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Painful Sex

Ask Trixie: I never felt my partner's small penis go into my vagina, so does that make me still a virgin?

Dear Trixie: Okay so I got with this guy for a bit of a one night stand. He was very good looking and I imagined a bigger penis. This was my first time too by the way. Anyways after talking for a while we decided to get it on. and it turned out that he had a very very very small penis. I never felt it go in my vagina so I was wondering does that make me still a virgin if I never even felt it?? –AP

Dear AP:

I answered a question very similar to yours a while back involving someone who had penetrative sex with just the tip of someone's penis. In your case, you were with someone with a small penis and didn't feel what you imagined you were supposed to feel to 'officially' lose your virginity. 

Either way, this kind of question is always tough to answer because different people have very different ideas about how you lose your virginity. Is it a penis in a vagina? Is it a broken hymen? Is it thinking impure thoughts? Is it feeling intimate with your partner? Is it your first orgasm, alone or with a partner? Seriously, lots of people have sent us their definitions and virginity means very different things to different people.

I'm sure you've been told different things about what it means to lose your virginity, and maybe that involved pain and bleeding (which is really just idiotic mythology instead of indicating you had intercourse before your vagina was relaxed and ready!). I don’t believe there’s one magic moment that suddenly changes us somehow. I’d like to think about our lives as a series ‘first times’ that make up our sexual history. Or maybe you could think about it in this way: you lose your virginity the first time you feel like a truly sexual person, no matter what specific thing you're doing.

The question I want to ask you is why is it important to know whether you’re a virgin or not? Why do you need an outside definition to tell you who you are? Is someone making you feel bad about being (or not being) a virgin? Do you think it changes your value in some way, depending on what the answer is?

If you’re living in a community where the answer to your question can have serious consequences, I’m so sorry. All I can say is you need to do what you can to keep yourself safe until you’re away from that community and have more freedom. (And write back if that's the case)

So you can decide you lost your virginity and were spared some pain or bleeding that might happen sometimes with a larger penis. Or maybe instead of using the word virgin, you can say ‘I had a penis inside me for the first time but I didn't really feel it that much.’ Maybe the next time you have a penis inside you it will feel different, and hopefully good. 

I’m sorry I can give you a definitive answer, but there really isn’t one. What I do want to say is that if and when you have sex again, whether it's intercourse or something else, I hope that it feels really good!

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

V-Card Diaries: The Scarlett Letter "How do I get it to fit?!? because believe me I've tried artificially and I've tried relaxing but to no avail"

Writing from: Scotland

Age: 15 years old

How I define virginity: (According to google) "the state of never having had sexual intercourse" Whether that's true to me or not I have yet to decide. 

I'm a 15 y/o cis, straight, female contemplating whether I should partake in my sexual debut. Me and this guy aren't dating but we have in the past and I believe he will respect me as I will him in the aftermath and in my personal opinion that and communication are the two most important things when concerning any sexual experience.

Its due to happen tomorrow at his house and I think I'm ready. I never have put that much stigma on anything like that as I grew up with a lot of friends who were more "inclined" than I.  So I never put as much pressure on keeping my virginity but as any young socially conditioned person I still have a little doubt.

Plus he is quite well endowed and I (through personal exploration) am extremely tight, I've done so much research into it but I feel like everyones keeping a secret that I don't get to know about. How do I get it to fit?!? because believe me I've tried artificially and I've tried relaxing but to no avail.

Note: If anyone is concerned about this same issue, check out Ask Trixie: "I'm really tight down there and I'm nervous about pain and blood" for some info and tips. 

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.

Ask Trixie: I'm really tight down there and I'm nervous about pain and blood

Hi, love your blog. I'm 19 and a virgin. I've met this guy and I really want to have sex with him (I'm a girl). I told him I was a virgin and he was so respectful about and said we won't do anything I'm not comfortable with. I'm nervous about any pain or blood. A bit TMI but I'm really tight down there and haven't been able to get a finger in. Any tips/ advice for a first timer? Thanks in advance!

Hi! I’m really glad you’re dating a nice guy who is respectful of your boundaries and comfort level. That’s important in any relationship, but especially when you’re getting ready to do something for the first time. 

It’s pretty common to be worried about pain and blood if you’ve never had penetrative sex before. Especially because all we hear so many scary stories, we assume that’s how it always has to be. So, first of all, you should know that some people don’t experience pain, and/or don’t bleed, but since our bodies are all different, there’s no one ‘normal’ way we work.

If you’re not able to put a finger in there, it could be for a lot of totally understandable reasons: you’re nervous and the muscles around your vaginal canal and pelvic floor are super tense; you don’t have enough lubrication to help something slide in comfortably; or you may have a medical condition that should be looked at by a gynecologist. 

These are all things that can be dealt with, as long as you and your partner are communicating and you take your time. Also, keep in mind that sex includes a whole lot of really pleasant things that don’t include vaginal penetration (intercourse isn’t the be all and end all). 

