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The other day I was re-reading our V-Card Diaries stories, and I was reminded that people who have never had sex are sometimes dealing with personal issues that go beyond the lack of physical experience. So I was struck by this excerpt from Vivian Gornick's New York Times essay on British author E. M. Forster, author of Howards End, as well as A Room With A View, A Passage to India, and Maurice:

Forster was 31 years old when “Howards End” appeared, at which time he was a closeted homosexual and a virgin who knew nothing of how erotic relations worked — with any combination of partners. His ignorance weighed on him, and in his imagination sex achieved a mythical power that became symbolic of all in human existence that one could feel but not express, imagine but not realize. His fearfulness was such that until now he had known neither passion nor love; what he did know was yearning. This yearning energized his work but also limited it. In time he lost his virginity, but sex alone did not provide experience. Anxiety — that frozen sea within — still made it impossible for him to dive deep into the kind of desire that leads to self-knowledge; and without self-knowledge all remains murk and isolation.

Just The Tip: News from the World of Virginity and Beyond featuring vatican gynecology, wedding night tips, books for teens and Tennessee is the worst

Happy Hanukah to all those that celebrate! Here's are this week's top stories from the world of virginity, ladyparts and sex. For up to the minute news, follow our Facebook Page, where we post every day!

 

100-Year-Old Wedding Night Advice for Newlyweds

On one hand they're pretty clear about the hymen not being an indicator of virginity. On the other hand here's what they think is: 
"The one true and only test which any man should look for is modesty in demeanor before marriage, absence of both assumed ignorance and a disagreeable familiarity, and a pure and religious frame of mind. When these are present, he need not doubt that he has a faithful and chaste wife."

Tennessee school wins right to ban gays and women who’ve had sex: ‘This is who we are’

From the story, which I can't believe is not parody:
'The waiver allows the school to ban pregnant students, women who have had an abortion, single mothers, LGBT students and anyone else who does not fit their religious ideology.
“This is who we are as a Christian university,” O’Brien opined. “These are our religious principles. And in a changing world, we would like to reaffirm that this is who we are and who we intend to be.” '

Daniel Holtzclaw's Victims, In Their Own Words

Former Oklahoma City Police Department Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. These are the testimonies of his victims:
"According to prosecutors, Holtzclaw targeted these women because they had records and lived in a high-crime neighborhood. He allegedly chose them because they didn’t want any trouble and because they feared the police — because they likely wouldn’t report their assaults to the police. He was the police."

Twenty-three more books every teenager should read

Did you know this?
Every teenage in Sweden is being given a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists? Here's a good and useful list of other great books for teens, with the bonus of shoutouts to our friends Rachel Hills and Scarleteen's Heather Corinna.

Is Technology Making Us Sluttier?

Well, probably not:
"In the same way that mid-century antibiotics and contraception helped kick off the sexual revolution, better HIV treatments (as well as Gardasil, more advanced contraception, and that old standby, the condom) might encourage more libertine behavior by making sex feel safer than it did during the panic of the 1990s—but granted, that doesn’t really make for the most compelling of Vanity Fair screeds."

He Called Her a Slut. He Got Fired

...And then a bunch of trolls blamed her for it.
"A culture of sexist tolerance undermines entire industries, let alone individual people’s daily lives. This tolerance continues because we’ve created cultures were targets of awful behavior are expected to just take it."

...and finally, you can't make this stuff up:

Catholic university overseen by the Church to host conference about the secrets of the female body

From the story:
"Topics covered at the landmark conference are said to include the lifting, tightening and bleaching of female genitals. Delegates will also discuss the amplification of the G-spot and the O-spot, a point behind the surface which experts claim is more sensitive to pleasure than the G-spot. The delegates will also be greeted to an audience with Pope Francis and a walk with in the Vatican gardens, the Times reported. They will then take part in a 'hands on course' which features operations on '14 live cases'."

Be a virginspotter! Send us stories for our weekly round up here, or tweet at us with our @virginitymovie handle. 

'Everyone is having sex but you' and other myths busted: Coffee with 'The Sex Myth' author Rachel Hills

I've been a fan of Rachel Hills' work for a long time so I'm thrilled that her book The Sex Myth is now out. It's loaded with things I love: first-person stories from a diverse group of people, sexual myth-busting, and pop culture analysis. I recently had a virtual coffee with Rachel to talk about the book, and how the messages we get about sexuality often have little to do with the actual sex we're having (or not having). Here's our conversation:

Therese Shechter: First of all, congratulations! I love that you initially thought it would take you 6 months to finish, and here you are, what, 7 years later?

Rachel Hills: Thank you! And yes, it's crazy, isn't it? I never anticipated it would take me this long to do, but I wrote a (very long) blog post about the process for a friend's blog over the weekend, and when I lay it all out step by step, it all makes sense. I imagine that's something you can relate to, with How To Lose Your Virginity.

TS: As someone who just spent 6 years making a documentary, I totally understand. One thing I appreciated about how long it took for me was that it gave me time to really think through what the film should be about and how to approach it. I really learned from my subjects, and from the audience we were growing while we were in production. Did your understanding of your subject change as you worked on it?

RH I agree with this completely. I feel like if you're going to take on a complicated subject matter–and the social expectations around sexuality are certainly complex–you need to take the time to understand your subject deeply. And that means sitting with it, learning from people, reworking your ideas until they make sense. Even if you would have liked it to happen more quickly! I think in my case, the initial vision I had for the book was pretty similar to the final product. But in the earliest stages it was just a sketch–a kind of gut feeling that I hadn't yet found the right words to explain to anyone else. The process of making the book was really the process of trying to find the words to explain what I was thinking.

TS: I should give full disclosure and mention that you were one of the first people to write about How To Lose Your Virginity back in 2010 and you've been very supportive all along. One reason for that, I think, is that we're both on this noble quest to undo a lot of mythology around sexuality. 

RH: Absolutely.

TS: And part of that is how our sexual history defines us, from when we start to become sexual through the rest of our lives.

RH: And as I've told you, when I first watched the film, my husband overheard some of the audio on my laptop and commented that it was the closest thing he'd ever heard to my book.

TS: Having read your book, I'm very flattered. So let's talk about myths...

RH: Sure!

TS: "Everyone is having sex but me" 

RH: That is certainly the myth–and my realization that it was a myth–that started me on the journey of writing the book.

TS: And in fact a lot of young people aren't having sex. You talk about the fact that not taking a stranger home after a party is far more common than picking someone up.  And the number of high school students who aren't sexual. Which sort of leads into a feeling that you don't want to ask any questions about sex because you assume everyone knows more about sex than you do. Because you'll be socially shamed if you show any ignorance.

RH: Exactly. We're sold this idea that sex is omnipresent: That it's like this all-you-can-eat buffet that everyone is dining at at their leisure. It's a message you see in newspaper articles about "out of control" youth, in magazine stories where the readers share their most embarrassing sex experiences, and even in the banter you share between friends. We're told that to be having sex is the norm, and not to be having it–whether you're a virgin, a single person going through a dry spell, or a couple whose libido has declined recently–is strange. But most people's lives involve periods of time when we're not having sex–even quite extensive periods of time, in many people's cases.

