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On Abstinence, Sleeping Beauty, and Victim-Blaming.

Scene from the documentary 'How To Lose Your Virginity' featuring Hanne Blank and Shelby Knox, with narration by director Therese Shechter.

As we've said many times on this blog, Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs are dangerous on several levels–and proven to be totally ineffective. They don't protect girls and women, they victimize them.

The article "On Josh Duggar And Why It’s Time To Do Away With Abstinence-Only Sex Education" lays it all out in chilling detail, including:

  • Women are naturally pure because their sexuality is encased like a fire alarm behind the plexiglas of romantic love. A girl/young woman will not have sexual feelings until they are “awakened” in her by a romantic relationship. That awakening should not happen until after marriage. (This is why they don’t kiss before marriage.)
  • Love is what not only awakens a woman’s sexuality, it is also what keeps her sexuality in check. If a woman’s sexuality is awakened in any situation other than marriage, she dissociates it with love. And without the governor of marital love, her libido rages out of control and she becomes a shameful and pitiful victim of her own wantonness.

One of the things we talk about in How To Lose Your Virginity (see video above) is the lack of sexual agency for young women, that the men in their lives (father, husband, god) are in charge of their sexual lives. The idea that "a girl/young woman will not have sexual feelings until they are “awakened” in her by a romantic relationship."

We liken it to the 'Sleeping Beauty' myth, the idea that a woman is a passive sexual player waiting to be awakened by her prince, and it's insidious. If women do have any independent sexual feelings, they run the risk of being labeled sluts who are responsible for any unwanted sexual attention or violence that befalls them.

While it's taken to the extreme in fundamentalist communities that concept isn't really limited to Duggar-like environments. First of all, many women of color are experience being labeled hypersexual, de-facto sluts from the get-go. As for white women, any woman who doesn't passively wait for a man to unlock her, so to speak, risks being slut-shamed as well. How can you ask your partners for what gives you pleasure, when sexual satisfaction isn't something you should be asking for–or even know anything about. It's the basic narrative of virginity-themed porn like 'Barely Legal,' where a young (white) woman must begin as totally innocent so that a man can unleash her sexuality with his magic penis. And it's the foundation of rape culture, where a woman invariably has her own uncontrolled sexuality to blame following sexual assault.

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: Christine "My social anxiety kept me from forming intimate sexual relationships."

Today we're highlighting Christine in Wisconsin, who feels she'll be single for a long while and hopes to experience a fulfilling sexuality even without a partner. 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 29-year-old female living in Wisconsin. I'm a librarian.

How I define virginity:

I don't like the word "virginity" or all that it entails. I think it's an outmoded term. I like what Betty Dodson has to say on the matter, that if you've experienced orgasm or any kind of sex (including masturbation), you are not a virgin. By this standard, I have not been a virgin for quite some time. I unfortunately also operate under more conventional definitions of virginity, which is not having experienced male-female vaginal penetration. I have not done that. And moreover, I consider myself a virgin because there are so many levels of sexual and romantic contact that I have not experienced.

Here's my story: 

I grew up in a home where my parents required all my emotional resources and there wasn’t much space for me to seek relationships outside the family. I developed social anxiety over the years and got used to not spending much time with peers. I’m finally free of this dynamic and it is taking time and considerable effort to redirect my energies to creating fulfilling relationships.

I am a very sexual person who enjoys masturbating frequently and sometimes uses books, porn, and toys. For about two years, I had extremely strong sexual desire that led me to engaging in online sex (chatting, phone sex, exchanging photos) several times a day. I will probably be single for a long while and my hope is to experience my sexuality as fulfilling and real even without a partner.

I’ve been on a total of four dates, none leading to a second date or a relationship. At the end of one date, I held hands with him and we kissed and it was very nice. That is the extent of my in-person sexual contact with a man.

I know that I want to eventually get married and have children and that all of this requires sex and intimacy. I believe that I am capable of it but I just need to keep building my life and working towards these relationships. I feel deep shame about my lack of experience, but I also understand the reasons why and I am working to create a more engaged relational life.

V-Card Diaries: Janelle "The first time I masturbated, I had no idea what I'd just done (which was orgasm)"

*Trigger warning for sexual assault*Today we're highlighting Janelle who overcame her confusion and fear by educating herself 'of the sexual realms.' 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:

Hi! I'm Janelle and I fair from Pennsylvania. Currently, I am 22 years old and preparing to graduate college as a graphic designer! Yay!

How I define virginity:

As I look back at my life, I see my virginity as levels. Not so much as something I shouldn't lose, but something I haven't experienced yet hoped to achieve. Unfortunately, a lot of my virginity losses were negative, though I like to think they give me strength and wiser views.

Here's my story:

I started to lose my virginity at a young age. My first sexual thoughts were when I was exposed to my father's porn magazines when I was five years old. The first time I had been sexually touched was two years later when I was attacked by my neighbor (fortunately, the guy only got to "second base" and my friend caught him in the act before he could steal third). It was a year later, when I was in 3rd grade, that I was first penetrated by a 5th grade girl who forced me to allow her to finger me on the school bus ride home.

The first time I masturbated, I was 13 years old, had no idea what I'd just done (which was orgasm) and became terrified something was wrong with me (though I never told anyone). My high school SCREAMED abstinence, so I had no idea of my own body. I was 17 when I had my first (and current) boyfriend, which spurred me to educate myself of the sexual realms. Less than a year later, we had sex for the first time and it was the first time I truly enjoyed being sexual.

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: Tom "I'm waiting for the right woman while broadcasting on web cam sex sites."

Today we're highlighting Tom in Michigan, who was told he was still at virgin at 27 because he was too picky. Now he meets women by broadcasting on web cam sex sites. 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 27 year old hetero male, and I live in Michigan.

