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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!


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?


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.


  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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… […]