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V-Card Diaries: Ted "Since I am pansexual i felt like I lost my second "virginity" the first time I slept with a woman"

Writing from: Glendale, Arizon

Age: Late teens

How I define virginity: Virginity is s social construct that was initially intended to scare girls into waiting till marriage to have sex. 

I willingly had sex for the first time at the age of 16. The guy turned out to be a horrible person but at the time i thought i was in love. I consider this my first "virginity". Since i am pansexual i felt like i lost my second "virginity" the first time i slept with a woman, which wasn't till i was 18. 

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

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.

'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.

 

V-Card Diaries: Megan "I met him in a network on tumblr. It was pretty unconventional, but it was right for me"

Today we're highlighting Megan in Cambridge MA who clicked with her guy instantly. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.A little about myself:

18, female, Jewish, currently in college at Harvard, bisexual, sexually fluid, heteroromantic, happily taken (by a different boy)

How I define virginity:

When you feel like you've engaged in an activity you feel is sex, then you've lost your virginity

Here's my story:

I met him in a network on tumblr, and we seemed to click instantly. My parents found out and didn't want me talking to him, but as a rebellious 18-year-old, I naturally continued. I met up with him clandestinely in my hotel room during an arts program in LA. The second night we'd officially met, we had sex for the first time and he slept over. We dated for a month and a half afterwards. I know it was pretty unconventional, but I loved my first time. It was right for me.

V-Card Diaries: Distracted Dragon "I'm offended by responses to my vaginismus, when coupled with my “virginity” and queerness."

Today we're highlighting Distracted Dragon in New York, NY, writes that our society slut shames and virgin shames at the same time, speaking out of both sides of our mouth. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

A little about yourself:

25. Queer cisgendered woman. New York, NY

How I define virginity:

I dislike "virginity" and "losing one's virginity" as terms because they are vague and carry negative, gendered connotations. I prefer "making one's sexual debut" over "losing one's virginity" because you aren't losing anything when you have sex, you are gaining an experience, be it a wonderful experience, a terrible experience, or a ridiculous experience. I feel what equates sex, and thus, virginity, is self-determined. Healthy communication between partners should not begin and end at “I’m a virgin”, but should be a discussion of what you have/have not done, what you do/do not want to do with another person.

Here's my story:

I've never had sex because the opportunity has yet to present itself. I have no qualms about engaging in sex, should I find a mutually interested, respectful partner. I resent that our society both condemns sexual debut that occurs “too young,” but also “too old.” God forbid any teenager engage in consensual sex but as soon as you’ve hit 18 and graduated from high school, genital exploration between you and another (preferably heterosexual) partner must ensue, pronto. We slut shame and virgin shame at the same time, speaking out of both sides of our mouth.

I discovered, via my first attempt at a pelvic exam at age 21, that I have primary vaginismus, an involuntary muscle contraction of the pelvic muscles that makes penetration painful. I'm working with dilators and Kegel exercises to treat this but I've been frustrated and offended by responses to my vaginismus, when coupled with my “virginity” and queerness.

I have been made to feel, by self-help sites, online forums, and members of the medical profession:

a) I shouldn't still be a virgin at 25. That in and of itself is indicative of "emotional trauma." I acknowledge emotional and sexual trauma can be a factor in vaginismus but it isn’t always. I have not avoided sex because of my vaginismus, although it will be a discussion to have with future sex partners.

b) Women who desire sex with women don’t have vaginismus. Because apparently painful penetration is only supposed to happen to heterosexual women? I shouldn’t know penetration hurts if my vagina has never made intimate acquaintance with a penis? Right, because the inability to accommodate a speculum or my ob/gyn’s fingers is not indicative of a problem. I don’t need penetration to have sex and even if I did I don’t need a penis for penetration. But I do need regular health exams, so can we please get past narrow views on sexual mechanics and how they relate to my preferences?

As a culture, we need to acknowledge that there are a range of behaviors that constitute sex for a range of sexual identities just as there are a range of medical problems that we encounter relating to our sexuality. Our nerve endings and our attractions do not line up in pre-scripted ways. Sex is a fascinating topic because it is so complex – our desires, our bodies, our motivations, and our practices compel myriad conversations, personally and on a national level. Sexuality will play a part in our lives, whether or not we engage in sex itself, and it is part of our human story. The sharing of stories is the transmission of culture, so let’s talk about sex, baby.

V-Card Diaries: TeddyBear "I'm rather asexual, though cuddling is nice."

Today we're highlighting TeddyBear in New York City, who has never wanted to be sexually involved with anyone. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

Age 55, male, live in New York City.

How I define virginity:

Never having had sex with someone else.