How I define virginity:

Having not had vaginal intercourse with a consenting partner.

Here's my story:

So I am a 27-year-old virgin and I think it is best to break down the reason why into key points of my life.

Upbringing: I was raised by a single unwed mother who had 2 children by a man who was a convicted felon and abandoned us. Then we attended Church religiously, pardon the pun.

Early Teens: I attended Church functions at least 2 times a week, and was unpopular in school due to being poor and having poor social skills. Mother married a wonderful man that adopted me and added needed stability to my life. I went through sex ed in public school, received a basic understanding of sex, and signed a contract with God to remain pure and virtuous at a Youth Group Event at Church.

Late Teens/High school:
I attended a few major Christian Youth Rallies telling me that if I was virtuous and if I waited, I would be rewarded with a bride and a fulfilling love life. I always had at least one major crush on a different girl, all of whom I was close friends with. I assumed they knew how I felt. I refused to actually try dating even after I got my license because I asked myself, "why even try having a girl friend if you cant have sex?" For some reason I thought dating and sex had to go together. Stupid, I know. I signed another contract with God to wait until marriage. All my peers that signed it broke the contract. I was asked by a girl I liked if I ever masturbated, and I told her I didn't know what that was. At 17 I masturbated for the first time after looking up instructions on how to do it online. Seriously.

College: I bought my first pornography to "research" the female form so I wouldn't be to surprised if I got married (basically an excuse to look without as much guilt).  I figured out I can date and not have sex. Still socially awkward. I made advances to a few women I found alluring but was rebuffed and told that I "am a good friend and there is a great girl out there" for me. I then graduated college and started my career.

Early Career 21-24: I was still relatively open about my virginity thinking it was a point of pride. The sense of loneliness and despair that I couldn't find mutual attraction was getting tougher though. In high school I told myself when I graduated I would get a girlfriend. Then it was when I got a college job. Then it was when I graduated college. Now it was when I started my career... Still nothing but false hope, rejection, and some women that wanted me but I didn't want back. I was told to put myself out there or fuck an ugly/fat girl. I still clung to the idea that waiting until marriage would make it all ok. I got uninhibited home internet access at 23 and discovered web camming.

Age 24-present: Porn wasn't cutting it and I felt starved for intimacy. This is when I started getting comments from many people that I am to picky. That I need to just go out with girls I don't like right away to see if they grow on me. I decided to never bring up my sexual history with anyone new I met. Life got better. I got fired from my first career job unfairly and adopted a "fuck the world" attitude. Then I decided that I would keep my options open and the waiting for marriage commitment would subside if I felt like I was with the right girl. In the mean time I started broadcasting on a web cam sex site to get women to mutually masturbate online with me. After much trial and error I found success and met several women of different ages and backgrounds. One in particular I talked to for 3 years and decided to meet. She has a boyfriend. We did not have sex. The chemistry and intimacy we did share (noting sexual besides spooning) was amazing. I have realized that my depression and loneliness wasn't a lack of sex but really just not being with someone. I realized that I am ok being a virgin until I meet someone that accepts me for who I am. All of me. Now I wait. Alone.

I still have never done more than hold hands with a woman. I really believe I am still a virgin now because of my respect for women and desire for a relationship before sex, lack of women in my rural setting that find me attractive and vice versa, and just pure luck. Plus you can add my crippling fear of rejection that I had in my teens to early adult years.

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Pervy prom dads, more Purity TV, Sex lies for guys,and 7 penises in my soda

   IMG_20140510_190019-768x1024 You may have already seen this amazing post from a teenager named Clare popping up everywhere online. It's powerful not just because the story she tells is so hideously sexist, but because more and more, young people are standing up and calling bullshit on Purity Police attacks on their bodies, freedom and moral value.

Fabulous home-schooled teen Clare tells the world about getting kicked out of her prom for wearing a too-short dress (at left, even though it adhered to the prom's dress code) and dancing provocatively (even though she wasn't even dancing). And she is pretty clear on what the problem really was.

"We were also a little grossed out by all the dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves. We weren’t dancing, but swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves, when Mrs. D again approached me, and gestured me off the dance floor...and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts."

How many times have we heard this same old bullshit song: Girls are responsible for keeping guys from thinking impure thoughts. And guys are so 'visual' that they get driven mad by the sight of a girl's knees and just can't control themselves. And it's a girl's fault if guys are driven so mad by whatever the girl is supposedly doing or wearing, they rape them in a fit of clothing-induced sexual frenzy. We hear it every fucking day, when a woman is blamed for causing herself to get raped. Instead of policing everything women do because boys just can't control themselves, why don't we just blindfold the boys, or better yet lock them up at home. They're the ones who have control issues, not the girls.

Or as Clare so succinctly puts it:

"Goddamn I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager."

Seriously, read the whole thing here!

***

Ah, Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs, spreading bad logic and shame since 1996.

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Actual Craig’s List ad from this week.

Are you Pure? Are you attending a Purity Ball?

Major television company is looking for families who are attending an upcoming Purity Ball. Whether it's your first or tenth time, we would love to hear your story and how you became involved in this powerful and life changing event.

Purity Balls certainly can be a life-changing event. At least according to the young women I meet at college screenings who are coping with being told how dirty and unlovable they are since they had sex. Ever been to a purity ball? Did it change your life?

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16 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Boys about Sex is the follow-up to Policy Mic’s post on the lies we teach girls. Both posts are good for all genders. This one covers penis size, virginity loss, circumcision, sex drives, who comes first and more.