TS: I feel like millions of cases of Axe Body Spray have been sold on that one myth.

RH: Or that Axe is the key to getting access to that sexual perma-party everyone is having but you, at least.

TS: That message goes both ways, though, right? Your personal worth depends on you dining at that same buffet. Or, depending on who you're talking to, that buffet will give you deadly food poisoning so stay away. Sorry, this metaphor is running away from me...

RH: Ha! I like that metaphor. I remember one of the guys I spoke to talking about that. Not Axe specifically, but the assumption he had growing up that being an adult would mean having unlimited access to sex with other hot guys. And when that didn't happen for him–and in his case, he was sexually active, he just wasn't having *unlimited* sex–his first assumption was that it was because he wasn't good looking enough. Even though he later realized that it was just that NO ONE's sex life really looks like that.

And yes, that dichotomy you refer to is kind of that root of my argument in The Sex Myth in some ways. That our culture that talks about how sex is dirty and dangerous and our culture that talks about how fantastic it is and how it will make you happy and whole aren't actually opposites; they are one and the same. At the root of both is this idea that sex is an incredibly powerful force that defines us; which can make us attractive and interesting and grown up, but which can also destroy us. 

TS: And no one calls it out at the risk of being labeled not normal?

RH: Well, I think that we have a pretty healthy critical discourse around sex in a lot of ways. Feminism, in particular, has been great at articulating what's wrong with the idea that sex is dangerous, or that good women shouldn't be sexual. And queer theorists and activists have been great at critiquing the marginalization of LGBT people. But one of the questions that drove me was, well, what if we interrogated heterosexuality in the same way that we've interrogated the gay and lesbian experience? And what if the way we experience sex was political in ways that go beyond gender?

TS: For example?

RH: I think that sex is one of the most social interactions we have. (Or, as discussed above, don't have.) It's not just a gut animal instinct that we do or don't engage in. Everything we do when it comes to sex is shaped by social rules and expectations, right down to what we consider sex to be. For example, why is it PIV [penis-in-vagina] intercourse that most people count when they talk about when they "lost their virginity?" Obviously, PIV intercourse can have some pretty real physical ramification, but why is it that act over all others that we talk about when it comes to the question of when we started being sexual? And when I talk about sex being political, I guess what I mean is that the ways in which we expect to be sexual, and the standards by which we evaluate our own sexual histories, don't just come from within. So it's worthwhile to me to examine what those standards are, and where they come from. 

TS: My theory is men invented all of our laws, religions and political structures–and they got to define what sex was as well. Namely whatever their penis wanted. So....intercourse. If women had invented our definitions of sex, what would it look like?

RH: That may be true, but I also think that the risk of pregnancy is a big part of it. And I think that desire to control parentage and reproduction is central to our ongoing paranoia about sex, even if it's not as relevant to the world we live in today as the one we lived in several hundred years ago. Or you know, 100 years ago. And not just if women got to define sex, either. What if queer people got to define sex?

TS: I really like talking to queer-identified people about virginity because they don't use the PIV model at all. Their ideas about becoming sexual are more nuanced. 

RH: I remember many years ago, when I was working on a women's magazine article on older virgins, one of my queer friends told me he thought of himself as having had multiple virginities. I really liked that, and it certainly resonated with my experiences of becoming sexual more than the idea of this One Defining Moment That Would Change Everything Forever.

TS: The one moment that the magical penis enters the vagina for the first time and EVERYTHING CHANGES

RH: Which is bullshit. As I write in the final chapter of the book, I was sexual before "I had sex" and I wasn't a suddenly experienced person immediately after.

TS: My own life's work seems to be to get people to think of becoming sexual as a long process. Not a magical moment. And you can pick whatever you want as your first important milestone. 

RH: And to turn the tables on you for a moment, I'm interested to know why that shift is so important to you.

TS: My first time having PIV sex was so underwhelming physically and emotionally, but it was definitely important socially. Now I was no longer 'a virgin.' But it was later that I had my first actual orgasm with a sexual partner. That was such a bigger deal for me. I remember it viscerally, who I was with, where it was, what color that carpet was... 

RH: I think it was a bigger deal for me, as well. Although in my case, that came before I "lost my virginity."

TS: I was thinking of your interviews with Evan and Greta and that dividing line that doesn't really exist. 

RH: Yes, I loved those quotes, especially Greta's. "When it happened, I was just like 'oh, it feels like there is something in my vagina.'"

TS: Interestingly, when I've talked to women about it for The Experience Engine, an online project I'm working on, a big milestone was being with a partner and feeling comfortable with your body for the first time.

RH: That makes sense.

TS: Another myth you talk about is that idea that men are unable to control their desires and it's a woman's job to manage that. (Men are the gas and women are the brakes, as one radio interviewer quoted to me in all seriousness.) I was really struck by the guy you spoke to who was relieved that his girlfriend wanted to take things slow. And the study of men who preferred relationships to hookups.  

RH: Yes. Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with having hookups, but I do think that our perceptions of men's sexuality can be really destructive. Men are assumed to be constantly up for sex, and conventional masculinity doesn’t really give them room not to be.

TS: So, who manufactures 'the sex myth?' I go back to the idea that we don't exist in a vacuum. So we're getting our cues from somewhere. Is it advertising? Religion? I liked the analogy with so-called female sexual dysfunction as a way of selling drugs for a malady that doesn't actually exist. 

RH: I tend not to believe in top-down ways of looking at power–ie, it's all religion, or it's all porn, or it's all women's magazines. I mean, all of these things are part of it. But I don't think any of them are solely to blame. I think it's about the repetition of the same ideas over and over until they're normalized, and then them being repeated over and over again some more because we've all accepted them to be true. I mean, most of these ideas are buried pretty deeply in our culture. So their earliest origins might be religion and patriarchy - and pregnancy, as I mentioned above. And today, they definitely appear frequently in movie and TV scripts, in advertising, and in lifestyle journalism.

TS: You write about the 'liberal' and 'conservative' ways of understanding and talking about sexuality (or the giant buffet). So the ideas are coming at us from different points of view.

RH: But what's most interesting to me is the way they crop up in our own conversations. In the stories we tell about our own sex lives, and the way we unconsciously manipulate our own stories to fit what we think is the ideal.

TS: What we leave out, what we embellish. 

RH: Yes, exactly. On the conservative side, we're being told that sex is sacred, that it must be cherished and protected, and that if we do sex in the wrong way, all hell will rain down on us. (Sometimes literally.) On the "progressive" side–or what we often think of being progressive, because I would argue it's not really–we're told to figuratively screw the people who told us that sex is bad, because sex is great. Sex is the key to our liberation! It's what all the cool kids are doing. And I think that in different ways, I was pretty screwed up by both of those ideas.

TS: How did that happen?

