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Heteronormativity

Our valentine's gift to you: a month of quotes & graphics from the V-Card Diaries on sex & virginity

Every year, we do an outreach project around Valentine's Day inspired by our documentary How To Lose Your Virginity. This year, in keeping with the themes of the film, we're pushing back against standard narratives about sex, virginity and relationships (with their implied judgement of anyone who's not conforming) to show how diverse experiences around sexuality and relationships can be. 

All through the month of February (V-Month!), we're posting a graphic a day created by Trixie Films interns Bree and Sally. Incorporating quotes from stories submitted to our interactive project The V-Card Diaries, they've created 29 striking graphics. The quotes are about having sex, not having sex, being queer, being asexual, rejecting the virginity construct, and more.

You can see the full set on Tumblr, and they're also showing up on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month of February. 

Here are some ways you can be a part of this project:

See the full and growing set of graphics here along with selected V-Card Diaries stories.

Submit your own graphics and quotes on tumblr or email them to us and we'll post them.

Share your own anonymous story at The V-Card Diaries.

Read all The V-Card Diaries stories here.

Repost and amplify this project, especially if your work speaks to young women and men.  

In case you're not familiar with The V-Card Diaries, it's our crowd-sourced interactive story-sharing site where everyone can access and share diverse stories about sexuality and virginity in total anonymity. With almost 400 stories and counting, the project tells a collective story about becoming sexual–and the radical act of speaking honestly about it. The project, which as exhibited at the Kinsey Institute, is a companion piece to our documentary How To Lose Your Virginity, which examines how our sexual culture affects young people's lives.

If you'd like to write about this project, our V-Month graphics project, contact us!

V-Card Diaries: K "I identify as queer. If I had had the exact same encounter with a woman, it would have been sex"

My definition of virginity: 

Virginity is an archaic/heteronormative notion that seeks to suppress female sexuality

Here's my story:

I identify as a queer woman (I am cis, and fall somewhere on the bi/pansexual spectrum). I "lost my virginity" to boy while I was taking my gap year, this boy was also my first kiss.

I was a part of an exchange program to Japan for a year, and our last night was in a hotel before we all caught our planes. I knew all the other students who had lived in the same city as me for a year, but wasn't as familiar with those who had stayed in other parts of the country. One of my close friends knew some of the others, so that night we had a "party" in one of our rooms. Probably about 15-20 people.

We had some booze (really cheap vodka) and I only got tipsy. By about 3-4 am it was just my close friend mentioned earlier, another girl, me and this boy in the room. I hadn't had anything to drink for a few hours, and I'd only had a few shots anyways. My friend and this girl started making out/having sex on one of the beds and me and this boy were "cuddling" on the other.

I acted like I was pretty experienced (and he did too, idk if he was lying too). We started kissing/making out, and eventually we were both naked. He went down on me and I jerked him off. It wasn't like the best ever, but it wasn't horrible and I did orgasm. While this wasn't penetrative sex, I still feel like I lost my "virginity."

My reasoning is this: I identify as queer and am primarily attracted to other women. If I had had the exact same encounter with a woman, it would have been sex. Why if it's a man and woman is it not sex if there isn't penetration? That implies that "lesbian sex" isn't real sex, which it clearly is. I feel any consensual sexual contact that ends in orgasm is sex, regardless of orientation, gender, or penetration (or lack therof). Ergo, I lost my virginity to and had my first kiss with an Australian dude that I hadn't known before that night, while two of our friends had sex in the other bed. And I don't regret it. 

If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

"DO NOT GET MY DRESS!!!!!" Facebook Prom Groups and other Stupid Things about the 'Big Night'

Pretty-in-Pink

As high school winds down, my newsfeed is overwhelmed by pictures of everyone all dolled-up for their big prom nights. Seeing all of these (seemingly) happy couples in their matching prom attire makes me think of my own encounters with the weird "prom culture" that erupts from all of the hoo-rah surrounding the event.

Now that I'm a college junior, that prom courting ritual that seemed so dramatic and overwhelming feels absurd and even funny. Instead of seeing a crystalized moment in time where a couple looks pristine and happy, I think of all the drama that leads up to this single photo.