Busting Myths About Adult Virgins

VulcanVirgin I don't think I ever posted here about another story I did for Nerve.com called Sexless in the City: The Truth About Adult Virgins. It was a chance to address a lot of the mythology about folks who haven't yet become sexually active, and all the stigma that goes with that. I was excited to include two of the women from How To Lose Your Virginity, as well as some of the men and women who contributed to the V-Card Diaries. Here's the intro:

Let's face it: if you haven't had sex by college graduation, or (the horror!) by your 30th birthday, it's hard not to feel some serious social stigma. Pop culture repeatedly brands adult virgins as religious freaks or shut-in action figure collectors. Advertisers work hard to push the message that everyone cool is getting laid as well: "Hey, loser! Buy this body spray/bustier/pickup artist book, and you'll get play like everyone you know." It's easy to believe everyone is having sex but you – and that until you start getting busy, it’s best to lock yourself in the virginity closet and hope no one finds out your secret.

But here's the actual reality: there are a lot of people not having sex. How can I be so sure? In the course of making How to Lose Your Virginity, a documentary about virginity myths, and collecting over 200 stories for The V-Card Diaries, a website compiling the personal stories of adult virgins, I've talked to a lot of people who consider themselves older virgins. It’s time to end some of the myths out there about this diverse and interesting bunch of abstainers.

Go to Nerve.com to read the rest, with profiles of several adult virgins who go against the same old stereotypes. [Excuse the section headings which I did not write quite in that way]

V-Card Diaries: Late Blooming Lesbian "My ring went from 'True Love Waits' to 'I'm an adult who can make adult decisions' "

Today we're highlighting Late Blooming Lesbian in Texas, who started dating late, but knows she is a lesbian through and through. 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: 25, Female, Texas

How I define virginity?

Lack of penetrative sex

Here's my story:

I have had 3 boyfriends and 1 girlfriend. Weird, right, especially since my name clearly says LESBIAN? Ha ha. Well, I grew up in a fairly religious home and was "saving myself,"even had a ring from my dad that said "true love waits." I got it at 13 and lost my V-Card at 24.

I didn't date in high school. I was concerned with academics and socializing. I lived vicariously through friends experiences of sex and other things of that nature. It all just seemed complicated and messy. I had too many friends lose out on things like friends, a high school degree and even their home due to sex. I knew what it all was, as my mom had gone over it at appropriate stages and in terms I understood. I did however delve into the world of cyber sex. That was my outlet.

There I could be anything I wanted and do anything to any one. I discovered the best way to describe a blow job, how I would undress myself or them if I was there, and sex. I had watched porn and, in true nerd fashion, a 12 part documentary about sex. I was amazing... in writing. I wrote nightly erotic that would make anyone blush. I would then start to allow myself to watch porn simultaneously to chatting with these guys. They almost always picked girl on girl. I was totally ok with that cause that is what got me off. But my upbringing never encouraged sexiness. I wore very little make up and conducted myself as the jeans and a t-shirt gal who was so cool she was one of the guys.

After high school I dated a friend, T, for 2 months. We never got any further than him being my first kiss, yes, at 18. I went off to college and again I was too concerned with other things and the thought that some magical person would approach me , woo me and screw me. I didn't date anyone until E. When I really think about it, I have always been attracted to women but I was never brave enough to say anything other than ogle them from afar or in porn. E lucked out because even though I wasn't necessarily sexually attracted to him, he showed me that attention; crowning him the first to do so. I ate that up! I suddenly, for the first time, felt sexy. I saw myself in a whole new light. Albeit I never had "sex", I had had one drunken encounter with T, months before E, that almost led to it but I wasn't really into it. So I have him a handy and rolled over to sleep. A few months in to my relationship with E, I realized that my ring on my finger had changed meaning for me. It had gone from "true love waits" to "I'm an adult who can make adult decisions". So on to Planned Parenthood to get on the pill. Fast forward through drama and heart ache, I never needed it, now 22 and still a virgin. 2 years alone and some self discovery later I say to myself "I wanna go to a gay club and see what I can pull, cause F this, I wanna be happy!" Never went but I met my wonderful lovely amazing girlfriend.

Now those of you who are this far I'm sure are thinking, " didn't she say 3 boys and 1 girl..." Yes I did. I met my girlfriend at work and my kinda boyfriend there too. I was talking to her, R, and met her best friend BB. She and I hit it off and were inseparable from day one. Well, BB took an interest and I had confided in R that, while I was super into her, I hadn't been with anyone, at all. She then made a plan: I date them both, shared time and such, to see where I stood.

R took my V-Card. We were at her parents house. I met them as the friend. We went out drinking and got loose and comfy. We had only kissed and touched a little beforehand. But this was the big night. I was so excited because she turned me on in a way I never felt or knew possible. When we got back we changed and laid down, really casually. We started slowly and sweetly, just kissing, until she made a move and blew my mind. I was experiencing feelings and emotions I had never had. She "kissed her" as we like to call going down on one another. It was amazing! Who knew! I wasn't ready to give back like that but I was eager to touch and feel.

I knew where I wanted to be but BB was so into me and I kinda wanted to "make sure" I guess, or I just liked being the center of attention, no to mention sexual attention. It went on for about a month or so, and a three-some was brought up and attempted, but not until I broke it off with him. It was my birthday present to him, thoughtful friend, I know. As I had already had a form of sex, my girlfriend was a little nervous that I would like "the real thing" more. She purchased a strap-on. We used it and boy that was even more amazing. I found I am surely not quiet. BBs birthday rolled around and his present was given. I found myself grabbing, staring, and longing for R, not him. He finally "put it in" and nothing. Nothing! I was not excited or anything. I was as quiet as a mouse. He did his thing and I tried to enjoy it but when he was done I rolled over to R and proclaimed, I'm a lesbian, through and through.