RH: I think that part of the reason I put off having "sex" was because I had internalized the idea that it was something that needed to be "saved." Not for God, or for marriage, but for the "right person"–which may have been true for me emotionally, but which also, let's face it, is a pretty strong feminine ideal. But I also felt pretty bad about waiting, because I felt like the lack of opportunities that I wanted to take up–and if I'd had the right opportunity I would have taken it–meant that I was hideous or secretly socially incompetent. Standard virgin anxiety. And I also resented the idea that if only I was more "liberated" I would have been having a lot more sex. Liberation means being able to make a free choice, not subscribing to a particular set of choices that work fine for some people, but don't work for everyone.

TS: I so relate to all of that! I laughed out loud reading about your own memories of keeping quiet when sexual banter turned to specifics so no one would know you had little sexual experience. As someone who didn't have sex until I was 23, I did the same thing right through college. I worked part time in a pharmacy and knew EVERYTHING about birth control pills, so I gave out a lot of learned advice on that.

RH: Exactly. And because I write about sex, I think a lot of people assume I'm more sexually experienced (or at least have had more partners) than I am even now. Or at least until the book comes out, anyway!

TS: What finally got to me was graduating from art school. I thought that any self-respecting artist should be having an interesting sexual life. That's what tipped me into 'getting it over with' mode. And I'm glad it did. But everyone's mileage may vary, as they say. 

RH: That's a pretty toxic stereotype all of its own, though isn't it ? That a self-respecting artist should have an exciting sex life. (Totally feel you, though.)

TS: I’m getting a t-shirt that says #vanilla on it. Want one?

RH: I'm making badges that say Fuck Prude-Shaming. And also badges that say Fuck Slut-Shaming. But the first badge really appeals to my sense of humor, because it's so incongruous.

TS: That's excellent. I wish I had thought of it! One last thing: I love the updates with some of your subjects, which really show how nuanced and changeable our sexual lives really are. (spoilers) Like Henry, who went from frustrated self-described virgin to the king of the BDSM Japanese bondage scene. Or Monica, who the book is dedicated to, who went from celibate to romantically (and exotically) coupled to celibate again. That's so important to understand, how our sexual experiences change over our lifetimes. We should be playing the long game.

RH: Exactly. And I think it flies in the face of the idea that our sexual histories are some deep-seated reflection of who we really are: of how attractive we are, how liberal we are, or of how valued we are by other people. So much of our sexual experiences are shaped by circumstance. If I'd met someone great when I was 17, I probably would have had sex then. But I didn't.

TS: Let's wrap up with that great quote in your book about getting laid being about opportunity and not attractiveness.

RH: It's from Jezebel. "Getting laid is mostly a matter of luck, opportunity and sex drive, not desirability." I think it's really well said. And quotes like that are one of the reasons I love the internet. It's such a great hive mind.

TS: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Rachel! 

RH: Thank you for the chat.

You can purchase the Sex Myth at the following outlets: 
North America: AmazonAppleBarnes and NobleBooks-a-Million, or Indiebound (for your local independent bookstore).  Australia /New Zealand: ReadingsBooktopia or Bookworld.  UK: Amazon or Book Depository.

 

"I haven't had sex for two years and I'm doing perfectly fine, thanks"

judy Judy P. is an art history student at Brown University who is interested in the intersections of art, politics, race, class, and gender. She is proud to be a woman, though she thinks it’s not always easy to be one. Check out her other posts here.

Sophie Fontanel, a chic, intelligent, and attractive editor at Elle France is creating quite the stir with her new memoir, L'Envie, to be published in the United States this year as The Art of Sleeping Alone. It recounts the 12 years she spent abstinent after years of dating and getting tangled up in the hungry legs of men who offered mediocre and unsatisfying sex. One day, she went on a solo skiing trip and pretty much had the best time of her life. She remembers it as a momentous, liberating experience that launched her pursuit of abstinence.

As you'd expect, her book is getting mixed reactions. As The Atlantic's coverage reports, readers' responses are split. When I brought up the content of this book with some of my friends (all in their early 20s), the response was unanimous: “12 years?! She went 12 years without sex? But she's French! That's a really long time. Imagine how much she missed out on during those years.”

There were a few who were impressed by her ability to have “self-control” and “that kind of discipline,” as if she were somehow punishing herself or testing her limits for some kind of masochistic, freak project. A lot of them couldn't figure out why a single, “normal” woman, who had no apparent flaws, would have a no-sex policy during her prime time. I mean, YOLO, right? Shouldn't we all be putting ourselves out there (especially while we're young and sexy), going home with a different bed buddy every night? My best friend, for example, is a sex-oozing creature who does embody this whole free love mentality, going on noncommittal, exciting dates with strangers she meets in bars and having lots of good, fun sex.

And then there are also people like me, a fresh, budding 22-year-old who just doesn't really care much for sex. I haven't had sex for almost 2 years now (and when you're this age and living in this sex-centered cultural climate as a college student, it feels like eons). It's not as if I proclaimed one day, “I'm going to be abstinent from this day forward.” I guess you could say I'm passively abstinent, but not because men/women aren't sexually attracted to me or I'm not sexually attracted to men/women. I have had bad relationship models that have colored my experience and resistance to intimacy. But that's not the whole story, and I'd hate for people to pathologize and assume that if someone chooses not to have sex, there must be some monumental reason that requires lots of psychoanalytic evaluation.

That's why Rachel Hills' TEDx talk, "Understanding the Sex Myth," resonates with me so much. In sum, she talks about the anxiety and pressure we often feel to live up to some kind of sexual standard in our oversexed society. We compare our sex lives to those of others (or the idea we have about how much sex everyone else is having) because we feel this is what defines us. Most of the people I hang out with, and therefore compare myself to, have multiple partners and do have sex on a regular basis, so I was blown away by some of the statistics she presented. For example, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that the most common number of sexual partners an unmarried 18-23 year old will have in a given year is just 1. Because I presumed that everyone around me was always having so much sex, there were times when I felt like an oddball, like something was wrong with me.

Sometimes, I simply don't give a damn about sex and don't feel stimulated, end of story. This is not to say I don't get the hots because let me be the first to admit that sexy thoughts are on my mind every day. And that's important because I consider myself a sexual being, even when I'm not engaging in the physical act of sex. I love the idea of sex, but it hasn't played out that well in real life: I've had unremarkable sex where I'd be penetrated repeatedly, and it just felt “mechanical,” as Fontanel puts it. I'd look up at the ceiling and wonder, “When is this gonna end? I would really rather just go to sleep.”

Fontanel claims that some of her peers branded her as “frigid, abnormal, bitter, neurotic, a lesbian.” I've been called similar things in the past. But there are actually a substantial number of women and men who appreciate her courage and relate to her feelings about sex. What it really comes down to is choice, but our culture is rather good at providing repercussions for our individual, sexual decisions: if you have lots of sex, you're a slut; if you choose not to have sex, for non-religious/ non-cultural reasons, you're a prude or a lesbian. I like to think that my sexuality is fluid—that I can have casual, exciting sex with someone in one moment, whenever that may be, and not bother with sex at all the next, for as long as I please.