Because this is such a common issue, I’m going to link you to previous stories I’ve done that have lots of info and links:

Will I Bleed The First Time I Have Sex?

We’re About To Have Sex But I’m Worried About It Hurting

I hope you and your partner have some really pleasurable sex together!

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here. Find Ask Trixie here on most Mondays.

V-Card Diaries: Liz B. "He invited me over to his house and I of course went knowing what 'Netflix and chilling' meant"

A little about myself: 

I'm 17-year-old female student, born and raised in Houston, TX.

How I define virginity: 

I define virginity as a metaphor for one's innocence that is lost when one participates in sexual intercourse.

Here's my story: 

I was 16 when I was dating a guy from the soccer team. We barely had a month together, but there was something about him that completely had me hypnotized (maybe it was the whole bad boy thing?). Well one day he invited me over to his house and I of course went knowing what "watching Netflix and chilling" meant.

We started making out and of out no where we jumped right to it. It was Horrible! There was no foreplay, no nothing. The pain that Ii felt during sex was unbearable and we had to stop a couple of times. He finished fairly quick and then looked back at me shocked claiming " i didn't know you were a virgin" ... like really? My first time can be summed up to painful, akward, embarrassing. And pissed me off. i regret losing my virginity simply because all my friends were sexually active.

Check out Liz B. on Tumblr. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

Ask Trixie: "I'm terrified to have sex because I suck at everything"

wink color.jpg

I'm a virgin. Which kinda sucks [to me]. It's not that i don't like being a virgin, I'm just fucking terrified to have sex. That and I've never had a boyfriend. I'm bit old fashioned. I'd like to make sure I know the person before I let them stick anything inside me, you know?? Any tips? because i suck at everything. Please and thanks. – Anonymous

Hi Anonymous - After reading your letter, I'm pretty sure you don’t suck at everything! You’ve been giving this decision to have sex a whole lot of thought. And the first and most important part of becoming sexual is to know your own body, what you want and don’t want, and how you’re going to make yourself happy. 

So, it sounds like you kind of know what to do: Take your time and find someone you trust, you can talk to, and you feel comfortable with. This might take a while, but keep in mind it’s not a race to the finish line. It’s a long process and intercourse is just one part of it. Go slow. Definitely try some something else first that might feel less intense or intimate. And when you're comfortable with that, try the next thing. (A lot of women say that manual or oral sex is more fun than intercourse, anyway.)

Another reason to take things slow and find someone you can talk to is the fear that penetration is going to hurt. For some people, it does, but often it's because they're not relaxed or lubricated enough. I wrote about that here.

So take a deep breath and relax. I think you’re totally on the right track!

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

V-Card Diaries: LaPlume "I numbed my mind for the entire experience."

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT**

A little about myself:

I'm and 18-year-old cis female from Indiana who currently lives in Chicago.

How I define virginity:

I always saw virginity as the first time one has sex/is penetrated. The heterosexual definition of virginity has always been my go-to definition since that's all that has ever applied to me, but as I read other stories I see it's not as black and white as that. Virginity can be pretty subjective.

Here's my story:

I was 15 when I lost my virginity and the guy was 19. We went to high school together. I never planned on sleeping with him at all, let alone for my first time. I wanted my ex-boyfriend and I to share our first experience together but we'd broken up and my two best friends were so happy to have me join them in their sexual adventures that they pushed me to sleep with him. They said "why not?" and I was hurt, so I set it up. It wasn't rape in the technical sense, but I knew I didn't want to before we even made it to my bedroom. My exact thought was, "If I tell him no now, he'll rape me. So I should just get it over with."

It was awful. There was no foreplay. He just told me to get naked and he only kissed me when he realized he couldn't perform. He reluctantly performed oral sex on me (which was painful in itself) and then he went for it. There was so much blood and a literal tearing sensation, and he wouldn't stop talking about himself. I numbed my mind for the entire experience. Afterward I made him leave and I immediately washed my sheets. I don't remember the rest of that day, only that I covered my tracks so that my parents wouldn't find out.

When I got back with my boyfriend I was so embarrassed that I lied about being with anyone else at all. I cried when he gave his virginity to me.

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

I Watched 50 Shades of Grey So You Don't Have To

I saw 50 Shades of Grey at a free preview screening Tuesday night, several days before its day-before-Valentine's-Day premiere, and I wish I'd been given a safe word to make the movie stop. Because 50 Shades of Grey is bad. Not 'so bad it's good,' but just bad. And it's boring. Especially the sex. I mean, if you thought the books were totally hot and you'd love nothing more than to watch it all play out on screen, have at it. Chacun à son Grey, and all that. But me, I'm a hater. And haters gonna hate.

Carly, my date and bartender for the evening, is also a hater. We laughed (and cringed and groaned) through the entire film, and then for a long time afterwards, and not just because Carly smuggled a flask of excellent whiskey into the theater.

