From time to time we republish our favorite posts. This originally ran in June 2013.
Photo courtesy of Skidmore BARE.
Guest Post by Lily Manganiello
Lately, I've been hearing some queer ladies talking about losing their "girl virginity," saying things like, "I lost my virginity when I was 16, but I didn't lose my girl virginity until I was 20…" Meaning they had sex with men before, but the prospect of having sex with a woman (the definition of which is extremely fluid) brought back feelings that were positively virginal. It was a whole other ballgame for them, so much so that it needed its own language.
I like the idea of having multiple virginities, especially if it means people are having more queer sex. But in terms of the terminology, initially, this annoyed me. The term "girl virginity" made me feel as if the experience was being marked as alternative, deviant and worst of all, separate and distinguishable from just "virginity". This kind of labeling further pushes non-hetero sex into independent, non-normative experiences. It reenforces oppressive, hetero-normative pressure for queers to use particular vocabulary to distinguish between when they are having "normal sex" and when they are having "queer sex." It satisfies straight folks' desire to know exactly what queer sex looks like and makes sure that no one thinks they are having it too. Isn't virginity just virginity? Just bodies doing stuff with other bodies? Why are we all so afraid of ambiguity?
Maybe 'initially' was the wrong word to use, because clearly this still annoys me. Unfortunately, as a queer person, I have also kind of fallen victim to the boy virginity/girl virginity paradigm. My two most significant virginity loss experiences were the first time I had sex with a woman and the first time I had sex with a man. The sex wasn't distinct because one has a penis and the other a vagina, but because in terms of my emotional and physical responses to both experiences, they represent my sexual identity as it exists right now; both experiences helped to shape my understanding of sex and my own sexuality. Their juxtaposition led me to understand more fully that sex cannot be defined by one specific act because in reality, there are a million ways to have sex with someone regardless if they have a penis, vagina, both or neither.
Ultimately, this is the reason that the categories of girl and boy virginity bother me; not because both don't exist, or are not important and real, but because of the compulsory feeling we have to distinguish our queer experiences from our others. It pushes us to define sex: Who can have it, who can't, what it looks like, what it doesn't look like, who is having it and who is not. To me, sexuality is fluid, plain and simple. Whether you abstain, fuck, make love or just make out, your virginities are what you want them to be.
Lily is an artist/activist/feminist/queer writer and Team Trixie Films intern who is living and working in Brooklyn. She is passionate about combining activism and art and is dedicated to the creative process as a provocative resource for social change. Check out her tumblr and her online portfolio.