Just the Tip! Virginity in the News: Orthodox sex manuals, John Stamos, Sex and the Citadel & 29-year-old virgins

In a community where unmarried men and women don't touch, and are allowed no access to the internet or even non-religious texts, a long-overdue sex manual for ultra-Orthodox Jews has just been published. We're talking basics, like starting with how men's and women's bodies differ in shape. I really hope "The Newlywed's Guide to Physical Intimacy" will be welcome in this community, because sex and pleasure within marriage is something that is encouraged and celebrated. What I find most-fascinating is the lengths the authors, Dr. David Ribner and Jennie Rosenfeld, have gone to in order to make the process of accessing the information comfortable. From a BBC/PRI article about the book, which also has an audio segment:

In Israel's Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community, there are manuals written for brides and grooms to be, to help guide them on the subject of intimacy in married life, but they employ allegorical, vague terminology and no explicit how-to instructions on matters of sexual intercourse. So Ribner's book enters uncharted territory. Flip through it though, and you see no illustrations. Instead there is a sealed envelope on the back flap, with a warning to readers that it contains sexual diagrams. If you don't want to look at them, you can rip off the envelope and throw it away.

~~~

Does anyone know if there are sex manuals for newly-married and devout Muslims? Women's ENews just published an excerpt from Shereen El Feki's new book "" Writing about the significance of female virginity, she says:

The Quran makes no mention of the hymen (ghisha' al-bakara in Arabic) per se, but it does talk at length about private parts and the importance of protecting them from view. While virginity is, in principle, gender-neutral in the Quran, female virgins get special billing, the Virgin Mary coming in for particular praise. Then there are the hur, the perpetual virgins of paradise, "maidens restraining their glances, untouched beforehand by man or jinn," whom Muslim men will marry as a reward for a righteous, God-fearing life, so the faithful believe. According to hadith, the Prophet is said to have joked with a newly married companion that he might have had more fun with a virgin than the "mature woman" he took as his wife.

We think the American edition's cover is pretty brilliant. Read the full excerpt here.

~~~

Yahoo is launching a new show called "Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos" which features Stamos interviewing celebrities about their first sexual experiences. Puppets, Barbies and animation will be involved. We're cautiously optimistic about this, but who knows? It doesn't look like the show will involve anyone actually losing their virginity to John Stamos, which is somewhat disappointing considering he's still pretty damn hot.

 

~~~

The new star-laden movie "The Big Wedding" stars Topher Grace playing a 29-year-old virgin, a fact disclosed by a tipsy Diane Keaton on the Ellen show. She followed that by saying she doesn't think there are actually any 29-year-old virgins. Uh, well, maybe not in Hollywood. The trailer is here but FYI, it got 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

 

Books We Want! "Losing It: How we popped our cherry over the last 80 years" is now available in the US!

Our favorite UK virginity geek Kate Monro's book "Losing It: How we popped our cherry over the last 80 years" is now available in the US from Icon Books!

Based on her blog The Virginity Project, Kate has put together an astonishing collection of stories, from Edna, who lost her virginity in 1940 aged 25, to Charlie, a young, disabled punk rocker whose first-time experience many would envy.

Kate has long been an inspiration for what we do here, and we're really excited about her project. Aside from the fact that we wholeheartedly believe in the importance of sharing stories about sex, we LOVE the cover!! Shades of Joy of Sex–and Dr Zizmor's clip art, if the good doctor doled out sex advice instead of zit cream (sorry, New Yorkers will understand).

Please check out all of Kate's work! Get more info at Kate's website or follow her on Twitter at @KateMonro2!

Beyond "Twilight": The mixed, messy and moralizing messages of Young Adult Lit

BitchStory By Judy Park

I have never really read much young-adult fiction, particularly paranormal YA fiction about werewolves, vampires, and the like. I didn't even finish the Harry Potter series until a few months ago (and of course it changed my life forever). I was 21. I do admit I had a quick Twilight phase before I broke it off few hundred pages in, only because I was so embarrassed and eventually, bored. I was reading it for the cheap thrills, the suspension of reality, and the momentary feeling of being that young teen girl swooning over a handsome, magical being. So it surprises me just how much this genre has exploded in recent years. I mean, I was a part of this demographic a few years ago, and I don't recognize half the titles of the best-selling YA books that seem to be ubiquitous now.

The Spring 2013 issue of Bitch Magazine is the Pulp issue (think ~mystery~thriller~supernatural~). One of the articles, "Paranormal Boyfriends, Purity Myths, and Practical Virgins: the literature of losing it," tackles the popularity of this genre and its repercussions, outlining the various ways in which young-adult novels approach, problematize, or encourage romantic and sexual relationships. Other than offering titillating sex scenes for the readers, often these books are the first and only sources of information about sex and relationships teens have during their formative years.

The writers look at two categories of books written for teen girls: The more popular paranormal subgenre, i.e. Twilight; and the more "realistic" but not as wildly popular titles, i.e. Anatomy of a Boyfriend.

The paranormal novels tend to equate virginity with "moral superiority," having the female protagonists wait for their sexual saviors who will fulfill and love them completely, and they will live happily ever after. We've all heard this before, and a prime example the authors note is Bella and Edward in the Twilight series. Though tempted, Bella abstains from sex until she weds Edward, at which point they get their freak on. But as the authors make clear,

"being abstinent in these books is not empowering for female characters; instead, it's a consequence of decisions enforced by their male counterparts."

It feeds on the age-old storyline that those who wait will have the greatest prize in the end [and those who do make their rounds...well, they're sluts who don't need a story written about them.]

The more "realistic" YA novels address the complexities of relationships and sexuality, sending more sex-positive messages about experimenting without putting virginity (and sex) on a pedestal. In the book Anatomy of a Boyfriend, the main character Dominique seems to have more agency: Her relationship with Wes isn't perfect, but she works through it, makes mistakes along the way, and ultimately ends it. [It's important to keep in mind that though the YA "realistic" subgenre attempts to make sex and romance more, well, realistic, they stick to straight relationships and exclude a good chunk of the population.]

In reviewing the novel Lost It, the authors point out a distinguishing lesson of more realistic YA romantic fiction:

"Having sex doesn't fundamentally change who you are. Sex doesn't have to mean forever, and characters learn how to move on when teen relationships don't work out."

When I was reading that first Twilight book, I had a better sense of who I was than I did at age thirteen, so I understood that Bella's dependence on Edward was overrated and annoying; the idea that the book could have shaped my preteen values and outlook is downright frightening. I shudder to think that the relationships and sexual encounters presented in these books serve as guides for the millions of girls who continue to absorb them.

Most Bitch articles aren't online, so if you want to read the whole article, you'll have to buy the Pulp issue (totally worth it). Or better yet, subscribe and support this great magazine. Read the blog as well.

Judy Park is an intern at Trixie Films while she takes a short break from Brown University.

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News featuring Purity Shake, Russian army virgins, pulp promiscuity and tampon questions

This week's Just The Tip is by newest Team Trixie Films member Judy Park. She's taking a short break from studying at Brown University where she's getting her degree in the History of Art and Architecture. She doesn't tweet or keep a blog, thankyouverymuch. A roundup of the latest virginity stories in the media:

Watching this short clip without any information or context, one can easily assume that these girls, in their big, colorful dresses, are letting loose after the school dance with their boys. I sure wouldn't have guessed that these are purity ball attendees, having just vowed to remain holy and chaste until marriage. And check out the dad in the left corner. Is he embarrassed for the girls or does he simply not dig the Harlem Shake*?

[*Note: Which has nothing to do with the actual Harlem Shake, which you can see in this video and on Melissa Harris Perry's show]

~~~~

A nationalistic, 25-year-old Russian man was denied admission to the army, not because he has oddly shaped feet or a spindly, hairy tail that drags in his wake, but because he's *gasp* a virgin. When he told the psychiatrist about his lack of experience:

"He sent me to a mental hospital! I am an absolutely healthy man, but he sent me there to prove that I was crazy. And all because of a girl?"