Here's the tl;dr analysis of the film, in which you get three fairy tales for the price of one: Sleeping Beauty and the Beast with a side order of Cinderella.

a) Monster awakens young woman's sexuality so she can fix him

b) This is because a woman can't be sexual on her own but instead requires it unleashed within her by the application of a penis to her vagina, and a silk necktie about the wrists.

c) It's the young woman's job to put up with the monster's abuse in order to change him

d) Because monsters make exemplary boyfriends if they are rich enough and they take you on romantic helicopter rides over Seattle.

I never read EL James' trilogy, which started out as Twilight fan fic, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going in given the nonstop publicity and analysis since the first one came out. Anastasia Steele, an awkward innocent is sent to interview the fabulously wealthy Christian Grey at his minimalist-designed and boring offices. She arrives in a frumpy shirt and blue sweater combo, and after she's led into Grey's office by a succession of ex Robert Palmer backup models, Grey holds forth on her sweater and the history of Cerulean Blue. Actually, no it doesn't happen like that at all, but IF ONLY the Dom was played by Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, what a superior film this would have been! Unfortunately we're stuck with Jamie Dornan, who plays a cyborg with an excellent fitness regimen.

So, one thing leads to another and after buying her a new computer, a new car and (thankfully) new clothes, Grey presents her with a sex contract (as wealthy and powerful businessmen do) and then tells her to look up 'submission' on the internet. Some Capitalist Foreplay ensues as they negotiate the terms of the contract, but it's clear that Ana has not done much of her homework when she asks Grey “What's a butt plug?' Honey. Do you know what a butt is? Do you know what a plug is. OK, do the math.

The contract turns out to be a irrelevant because they go at it anyway, unprotected by the law or a thin layer of latex. You see, he's found out she's never had The Sex and wastes no time doing his manly duty of de-virginizing her in the most boring and, frankly, depressing way possible. Save for a fleeting kiss below the navel, there's no foreplay, no condoms, no lube, no attending to her needs, before doing it in the Missionary position for a minute or two. Her roommate even tells her she looks 'different' when she comes home. It makes Red Shoe Diaries look edgy and sophisticated.

And it's not just that this sex is incredibly boring, it's enraging. If you do the kind of work I do, you're extra sensitive about how female sexuality is depicted onscreen. This film pushes a totally false myth of what 'romantic' sex is supposed to look like to the gazillions of people who have no doubt already bought tickets to see it. It also reinforces the idea that women are supposed to do whatever they can to please (and fix) their men, whether they want to or not, because that's what female sexuality is all about. If you're lucky he might please you back, but it's not actually part of the contract. As someone who hears from young people all the time, it's depressing to read the emails and answer the questions they ask about how confused and ashamed they are because their sex lives don't look like what's on screen (or if it does, they can't understand why it isn't making them happy)

On the bright side, there were a few things, okay two things, that I liked about the film.

First, Dakota Johnson (who plays Ana) was really, really funny in the comedic scenes. There are moments in the film where she seems as annoyed/repulsed/bored by this dude as we are. I think someone should cast her in an intentionally comedic film stat, because she'd be great. Jamie Dornan should really stick to serial killer roles–and his own accent. I wouldn't be averse (as a friend of mine suggested) to having Gillian Anderson's The Fall character tie him up to work out their issues together.

Second, I loved the look of the 'Playroom,' Grey's tasteful den of  domination, which must have been a production designer's dream come true. It's what I think Williams Sonoma (or maybe Restoration Hardware) would look like if they sold fetish gear. Racks and racks of gleaming metal and leather devices, perfectly displayed and lit. I would snap up those leather handcuffs like they were large pastry cream whisks–and don't even get me started on the gorgeous knots of red rope.

As far as the actual BDSM stuff goes, and considering it was all most people are talking about anyway, there just isn't that much to write home about. Aside from the fact that the Dom/Sub relationship was totally inaccurate according to just about everyone in the the actual community, it was...boring. And cheesy. I kid you not, he brushed her thigh with a peacock feather while light jazz played on the soundtrack. And the one scene that was meant to represent the most intense BDSM play (and the kind of thing Grey told Ana would help 'fix' him) looked a lot more like domestic violence to me. Dude, she's got to be into it! Otherwise you're just beating her up.

If 50 Shades was written as a creepy thriller, with this same wealthy controlling weirdo stalking and manipulating an impressionable young woman, it would have made more sense. Or even as a satire of romance films. But as a sexy love story? Painful.

Please don't spend any of your hard-earned money on this film. We sure didn't. The creators are rich enough already, and there are other mainstream-ish films about BDSM out there with a lot more wit, heat and joy. Try Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, or the documentary Sick by one of my favorite filmmakers Kirby Dick. They're also a bit hard to watch at times, but for the right reasons.

Update: For an extra treat, listen to Jaclyn Friedman interview author Jenny Trout about the trilogy, and then, read her brilliant recaps. If you do want to spend money on something 50-Shades-related, donate to one of the groups on Jenny's link of DV and anti-rape orgs.