Here's my story:

I'm a 55-year-old male virgin. I'm rather asexual. While I do fantasize and masturbate, I've never wanted a sexual involvement with anyone, including a girlfriend with whom I lived and shared a bed (though cuddling with her was nice).

V-Card Diaries: Grizzy "Social pressures were telling me that my love for women wasn't real because I hadn't experienced being with a man."

Today we're highlighting Grizzy in Los Angeles, who needed to be with a guy because of social pressures about her queer sexuality. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

Well, I'm 22, a cis woman of color and live in Los Angeles. I just graduated school and trying to find my passion within my career and social life. I spent most of my time on tumblr and love to meet new queer people of color whom I can laugh with.

How I define virginity:

I'm not sure. There is so many arguments about it that it shouldn't be a big deal. But I like to think it is. It's just the way it's gender-ed and exploitative to women that I find a problem with. I think virginity should be something beautiful between yourself or with others. It is when you discover your body in another level. You begin to experience a self confidence in a single touch.

Here's my story:

My virginity. Horrible. It was at the most 10 minutes. Uhm, I just did it to get it over with. Social pressures telling me that I needed to be with a guy to make sure I was ok with my sexuality. That my love for women wasn't real because I hadn't experienced being with a man. So I did it for that. The good thing was I did it with someone I trusted so that's one thing I'm thankful for.

V-Card Diaries: Brackish "The first time I had a penis in my vagina was rape."

Today we're highlighting Brackish in the Bronx in New York City, who had a lot of PIV sex to prove it meant nothing. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

I'm 20 years old, I live in the Bronx, and I identify as queer.

How I define virginity:

I define virginity as having not yet shared what you consider to be intimate sexual acts with another person.

Here's my story:

The first time I had a penis in my vagina was rape. He just kept fucking me till I said yes. I had lots more penis in vagina sex to try and prove to myself that it didn't mean anything. It took a long time but I've finally found a way for sex to be enjoyable for me and my partners.

V-Card Diaires: Alana "Is it in? I can't tell," I said. "Nope," he replied.

Today we're highlighting Alana in the US, who once bought a dilator vibrator to help with intercourse but broke it the first time she used it. Is that a sign? If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.A little about myself:

I'm a nineteen year old student studying engineering. I identify as cis-female and bisexual.

How I define virginity?

I guess I define sex as an activity that arouses everyone involved. The more I've tried to define it, the more vague my definition got. The penis-in-vagina definition definitely does not fit with my experience as all of my pleasant sexual experiences with both men and women did not involve penetration.

Here's my story:

I had my first sexual experience last year when I had my first kiss with my first boyfriend. Over the course of the year I've tried heavy petting, manual sex, and oral sex, and mutual masturbation all of which felt like sex, and I don't count any one of those moments as the single moment I lost my virginity. What surprised me about all of my experiences was how comfortable I felt. It helped that I had had explicit conversations about boundaries and expectations with my partners beforehand.

What I definitely do not define as losing my virginity was when I tried to have penis-in-vagina intercourse. The first time I tried, I was fooling around with my boyfriend when I told him I wanted to have sex with him. He put on a condom and covered it with lube, and I got on top of him. I soon found that I couldn't even get his penis inside of me.

"Is it in? I can't tell," I said. "Nope," he replied. The we spent an awkward lengthy amount of time trying to get it in to no avail. It was disappointing and really killed the mood. The next time we tried, it started out similarly with awkward hole finding, shoving, and getting lube everywhere. Eventually I got it in, and I knew immediately that it was in because I felt searing pain, yelled and took it out.

I thought the third time would be the charm. It wasn't. It went exactly the same as the second time. I haven't tried have intercourse since then because it hurt so badly. I bought I dilator vibrator because I thought it would help me be able to have intercourse with my boyfriend. It ended up breaking during my first use.

The Myth of the Senior Scramble: Talking to Brown University students about 'hookup culture'

 

Judy P. is an art history student at Brown University who is interested in the intersections of art, politics, race, class, and gender. Check out her other posts here.

For years, we've been hearing hookup culture bashed in the media for promoting dangerous behavior, cheapening sex, and encouraging meaningless relationships. The latest example is Donna Freitas' book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. In her Washington Post Opinions piece from two months ago, Freitas asserts that hookups have become:

"so common, so obligatory, that it leaves little room for experimentation that bends the rules [...] When students are expected to hook up with lots of people, doing so becomes dutiful, not daring. Older ideas of sexual exploration – be it same-sex encounters or one-night stands – have become a basic expectation."

Part of me read that and thought it felt pretty honest in the way that hooking up feels like a necessary rite of passage (although I really don't agree with her conclusion that we should instead abstain from sex altogether).

