Sexuality, Virginity & “Purity” Series Part 8: Is There A Right Way?

by Therese Shechter

This article originally appeared in Skirt! on January 1, 2010 as part of their series “The F Word: Feminists Speak Out”

“I really do hold to a personal belief that sex is something special to be shared only with someone who is truly a soul mate…and, let’s just say that at this point in my life I still haven’t found that ‘special someone.’” TM, 41, from the blog The American Virgin.

I, too, was a late bloomer sex-wise. Growing up, I had bought into the whole magical/true love/special someone scenario which, for me, translated into losing my virginity to a handsome, med school-bound boyfriend. He failed to materialize, and by the time I was 23, I was tired of waiting.

So I said screw it, and had sex with a guy I had gone out with all of three times who made some smooth moves on me one night in his basement apartment. So what if it was awkward and we never saw each other again? I was no longer a virgin and I was thrilled. Much to my surprise, though, I felt totally unchanged by the experience. I didn’t even bleed—my hymen was as blasé as the rest of me. I had saved my “precious gift” for this?

I’ve since made up for lost time, but I remain fascinated by how people make their sexual debuts. Is there a right way to lose your virginity? A right reason? A right person? I’m making a documentary to explore these questions called How to Lose Your Virginity. I also write a blog about all things virgin, from more than made up the abstinence-only movement to virginity auctions to artificial hymens. Several months ago, my readers began sending in stories about their own experiences around virginity, which turned into a series of popular posts called “First Person.”

Natalie, 26, was one of the first to contribute, and I relate to her feelings: “Around my 20th birthday, I began to feel ashamed about my lack of sexual experience. The emotional baggage that went along with feeling unwanted and ‘different/defective’ was much more damaging than the physical act of never having had sex.”

I cringe when I think about all the times I nodded and smiled knowingly when college friends talked about sex. At the age of 23, I believed I was the oldest living virgin and everyone around me was having fabulous sex with their devoted boyfriends. In retrospect, I’m sure many were as full of shit as I was.

Rosie, 21, echoes the feelings of several women I know: “An older man was willing to give me some attention and make me feel special. It was hard to resist even though I knew the situation was really wrong. I knew I was being taken advantage of, but it was nice to feel wanted.”

I think “First Person” is popular partly because of the wide variety of experiences and opinions about virginity. We’re fed a lot of crap about what our first times should be like, whether it’s the promise of perfect wedding night sex after a life of abstinence, losing it on prom night with your football player boyfriend, or going wild on spring break while the cameras roll. Reality is something else entirely, so it’s no wonder many of us feel abnormal and then are too embarrassed to talk about it.

I’m so grateful for this post from Lilith, 21: “My first sexual experience was date rape, and after recovering from the incident I found I continued to identify as a virgin, partly because I didn’t feel attached to my body at the time. At times I wish my first time was all magical like I was led to believe, but I don’t regret it. It was what it was, I can’t change it, and it has led me to where I am now, having sex with someone I love.”

Dana, 26, was inspired to make her own sexual debut after reading “First Person.” She then shared her own story with the blog. I wish I could have read her post back when I was contemplating my first time: “Having sex was just another step along the gradual slope of sexual experience. I feel freer now to pursue sex so I want to go out there, find people I like, and have sex with them and enjoy myself. That’s my mission now.”

Therese Shechter is a filmmaker, writer and activist based in Brooklyn. She tweets at @TrixieFilms, and her blog “The American Virgin” is at More info on her work is at

Reproduced with permission from Skirt!

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