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News with Indonesian V-tests, Dr. Kinsey, Virgin Mary sightings, the King's Virgin mistress and talking sex ed and college sex regrets.

Here's a very quick roundup of news on virginity and sexuality: Kinsey Report on Female Sexuality

While spending a weekend at the Kinsey Institute getting all fan-girl over everything, I had the great fortune of going through lots of archival material, especially the shitstorm caused by the groundbreaking Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It's been 60 years since details of Dr. Alfred Kinsey's landmark book caused all hell to break loose. Women masturbated? Women had affairs? Women liked...sex?

In the words of Reverend Billy Graham: "[Dr Kinsey] certainly could not have interviewed any of the millions of born-again Christian women in this country who put the highest price on virtue, decency and modesty." Happily, many clergy said "Kinsey's work would benefit humanity because knowledge of our sexual natures could only improve people's lives."

Learn more and check out some seriously awesome images here.

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An Indonesian educator has suggested using his city budget to institute annual virginity tests for female students 16 to 19, describing it as "an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex". He also said "This is for their own good," and "Every woman has the right to virginity … we expect students not to commit negative acts."

And if you think this makes no logical sense, you're right. And not just because there is no such thing as a virginity test as, we have now written 39 separate times. The good news is even the local Islamic Council thinks it's a stupid idea which was already rejected in Sumatra and West Java. So, progress, maybe?

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Windshield image of Virgin Mary“It was a miracle,” Elida Mendoza, 59, said through a translator about seeing the mother of God on the windshield of her truck. She and others tried to wash the windshield, but couldn’t wipe the image of Mary away with mere cleaning products."

The Virgin Mary was sighted on a windshield in Mission, Texas (above), and a cross in Providence Rhode Island.

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"There isn't one right time to start, and most sex educators will tell you that it's a lifelong process (because sexuality is just another part of life). The thing to realize is that if you have kids you're already teaching them about sexuality. So why not do it consciously?"

The wonderful Cory Silverberg in a group of columns about talking to your kids about sex education, porn and masturbation.

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King Louis XIV mistress Maria Mancini & her 'virginity'"On what basis, I thought, do we continue to assume that [Louis XIV mistress] Marie remained a virgin until her wedding night? Was it possible that young women of her time knew how to convincingly fake it?"

"The project of assuring ‘evidence’ one’s virginity might have been a familiar one to many young women, whether or not they had previously had intercourse with a man. In seventeenth-century comedy, a familiar scene is a dialogue between a young bride-to-be and her governess, who advises her on how to act like a virgin on her wedding night."

From a very delightful and informative article called "On Faking Virginity"

V-Card Diaries: Elizabeth "I gave it to one of my best friends with Doctor Who playing in the background."

Today we're highlighting Elizabeth in Denver, who is no longer terrified of penises and has finally found a friend to fornicate with to the sweet, whirring sounds of the TARDIS. 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 20-year-old theatre student studying in Denver.

How do you define virginity?

I have actually spent many hours trying to come up with a definition of virginity and what it means to me specifically. Technically it is when penetration occurs for same sex partners but I think it can be more emotional than that. My views and definitions of virginity have changed as I entered college and really started to think about it.

Tell us your story

In high school I really viewed sex as this awful horrible thing that I never thought I would ever be mature enough to talk about. While everyone around me was talking about their first times, I was still terrified of penises. I never even had my first kiss until my first semester of college.

When I hit my senior year I discovered the joys of pornography and masturbation and my views on sex started to morph. When I went to college, I realized how horny everyone really was and how easy it was for people to fornicate. I had several people express interest in me and I respectfully turned them down.

My first year of college I also met this guy. We were in band together and we lived on the same floor. We became really good friends over the course of the year and something else was definitely there. We started casually dating and fooling around and I felt really comfortable around this guy and trusted him. Enough that I was willing to lose my virginity.

I spent a good two months beforehand thinking about it, and talking to him trying to make sure I was ready and I wasn't going to regret it. We tried once but I couldn't handle it. I didn't realize it would hurt so much. But the next weekend we tried again. We spent all night cuddling after he finished.

Looking back at my views from high school I never imagined I would just give it up to a casual fling. I had this image in my head that it would be perfect and romantic on my wedding night with rose petals and candles and romantic music. However, I am extremely pleased that I gave it to one of my best friends with Doctor Who playing in the background.

Ask Me Anything about Virginity on Reddit this Wednesday!

Reddit IAmA This Wednesday at 3pm (eastern time), I'm going to be doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit! I'm so excited about talking virginity and answering all your questions, so please join in the conversation. This will be my first time [insert virginity pun here] on Reddit, so I'm a bit nervous. That's why I'd love all you all there with me.

We'll be live on the IAmA page at about 2:45 that day, and you can follow our Tweets here and here and our Facebook page for updates as well.

Ask me about:

- the myth, meaning and magic of our precious gift - making the film (we went from a Harvard abstinence group to a Barely Legal porn set) - our most fascinating V-Card Diaries stories, with 160 posted and counting - losing your virginity, keeping your virginity or rejecting the concept altogether - or ANYTHING!

Please join me this Wednesday at 3pm on Reddit, and forward/tweet/post/share with anyone you know who's interested in having a fun, eye-opening and informative conversation!

Contact me if you have any questions, and there's always info on our (finished!) film "How to Lose Your Virginity" here.

See you on Reddit!

 

Ask Trixie: How is auctioning virginity legal?

How was auctioning virginity legal, and what was used to auction it? There's many stories of women auctioning their virginity, through places like The Bunny Ranch, but what was the actual platform used to auction this off? Ebay? And how was this not illegal? I'm just really curious and can't seem to find the answer anywhere. –Jaime

Hi Jaime! Thanks for writing.