V-Card Diaries: Alessia "He reminded me of Christian Grey, but the way he kissed alone made my knees weak."

Today we're highlighting Alessia in Long Island, NY whose first-time experience, after a month of texting, was "romantic, sexy, gentle, passionate, and rough all at the same time." 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 am a 21-year-old woman living in Long Island, New York and going to grad school in Manhattan.

How I define virginity:

I don't really define it. I think it's completely up to an individual to decide what their virginity is/isn't.

Here's my story:

Over this past summer, when I was 20, I had gone up to my friend's college house to celebrate her roommate's 21st birthday. After spending the day drinking and partying at their house, we hit the most popular, hipster dive bars there and that's where I saw him. He was almost the exact physical definition of my dream guy: a beard, brown hair, green eyes, just so fucking sexy. We couldn't keep our eyes off of each other while he was playing pool and finally he approached me and we got to talking.

All of my friends wanted to head back to the house at that point but he asked if I would wait with him until he finished his game of pool and then we'd go back together. Normally, I'd be a little apprehensive about this but since some of the girls we were with knew him, I said ok. On the way back we did some making out, hung out at the house a little, and then I walked him back to his car and we made out some more and made plans to see each other the following weekend despite the 3 hour difference between us.

That didn't work out, unfortunately, and I left for Italy for 2 weeks the following week. He texted me once while I was there, but since my texting was limited we weren't able to talk a lot.

Eventually, things between us died down and we didn't speak for over a month. I met a different guy and we dated for a little bit but on my 21st birthday he dumped me. Feeling down, I texted the guy from the bar and we started talking again.

We began talking everyday for over a month and a lot of it involved intense sexting and describing in detail what we'd do to each other in person. Well, today, we finally got the chance to see each other in person cause he made the trek down to where I live cause we couldn't take the waiting and frustration any longer.

So, first we got lunch but the sexual tension was so strong that we rushed back to my place and went straight for my room. He reminded me of Christian Grey, by the things he said and the way he looks, but the way he kissed alone made my knees weak. We both stripped down and did some foreplay, (he had the biggest dick I had ever seen in my entire life so I was terrified of how painful it was going to be). When it was finally time to have sex, I told him the truth that that's the only thing I had never done before.

He was super nice, gentle, and understanding about the whole thing. Even though it was painful, it did eventually feel good enough that I had multiple orgasms. Even when I started to bleed a little and got so embarrassed I almost left the room to go wash myself, he kissed me and told me it was perfectly natural and not even slightly embarrassing and continued on.

It was just so romantic, sexy, gentle, passionate, and rough all at the same time and I seriously hope I can have sex with him again.

V-Card Diaries: Gwen "I wasn't raised in a sexually repressive atmosphere. Quite the opposite."

Today we're highlighting Gwen in Sweden whose first sexual partner was an Eminem wannabe she met at a Bartles and James wine cooler party. 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:

39-year-old dual American-Swedish citizen living in Sweden. After two unhappy long term relationships (one of which was mostly sexless) I am engaged to the man of my dreams.

How I define virginity:

Having never done anything sexual before, and this includes masturbation. By this definition, I lost my virginity at the age of four, since that's when I started masturbating.

Here's my story:

I've always been a very sexual woman. I was a very horny little girl and began masturbating when I was about four years old. Thankfully, I wasn't raised in a sexually repressive atmosphere. Quite the opposite, really. My mother put me on the pill when I was sixteen, although I had already lost my virginity by then.

When I was fifteen I went on a date with a guy that I met through a friend. He was a white rapper, kind of an Eminem wannabe type. We went to a party where everyone was drinking Bartles and James wine coolers with Sweet Child of Mine playing in the background. Someone handed me a Fuzzy Navel cooler, but I could only drink a few sips of this overly sweet alcopop. I didn't know I was going to have sex for the first time that night, but after making out on a sofa for about an hour, I decided I was ready. I asked him if he had protection and he said yes.

We ventured outside for a little privacy. He laid his jacket on the ground and he proceeded to remove my jeans. The make out session left me nice and lubed up, but it still hurt like hell when he penetrated me. The pain was surprising, and I remember telling him to stop. He stopped thrusting so I could relax a little, and then we continued. After a few minutes it stopped hurting and I started to enjoy it, although I certainly didn't come.

Afterwards, we got dressed and he took me home. That was the only time I ever went out with him and I never saw him again, although I did talk to him once or twice afterwards.

After that, I didn't have sex again for almost a year.

Painful first intercourse is not a given, it's a sign that something is wrong

TrainVirginity
TrainVirginity

 

We hear a lot from people terrified that first intercourse is going to be incredibly painful, and the image above has come up over and over again on virginity tweets (anyone know where it's from?).

That might be because sometimes first intercourse can be painful, but more likely because that idea has been reinforced in our culture and there's not nearly enough conversation about what people with vaginas (and their partners) can do to lessen or eliminate the pain.