Just another case of male virginity = pathology.

~~~~

Bitch Magazine, in celebration of their new Pulp issue, is showcasing three obscure, old school books on their website for one week. "The Promiscuous Breed" from 1966 caught our eye for its portrayal of promiscuous women with funny, weird language of that time period. Bitch's favorite paragraph from the book includes the lines:

"This volume deals with the very real problems of Sex Before Marriage, problems which beset your town, your community, your own home. It shows the reader in carefully researched case histories just how the death knell of chastity is being sounded in America and why."

If you're in Portland, check out Bitch Magazine's Pulp Release Party, happening Wednesday, March 6th

~~~~

Also via Bitch: Once you are sexually active, do you need to go to the doctor so they can cut a piece of your vagina off? Is there a safe way to lighten or even out the tone on your vulva lips? Can you get pregnant by kissing during your period? These are some of the questions that tweens are asking as part of a campaign by U by Kotex (you know, the tween pads and tampons I still use), revealing the alarming dearth of information that teen girls have about their bodies and sexualities. It's cool that there's an anonymous, safe space in the cyber world for girls to ask questions that they are too afraid to ask in the real world, but wouldn't it be even cooler if these topics could be discussed more openly and honestly with peers, parents, and teachers?

Thanks to virginspotter @j_a_allan for the Russian story! Want to be a virginspotter, too? Send your links here.

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News

Our favorite virgin godmother (and "How to Lose Your Virginity" onscreen expert) Hanne Blank did a talk called "Hymen Wars." Need we say more?

~~~~

The New York Times has a profile of author Lauren Myracle, who they call 'this generation's Judy Blume.' in part for the healthy candor of her books about teen life, and also because of the calls to have her books banned. We think her take on being honest with young people is great:

Her aim, she said, is to write about sex without a “soft fade” — as in cutting from “he leaned in for a kiss” to “they lay in bed, naked, smiling.” She wants to fill in the blanks, because kids are curious about the mechanics, and deciding when first to have sex has inherent drama.

A commenter added this thought:

I have read ttyl, ttfn, and l8r g8r - these books came out when I was a teenager and I think it's safe to say I haven't turned into a sex-crazed, technology-obsessed drug addict[...] To ban them is to prevent another avenue for young women, like the one I was, to learn how to respect themselves.

~~~~

While Caterina Migliorini's yet-unconsumated virginity auction saga continues, she will be featured in Brazilian Playboy (NSFW). Virginity Auctions are a real-life marketplace extension of the virginity porn fetish, so no surprise that A leads to B.

Inspired by Migliorini, another Brazilian woman Rebecca Bernardo, 18, is auctioning her virginity to raise money to care for her bedridden mother (top bid currently $35,000). Press coverage is as gross and voyeuristic as expected.

~~~~

Why not try OK Cupid's "Dating Persona Test"? It is likely a load of bullshit, but OKC does some interesting data analysis and who can resist unscientific pronouncements on your personality? I'm curious what the results are for folks who aren't sexually active, since so much of it has to do with having the sex. You don't have to register to get your results. Let us know in the comments below.

~~~~

Jezebel ran yet another virgin-themed post the other day, a sort of First-Person-like essay called "How to Be a Virgin." We like her suggestion of printing out business cards explaining why she hasn't had sex so she doesn't have to actually discuss it any more. And we kind of feel like stealing the headline for the new title of our film.

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News

A roundup of the latest virginity happenings:

Andy Kopsa reports on a whole barrel-ful of wrong at Mississippi's "1st Annual Teen Pregnancy Prevention Summit" created by the staunchly abstinence-until-marriage-supporting Governor Phil Bryant. Aside from the goofy lettering that screams 'freshman bake sale,' Andy finds that "there are several things amiss here in my opinion.  First of course is the stretch-marked pregnant belly.  Perhaps suggesting to an overly body conscious teen girl to not get pregnant because she will become unattractive?  And, since we know that young women get pregnant on their own, there is no penis pictured here, nor is there a boy anywhere on the flyer." More of Andy's reporting on this here.

In other messed-up abstinence-lovin' Mississippi news, when a new sex ed bill prohibited actually teaching sex ed or talking about condoms, one crafty sex educator demonstrated how to put on 'a sock' instead.

From xojane: "I'm a 31-Year-Old Virgin Who's Never Been Kissed, and My Disability Isn't Holding Me Back, It's My Fear." "How could he fall in love with a girl in a wheelchair? How could he ever find me one ounce of attractive? How could he ever get past my disability -– past my wheelchair, past my deformed hands, feet and legs?"

Salon reports on a Psychology of Women Quarterly study that says “Slut-shaming” won’t go away" "New research reveals that 50 years after the introduction of the pill, sexual double standards are alive and well. ... Conley’s research suggested that, under the right circumstances—that is, when the experience promises to be safe and pleasant—women are just as likely as men to engage in casual sex. Her new paper adds stigma and the prospect of backlash to that equation, and finds they inhibit women’s choices." Tell us something we don't know.

A Kenyan media outlet headlines a story 'Boys losing virginity to nannies' which is actually a really disturbing story about sexual abuse by domestic workers on the children they care for.

The Virgin Mary was sighted on a log in Utah and a Malaysian Medical Center window.

And this virginity loss story from Grace Coddington's new memoir: "Tinker invited me to spend the weekend in his delightful little rose-covered cottage in Kent. ...When we arrived, he cooked a beautiful candlelit dinner for two, after which I was shown up to what I thought was the guest bedroom. I undressed, put on my nightie, pulled down the top sheet, and there, neatly laid out on the pillow like one of those little chocolate mints you find in boutique hotels nowadays, was a condom. "What is this?" I wondered. I really hadn't a clue. Moments later, to my surprise, I was joined by Tinker carrying a steaming cup of cocoa and looking adorable in his stripy cotton pajamas. But his air was not that of someone about to read me a bedtime story."  (OMG What a coincidence! It happened just like that for me as well!)

A Genre of One's Own: In Defense of Fan Fiction Written by Teenage Girls. Guest post by Jenn Leyva

Guest Post by Jenn Leyva

On Sunday, The Guardian published an article about fan fiction, a genre of writing dominated by teenage girls self-publishing stories re-imagining sexuality in pop culture.

There has been considerable pushback against the authors of fan fiction, especially pointed at the book deals mentioned in the article, such as 16-year-old Emily Barker's contract with Penguin. There's a snobby part of me that understands that pushback. These books are not going to be comparable to Infinite Jest or Anna Karenina, and I don't think anyone is expecting them to be.

