News recently broke about the successful implantation of lab-grown vaginas into four teenage girls with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome (a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus either under-develop or fail to develop at all). We're reposting a fascinating V-Card Diaries from Erinn, who has this condition, and writes about the ways she rethought her ideas about virginity and sex. Today we’re highlighting Erinn from Montréal, Canada, whose reproductive system has made her think outside the P-I-V box. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.
I am a 23 year-old grad student at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada, doing a Masters in Drama Therapy. I consider myself an artist, a researcher, a scholar, and a student-therapist. Also, because of the body I was born with, I explode normative constructs of virginity.
When I was 17 I wasn't having periods and while experimenting sexually with my then-boyfriend I became really confused. I eventually found out the reason: I do not have a uterus or a vagina. In the medical profession this is called MRKH or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome (named after the four men who "discovered" it). This is a rare congenital condition where part of the reproductive system does not develop.
In terms of gender, I am a woman. Genetically, I have XY chromosomes. I have ovaries and hormones, which have produced secondary female characteristics, including breasts. My vulva and clitoris look and work the same way one expects them to, except I do not have a vaginal opening. While explaining it to a guy, I once compared this to "trying to put a penis in your armpit". It'll give a little, but ultimately will be impossible and if you forced it, it would hurt.
At first I was really upset because I still thought of myself as a "virgin" and suddenly realized I had nothing to "give away". I remember thinking, "I have gone as far as I can, and now what?" This part of my identity has forced me to find a new definition for a lot of cultural constructs, including sex.
I love sex. I find many forms of sex pleasurable in the context of a consenting and intimate relationship with another person. It's just that when I say "sex" it means something other than what most people think of as "sex". One of the challenging parts is having to discuss my situation with men because it requires them to challenge their assumptions and expectations as well. They have an image of "sex" that doesn't exactly correlate with how I think of it, which I sometimes forget until I am getting serious with someone and I have to take a "time out" to explain. Sure, it's awkward, but it also creates a dialogue about sex that I might not otherwise take the time to have.
I've come to think about my virginity as a period of my life prior to my first "sexual experiences." I fondly remember curiosity and self-exploration, but also anxiety and confusion. If I thought of "virginity" in terms of a physical state, then I never have been or ever will be a virgin. Now I think of it along a continuum of first experiences, from my first kiss, to my first time being touched or touching another person intimately, being naked with someone, first orgasm and sexual pleasure, and the feeling of having part of someone inside my body. I think it's a combination of first physical, emotional, and psychological experiences that over time have become part of my personal narrative.
I associate virgin with something I thought I had to be, but now I think the word "virgin" is just a way to make us think we're not supposed to be sexual beings. In contrast, I think of "first times" as the people, the moments, the feelings, and sensations. I could talk about how I missed out on having a "first time", but I would rather take it as an opportunity to talk about how my body helped me redefine "first time" to be what was meaningful for me.