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Sexual Assault

Ask Trixie: I've never had consensual sex and was only taught abstinence. So, what should I know?

I've only been raped before so I consider myself a virgin since I've never had consensual sex or a consensual first kiss. only taught abstinence and about STDs so what should I know? –locandload

Hi locandload -

I am so incredibly sorry that you were raped. I’m also sad what’s passed for sex ed has only been about abstinence and STDs. I don’t know very much about your own story, but knowing what I know about abstinence programs I feel like the things you learned about sex were mostly based on fear and shame. I hope I can offer some help.

Your question ‘what should I know’ is so big, I can’t really do it justice in this post. Because there’s so much to know! A great start would be checking out Scarleteen, which I (and many people) think is the best sex ed site in the world. Scarleteen has really great (and very kind) info, and here are just some of the links to their topics: bodiesgendersexual identityrelationshipssex & sexualitysexual healthpregnancy & parenting and abuse & assault

Scarleteen also has Direct Services, including one-on-one answers to your questions, as well as message boards and more. I hope it’s a good start to finding all the info and support you need. 

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

Just the Tip! Featuring Virgin Classified Ads, Better Sex Ed in Cali, Virginity Scholarships in S. Africa & Feminist 'Hamilton'

Can you feel it in the air? Spring is just around the corner! Here are this week's top stories from the world of virginity, ladyparts and sex. For up to the minute news, follow our Facebook Page, where we post every day!


Dad Advertises His ‘Virgin’ Daughter for Marriage in Christian Magazine

At least 'virgin' was at the end of a long list of her attributes. The daughter in question responded “it’s appropriate they placed it in the Employment Opportunities section because putting up with this father-in-law's shenanigans is a full time job, without any paid vacation.” It's interesting that his daughter's reaction (on a now-deleted blog post) was basically an 'Oh Dad' eye roll. h/t Paul Freelend


On one hand...
Radford University Holds “Men Can Stop Rape” Presentation For Greeks, Only Requires Sorority Women To Go

This is Rape Culture: "Sororities were required to send every single member to this speaker. And the fraternity requirement? Eight." The Panhellenic community was outraged and wrote the perfect angry letter. h/t Soraya Chemaly

On the other hand...
California Becomes First State To Make Sexual Consent Lessons Mandatory In High Schools Beginning Next Year

The new law mandates all school districts that have made health a graduation requirement to lecture students about sexual violence prevention and affirmative consent starting next year. Plus, Governor Brown signed a new law mandating all school districts to offer comprehensive sex education courses twice for grades 7 through 12. "The measure did not receive any opposition in the Legislature, and even nearly received a unanimous bipartisan backing." Huzzah.


Video: When You First Time Literally Feels Like Poop

From Refinery 29: Two very honest and sweet people talk about embarrassing first times.


‘My virginity will change my future’, vows South African student

A group of South African 'maidens' get their college fees paid on the condition that they remain 'virgins,' with regular 'virginity tests' by a group of older women. Despite the fact that there's not such thing as a virginity test, it's sexist to make abstinence a condition of women getting scholarships, and these efforts aren't actually curbing pregnancies or HIV, the recipients think it's great. Oh, and they're going to offer it to guys as well, but won't be 'testing' them. h/t Paul Freelend


Indigenous languages recognize gender states not even named in English

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network is talking about how Canada's First Nation languages treat gender. Incredibly cool : In Cree, for example, “aayahkwew” means “neither man or woman.” In Inuktitut, “sipiniq” means “infant whose sex changes at birth.” In Kanien’keha, or Mohawk language, “onón:wat” means “I have the pattern of two spirits inside my body.” h/t Andrea Plaid


schuylersistershamilton

And finally...in honor of Women's History Month, the Schuyler Sisters

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who play the Schuyler sisters in the Broadway musical Hamilton raps to feminist quotes and it's awesome. As the constant joke goes, this may be as close as anyone gets to seeing the musical. Or do like the New Yorkers do every morning and  try your luck in the lottery!

Just The Tip runs most Fridays. Send us your virginity stories here or on Twitter.

John Oliver is Awesome, Part 2: In which a whole bunch of great comedians do a Sex Ed PSA and it is the best thing ever.

This is the last part of John Oliver's Sex Ed segment, just the PSA starring Nick Offerman, Laverne Cox, Jack McBrayer, Megan Mullally, Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani, and Aisha Tyler. I am such a happy girl today.

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

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: MyBodyNotYours "Part of me is shut off to sex, because I was sexually molested by a relative when I was 8."