On the most basic level, when a man or woman auctions off their virginity, he or she is offering sex in exchange for money. So in places where prostitution is legal, like Nevada (where The Bunny Ranch, a brothel, represented Natalie Dylan), they aren't breaking any laws.

Now, we can get into a long discussion about what 'auctioning virginity' means, even what 'virginity' means, and why a guy would pay a lot of money to be the first person to put his penis into someone's vagina, for example. But that's another post. Sometimes women (and it's almost always women) do this kind of transaction to make some money, sometimes they say it's for college or to pay medical bills, but sometimes they are being exploited by others, and it's not always clear what the truth is. One of the first auctions I ever heard of was Rosie Reid in the UK, and although it was totally consensual, she was apparently quite traumatized by it.

Some auctioners have started with posts on EBay or Craig's List, but those get shut down pretty quickly, and the bidding takes place through a brothel, porn site or some other third party. That was the case with Natalie Dylan and The Bunny Ranch, which was also going to be where the sex would take place (that deal never actually happened, but many others have).

We have a lot of virginity auctions stories archived here if you want to learn more.

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

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News

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

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

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

A commenter added this thought:

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

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

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

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

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

How do you describe what sex feels like?

Cory Silverberg is one of my favorite sex writers and if you don't follow him, you definitely should. This is a small part of his response to someone who says they're a virgin and doesn't know what to expect the first time they have sex. "Even after you do get to have sex with someone else, all you'll know is what that sex was like. No two bodies are identical, no two people are the same, and so no two sexual encounters will ever feel exactly the same way. If you're sober and at least a little self-aware, sex will be different with every new partner, and it can be completely different with the same person from one encounter to the next.

Sex can be a cookie-cutter experience, you could do it the way you ride a bike, shower in the morning, or get ready for bed, meaning more or less the same order of things, the same thoughts, the same feelings every time. But good sex, great sex, is sex that begins without you really knowing where it will end. It has boundaries and parameters (so good sex doesn't mean anything goes, nor does it mean you shouldn't plan) but it is as free of expectations as any encounter with another human being can be."

Cory wrote this response a while back and is still wondering what exactly the right answer would involve. Your best time? Your worst time? For me, above is one of my favorite parts of his reply, but there's so much more.

Personally, the first time I had intercourse (which is often what people want to know about) it felt like a totally mechanical experience–someone put their penis in my vagina–and it was a total let-down. Also, it didn't hurt and I didn't bleed and it wasn't the least bit exciting, except for the getting-it-over-with part. It was only after I had sex different times with different people that I understood all the subtle different kinds of things I would and could feel. That's one reason I wonder at the wisdom of having one partner in life–the one you marry (aside from the sexist, homophobic, moralistic, shaming aspects involved in those teachings). But I digress.  Please read his full response here and weigh in if you'd like.

Women Looking Remorseful After Sex

Just today, we were sitting around Trixie Films HQ discussing stock photo memes like the bizarre women laughing alone with salad and the somewhat gross women struggling to drink water. Then what should drop into our mailbox via Em & Lo but a link to an old post by The Vagenda: women looking remorseful after sex. Number 1, we love the blog name 'The Vagenda,' and Number 2, we're wondering what the male counterpart to this latest meme would be. When we entered 'men' and 'sex' into a stock photo search, we got lots of early renaissance paintings, blow-up ladies and camels copulating. We'd love to hear your suggestions.

[Abstinence Week] Mixed message much? Saying no to sex by showing a guy your underwear

Cable has Shark Week, we have Abstinence Week! All this week we’re reposting some of our favorite abstinence-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. This post originally ran in April 2011. Share your biggest abstinence myths here.

I have been rendered speechless by this 'not tonight' abstinence underwear and the campaign to sell it to tween girls. Thankfully, Ms Magazine has parsed it for us:

"It isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your children to choose abstinence before marriage; there is something wrong, however, with not empowering them with the knowledge and tools to make that choice and confidently communicate it to romantic partners. Without pulling down their pants...

This is ridiculously displayed in WWYMD’s promotional videos, which feature abstinence-friendly songs and wind-blown girls posing suggestively in their skivvies next to fully-clothed young men."

The full post is here and it's a great analysis how this kind of foolishness tangles up ideas of consent, education and communication.

It reminds me of a 'white panty' photo shoot we witnessed on the set of Barely Legal, which makes virgin-themed porn. We were there shooting our film, and the similarities feel beyond creepy.

Crosspost: Teenagers and group sex: A cause for concern? by Dr. Petra Boynton

Note from Therese: The media's been full of breathless hype over a study describing a trend of young women being coerced into multiple-partner sex. The coverage prompted commenters to actually suggest dealing with these 'immoral girls' by pushing early marriage and something akin to purdah. We're really happy to crosspost Dr. Petra Boynton who has a fabulous breakdown of the study and how we think about female sexuality, pornography and consensual sex. I think even more importantly, she shows us how to think critically before swallowing and regurgitating any media reports on teen sex.

By Dr Petra | Published: 21 December, 2011

Last week saw the publication of a paper Multi-person Sex among a Sample of Adolescent Female Urban Health Clinic Patients in the Journal of Urban Health (sadly not open access). This tackled the issue of young people having Multiple Sexual Partners (MSPs) and in particular raised concerns over coercive sexual practices.

Predictably the media reported on this story with scary headlines like:

Teen girls who engage in group sex are often coerced, study says – NY Daily

Group sex is the latest ‘trend’ for teenage girls, disturbing report reveals – Daily Mail (The research excited upset the Mail so much they ran coverage of it twice)

Teens as young as 14 engaging in group sex, study finds – ABC News

‘Sexting’ is related to teen group sex trend, says study – New Jersey News Room (the study doesn’t say this at all, in fact recent research suggests the phenomena of teen ‘sexting’ is over exaggerated).