I'm taking a year off before completing my senior year at Brown, so on a weekend visit back to campus, I decided to investigate. Now that my girlfriends were graduating, what could they tell me about their sexual experiences of the past 4 years? About college hookup culture at large? Were they participating in the infamous "senior scramble" (last-ditch attempt to get with somebody, anybody before leaving undergrad life) now that they were graduating seniors?

My friends defined hooking up in a variety of ways, from making out to having intercourse, but they all agreed that it was casual. Here's what some of them said:

On relationships vs. hooking up: 

M: It's weird for me to be here and be in a serious relationship. Personally, just being single and hooking up with people would be unsatisfying.

C: The only guy I hooked up with freshman year who I didn't really like was D. My mentality was, classes haven't started, this is what you do in college. It was all kind of really stupid. You enter college and think you have all this freedom now.

M: There's this pressure to do this when you enter college. I went to an all girls school, so I didn't really have a chance to do any of this stuff before.

C: I've done it, and I'm over it. I've had the "college experience." Being in a 3-year relationship then breaking it off and hooking up with someone was weird. But I had to get it out of my system.

M: In the same vein, I've already had this hookup experience [freshman year], so I prefer to be in a relationship. [My boyfriend] has only had sexual experiences in serious relationships, no random hookups, so if he hooked up with anyone else, he'd feel really attractive. I wouldn't need that kind of affirmation the way he kinda does since he's never had that before.

On not experimenting enough:

C: I see a lot of girls complain that they don't want to hook up with anybody because "everyone at Brown is gay or a girl."

T: The options are so slim that people feel like they have to hunt down new prospects like prey. It's easier to just stay out of it.

On not hooking up (or having any kind of sex) at all:

J: I'm just not interested in the culture. I don't find anyone attractive enough, nor do I want to hook up. Hooking up casually involves going to crowded places with people you don't know, drinking a lot, and meeting lots of strangers. I'm just not into that, I'd rather hang out with my friends.

On the potential dangers of hookup culture:

E: I don't have the evidence, but I get the impression that frat boys/ athletes try to get girls drunk and then sleep with them, then they call it a "hookup."

Y: During residential peer counselor training, that's a huge topic. Safe-sex groups and Health Services come in and talk about how that's a huge issue because it can be really dangerous, all that alcohol tied into hookup culture. We have to address going to parties "properly," respecting each other's bodies/ spaces, and most importantly, consent.

On the perks of hookup culture, from a queer male friend's perspective:

L: I think there is a huge hooking up culture at Brown, or rather, it is a sex-positive space. I think it's a place where if you want to hook up, there are people–and if you don't, then there is not much pressure. But this is from my own experience, so there's not much I can say about the straight scene. Hookup culture has influenced how I treat others' bodies, and it has definitely pushed me to think more about consent in my relationships. It's allowed me to be more sex-positive, something I'll carry on outside of Brown. That is, I'm able to treat others with more respect and be much more considerate of their desires and boundaries.

As for me, I feel like there's a whole, complex spectrum of sexual experiences on my college campus. We have the freedom to choose to hook up or to not hook up. Even if we hook up uncomfortably with the kid down the hall, refusing to acknowledge each other the next day, we learn from those mistakes. As long as it is consensual, there shouldn't be anything wrong with experimenting. I have certainly learned from the highs and lows of my previous sexual encounters to make more informed, intentional decisions.

What's your experience of campus hookup culture? Does it even exist? Tell us in the comments!

V-Card Diaries: Selina "I'm adept at solo sex but society doesn't count that as real sex"

Today we're highlighting Selina, a 24-year-old woman from London who feels like an outcast because she is still a virgin. 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 a 24-year-old woman from London.

How do you define virginity?

When you've not had any kind of sexual contact, be it with another person or yourself.

Tell us your story:

I'm Jewish, and a recently-discovered bisexual (preferring women to men mainly). It took me several years to figure that out and I'm only comfortable in considering so now, but still reluctant to talk about it.

I'm still a virgin and as most people don't know, it takes a bit of wriggling out of the conversation so they will forget about the topic. The ones who do know mainly treat me like a freak, especially because I have never had a relationship, been on a date or ever been kissed, especially at my age when most people have had a few years experience. I am patronized easily by them, even if they are my friends, and I find myself being left out of conversations because of it. I'm not waiting for marriage, just for the right person.

I'm finally ready to start but with little choice and not much support, I find it difficult to express myself. I'm adept at solo sex and have been for some time but I understand that society doesn't seem to count that as real sex. Being literally untouched, I will still have to consider myself a virgin compared to most other people.