I want to premise this piece with a question, or, in fact, a pair of questions: how do you define loss of virginity? And how do you define sex? And – because I’m cheeky like that – a third: are the two the same? Give it a moment’s thought, and leave me a comment with your answer. (Even if you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the rest of this article, I’d dearly love to know your definitions and comparisons.)
These are questions that I’ve been considering since I first had penis-in-vagina-sex – heaven forfend I call that ‘losing my virginity’ in the context of this article, but for a long time that is the event I considered to mark the end of my virginal life – but it was listening to The Save Rubyyy Jones Hour that sparked inspiration today. In her ‘virgin show’, Rubyyy asked a few people about their first times and what they considered to be their ‘virginity loss’ moment.
Ben Is A Dark Horse – who I hope to share a spliff with some day, as we discussed at Erotic Meet on Friday – defines losing his virginity as the moment he decided to do it, before which he had been saving himself for marriage. What I like about his definition is that it is highly personal. Not many people claim this moment of decision as their moment, and I do think there is something to be said for making your own definition. It also facilitates a wide range of compatible and differing definitions, which is always good.
Meanwhile I have to raise issue with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross’s definition; the ladies say that sexual activity of any kind constitutes sex, and thus the first time someone touches himself, he has lost his virginity. First of all, the idea that a child innocently touching out of curiosity has lost his virginity is something I find, at best, awkward. I can’t help feeling that for most, there has to be a certain consciousness about sex in order for you to lose your virginity. (For the sake of this article I’m going to leave sexual abuse aside; I am conscious that this is something that can often blur the definition because of the lack of choice. However, I do not feel capable of tackling this aspect of the question, so I shall leave it for now.) But even then, masturbating, to me, is not quite sex. It is sexual, and once you start masturbating you are a sexual being, but I think it would be remiss of us to ignore the social definitions of virginity: there does, to my mind, need to be another person present.
Before I was old enough to raise issue with it, the definition I understood was penis-in-vagina-sex. Of course, the first problems I saw with this inference was that of gay and lesbian people. If you have to put a penis in a vagina in order to lose your virginity, what happens when there isn’t a penis or a vagina present? In my head it’s come to the point where I find this definition quite offensive. And even more base than this is the idea that, for girls, virginity is defined by your hymen. We all know – or, at least, I hope we all know – that hymens can rip from tampons, bike riding, horse riding, accidents, exercise… in fact, the list is quite endless. Not to mention the fact that some women aren’t even born with hymens. For all these reasons I feel that this definition needs to be thrown out completely. In some cultures misconceptions about this can actually have very serious connotations.
But back to the homosexual loss of virginity thing: Rubyyy’s gay friend had some trouble defining virginity, and ended up claiming that you lose your virginity when you or the person you’re with or both of you orgasm(s). This, to me, is also problematic, largely because I don’t even measure my pleasure by orgasms, let alone the fact of my sexual encounters. The vast majority of my sexual encounters have involved no orgasms on my part, and I’ve enjoyed a few where my (male) partner didn’t come either. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have sex. Equally, the night I “lost my virginity” didn’t involve any orgasms. I still had sex. And (if I was a virgin before that night) I still lost my virginity.
However, the line blurring that occurs due to homosexual relationships, particularly those between men, means that we do have to reconsider the penis-in-vagina thing which means – to my great delight – that religious kids can’t claim to be maintaining their virginity by having anal instead of vaginal intercourse. If you are consciously and sexually putting your cock in someone’s ass, neither of you are virgins.
On the other hand I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that sex is defined by penetration either; (without the aid of toys) lesbians are limited when it comes to penetration, and it may surprise you to learn that some gay men do not have penetrative sex either – same way some straight people don’t like anal sex, some gay people don’t either. And what about oral sex? There’s a clue in the name, isn’t there? Oral sex is, by definition, sex. I know this is a slippery slope – well, if oral sex is sex, then mutual masturbation is sex, then dry humping is sex, then groping is sex… and then you’ve had sex with that guy who pinched your bum in a night club. No. But somewhere in there, you’ve become a lot less virginal.
There doesn’t seem to be a clear definition, but I think it would be fair to put some wide parameters on it: for example, if you give someone a brief goodnight kiss after a first date then you’re not exactly making love to them. If your cock is deep in your girlfriend’s pussy and you’re fisting her ass while she screams in orgasm then you’re definitely fucking.
Perhaps it could be defined by intention: if you’re a lesbian you probably don’t dream of having your cunt full of dick, so you shouldn’t really make that your aim when it comes to losing your virginity. And if you’re a straight girl and your aim is to have someone’s hard dick in your pussy, then, I feel, that does give penis-in-vagina-sex some weight. If not literally, then mentally and emotionally. Perhaps we are conditioned by society to feel that penetration is significant, but then that is a human truth: I was thus conditioned and so it felt significant. No matter the reason, it still had that impact on me. Before that night I had engaged in mutual masturbation, oral sex, a lot of heavy petting, cyber sex (text, audio, and video), and had my hymen broken (by my boyfriend’s long fingers) but I still felt like a virgin, so feeling him push inside me was a turning point in a lot of ways.
Another theory I rather like is the one that does away with the ‘loss of virginity’ moment, and substitutes the idea that, for most people, it’s a gradual thing. Most people don’t have sex the first time they kiss someone, or the first time they grind their body against someone else’s. However, if you are a virgin, those events are significant. For me, as soon as I was on that track, it felt like stepping towards losing my virginity and, in retrospect, I was very aware of the fact that we were progressing in steps. True, there was still a moment when I knew, for sure, I really wasn’t a virgin any more, but equally it hadn’t felt true to answer the question “Are you a virgin?” with the word “Yes” alone for quite a while. I still felt entitled to the term ‘virgin’ (if I had wanted it, which I didn’t really) but it seemed to beg clarification. It seemed to require more. “Yes, I’m a virgin, but I’ve given blow jobs and stuff” felt far more honest.
Conversely, since losing my virginity, I have had sexual encounters that didn’t include penetrative sex, but in retrospect I do consider myself to have slept with those people, because we were sexual together. This goes along with the idea that when someone asks you “Did you have sex?” or “How many people have you slept with?” and you give an answer that doesn’t include the people with whom you’d only gone as far as – say – oral sex, that would actually be a slight misrepresentation. I don’t think, when asking this question, that many people are asking “How many people have penetrated you/you penetrated?”
(For the record, I still have no idea how or if to count people with whom I only enjoyed cyber sex. Furthermore, I’m not sure if I could even give you a number – not because there have been thousands, but because most were not particularly memorable. But the question rises when I consider Dom – who once whispered into my ear “to my mind, we just had sex” – and when I consider the Canadian – because of the depth and length of our relationship. But I’m just not sure where they fit into this discussion.)
It did occur to me that maybe we don’t need to define virginity. Maybe the problem is with our desire to put everything into boxes. I personally don’t have a problem with labels and categories – they are often very useful. But I don’t think you should blindly accept them at face value. For example, I class myself as submissive, but if you want me to submit to you it will require a hell of a lot more investigation. Same goes for virgins who are already on that track. And, actually, defining virginity is important, not in that we need to pin down a clear definition, but simply in that sex does make an impression on us. The truth is, the main impact the idea of ‘virginity’ has on us is emotional and mental. Virginity is not something that we really feel physically, so I think, in a lot of ways, it should be defined by our own mental recognition. I knew when I’d lost my virginity because I had reached the aim that I had personally set for myself. And – sorry to perpetuate stereotypes – that happened to be penis-in-vagina-sex.
But that’s just me. Before we met.