While we sadly are used to the mainstream media sensationalising sex research (particularly on young people), other sex blogs and medical news outlets covering this study have been equally remiss at reading the original research and critiquing it. Which is depressing.

So let’s do the job the mainstream media should have done. Let’s critically appraise the research and see if we do need to worry about MSPs and young people.

First, a quick disclaimer. Researching young people’s sexual experiences is important. Such work should focus on their needs, report faithfully any adverse issues they may be at risk from, and take their mental and physical wellbeing seriously. Research on teens should always involve young people at all levels and avoid being a top-down process where adults define teenagers’ experiences. In critiquing this research I am not suggesting young people are not experiencing problems within their relationships. I am also not saying the researchers were anything other than well intentioned.

Strengths of the research The paper’s plus points are that it tackles a topical issue. While group sex among young people is (as this paper acknowledges) pretty unusual, it is something that has gained media interest over the past few years. So trying to collect any data about this phenomenon is important to reassure and also to direct sex education and public health programmes. The researchers seem to have developed the study over time, basing the survey they used on a series of in-depth qualitative interviews. The paper does acknowledge early on that multiple sexual partner experiences may be consensual and non consensual (more on this in a bit).

Sampling and sample size Participants were recruited from a youth sexual health clinic. This is not unreasonable at all. It’s an excellent place to find out about young people’s sexual health. But it does mean those going there may be in need of help or support so might not be representative of teens generally.

The authors acknowledge this but I suspect that fact will pass a lot of journalists by when they report this. Media focus, I imagine, will be on all teens, rather than a subset of teens.

The paper tells us researchers were aware of 1224 female clients at the youth clinics, with 747 identified suitable for the study. Why the other clients attending the clinic weren’t suitable for the study is not explained. That, I think, is a problem. Information about participants who were unsuitable for the study, or who refused to participate (and why) should have been clarified just to help us interpret this data. I’m surprised reviewers didn’t ask for it to be included in the demographics table as is standard practice. Of the 747 clients identified, 495 (65%) agreed to take part. A 65% response rate on a sensitive topic is not a problem, but it does reduce the number of people responding further, which in turn affects how representative the sample is.

It is not declared whether the participants were Cis or Trans Women. This would have been helpful to disclose.

Table 1 in the paper provides details of 328 participants. I’m unsure if these were the final sample that was used in the study/analysis. Regardless of all this we learn right at the end of the paper only 24 of those who completed the survey had had a Multiple Sexual Partner experience. And of those, their analysis indicates, 35% said the experience was consensual. Does this represent a major new trend in youth behaviour? No. The paper reports of the patients attending the youth clinic very few of them had experienced non consensual group sex. It does not mean we should not be very concerned about these young people or others like them. But it does mean journalists covering this story should put this into context. The study is not showing a major trend in teen girls being forced to have group sex. It is saying non consensual group sexual activity among teens does not seem to happen often, but when it does it is highly distressing and increases the risk of psychological and physical ill health.

My worry is the media coverage of this will not read the original paper and will suggest there is an outbreak of teen sex parties happening regularly, that young girls are forced to participate in. The study did not find this and nor has it identified a major public health problem. But I doubt that will be made clear. This in turn will worry parents, mislead teachers and healthcare professionals, and probably lead to slut shaming of young women (as this kind of coverage invariably does). All the while ignoring the role of boys at best, or presenting them as gang rapists at worst. None of which is directly helpful to the needs of young people. Problems with phrasing and terminology The paper seems to use terms like ‘sex parties’, ‘multiple sexual partners’ and ‘gang rape’ interchangeably in places. This is confusing for the reader but I imagine also for participants in the study. This is recognised as a limitation later in the paper where the authors talk about participants who’ve experienced gang rape not necessarily seeing what they experienced as a multiple sexual partner act.

The focus of the study appears to be on heterosexual teens, although this is not really clarified.

The age range of 14-20 is important as this is a wide age range in terms of young people. While some 14 year olds may be mature and some 20 year olds immature, in general the needs and experiences of those who are in the younger age group in this study will be very different from older participants. Any of these participants could be exploited, abuse has no age barrier. However, older teens/young adults may well be better able to consensually engage in sexual behaviours younger teens cannot. This was not explored in enough detail in this paper.

The main drawback with the study, to me, is the question used to identify if participants had engaged in Multiple Partner Sex. It asked: “Have you ever had sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) with more than one person at the same time or with more than one person at the same place? (This might be called group sex, a threesome, an orgy, or pulling a train).” The paper doesn’t clearly explain how participants were invited to answer this question, although does suggest it was via a yes/no response (or similar). Imagine I said ‘yes’ to this question. What am I saying ‘yes’ to? That I had vaginal, oral or anal sex? The wording of this question means there’s no way of differentiating between participants who had all of these experiences and those who had one of them.

There is also no way of identifying how often participants had engaged in these various activities and whether they experienced them positively or negatively. It could be completely possible for a participant to have experienced oral sex positively but vaginal sex negatively (or vice versa). But the question phrasing does not allow for this to be explored. It also doesn’t allow participants to indicate if they were giving or receiving these sexual activities (or both).

Once you get past this confusion participants are still being asked about these sexual activities AND whether they’ve done them with more than one person. How do you answer if you’ve engaged in said activities but with only one person? The question doesn’t allow for this.

Participants could also easily be confused by a question that doesn’t make clear if the mention of ‘sex’ here refers to penetrative sex (and if so is it via a penis, finger or sex toy) or oral sex. That is important as we know from sex research unless you are very specific about what you’re asking about you’ve no real idea what participants are reporting.

