s., but no one ever mentioned I could say No to anything. Or change my mind. Consent didn’t come up at all. That was 25 years ago, but it sounds like not a lot’s changed.

    Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  73. Seraph wrote:

    @ Sarita: I really, really, just do not want to use the energy that would take, in the obnoxiously conservative and sexist environment I work in. (Also often racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-feminist, xenophobic, and religiously intolerant. And any other -ists and -phobics you want to add, Wow, labelling all this shit really hits home how shitty my workplace is!)

    I did manage to screw up the courage talk to the dude in question about it though, and he’s gotten significantly less creepy. Possibly because he’s just socially inept and didn’t pick up on my discomfort before, or possibly because I mentioned that my blackbelt boyfriend hated him (ie, he was infringing on another Man’s property). Your pick which one.

    @Speedbudget, EXACTLY.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink
  74. moxicity wrote:

    @ Ukenagashi and perhaps others (I got tired about half way through the comment barrage, so didn’t read them all):

    I can tell you I went through pretty much the same thing, though I suspect on a smaller scale. However even if I did manage to have sex, “pleasure” was not a part of the process.

    TMI coming up now! With my current partner, I finally discovered that I am unbelievably shittily put together in the plumbing and, ah, irrigation departments. I have been having sex now only thanks to lube, basically. Also, I figured out that in a specific position, I can basically force him in (with lube), close my eyes and hammer out some small-scale orgasms until my hoochie is accustomed to the invasion and has started to self-lubricate and stretch properly.

    I’m not saying this is what *your* specific problem is, but maybe you have vaginismus or something like that, or simply extraordinarily bad “moisturizing” problems, like me. Having sex with gritted teeth and basically bearing it out, like you said, is like THE WORST THING. There is no arousal or happiness and that just makes it worse for you, because you *know* that the next time, IF there is a next time, will be just as bad, if not worse. So… it’s kind of a closed circle that’s hard to get out of?

    What I wanted to say, basically, is that maybe there are options you haven’t looked into, or have, and didn’t recount in your comment. Just… yknow. There may be a way. I just want people to be able to enjoy happy fun sexy sex time :)

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  75. Melinda wrote:

    Aaah I hate the attitude that sex is sex and virginity is only virginity when it’s PIV sex. Because that makes one kind of sex just way too serious and important over all the other kinds of sex. And I recommend everyone who hasn’t go and read Heather Corinna’s great article on the topic “What is sex?”. And, wow, before reading this thread I never realized PIV sex was supposed to QUITE so scary and horrible. I’ll try to go back to thinking it’s not really a big deal (except for the risk factor) and doesn’t matter whether it does or doesn’t happen in a consensual (but GOOD) sexual relationship…

    P.S. I LOVE how everyone writes a mini-post in the comments. Except for the terrifying me for life of PIV part, lol.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:11 am | Permalink

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  1. Link(s): Wed, May 5th, 10am | Your Revolution (The Blog!) on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    [...] SEXIST BEATDOWN: You Will Always Remember That Very Spe­cial Time When You Were Like “Oh, Just St… [...]

  2. [...] Sadie Stein of Tiger Beatdown and Amanda Hess of Washington City Paper’s “The Sexist” column had a great discussion that touched on a lot of this, all under the umbrella of thinking about virginity– “You Will Always Remember That Very Special Time When You Were Like “Oh, Just Stick It I… [...]