Because, guess what, it doesn't necessarily have to hurt! It's just that most people are scared, or tense, or unprepared, or don't take generous amounts of time to relax the pelvic muscles through other kinds of sexual activity. And if it does really hurt, they might have a physical problem that needs to be addressed by a gynecologist. Either way, living with pain is not the answer.

So I was really happy that two stories crossed my radar recently about intercourse and pain:

The first story is from a woman who was diagnosed with vaginismus, a condition that makes intercourse painful or often impossible (you can find other stories about it on our blog herehere, here and here).

It broke up her marriage and caused her a lot of physical and emotional pain, but in this excerpt from  xoJane's It Happened To Me: My Husband Divorced Me After Four Years Because I Was Still A Virgin, she describes how she dealt with it and eventually overcame it.

"I kept at it with the dilators, more determined than ever. I did kegels. I did meditation. I did everything. About a year after the divorce was final, I had sex for the first time. I had been dating a wonderful guy...with a smaller than average penis. I didn’t tell him I was a virgin, but I did tell him sex was difficult for me sometimes.

One night after several bottles of red wine and a lot of lube, it happened. In the two years since that first time, I’ve had sex on a regular basis. I fell in love with the guy with a below average penis and married him three-and-a-half months ago. He loves me for me. It still hurts at the beginning of sex almost every time. We still have to use lube almost every time. But, I guess we are doing it right because I’m five months pregnant."

The second story is from our friend Sa Belle Femme, about how she and her husband-to-be prepared for intercourse without pain. Here's an excerpt from  Virgin Myths: Popping Her Cherry:

"If I hadn't spent so much time reading up on virginity and first-time coitus, I would have just accepted the cultural narrative that my wedding day sex would be painful. Instead, I was able to prepare for the first time Beau and I had coitus, to guarantee that our married sex would be awesome (or at least pain-free) the first time. Long story short, we used lots of lube, and I was on top so I could control both the angle and speed of entry."

She'll be writing in detail about her methods on her blog, including some info about a set of nifty dilators that worked wonders. They also talk about it in our film How To Lose Your Virginity.

On the lies we tell young men about sex

 Whisper Male Virgin

Whisper Male Virgin

I was interviewed by Fusion for an article on the toxic cultural forces that tell guys to lose their virginity as soon as possible–and to feel like utter losers if they don't. It's based on the male virgin section of a secret-sharing site called Whisper, which is cool on one hand because it allows these guys (gay, straight and bi) to be honest about their feelings about wanting sex or not, but also feels a little like a sex work matchmaking service for  losing it.

I spoke to the reporter about the lack of honest conversation about sexuality, the dearth of actual sex ed and the huge vacuum this leaves for young people just when they're trying to make sense of their sexual feelings. When the vacuum gets filled with sexist, judgmental and usually inaccurate pop culture, porn and abstinence-until-marriage classes about what 'real men' are supposed to be like, it's no wonder 17-year-old guys think life is over because they haven't yet had intercourse. I've said this before, and I said it in the article: I believe that becoming sexual is a long and gradual process. It's not some race to the finish line where the money-shot is the end goal.

The same day I was interviewed, I saw this quote from Cory Silverberg at About:Sexuality, with a collection of articles on delayed ejaculation and erectile disfunction in young men:

"The stories we tell each other and ourselves about men and sex are all pretty bleak.  They want sex all the time but never want to talk about it. They are ready any moment but are sexually callous.  They are fundamentally aggressive.  On and on it goes, and it's no wonder that men are so messed up about sex when you think about the options presented to them.  And what do they do when the problem they are having doesn't fit neatly into the options they have?"

A lack of understanding about sexuality doesn't just harm the guys themselves, it also affects their partners. Here's a disturbing study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine about young men's attitudes towards having anal sex with female partners. While some women participated enthusiastically in receiving anal sex, the majority felt coerced:

"The researchers found that many young women who did engage in anal sex found the experiences painful and full of pressure. They seemed to occur in sexual climate in which the concept of mutuality wasn’t highlighted enough amongst teenagers, for reasons that ranged from a lack of open dialogue and education to young men attempting to mimic what they see in porn."

Ah, mutuality...Guys receiving anal sex from their female partners. What a concept!

Guys, what do you think? Where are you getting your messages about sex and how to 'be a man.' What can we do to change the conversation about sexuality and masculinity?

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: Fourth Time's The Charm "Fresh out of high school at 17, I met a guy at a sword fighting club."

Today we're highlighting Fourth Time's The Charm in the US. After the three painful attempts, the fourth time was amazing thanks to the guy she's still dating. 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 twenty-year-old female and a junior in college.

How I virginity:

Virginity to me is someone who has never had vaginal intercourse. Doesn't matter if their hymen broke before then due to sports or something, if a penis has not entered the vagina she's a virgin. Though I don't really like the term, I just like to think of it as 'have I or haven't I done this sexual act'.