The question is also confusing a group sex act (i.e. having sex with more than one person at a time) with multiple partner sex over a period of time (i.e. sleeping with more than one person in a day, evening etc). In fact this becomes more confusing as these behaviours are asked as if they’re the same thing but with no time period specified. Most of us who’ve had more than one partner could easily answer ‘yes’ to the question, assuming you have been intimate with different partners on different occasions in your home.

Deconstructing this question may seem like nit picking but in fact is very important when we are designing surveys. Unless our questions are meticulously phrased we have no real idea what participants are responding to. This in turn makes a difference to the conclusions and recommendations we can make.

Elsewhere in the paper the researchers conflate group sex and an orgy (which usually involves several people) with a threesome. They also don’t clarify who might be participating in these activities. The assumption seems to be that it’s a girl and all boys. But it could well be all girls or a mix of girls and boys. Does ‘pornography’ and ‘sexually explicit’ mean the same thing? Participants were also asked “Many people come into contact with pornographic, x rated, or other sexually explicit material. How many times in the past 30 days have you viewed pornographic, x rated, or other sexually explicit material?”

This is an interesting but again problematic question. What do the researchers mean by ‘pornographic’ or ‘sexually explicit material’? Are they the same thing? Are they including explicit mainstream media such as music videos or magazine articles talking about sexual positions? That could be considered sexually explicit but not necessarily pornographic. Is this a particularly accessible question to ask a young person? Asking how often they’ve viewed such material also isn’t clear. Do they mean how often someone has watched pornography/sexually explicit material and masturbated? Simply seen it in passing? Or perhaps laughed at it with friends (as is very common among teens)? Was it watched alone or with a partner? What did it feature?

This information IS important because the researchers did find an association with multiple sexual partners and reported porn use, but it isn’t clear what relationship the young women in the study really had with porn. In order to better educate women about issues around porn we need to know more about what they are watching and how they feel about it. It is worth noting if participants said anything other than ‘no times’ they classed this as having viewed porn. So that means someone might have seen porn once in passing and be categorised in the same way as someone who viewed porn regularly and was aroused by it and someone who was forced to watch porn occasionally but against their will.

Another question asked “Has anyone ever insisted (without using force or threats) that you do sexual things they saw in pornographic or x-rated magazines, websites, or movies when you did not want to?” This is not an unreasonable question, but it is not necessarily something that’s easy for a teen woman to answer. For example they may well have been coerced to do something they did not want to do, but unless they asked the person coercing them if they had seen this in porn they would not necessarily know for sure this was the case. They may have a good instinct they were being asked to perform something inspired by pornography, but they wouldn’t know for sure – and would not be in any position to ask if they felt threatened.

Given the age of participants it may be someone did coerce them to do something they didn’t like but had not got the idea for this from porn. They may have got the idea from a sex tips feature in mainstream magazines like Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health, or from their peers, or from a TV show. Much of the mainstream media talks about anal sex, threesomes, oral sex etc so this could have just as easily informed the coercive behaviour.

I would have liked to see more focus on the nature of the coercive behaviour, why participants felt this was linked to porn, and if it wasn’t linked to porn where they felt the driving force behind the coercion came from. I say this not to dispute porn may play a part, but to identify exactly what is driving coercive behaviour as if it’s features in mainstream magazines or peer pressure we need to tackle this just as urgently as any perceived threat from porn.

The focus here seems to present young women’s relationship with porn as something that is done to them by young men. Young men are presented as the consumers of porn and use it to get ideas to coerce young women into doing things they don’t want. This does not explore where young women may like or dislike porn, or young men having a critical view of porn. It does not include young people who have little or no exposure to porn. It presents young women as passive, as victims. And as heterosexual. This is often taken up by the media who use debates on sexualisation or pornification to demonise or ignore young men and victimise and slut shame young women. In both cases we find it becomes a situation where adults (either academics, medics or journalists) speak for young people.

Multiple Sexual Partners – a problem in itself? In their reporting of the results the authors say: “While there may be a subset of girls who initiate or make self-actualized decisions about MPS participation during adolescence, it is important to consider whether social norms that encourage hypersexuality may contribute to expectations about sexual activity that make it very challenging for adolescents to resist engaging in MPS, even though they would not perceive their MPS participation as nonconsensual. The strong association between exposure to pornography, having been forced to do things that their sex partner saw in pornography, and MPS suggests that pornography may have influenced directly the sexual experiences of the girls in this sample, as has been found elsewhere. Importantly, even if participation in MPS is voluntary for some adolescents, it is crucial to know how this early experience shapes their sexual behavior trajectory and affects their lifetime risk for negative sexual, reproductive, and other health risk behaviors”.

This statement concerned me for three reasons. Firstly it suggests a kind of false consciousness idea that no young woman could ever really consent to a MSP experience. This is disingenuous to the participants in this study who stated they had willingly enjoyed a MSP. I suspect it betrays more of the researchers own values about MSPs.

Secondly it implies that even if a young woman does consent to a MSP this will be because pornography has informed her choice. Yet we know from the way they asked about porn they don’t really have strong enough data to make this conclusion. It would have been interesting to explore if mainstream media might have influenced their choice as well, but not to have decided for participants that they didn’t really know their own minds.

Thirdly there is the implication that having a MSP as a young person will inevitably lead to problems in future relationships. That seems like a leap beyond the data and also I suspect unfair to those who consensually, as adults, explore non monogamous relationships. Moreover we know many people who never have MSPs as young people (or adults) have problems in their relationships as adults. So to make this claim really requires more than a small sample of 24 participants who were asked some confusing questions. The researchers do say this ought to be followed up in future research and I don’t disagree there, but I hope they would be less judgemental and aware of sexual diversity in doing so.