Part of the "outrage" is coming from the fact that these young women have been self-publishing on the internet instead of writing through more traditional outlets. More interestingly, I think it makes people uncomfortable because it deals with a topic that is uncomfortable

Fan fiction is a way for teenage girls to address sexuality and romance on their own terms. It's well discussed in Virgin-land that we as a culture are obsessed with controlling the sexuality of young women. From purity balls to abstinence pledges, we are so afraid of female sexuality that we do all that we can as a culture to control it. The problem is that this type of policing hasn't actually stopped the objectification of women or the sexualization of girls. Women are expected to be sexy without being sexual, and young women even more so. With fan fiction, teenage girls are talking back. Or writing back. They are writing about their experiences, what they want their sex and romantic lives to be like and how the realities fall short.

As Wolfson reports in the Guardian article about fanfic story The Naughty Game (book cover above):

“At the moment, one of the most popular stories on Movellas, the fan fiction site where Barker was discovered, is a sort of Hunger Games meets American Pie coming-of-age tale where members of One Direction compete to "stamp the V-card" of the story's first-person protagonist. You might expect a distasteful and badly written tale of teenage lust.

“In fact, the story is a fairly merciless character assassination of the band, in which their petty attempts at sexual espionage are almost always rebuffed, by the same person who is making them up. A repeated device used to great effect in the story is Harry Styles getting kicked in the balls. Niall – the one who looks like a Guess Who? illustration – comes round to her house with flowers and chocolate, which quickly get "smashed at his face"”

If we're going to critique these authors (and presumably the publishers) for their work, I think it's important to step back and ask why we read. We read for pleasure and, with all art and media, to see ourselves reflected back at us. The growth of fan fiction is filling a much-needed void. Honest depictions of young sexuality, imagined by and focusing on teenage girls just doesn't exist in mainstream pop culture.

I personally don't read fan fiction, but I know a lot of my friends do. I see the appeal. In addition to the fanfic mentioned in the article published in The Guardian, a lot of the genre focuses on exploring queer sexuality. As a fat queer woman myself, I'm always looking for depictions of myself in media. Fat women are not depicted as worthy of sexuality, and when they are it's because they're so gross and desperate. I've created my own little bubble where I surround myself with impressive fat queer women. Fan fiction is in many ways the same. It's a type of art in which the realities of our lives can drown out what everyone seems to be telling us about our lives.

In the last email exchange I had with Therese before I wrote this article, she told me that she "used to be quite the fan of Downton Abbey fanfic.” And she followed it up with "Don't hate me." I don't read fan fiction, but I have respect for young women writing about sex and romance and those who read their words.

When Jenn Leyva was 16, her dad told her that he'd buy her a car if she lost weight. She cried, finished her calculus homework, and is now a New York-based fat activist and recent graduate of Columbia, where she studied biochemistry. She authors Fat Smart And Pretty, a fat blog about social justice, feminism, science, health, and fa(t)shion.

V-Card Diaries: Kara "The first person I had sex with isn't walking around with my virginity in his pocket."

Today we're highlighting Kara in California, who thinks our culture tends to gloss over the fact that the first time might be more painful than pleasurable. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm 24, I live in California. I always supported women's sexual rights, but I didn't get really into feminist activism until I read Jessica Valenti's "Purity Myth." I think that was my real "click" moment. Since then I have been getting into groups, blogs and reading all kinds of books by great feminist authors.

How do you define virginity?

Going from a state of not having had sex to a state of having sex. I really don't believe very much in "virginity" as a real thing. I didn't give it away or lose it. The first person I had sex with isn't walking around with it in his pocket. He's not keeping it in his sock drawer, and I'm not going to find it in the couch cushions with the lose change and lint. I don't feel any part of me was taken, and I don't feel that I'm missing anything either. My (soon-to-be) husband doesn't see me as damaged or used. I'm just me. Only thing that's different is I've had sex when previously, I hadn't.

Tell us your story

The first time I had it...I didn't expect it to hurt as much as it did. Holy CRAP was it excruciatingly painful. My boyfriend at the time wasn't trying to hurt me, he wasn't forcing it, he was actually going really slowly and carefully. It just hurt like a mofo. I'd heard from only one person that it would be painful. No one but she had ever mentioned the possibility of pain. So when I experienced it, I was well...shocked to put it mildly. Wasn't ready for that.

I have no idea how long the experience lasted. The pain was a little too distracting to pay attention to the time. But eventually, when he got it all the way inside me, that was it. We didn't move. Just sat there with him inside and me trying not to make the pain any worse. We tried to thrust it maybe once, but it just wasn't happening. Hurt too much. In the end we just decided that it would be best for him to slowly pull back out. I don't remember if that hurt less or more than putting it in.

It took at least until the 5th time for it to stop hurting.

The first time was not magical. There was no passionate love-making or epic, orgasmic breathing and sweating. There was pain, however unintentional. I think that's something that our culture tends to gloss over. There is so much in media, video games, books, etc. that tells us that the first time is this amazing experience with fireworks and screaming orgasms and romantic declarations akin to harlequin novel character quips. And it all takes place on silk sheets with sexy underwear and clothes strewn on the floor in sexual passion.

Nah. For some of us, it just hurts a lot.

Amazing news! We're giving away a copy of 'Forever' signed by Judy Blume!

Above L: Therese is having a hard time letting go of the book! R: Judy Blume's inscription.

In case you missed our mass email:

The legendary Judy Blume has just donated a signed copy of her classic novel 'Forever' to our Kickstarter campaign! I was so tempted to keep it for myself, but instead, I'm giving it away as a very special thank you.

We're going to draw one lucky winner from all our backers who pledge $100 or more. Make your pledge or increase your existing pledge by Friday at 6pm (EDT) to qualify. You can still pick a reward-the draw is a bonus. We'll post video of us drawing the lucky person's name to our Kickstarter page on Friday night!

Judy Blume wrote 'Forever' in 1975 because her daughter asked for a story about a teenage girl who loses her virginity and doesn't die–and it quickly became one of the most banned books in America! Judy has been an anti-censorship activist ever since.  I grew up with Judy Blume and I remember spending Grade 6 passing around her books from girl to girl. And now this signed copy of 'Forever' could be yours for your pledge of $100 or higher.

In the spirit of Junior High, tell your two best friends to pledge along with you. You can take turns reading the book out loud to each other at your next slumber party.

We have only 6 more days to meet our $35,000 goal, and we need your help to raise the remaining $6601 by May 9th.

If you've been thinking of pledging, now is the time to get in on this amazing draw! If $100 is too steep for you right now, we'd be grateful for whatever you can spare, or for you to spread the word amongst your friends.

Thank you for your spectacular support!

[Older Virgin Week] Why doesn't anyone ever talk about Edward Cullen's virginity?

Cable has Shark Week, we have Older Virgin Week! In honor of V-Day, by which we mean Virgin Day, all this week we’re reposting some of our favorite older-virginity-related stories. This post originally ran in November 2011. Share your biggest older virgin myths here.