Prom really isn't just one night. It is an entire process. I was a member of a private Facebook group for both my junior and senior proms called something along the lines of "PROM DRESSES 2012," a place where high school girls posted pictures of what they planned to wear so that no two people would (god-forbid!) show up in the same dress.

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But these groups have an underlying hostility simmering beneath each post with teens calling each other out for having the same dresses as them. On a friend's prom dress Facebook page, one group member posted an image of her dress with the caption "DO NOT GET MY DRESS!!!!!" Another person commented on someone else's image, "That is an easy access dress!" And some minor fights even erupted. "Just wanna let you know I have that dress in a different color i posted it on here like a month ago” one angry member of the group wrote when she saw that her classmate posted the same dress as hers.

These posts are benign compared to other Facebook prom dress groups. One group goes by the name of, "Bitch don't steal my dress!" And in the same ilk, "If YOU steal MY prom dress, bitch I'ma cut you."  If you google the now deleted Facebook group "steal my prom dress and i'll knock you the fuck out" you can find abounding remnants of the threats that were once posted.

In my own group, people commented as early as the beginning of January (5 months before prom!) with what dresses they will wear. Some changed their dresses as many as 3-4 times. Most people put up all of their "maybes” (that is, what they might be wearing) so that they could lay claim to all of their potential options.

The posts are territorial, passive aggressive, and some just straight up cruel– and they reveal how prom means different things for different people. For guys it may be a last chance to lose their virginity before college, but for girls it is about the pressure to look flawless, about losing weight for their dresses, and getting the perfect tan.

Aside from the community of hostility these groups create—similar to (or perhaps a result of) the hostility created by a society that constantly pits women against each other— they also reveal a culture’s obsession with what is (typically) a heteronormative event that excludes anyone who veers from the “ideal” couple. What about queer people, trans* people, aromantic people? What someone is wearing is among the least of worries for a gay couple restricted from taking one another to prom. A trans* girl who wants to wear a dress has bigger problems to face than someone showing up in the same outfit as her.

At the end of it all, prom is really just a night of false norms and unmet expectations.

Hollywood, social media, and most importantly, 80s teen flicks, have turned prom into what is supposed to be one of the most important nights of a young person's life. It is a rite of passage into college where we tie up all those loose ends, fit in all that awkward teen stuff before we diverge on our separate paths of adulthood. And perhaps this fixation on hooking up and “maturation” by means of the prom is why it is such a big deal for people. Perhaps this is why teens are purchasing dresses months and months in advance and assuring they are the only person on the entire face of the Earth to ever wear it. And I don’t mean to critique just the women but instead use this group as a firsthand example of all the prom drama ("proma"). We treat this night as if it will change our lives forever.

Thinking about my own dreadful junior prom experience now makes me laugh. Between my breakup at the time and fear of having no date for the prom (because how could one possibly go to the prom–gasp–alone?!), and ending up with a date who I barely spoke to the entire time, my own experiences were nothing like what the movies told me it would be. The prom itself consisted of some gross food, little dancing, and an anti-climactic (no pun-intended) after party that I did not attend. But despite all the trauma, I now realize how insignificant all of it really was.

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In one of the very first posts on my prom dress group, its creator ironically writes (after dictating a number of rules about posting dresses), “It’s going to be okay. Seriously.”  Though she meant it passive aggressively, it’s true. Prom will be okay. You will survive it even if you are wearing the same dress as someone else. You will survive it even if you go without a date.

Instead of focusing so much on the socially constructed “rules” of prom, we should be fighting against them. Next year, instead of wearing dresses, all the girls should wear tuxes. Next year, instead of caring about who is going with who, we should fight against the fact that some schools still don’t allow same-sex couples into prom. Next year, instead of worrying about the perfect prom couple photo, let’s rebel against the binaristic gender norms that underlie the event. Next year, instead of getting involved with the after party hook up gossip, let’s worry about how the fixation on  partying and “losing one’s virginity” on this big night can cultivate unsafe environments for sex.

Starting right now, let’s focus on what really matters, instead of if two people are wearing the same dress.

Alexa is a student at Emory University and a summer intern at Trixie Films. You can read more about her here.