I used to say I lost my virginity at 23. I had officially been with my partner, a cis male, for about one single night before we had penetrative sex, but the story goes back further than that.
My partner and I met when we were both 22 years old, mere months after graduating from the same university. He was a person of faith, fully dedicated to his beliefs; I had no interest in religion and was not raised with it. We became acquainted through two friends, when all four of us worked for the same company. Though we seemed to be quite opposite in our beliefs and our lifestyles, as soon as we met, I fell completely in love with him.
He and I had this dramatic, tumultuous “situationship,” long before that was a word people used. We met in October, and by Christmas, we were sneaking kisses. On New Year’s Eve Eve, we saw a movie; he came over to my apartment and gave me my very first orgasm. In fact, it was my very first any sexual contact that was not just heavy kissing.
We made out for a bit and he went down on me very shortly afterward, which surprised me so much that I am bewildered retroactively that I was even able to come — but he was good at it, which was also a surprise. I had assumed he was conservative, at least sexually, which was an assumption I made purely based on the choice some people of faith make to abstain from sex until marriage. And though I was actually the one who was pretty inexperienced, I assumed he had done even less.
For months and months, we carried on like this. We spent almost every night in my extremely tiny twin bed in my cozy studio attached to my friend’s mom’s house. For nearly a year, we hooked up on a nightly basis. Four months after he gave me my first orgasm, I finally gathered up the courage to reciprocate. I quickly treasured every intimate move between us and found our intimate life incredibly loving and sensual. I very much looked forward to spending nights with him, with or without sex of any kind.
But that was the thing. We never had “sex,” which I fully defined at the time as vaginal intercourse. We eventually broke up because he started to date someone else (I was heartbroken, of course) and we didn’t talk for a few months. About a year after that, we were back together, this time publicly and in a more committed way. We used the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” we held hands in public, and this time, we had sex, as in penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse. Something I had waited for for so long.
I lost my virginity, I told everyone. And the crowd went wild.
But the truth is, after we had sex, I thought that we had pretty much been having sex this whole time. His penis inside of me was really not more intimate, efficient, or “sexual” than his tongue or his fingers or anything else we had done. Having what I had called “sex” versus just “hooking up” really made no difference except that I had to start taking birth control pills because the other stuff isn’t as likely to get you pregnant.
As I have grown up and experienced intimate relationships with other people and have broadened my horizons as a person and intersectional feminist, I have a totally new outlook on what virginity means. If someone were to ask me today when I lost my virginity, I would say 22. As I have realized that defining virginity as simply “a straight cis man putting his penis into a straight cis woman’s vagina” is limiting. There are so many different ways to have sex. Even if you are a cis straight person, who’s to say that penetrative sex is the only way to do it? It’s unfair to define virginity with such a limited scope.
I was having sex for two years before I allowed myself to feel free of this title, this “virgin” identity. It never bothered me when I was a virgin, it never made me feel insecure or behind-the-times; however, it does feel heteronormative to define the “loss” of my virginity as the first time I needed to ask someone to put a condom on. All of the times I came before, the number of intimate experiences I had leading up to that moment should not be discounted. The moment I reached for a condom in a shoebox under my bed was very special to me, but it is not when or where I became a sexual being.
Virginity differs from person to person, but I am redefining it for me. I lost my virginity while Titanic played in my room at 3 a.m. when the person I was completely in love with went down on me in my bedroom. Virginity, like so many other areas of life, is personal and should be defined on an individual basis. I feel lucky to have had such an amazing first time experience. Both of them.
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