Caption: Bella with Edward, the 107-year-old virgin

On the eve of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere, people all over the country are lining up to watch Bella (finally) lose her virginity with sparkly vampire and true love Edward Cullen. This being Twilight, there will be a proper white wedding before the deflowering, and not a moment too soon, seeing as Bella has spent three movies (and books) begging Edward to have sex with her already. Although there have been a billion words written and spoken about the meaning and importance of Bella's virginity (be it about romantic love or Mormon abstinence propaganda) almost nothing has been said about Edward Cullen and his 107-year-old virgin status.

In fact, I had no idea that Edward never had sex until I came across a paper by fellow virginity geek Jonathan Allan, a grad student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. The paper examines the idea of male virginity in romance novels, and although he says there is no official announcement of Edward's sexual status, he cites various examples alluding to it. Here's one scene from the book Breaking Dawn which occurs after the engagement but before the wedding:

"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying him to change those habits now."

I continued my research in a less academic frame of mind, and typed 'Is Edward Cullen a virgin?' into Google. I got unequivocally affirmative responses:

"In the first book in the series it states Bella is a virgin, but Edward said he has never found a vampire or human he's been with before Bella."

"After Edward asks Bella about her romantic relationships (or lack thereof)...and she says, like him, she has had almost NO experience...he says 'that's another thing we have in common, then'...meaning that they are both virgins."

"In Breaking Dawn he tells Bella and he had to ask Emmet and Jasper for advice on what to expect before his and Bella's honeymoon."

I'm so used to the usual double-standard scenario of a young woman needing to remain pure with no such expectations placed on a man, this revelation is sort of nice. But the question remains: Why do we spend so much time fascinated with Bella's virginity and almost none with Edward's? Here are some more excerpts from Jonathan's paper:

"The answer for this is likely not an easy one, indeed, the question could be extended further: Why has so much of the discussion of virginity focussed on women and not men? Edward Cullen represents an important part of the discussion of virginity in Twilight because, in a sense, it destabilises the discourse about virginity.

There is a remarkable reluctance to speak about male virginity [...] After all, who would want to end up a Steve Carrell character [in The 40-Year-Old Virgin]? The narrative that unfolds shows the strangeness of male virginity mostly because it would seem to contradict the stereotypes of male sexuality. From the perspective of the critic, this is an interesting inversion of the generic norms. Here it is Edward who must maintain his virginity and it is Bella who longs to lose her virginity, which in romance would generally render her the deviant. Instead, in the Twilight Saga, male virginity becomes something of a deviation from the norm.

Ultimately, it is Edward’s virginity that makes him deviate from the accepted norms, thus rendering him monstrous, rather than his vampirism, which oddly enough renders him rather human."

Aside from Jonathan's work, the silence on this subject is deafening. Female virginity has always been given a disproportionate amount of attention, but at the same time, hasn't an entire film genre has been built around guys losing it?

Do we just have an easier time talking about male virginity when it's a comic spectacle, and are we at a loss for words when it's simply a matter-of-fact part of a guy's life?

Why doesn't anyone ever talk about Edward Cullen's virginity?

Caption: Bella with Edward, the 107-year-old virgin

On the eve of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere, people all over the country are lining up to watch Bella (finally) lose her virginity with sparkly vampire and true love Edward Cullen. This being Twilight, there will be a proper white wedding before the deflowering, and not a moment too soon, seeing as Bella has spent three movies (and books) begging Edward to have sex with her already. Although there have been a billion words written and spoken about the meaning and importance of Bella's virginity (be it about romantic love or Mormon abstinence propaganda) almost nothing has been said about Edward Cullen and his 107-year-old virgin status.

In fact, I had no idea that Edward never had sex until I came across a paper by fellow virginity geek Jonathan Allan, a grad student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. The paper examines the idea of male virginity in romance novels, and although he says there is no official announcement of Edward's sexual status, he cites various examples alluding to it.  Here's one scene from the book Breaking Dawn which occurs after the engagement but before the wedding:

"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying him to change those habits now."

I continued my research in a less academic frame of mind, and typed 'Is Edward Cullen a virgin?' into Google. I got unequivocally affirmative responses:

"In the first book in the series it states Bella is a virgin, but Edward said he has never found a vampire or human he's been with before Bella."

"After Edward asks Bella about her romantic relationships (or lack thereof)...and she says, like him, she has had almost NO experience...he says 'that's another thing we have in common, then'...meaning that they are both virgins."

"In Breaking Dawn he tells Bella and he had to ask Emmet and Jasper for advice on what to expect before his and Bella's honeymoon."

I'm so used to the usual double-standard scenario of a young woman needing to remain pure with no such expectations placed on a man, this revelation is sort of nice. But the question remains: Why do we spend so much time fascinated with Bella's virginity and almost none with Edward's? Here are some more excerpts from Jonathan's paper:

"The answer for this is likely not an easy one, indeed, the question could be extended further: Why has so much of the discussion of virginity focussed on women and not men? Edward Cullen represents an important part of the discussion of virginity in Twilight because, in a sense, it destabilises the discourse about virginity.

There is a remarkable reluctance to speak about male virginity [...] After all, who would want to end up a Steve Carrell character [in The 40-Year-Old Virgin]? The narrative that unfolds shows the strangeness of male virginity mostly because it would seem to contradict the stereotypes of male sexuality. From the perspective of the critic, this is an interesting inversion of the generic norms. Here it is Edward who must maintain his virginity and it is Bella who longs to lose her virginity, which in romance would generally render her the deviant. Instead, in the Twilight Saga, male virginity becomes something of a deviation from the norm.

Ultimately, it is Edward’s virginity that makes him deviate from the accepted norms, thus rendering him monstrous, rather than his vampirism, which oddly enough renders him rather human."

Aside from Jonathan's work, the silence on this subject is deafening. Female virginity has always been given a disproportionate amount of attention, but at the same time, hasn't an entire film genre has been built around guys losing it?

Do we just have an easier time talking about male virginity when it's a comic spectacle, and are we at a loss for words when it's simply a matter-of-fact part of a guy's life?

"The Virginity Project: The Play" is being performed in London, and you can stream it or follow it on Twitter

Kate Monro's blog/book The First Time: True Tales of Virginity Lost & Found (Including My Own) has become a play (see the cast, above)! Better yet, it's streaming on the internet and connected to a live Twitter feed, so if you can't get to London to catch it, you can still 'attend' online and join in on the conversation. But hurry, because the run ends this Saturday night.

It's been at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London's Covent Garden from October 6-22nd, and the last performances are this Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday (night and matinee). You can also watch it online, or download it and watch later. Just go to the Camden Theatres website for more information. Note the time zone difference!

If you watch it streaming live, here's all the cool stuff Kate says you're in for:

It promises to be a truly interactive experience, a bit like how virginity loss should be, in theory at least. The audience will be taken 'backstage' during the show to learn more about the background to each of the characters in my book. In between the actors monologues, the audience will also be invited to tweet in their stories, thoughts and reactions. This material will be fed back into the show by the narrator. For the very brave, there will be the virginity chair, a place where audience members can come and tell their stories live. On Thursday 'The Twespians' - tweeting thespians of course, what else - will be joining the action. The show is produced by Chris Mellor and he's done a great job.

