Rabbitwhite's recent and excellent post concerning the lost of her virginity and Evil Slut Clique's recent and excellent post about 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager got me thinking about my own loss-of-virginity story. Except: At the time I had a much narrower view of what constituted virginity, because I had a much narrower view of what constituted sex. In the days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I was only fourteen years old and very much a virgin. I remember even then being profoundly confused why so many people cared about President Clinton's penis, but also confused by the consuming quasi-political public debate over whether or not oral sex was "really" sex. At fourteen, I was quite sure that it wasn't. All of my sex education focused on a man putting his penis in a woman's vagina. It led to babies. And, I knew at fourteen, gay people did something like putting-a-penis-in-a-vagina, except that there were either two penises or two vaginas, and I believed in sociopolitical equality but couldn't visualize the logistics of how that worked.
The first time I kissed someone on the lips, I was thirteen, and my family was about to move across the country. I overcame my shyness by telling myself that I'd never see the cute boy again, and I asked him if he would kiss me goodbye. He said yes, and then he closed his eyes and sort of puckered his lips. (He was also thirteen, and probably didn't know what he was doing either.) I remember the clear thought process of expectation that I was supposed to close my eyes, too - and then thinking, No way! I'm finally going to kiss a boy! I'm going to watch this!
And so began my struggle to reconcile being a good girl with really, really wanted to make out with the boys. (And maybe every once in a while with a girl, although fewer of them, and I had no precedent for how that was supposed to work - especially if I still liked boys too much to identify myself as a lesbian.) The myth that messed me up the most was that most boys only want sex, so slutty girls who gave it to them too easily were tools of the patriarchy, and fated for heartbreak along with the unwanted pregnancies and STD's. The solution, I decided as a teenager, was to save sex for True Love (TM), and to imagine True Love (TM) as maudlin-romantically as only a very naive teenager can imagine True Love (TM).
The first time kissing led to taking off my clothes, I was almost sixteen, and I decided that since kissing naked was such overwhelming pleasure, then I must have found my True Love (TM). I wanted to give him a blowjob, but I hadn't yet learned how to hold my lips over my teeth for it, so I accidentally bit him a couple times and he tactfully asked me to stop. He never licked my pussy in return, which didn't yet strike me as unfair, because pussies smelled funny. He did put a finger or two in me, and that was as good as finding God.
Six months later I felt ready to offer him my virginity (by which I specifically meant penis-in-vagina), but first he broke up with me on the grounds that I was too emotional and clingy. At the time, of course, I was devastated, but in retrospect he had an excellent point. I pined for an embarrassingly long time, because the naked touching had been really, really good, and I had believed so strongly the myth that women don't enjoy naked touching without True Love (TM). Besides the myth that a person only gets one True Love (TM). ...As I came to terms with the fact that he wouldn't return my phone calls and thus probably wasn't my One True Love (TM), I had to adjust my assumption that True Love (TM) was necessary to really, really enjoying naked touching. I decided that what we had done was just making out, and that sex was what I should save for the unknown One True Love (TM). ...Then it followed that I could make out with just about anyone. And I did. I spent a lot of my junior and senior years of high school traveling, and I always had the best luck with boys that I thought I'd never see again, and vice versa. Although, for having known them each a very short time, I still vividly and fondly remember names and stories attached to various hand jobs and blow jobs. The first person to give me a blow job was only around for two weeks, but it was a great blow job. (We haven't really spoken since, but now we're Facebook-friends.) And I never doubted afterward that I was still a virgin, awaiting True Love (TM).
And then, after all that build-up: My first experience with penis-in-vagina sex - when I was eighteen and in madly love for the second time - was totally anti-climactic, in every sense of the word. I was definitely an initiative-taking participant and not violated in any way, and I was so sure that I was back in True Love (TM). But my hymen tearing hurt like a bitch. For at least a month, I felt baffled that anyone would prefer that awkward pain over hand jobs or oral sex. ...Many years of sexual self-discovery later, I'm now a huge fan of having a cock in my cunt. But then, I'm also still a fan of oral sex, and petting, and pegging, which can all lead to equally intense orgasms. And I still don't have as much experience with women, but I have successfully figured out how one has sex without a penis at all. Not to mention BDSM: Every now and then a good ass-beating is better than touching genitals at all.
So in retrospect, the emotional importance I once attached to penis-in-vagina sex - and not to other forms of sexuality - was entirely arbitrary, and contingent on not knowing what I was missing.
Which is not to say that I regret it. It worked for me at the time, both for my pleasure and for my newly-forming sexual morality. It was also safer from a pregnancy/STD-prevention perspective. (Although at the time I also didn't understand that STD's could also be passed by oral sex. I lucked out.)
But it does continue to baffle me when I hear abstinence-propaganda and its contribution to a cultural obsession with virginity. Only the most fringe extremists oppose premarital kissing, so who gets to determine the point on the spectrum at which virginity is lost? And if when that moment passes is up for debate, then how do they pass moral proclamations over clear-cut categories of virgins and non-virgins? For those who have had the experiences, was first intercourse really more life-changing than first kiss, or first petting?