Here's my story:

When I was fresh out of high school at seventeen I met a guy at a sword fighting club on the college campus I was a part of and he was pursuing his PhD at. He was really handsome, and always making me laugh. He knew I was underage though, so he said he wanted to be friends with me before we even considered dating. Six months of Friday and Saturday night hanging out, helping me with homework from my freshmen classes, hours upon hours of phone calls, and hundred thousands of texts later he officially asked me out on a date. About two weeks after that he kissed me, about darn time in my opinion!

A week after my birthday, I told him I didn't want to wait anymore. He told me that he didn't want to rush it or push me, and when it was right 'it' would happen. A week later we were making out on his couch and he gave me this sweet kiss before pulling me up and leading me to the bedroom. My heart was in my throat, all I had heard from my friends was 'it hurts, and it's not gonna be that great'.

He made it all about me, what made me feel good and not hurting me. He tried to gently push in, got decently far, and then it started to hurt. So he pulled out, and we satisfied ourselves in other sexual ways. I admit I was a bit disappointed he'd stopped, but he said he didn't want it to hurt. This happened two more times over the space of a month.

Finally, the fourth time, he slid in all the way with no pain at all and it was amazing. And still it was all about making it as wonderful for me as possible. I never regretted it, it was more exciting than awkward, and he did his best to show he cared (can't say we were in love at that point) for me.

Three years later, I'm still happily dating him. :)

V-Card Diaries: Marissa "He couldn't find the 'hole' and I wasn't much help."

 Today we're highlighting Marissa in Boulder, CO. Her first sex was painful and bloody, but she's happy she lost her virginity to a nice boyfriend. 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 am a 24-year-old female who lives in Boulder, CO.

How I define virginity:

Not having vaginal intercourse.

Here's my story:

So, I didn't have the best self esteem at 17, and I finally had my first real boyfriend. I really wanted him to stay with me, so, within a couple of weeks, we had sex and it was interesting.

We were both virgins. He couldn't really find the "hole" and I wasn't much help. We had sex and it was painful for me. When we were finished he went to the bathroom and so did I. I found a huge puddle of blood and freaked out! It was everywhere.

We talked about it months afterwards and he said that he "never thought he'd have a chance to have sex with me and felt bad that I thought he wouldn't want to stay with me because of sex." He also noticed the blood, it was all over him too. He didn't care though. Overall, it's funny, sad, but overall I'm happy I lost my virginity to him.

V-Card Diaries: Ms. Beavers "It was painful for me, nerve-wracking, and beautiful–and sex got much better after the initial pain!"

Today we're highlighting Ms. Beavers in Bakersfield, CA. Her sexual debut was nothing was painful and nothing like the movies, but still a pure bonding experience. 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:

I am a 21 year old female who originates from California–specifically, Bakersfield.

How I define virginity:

Losing your virginity is more than physical penetration. It is a development of emotions, maturity, connections, and (hopefully) pleasure. Being a virgin is having a sense of purity within your own body. The term "losing your virginity" has a negative connotation, but is completely construed because if you have a positive experience, it can be the beginning of an entirely new chapter in life of love, passion, desire, and responsibility.

Here's my story:

I am currently 21 and had my sexual debut at age 18. My story involves my high school sweetheart–we met when we were 15 and are still currently together. We waited 3 and a half years to have sex! It was after our freshman year of college that I had my dorm room to myself (plus him) and we just decided that it was time for us. It was nothing like the movies–the intense, passionate, screaming double orgasms. It was painful for me, nerve-wracking, and beautiful. Sharing that connection that neither of us had experienced with anyone else, and knowing that we are each other's keepers still to this day, is one of the most pure bonding experiences I've ever had. Oh, and sex got much better after the initial pain!

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.

V-Card Diaries: Lee "I'm glad I was drunk enough so I can't remember everything that happened."

*Trigger warning for sexual assault* Our latest V-Card Diaries comes from Lee from Vermont, who was tired of waiting but ended up having a really bad experience. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. We'd love to run it in this blog.

About me:

I'm 24, female, from Vermont.

How I define virginity:

For heterosexuals, I define it as penis penetrating the vagina or anus. For gay men, penis penetrating the anus. I'm not sure what I'd consider losing virginity for gay women.

My story:

I was 23 when I had sex for the first time. I was tired of being the only one of my friends that hadn't had sex, and I didn't want to turn 24 before it happened. A friend of mine had a cousin coming to town who had rented a hotel room, and mentioned that he was cute and I might like him. We went out drinking, and he kept buying drinks for me and dancing. I went back to the hotel with him, and even though I wasn't that attracted to him, I had decided it was a good night to get it over with. I didn't change my mind until he told me he didn't have any condoms.