Where are the experiences of young men? There is no focus on young men in this paper and I think any study that is tackling coercion in heterosexual youth (as this paper appears to be doing) really needs to also study young men. The assumption is they are coercing young women, but are young men also feeling coerced in relationships? Is the pressure of masculinity leading to risky sexual behaviours or are they acting respectfully with their partners? Are the experiences of young gay or bi men different from their heterosexual peers? How do young men feel about being portrayed as sexually coercive? Are there issues around communication and consent we need to focus on with young men and women – and how should we be addressing this issue?

I worry media coverage will report this as though young men have been included or present young men as predators, when again the number of participants reporting negative experiences from forced group sex or pornography was low.

Should this paper have been published? I critically appraised this paper, but does not mean I think it should be ignored. Had I been asked to review it for publication I would have asked for major revisions (based on the comments above). I find many Public Health studies on youth sexual behaviour (and sexual behaviour in adults) are well intentioned but often problematic due to heteronormative approaches. In this case this can be seen with the focus on heterosexual activity and underlying subtext that group sexual activity is never truly consensual and non monogamous relationships are not presented positively. This can alienate or pathologize many people inadvertently, while trying to help another group of people. A better awareness of thinking around diverse sexualities would help ensure generalisations about group sex among consenting adults are not pathologised while trying to tackle gang rape of teens.

I hope coverage of this will be responsible but fear it will not. I suspect it will be further used to demonise young people and worry the public. In turn ignoring the fact most young people are not engaging in group sex or coercive behaviour. In fact that most aren’t having sex at all. They may well have questions and worries about sex, but these may not be addressed while we focus on more sensational topics.

Creating a moral panic in which we shout a lot about the behaviour of young people but do very little to actually help them. And in cases where research is poor or ambiguous it may direct our efforts to help young people in the wrong direction.

Dr. Petra describes herself as a sex educator, agony aunt and academic. Learn more about her on her website here and  follow her on Twitter.

V-Card Diaries: Cari “When I had my hymen broken, I didn’t feel different, just a little sore.”

Today we're highlighting Cari from Atlanta, GA, who learned a few things about sex from smut fanfiction and porn. 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 18 years old, a college student, and am biromantic and biracial.

How do you define virginity?

Virginity is "innocence" from any sort of sexual knowledge.

Why do you feel this way and how did it happen?

I started reading smut fanfiction at age 11. I watched my first porn a few months later. I had seen it and just wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Fast-forward to 7 years later, loss of my "virginity,” i.e. broken hymen. When I had my hymen broken, I honestly didn't feel different. Just a little sore, and left with a, "Oh, that's...not worth all the fuss and hype..." feeling, and not as in, "Wow, my boyfriend is an awful lay."

Any thoughts on virginity in our society?

I feel like the push for purity is glorifying sex by making it "forbidden." Religious groups tell us that it's a beautiful thing to be shared with another individual. Sex and loss of virginity, in this case via penetration, is hyped up to be this magical thing. They want you to believe that something will change afterwards, when in reality, nothing happens. In my opinion, not worth the hype.

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

V-Card Diaries: Megan "The idea that a woman can have an active libido is somehow scandalous"

Today we're highlighting Megan from New Jersey who talks about why she's glad her first time having sex was with a friend. 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 soon-to-be-21-year-old lady from a small town in the Delaware Valley. I'm currently attending a county college for American Sign Language Interpretation, though I'm thinking of switching to a major with a more creative vein; something to do with writing, being that it has always been something I've enjoyed.

How do you define virginity?

Anyone who has not had sexual, genital-to-genital contact with another person. Oral sex just doesn't count as proper sex in my book, I'm afraid to say.

Tell us your story:

I do not consider myself a virgin, and have not since the age of 18, when I had sex with a man for the first time. I'm actually glad that my first time wasn't with someone I was in a relationship with; it was casual sex with a friend. I think I'm glad mostly because I was extremely nervous my first time (I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone is), and thinking about that nervousness on top of the whole "we're taking our relationship to the next level" idea would have made it an absolute train-wreck. Instead, it was almost like just checking something off my life to-do list; getting a milestone out of the way, which I think was very liberating. It didn't have all this weight of expectation because there was none; we were friends, and there were benefits, but there was never going to be a relationship with all the trappings of romance.

Any thoughts on virginity in our society?

I think our society is completely confused on how it thinks it should view virginity, particularly when it comes to the different sexes. For a guy, it's a mark of shame: you're not “man” enough to get it on. What are you waiting for? But for girls, it's this little badge of pride: "I'm pure, I'm special, I'm saving it for someone special." Those ideas are shoved down our throats pretty much since the first day of sex-education, both formal and informal.

I can respect someone wanting to not have intercourse, particularly casual intercourse, because they put value on emotional connection with their partners. In fact, I know several people quite willing to do almost everything sexual BUT have intercourse for that reason. But they do have sexual activity (fingering, oral sex, etc.) with people they like, or are building a relationship with, or even just casual partners. But it drives me up a wall when people carry on this idea of virginity, especially female virginity, as something that should be hoarded out of fear of being labeled a “slut,” or because sex is something to be ashamed of wanting and enjoying. Men are allowed, even expected, to masturbate and watch porn and peruse sex (casual or otherwise), but the very idea that a woman can have an active libido, and feed that libido through self-stimulation, pornography, and yes, causal-or-otherwise sex, is somehow scandalous.

And at the same time, women are constantly sexualized by our media. Just look at our advertisements, especially for things like perfumes and alcohol. Women in revealing clothing or positions that suggest sexuality run rampant, yet women are expected to remain chaste. This societal mixed-signal is enough to make anyone confused.

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