Losing it! Memories of your first time…

Losing it! When you’re not doing it; you’re thinking about it! When are doing it; you’re thinking about it! When you combine teenage angst and hormones sex feels like it’s everywhere, wafting up the school corridors and pulsating on films and TV shows.  So while surfing the web and stumbling across a blog called The Virginity Project: multiple romanticized musings recalling people’s first sexual experiences. I thought I’d add to the discussion and tell the tale of my first time (believe me, this is going somewhere):-

My first time, like the memories of many, is still vivid and vibrant. I was 17 years old and was in the blush of first love; our first kiss was a perfect moment in windy Wales down by the river in the quaint little town where I grew up (I know, it reads like a bad Welsh teen series). My 6ft, dark-haired, browned eyed, beautiful boyfriend wrapped his coat around me and kissed me softly, sending tingles down my spine and waking butterflies in my tummy. The first time I said I love you, looking back though silly and cringe worthy, was just as sweet (or maybe just cringe worthy?!). We’d been going out for about three months, and even though we haven’t had sex, we were close. We would go back to his and lie naked in the afternoon sun watching children’s after school programmes. I remember a ‘thrilling’ instalment of the S Club 7 series on CBBC – the episode where Hannah tells Paul she loves him. Tentatively talking to my boyfriend about the moment she says I love you on the TV series, I blurted out afterwards that I felt that way about him then quickly hid my head in the pillow in embarrassment (commercialisation of love anyone?). He takes my head in his hands, looked directly into my eyes and told me he loved me. At that moment I knew I wanted everything with him (this is nauseating I know but there is a point). Thus, the next step was inevitable though it seemed to take him an age to make a move. Eventually I broached the subject asking why he hadn’t attempted it; he said he didn’t want to pressure me. I told him that I was more than ready and that if he didn’t make a move soon I’d jump him! My first time was awkward and terrifying. There was nervousness and tension in my body but eventually the adrenaline and excitement took over. The touch of his warm body on mine… the safety I felt while he was holding me in his arms – these are the feelings I’ll never forget. We were on an adventure, a discovery into the unknown together. The moment youth is left behind, innocence is lost forever and the verge of adulthood is upon us. The sheer beauty in the loss of virginity is the fearlessness of it all. The boy I first truly loved and gave my virginity to will always carry a piece of my heart with him.

This sickening, self-indulgent collection of false memories makes up my experience of losing my virginity. It was probably a rather frightening ordeal, but tricks of memory along with society’s obsession with the virginal have led to the above splurge of teenage idealism. Society places the loss of virginity on a voyeuristic pedestal, allowing the myth to exist that this particular memory should be a perfect moment in time; portraying virginity as being a sacred and pure attribute of an innocence vessel, which was a popular way of thinking in Victorian times. The traditional puritanical view that the woman is ruined and made impure still prevails in a society whose expectations distort our view of virginity and memory. You might think this is a bit melodramatic, but there are emotional and psychological consequences to society’s manufacturing of virginity. In sex education, we are always being taught the physical consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. According to a survey in The Observer, Britain has the world’s highest number of unmarried teenage pregnancies even though the average age a woman loses her virginity is 17/18. This is higher than one would assume for such a high teenage pregnancy rate. Average British life includes sex 2,580 times with five partners. British men have more stamina than most countries lasting 21 minutes, and more women under 20 who have extra marital sex than the rest of Europe. Americans are the most into cyber sex in the west, and the biggest users of online pornography. Americans ask for dates via email as much as face to face and are the only country where the average age for virginity is rising (due to the increase in sex education in schools). These ageing virgins have the longest and most frequent sex sessions in the developed world – each session averaging 28 minutes and a 130 times a year. Ireland has one of the lowest average ages for losing virginity (age 16), despite being deeply embedded in tradition.

Popular framing of losing one’s virginity as a sacred rite of passage is contributing to the increasing dilemmas of teenage sexuality, perpetuating the memory of virginity being distorted. I agree that this moment in our lives defines us and relationships to come. It defines the way we see and respect ourselves and our relationship with sex. Good or bad, all of our experiences have their part to play. This is not to say that we can’t have a bit of sexual romance and mystery in our films and TV shows. There just needs to be more open and honest discussions not only about the physical consequences of sex but also the emotional ones. Biologically, sex is the most natural act on earth; ostentatiously, we, as human beings are here to procreate, but we have also evolved intellectually. The memory of losing one’s virginity is or should be a bittersweet combination of comedy and drama, as it is the willingness to throw oneself entirely and fearlessly into the unfamiliar. It is an important memory and not because of society’s perceptions, but for reasons that are personal to the individual. So don’t idealise it, just look back and laugh!

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