I offered to give him a blow job instead, but he got too rough and I had to stop. Next thing I knew I was lying on the bed and he was inside of me. I was so relieved he'd stopped hurting my throat that I didn't say anything, just waited for him to stop so I could fall asleep. Sex itself didn't feel like much compared to how painful the blow job had been. The next morning I left before he woke up and drove myself home. Part of me is glad to have gotten that experience over with, but I wish it had been some other way. I'm glad I was drunk enough so I can't remember everything that happened. It was a month before I could look at myself and feel sexy again. I haven't had sex since then.

V-Card Diaries: Alexa "I basically told him that it was my vagina and he could go screw himself"

Today we're highlighting Alexa, a 23 year old woman from Australia, who believes that choosing a partner carefully is just as important as losing your virginity. 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 23 year old University student from Australia.

How do you define virginity?  

I think virginity in terms of a girl's hymen is just a thing–I probably lost mine at 8 or 9 when I started to horse ride. I think virginity in terms of sex is the moment you have sex with someone and you realise that you feel really comfortable with them and you're not being self-conscious about how you look, how much noise you're making, what he's thinking, etc. It's the divide between not knowing yourself and knowing yourself, if that makes sense.

Tell us your story:

I had been talking to my sister and realised that I didn't want to still be a virgin when I was 25, so when I finally got my first boyfriend at 21 I decided that sex was on the cards. About three months into our relationship he looked at me like I was an alien when I told him I was still a virgin.

Then, when we finally did get around to having sex, it was extremely painful for me and I asked him to stop. The relationship from then revolved around him asking for sex and me being extremely reluctant because sex with him was unpleasant and I always felt pressured to have sex with him even when I didn't necessarily want it. Eventually we had a massive argument because he thought I should just 'get over it' and, to steal a phrase from another one of your 'First Person' stories, I basically told him that it was my vagina and he could go screw himself.

So on the whole I probably should have waited a little longer and chosen my partner more carefully. I didn't think my partner would be an issue–after all, all boys have penises, right, and there's only so many things you can do with it–but I realise now that my virginity wasn't necessarily about having sexual intercourse for the first time but about having some sort of meaningful intimacy with a partner, regardless of what sort of relationship you have with them outside of that moment.

Having had a .... disappointing first sexual encounter isn't a barrier though. I am, and have always been, extremely happy to talk about sex with my friends. I am not shy with my viewpoints and I have a very active solo sex life that has definitely given me the time to find out what I want, what I like and what I don't. I haven't been hanging out for a new man waiting to sweep me up and make sweet, passionate love to me because frankly that's unrealistic (unlike other female members of my extended family who are extremely religious and are always telling me to "grab" a man because I'm not going to be young and pretty forever, you know).

I also don't necessarily believe that being in a committed relationship is the only way to have sex. I recently had the best sex of my life with someone I'd only known for a week. It's not going to develop into anything further but that doesn't lessen the fact that I had a very meaningful sexual relationship with him. And all of this is stuff I wouldn't necessarily have concluded if I hadn't had my experiences with my first boyfriend.

V-Card Diaries: A. "Because I have vaginismus, I often say I'm in Virgin Limbo"

Tell us about yourself:  

I'm a 24-year-old heterosexual female living in the US.

How do you define virginity?

I’m currently rethinking how I define virginity. I used to think the loss of virginity was a clear milestone for heterosexual females like myself-- the first time one willingly engages in penetrative vaginal sex-- but now it doesn’t seem so simple. As someone who made the deliberate decision to have vaginal sex but was physically unable to do so, I don’t know whether or not to call myself a virgin or not. Which matters more, the intention or the act itself?

It also seems a little ridiculous to claim the label “virgin" when I have an active sex life of oral and outercourse and orgasm more frequently than some of my friends who lost their vaginal virginity years ago, but the cultural significance of vaginal virginity is pervasive and hard to just throw away or ignore, especially when it's the standard by which so many other people define it.

I often say I'm in "Virgin Limbo"; I don’t feel right identifying as a virgin OR not a virgin. I think the definition of virginity needs tweaking to account for situations like this.

Tell us your story

Until I was 22 I was a virgin because I was waiting for the right person. My first kiss was at 18 and my first boyfriend at 19, but in college I never dated anyone long enough to feel the comfort and trust I considered a prerequisite. However, just shy of my 22nd birthday, I met him. We had been dating a few months when I decided that our relationship-- and, most importantly, I personally!-- was ready.

The night leading up to it was perfect. There was a rooftop sunset, spontaneous fireworks display in the distance, and making out in the rain; if it had been in a movie, you'd have rolled your eyes at how “unrealistic” it was. We went back to his room with some condoms and went for it.

Except . . . "it" didn't happen. I was more than ready when he tried to enter me, but it felt like he was like he was trying to thrust against a wall-- a wall that felt sharp stabs of pain every time it was hit! I normally have a very high tolerance for pain, so I couldn't believe this was supposedly what every girl feels her first time, especially since he hadn’t even entered me more than a half-inch. I tried loosening things up more with more lube and orgasming first but it didn’t make a difference. I was so frustrated I was ready to force through the pain, but my partner had been with a virgin before and knew it wasn't supposed to be so difficult or painful, so we stopped.