Tonight in Brooklyn: Hanne Blank will be reading from "Big Big Love" at Re/Dress

Around Trixie HQ we know Hanne Blank as the Goddess of All Things Virgin, especially since we interviewed her for our film. Here's a fun little video [if you don't see it above] that we made from part of the interview, where Hanne walks us through the highlights of her virgin-themed charm bracelet.

But before "Virgin: The Untouched History" there was 'Big Big Love." A cult classic from 2000, it's just been revised and updated, but still focuses on the how-tos and why-tos of sexuality from the point of view of big folks and those who love them. When you order your book, make sure it's the revised version, and not the original.

Hanne will be reading tonight in Brooklyn at my favorite resale shop Re/Dress*, which specializes in sizes 14+. (I just got an incredibly hot vintage-looking strapless red satin number there for $20, and a 1950s-inspired leopard cocktail dress for $25. I will be tied to the mast tonight to prevent me from buying yet another dress)

Here are the details for the reading. Hope to see you there!:

Thursday, October 13 8:00pm - 11:00pm Re/Dress NYC 109 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY Author Hanne Blank will be presenting her new book, "Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them)" The reading is free and open to the public. Bring yourself and your burning questions about sex, relationships & size.

*Tragically, Re/Dress will be closing in mid-November, so get yourself there now! The website will live on.

Paradigm Shift presents "Marriage: Past, Present and Future"

Our friends at Paradigm Shift have another cool event coming up Wednesday, April 20th in New York. Here's some info about this book, which sounds right up our alley:

A HISTORY OF MARRIAGE
What does the "tradition of marriage" really look like? Elizabeth Abbott paints an often surprising picture of this most public, yet most intimate, institution. Ritual of romance, or social obligation? Eternal bliss, or cult of domesticity? Abbott reveals a complex tradition that includes same-sex unions, arranged marriages, dowries,
self-marriages, and child brides. Marriage- in all its loving, unloving, decadent, and impoverished manifestations- is revealed here through Abbott's infectious curiosity.

You can get tickets here or at the door.

This Thursday in NYC: In The FleshFree love, sex and cupcakes and an encore reading by me!

I'm so honored to be part of this month's In The Flesh Reading Series, a free evening of readings on love and sex–plus free mini cupcakes!

The theme is 'Sex on the Beach' and I'm doing an encore performance of a reading I did back in March at Abiola's Kiss and Tell. A story from the journeys that became my doc How I Learned to Speak Turkish (see trailer above), it couldn't be more perfect for the theme of the night's show.

It's about virginity and beaches and sex, and if you want to know more, please come on out and say hi! I think I'm part of the comic relief, far more funny than titillating (but isn't a lot of sex like that too?).

Here are the details:

In The Flesh: Sex on the Beach Night
August 19, 2010, 8:00 pm - 10 pm

Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street, NYC
(B/D to Grand, J/M/Z to Bowery, F to Delancey or F/V to 2nd, between Forsyth & Eldridge. Look for the hot pink awning that says "XIE HE Health Club."

Admission: Free, 21+
Happy Ending Lounge: 212-334-9676

Get ready to get overheated at Summer Sex/Sex on the Beach night at In The Flesh! The summer's hottest fiction, a romance novelist, a documentarian, erotica and more.

Featuring Abigail Ekue (The Darker Side of Lust), Eric, Hilary Thayer Hamann (Anthropology of an American Girl), Yona Zeldis McDonough (Breaking the Bank), Tony O’Neill (Sick City), Michelle Janine Robinson (Color Me Grey), filmmaker Therese Shechter (How To Lose Your Virginity) and Hope Tarr (The Tutor). Hosted by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Orgasmic, Fast Girls, Please, Sir). Mobile Libris will sell readers' books.

4 free waterproof vibrators from EdenFantasys will be given away and 100 free copies of Sexis Magazine will be distributed. Free Baked by Melissa cupcakes, candy and chips will be served. This is the countdown to the final In The Flesh December 16th so don't miss a very special night!

No virginity, please. We're British.

Photograph: Ophelia Wynne for the Observer (from the Guardian article)

The Guardian (in the UK) just did a story called "Is This Your First Time?" about the work of fellow virginity geek Kate Munro (looking foxy, above) who writes the blog The Virginity Project. The blog is a fascinating collection of reader contributions about their first sexual experiences (it was the inspiration for our V-Card Diaries series, although I think we have lots more people writing about their lack of sexual experiences).

From the article:

Monro seems to have an ability to get people to open up to her and there are many who tell her things they can't even tell their own partner. One of the most candid stories on her blog is the tale of the stay-at-home father of four whose wife, a high-flying lawyer, decided one night to strap on a dildo and take his anal virginity. "I was, to put it mildly, petrified," he says. "The sight of that missile protruding from her, and meant for me, brought everything home."She also has tales we wouldn't usually hear: of a thalidomide boy (lost his to the most popular girl in school, then moved on to her best friend); an autistic man (prostitute) and a 101-year-old woman (out of wedlock, scandalous, but a bit hazy). But the story, she says, that always shocks the most, is that of the man who has been married for 15 years yet is still a virgin. "He had the opportunity to do it but just had an intense feeling he would hurt the woman and couldn't do it," she says. "I think it has just turned into phobia."

The article included an interview with me about our project "How to Lose Your Virginity," mostly I think because the writer was baffled by our virginity-obsessed American culture. The subhead of the article is "Losing your virginity is one of the few aspects of sex that remains untalked about." Maybe in the UK... I guess they're a lot more reserved over there (meaning their pop stars aren't all flashing purity rings and calling girls without them sluts.) Absorbing my tutorials on virginity in pop culture, she writes:

Like Monro's work, Shechter's film is a series of straightforward tales of real people's virginity loss. It's refreshing to hear such forthright voices in a world where any debate about virginity is often so conflicting or one-sided. Our current torchbearer seems to be Miley Cyrus who, just like Britney all those years ago, loudly proclaims her own virginity while behaving in a hyper-sexual way.

In the media there are constant stories about women auctioning off their virginity to pay for their education and more troubling is recent news of one Justin Sisely, an Australian TV producer currently looking for young virgins to take part in a new reality show. "You see all this stuff and you think: 'So this is the extent of the debate we're having about virginity in the 21st century?'" says Shechter.

Note: I'm seriously annoyed she got the description of our film wrong. It's a lot more than 'straightforward tales of virginity loss,' for crying out loud! Did she not even watch the trailer? And no links to our blog, synopsis, or any video. Lame.

But her kicker about Kate's and my mission is dead-on: Encouraging a more honest conversation about what our sex lives really look like:

"These days we see sex everywhere, but there's very little that's honest about it," [Kate Monro] says. "I think ultimately what brings people to tell me their stories is that we all have an innate desire to want to compare our experiences with other people. We all just want some sort of affirmation to know that we are normal."

We did our own fun interview with Kate Monro here.