We all remember our first time. We all know our friends’ first times. We all grow up wondering when our first time would be, who it would be with and what it would be like. There have always been a million expectations surrounding the first time we have sex.
We used to sit in the egg chairs in my basement on Saturday nights wondering who would be the first out of our friends to ‘lose it.’ Would we lose it to our 13 year old crush, a hot and mysterious stranger, a long term boyfriend? Would we lose it romantically with candles and rose petals or drunkenly while enveloped by the smell of vodka and sweat. Before I reminisce any more about middle school fantasies, I think we need to examine the semantics of the phrase ‘losing it.’
Why is ‘losing’ the verb attached to virginity? What are we losing? It seems as though we are stuck on this medieval concept of ‘losing our virginity,’ like someone is taking something from us and we are helpless. As though we used to be these perfect, pure specimens and now we are tainted. There seems to be this outdated idea that going from a virgin to not a virgin, the act of “losing it,” marks a change in us that makes us a completely different people.
It’s as if there are two distinct boxes. Everyone who is a virgin is in one box and everyone who is not a virgin is in the other. It’s like there are only two versions of people everywhere – those who have had sex and those who haven’t. But what about those of us who have only had sex with one person, or who have had sex with upwards of 25 – upwards of 100 – why aren’t they separated into different boxes too? What is it about this first time that is seemingly monumentally more important than the countless other times in our life that we will have (hopefully better) sex?
Honestly, my first time is a pretty boring story. I knew that I wanted to wait to do it with someone that I loved. I wanted it to be with someone I felt comfortable with so that if it hurt it wouldn’t be awkward and we could laugh about it. I also wanted it to mean something. Those were my only criteria. So, in the middle of 11th grade I fell in love with a boy and we started dating (yes, in that order) and it seemed pretty natural to have sex. One Friday night after our respective family dinners it just felt right; no drama and no planning. I knew that I loved him and he was the one that I wanted to ‘lose it to,’ so I told him that and then we had sex; uneventful and anti-climactic.
I feel like that is sort of a running theme with first times. As I was asking around to do research for this article, most of the feedback I got was that people’s first times were pretty dull. Obviously there was the painfully awkward or nauseatingly romantic exception to the story, but generally I heard lots of run of the mill first time sex stories. Some people told me about their friends who were waiting for marriage. Some people said they weren’t waiting for marriage per se, but were waiting to do it with the person that they knew they wanted to be with for the rest of their lives. Some just wanted to wait for a boyfriend. Some didn’t need it to be a boyfriend, but wanted it to be someone that they were consistently hooking up with. Some just wanted to get caught up in the moment and have it be spontaneous. Some didn’t care at all.
As I was hearing these stories though, I noticed an overarching trend that lead me to this realization: there is a certain reverence that comes with ‘wanting it to be special.’ When someone would say that they or their friend was waiting until marriage or to be in a committed relationship, the other people in the room would say ‘Oh, wow, that’s so cool.” Why do we have so much respect for people who are ‘saving it for someone special?” Maybe it’s because we view our first time having sex as ‘losing something,’ or as someone ‘taking something from us,’ and we want the person taking it to at least be ‘someone special’.
However, I noticed a certain embarrassment from those who didn’t really care, like they should feel shame for not caring about their first time. Perhaps because society makes it this huge milestone in our lives and they are going against the norm by not fantasizing about this moment since they were 10 years old and had their first crush. One of my friends laughed shyly as she told me that she lost her virginity in PI. ‘Don’t judge me! It was a nice hotel room, he was really sweet about it.’ Like it was something to be judged for because it wasn’t out of a storybook. Another one of my friends is still a virgin. She’s open about it with her friends, but is sort of hesitant to tell people she’s not close with that she’s waiting until she’s in a loving and serious relationship and the moment feels right. Why on earth is that something to be embarrassed about? I have another friend who lost her virginity on a cruise on new years when pretty intoxicated. She is mortified by that story and closes her eyes in the same self-loathing way every time she relays it.
As a society we put so much pressure on the first time. We are envious of those who ‘did it right,’ who had a seamless time with their perfect boyfriend and lived happily ever after. We look forward to it and want it to be special and meaningful and passionate. And those who don’t feel the same are looked down upon, or even considered sluts. But I’m fairly sure that losing it to a rando in PI doesn’t correlate to divorce, and losing it to your hot boyfriend on a beach at sunset doesn’t lead to a perfect marriage and growing old together. So, perhaps we should stop making one way the right way when everyone is different and it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Perhaps we should stop encouraging the phrases ‘took my virginity’ and ‘lost my virginity’ and start viewing it as something that is ours to give and no one else’s to take. Maybe then our first times won’t be so filled with expectations, fear and the desire for perfection – maybe then we can all have sex for the first time whenever we want, wherever we want and with whoever we want – maybe then our first time doesn’t have to be such a big deal.