A relatively new feature, The Virgin Diaries is an occasional column written by Katherine Chen, an English major at Princeton University. I was just going to link to it, but re-reading them I felt I needed to say more about them. I first noticed "All I Needed to Know I Learned from Porn" about how she got her first bit of 'real' sex education online. It's a pretty funny piece about how internet porn showed her her first penis and gave her a fairly positive impression of sexual relations:
I’ve never considered porn misogynistic or sexist. Fortunately the videos I’ve watched didn’t portray the women as victims, but as active and enthusiastic participants. Like I said, they always seemed to be enjoying it more than the men (although I guess that could just be “good acting”). And even I realize that the scenarios of porn films are unrealistic — they’re fantasies that most viewers understand can’t be replicated in real life. Even if you “set up” a scene with your partner, it’s just not going to be the same.
So whenever I finally do get around to having sex myself, I’m pretty confident that, like the best porn, I’ll have some good moves, I’ll use a condom, I won’t be self-conscious, and — most importantly — I’ll have fun.
Now, porn certainly has its various uses, but it's got to be one of the worst ways to learn about real-life sex. In fact, the more I read Katherine's earnest and heartfelt 'confessions,' the more I worried about her sexual future. In her latest post, entitled "My Complicated Relationship with Sex," she writes:
For better or for worse, my over-analysis of sex has raised my views to such black-and-white extremes that I can no longer reconcile my true feelings about sex in relation to myself. While I have not yet been in a relationship where I seriously considered the prospect of having sex, even if I had been, I doubt I would have known what I wanted to do.
On the one hand, having seen all the good that can come from sex, I have placed it on such a high pedestal that if and when I do engage in sexual intercourse with a partner, I fear it will inevitably be disappointing. On the other hand, having also seen all the bad that can come from sex, I am absolutely terrified by its potential consequences, such as the transmission of diseases, unwanted pregnancy and heartbreak.
Being a virgin in a sex-filled world seems to leave Katherine by turns titillated and confused. I can't help but feel that her upbringing has saddled her with some damaging ideas and expectations towards sexual intimacy. Her teachers taught abstinence-until marriage, something she says she didn't buy, but at home the message was even more severe:
My mom always classified every single sexually active female as either a prostitute or a “dumb animal” who had nothing better to do with her time.
Yeah, that would make me feel good about exploring my sexuality. The choice to have or not have sex should be her own, and I would like to point out that the things that terrify her most about sex, like disease and pregnancy, can generally be avoided through contraception and safer sex practices. As for heartbreak, you certainly don't have to have sex to fall victim to that. I had my heart broken several times in junior high alone without even touching someone.
Maybe writing for Em & Lo means the gals will be there to answer her questions and help get her through her sexual debut, when and if it happens. It sounds like it's going to be traumatic, and somewhat surprising, whatever the circumstances.