In the following months we sought advice from trusted friends and the Internet alike and were given suggestions from extra lube to getting drunk. But the only thing that actually helped was a name we discovered: vaginismus, a condition in which the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles at the opening of the vagina involuntarily close and painfully resist the entry of foreign objects, from tampons to penises. It explained everything: why I'd always hated using tampons, why I'd cried in pain during my one and only pelvic exam, and why I couldn't have sex. I wasn’t “unusually tight” as I’d once believed; penetration objectively hurt me in ways it doesn’t hurt most people, thanks to muscle spasms I can't control. It’s still a mystery why I have vaginismus, but knowing what it is has lead to information on how to fix it.

Fast forward two years later. I'm still with the same partner and thanks to open minds and a few compatible kinks our sex life is plenty satisfying, but vaginal sex is still a distant dream. I've seen a doctor and gotten advice on relaxation techniques, Kegel exercises, vaginal dilation, and insight on what muscles to move and how, but while things seem to be progressing, it’s slow-going. It’s frustrating that what is so natural and pleasurable for most people is painful and a chore for me, something I have to “work on” in an unsexy clinical way. There’s enough promise in what we have achieved that we haven’t given up and eagerly await the day we can have vaginal sex, but for now, I’m still stuck in "Virgin Limbo."

You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

V-Card Diaries: Mia "I wanted to be in love with the guy, because who knows how I'd react—what if I fart or cry?"

Today we're highlighting Mia from California, who gives us a major wallop of wisdom on why losing virginity shouldn't just about penis-in-vagina sex–especially if that's not the way you get off. 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 am a 22-year-old sex-positive feminist, about a 0.5 on the Kinsey scale, though I've yet to act on my attraction to women.

I was a late bloomer, not getting my first kiss until I was almost 20. This was frustrating because I was a sex-educator through Planned Parenthood in high school, so there I was, teaching about birth control and STIs while I couldn't even get kissed. However, being a sex educator, knowing the facts, and teaching abstinence as an equally valid choice (even though I hadn't exactly chosen it) made me feel more comfortable with being an inexperienced virgin.

I used to say I hoped to one day have many one-night stands, but for the First Time I wanted to be in love with the guy, because who knows how I'd react—what if I fart or cry? But that view didn't last.

How do you define virginity?

Usually instead of defining virginity, I dismiss it as a harmful social construction. I define virginity ex post facto by if I feel like I can claim I "lost" it after a sexual act. There are multiple virginities, for example, for a hand job, penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex, penis-in-anus sex, phone sex, etc. And that's keeping it vanilla.

To define virginity by only PIV sex excludes queer sex and ignores my sexual reality, which is that I (and many women) get off on clitoral stimulation, not from vaginal penetration. I don't like a definition of sex that is phallocentric, one-sided, and doesn't factor in my own sexual agency.

Tell us your story:

When I was 21, I was fooling around with a boy and gave him a hand job and he orgasmed. I considered that a form of sex, yet there was nothing penetrative about it, so I felt a little uneasy telling people that I was no longer a virgin. (Interestingly, two years before, a guy touched my vagina but didn't penetrate, but I didn't consider that to be as valid, perhaps because I didn't yet think to question the validity of virginity.)

A few months later I met a guy and really clicked with him. I had never clicked with a guy so quickly and so intensely before. On our second date I went to his place to watch a movie and ended up sleeping over, both literally and metaphorically. He put his fingers and his tongue in my vagina, and I rubbed my vulva against his penis, and after that I decided that I wasn't a virgin. I wanted to have PIV sex but he wanted to wait, out of concern that it was my first time and we weren't really together. Our relationship ended a few days later, and I regretted that we hadn't had lots of PIV sex so I could definitively end my virginity and improve my skills.

I'm seeing someone now and have told him that I have had sex but not a lot of it. He probably assumes that means PIV sex, and I haven't corrected him yet; I'm not sure if I will. When we do have penetrative sex for the first time, I will tell him to go slow.

Any thoughts on virginity in our society?

Just because a person has had (PIV) sex once, and thus isn't a virgin anymore, doesn't mean they know what they are doing now or will be any good at it, or that sex will no longer be painful for the penetrated partner. There will always be a First Time with each new partner or sexual act, and it's always important to check in with your partner and have active consent, whether it's the first time or the 96th. Instead of thinking of virginity as this monumental milestone to take or lose or bequeath, it should just be synonymous with "first time." If you do something once, so what? It's not like that makes you an expert. Keep practicing!

As a frustrated late bloomer, I was relieved to cast off my virginity. A part of me worried that, as a virgin, I didn't have as much credibility when I said virginity didn't matter, as if people would think I only held that view to minimize my shame of being a virgin. Now on the other side, I wonder if people will assume I discount virginity to minimize my supposed shame at not being a virgin.

Want to tell your story? Go to our submission page.