A little about myself:
American, female, 51, been with the same guy since we were 28. I started out doing neuroscience, but switched careers in the 90's, and now I'm a strategic planner for a large organization. I also write a blog [moderntantra.blogspot.com] about tantric sex from a practical and scientific perspective, not a religious or spiritual point of view. What interests me is helping couples have incredible sex, and figuring out just what it is about tantra that makes it so incredible.
How I define virginity:
I usually use the normal definition (never a penis in a vagina) even though it's stupid.
Here's my story:
My first time ever was actually with someone I would describe as a close friend, but not a lover. We were lab partners, study buddies, and best friends, and we'd both just finished a human biology course. We were 20-year-old virgins and curious, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about. We did some actual research first - this was the early 80s, so there was no Internet to make it easy! - and we kind of worked up to handjobs, oral, and finally the real thing.
During my research I had found some advice on preparing for the first time and I followed it carefully. When we decided we were ready to try out the main event, my friend helped me come orally and then I got on top, cowgirl style, and eased onto him very slowly. Perhaps as a result, there wasn't any pain and I didn't bleed at all.
(For more about what I did to get ready, read "Aunt Shakti's Action Plan for Proactive Modern Virgins". I wrote it for my nieces when they got to the right age to be curious about such things, and recently revised it and put it online.)
I thought the actual sex was a bit of an anticlimax, but he seemed to enjoy it a lot, so we did it some more, trying out many variations. It was fascinating, because we could talk about everything in a completely frank and natural way that would have been very hard if we were deep in a romantic fog and really trying to impress and please each other. So we could laugh ourselves silly when things didn't work, and try different things until we found out what did work, and why. After we got over being shy about nudity, kissing was actually the most awkward thing about it!
Maybe it only works well for two deeply geeky kids who love science more than anything else, but it was fascinating, educational, and fun, and I suspect that it would be a great way for many people to learn about sex, without the urgency and the anxiety and all the fumbling around in the dark.
So if you're a curious virgin and you have a willing friend of the appropriate gender, I'd say go ahead and give it a shot. It doesn't have the magical intensity that sex can have when you're both head over heels in love, but it can definitely have its own rewards.