*Trigger warning for Sexual Assault*Today we're highlighting MyBodyNotYours in Austin, Texas who doesn't feel emotionally ready to have sex after being sexually molested as a child. 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:

Female, 21, Austin, Tx

How I define virginity:

Consented intercourse (penis in vagina, to be graphic)

Here's my story:

Virginity for me has been a struggle for most of my life. Until recently, I hadn't come to terms with what had happened to me as a child. At the age of 8, I was sexually molested by an older relative. After therapy, talking to my parents and confronting the relative, I've come to terms with what happened. A part of me wants to have sex, but another part of me has been shutoff to sex in general. I've struggled with boyfriends who don't understand why I just don't want to have sex. Someday I hope to have sex, but I'm still not quite ready emotionally from the damage that was done a long time ago.

V-Card Diaries: Sammie "I haven't had sex because any man who has ever touched me intimately has hurt me"

Today we're highlighting Sammie in New England who is, for the time being, perfectly happy with her vibrator and erotica. 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 31-year-old female from California living in New England

How I define virginity:

I suppose I am technically a virgin because I have never had sex with another person. Vibrators/dildos don't count huh?

Here's my story:

I was molested, and nearly raped, when I was 12 and then was sexually assaulted again when I was in college. I was an early bloomer and because of that I was sexualized by men at a very very young age (by the time I was 10 years old I was getting propositioned on the street by men walking by because I looked more like I was 17). It has always made me extremely uncomfortable with my body, and then my past sexual assaults have increased that discomfort.

I know men appreciate my body and find it desirable but I just don't see why. I actually wish I was gay, or asexual, because I trust women more than men, but I just don't find women desirable. I have pushed away any, and all, physical relationships because of my past experiences and have even lied about my virginity to my best friends. Its just easier to pretend that I have had sex then it is to explain to your girlfriends that you haven't had sex because any man who has ever touched you intimately has hurt you. Plus at my age, people assume there is something seriously wrong with you if you aren't having sex all the time.

I hope to someday meet someone that I can feel comfortable enough with to have sex and build a trusting relationship with, but for the time being I am perfectly happy with my vibrator and erotica.

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.

V-Card Diaries: Stephanie "Abstinence-only sex ed made me feel worthless and used up, but when I initiated sex with my (now) husband, I felt like I had claimed my sexuality."

*Trigger warning for sexual assault* Today we're highlighting Stephanie in upstate New York, who never felt like she'd had a chance to have a virginity. 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:

26, Female, Married, Upstate NY

How I define virginity:

The church I went to defined it as any sexual contact. I don't like the term. I prefer sexual awakening, more spiritual than physical.

Here's my story:

I was digitally penetrated as a very young child and raped at age 13. I felt like I never had a virginity. The church and abstinence-only sex ed. made me feel worthless and used up. I never had a chance. I grudgingly gave into sex at 16 with a boyfriend, but it wasn't until a few years later when I initiated sex with my best friend (now husband) that I felt like I had claimed my sexuality.

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?

Women feel less guilty about losing their virginity, but is that the conversation we need to be having?

Note: Another story on this study just came out, so we're reposting this response.  

Image via Rise, Rebel, Resist tumblr

As someone who's been working for years to bust mythologies and change the conversation around virginity, I give a serious hooray for reducing guilt around first intercourse for women. Writing about a new study,  Salon reports in "Science: Losing your virginity isn’t as awkward as it was 20 years ago":

"According to a study from the University of Illinois, young adults have felt better and better about their first-time sexual experiences for the past 23 years, with the difference between men’s and women’s emotional responses to early sexual intercourse decreasing over time."

And this:

"The researchers discovered that gender differences in response to virginity loss diminished greatly over time, which they suspect might be “because of a reduction, in general, of social regulation of female sexuality and in the double standard” of sexual expression for each gender."

It's no surprise that women are feeling less guilt and shame around becoming sexual. They have more agency to choose how, when and why they'll become sexual. (Thank you, Feminism) Women know more than they ever did about their bodies and how to get pleasure from the experience (Thank you Scarleteen and the other fantastic online resources). And maybe, just maybe, the guys are paying more attention to women's pleasure as well. (Thank you again, Feminism).

But, as writer Jenny Kutner points out:

"It’s important to note, though, that men do still exhibit more positive responses and experience more pleasure than women — also because of the “reduction” in the policing of women’s bodies and not its complete obliteration."

Reduction, not obliteration, and I'd argue in the last 8 years, some significant increases. There's the $1.5 billion worth of inaccurate, sexist shaming  from Abstinence-Until Marriage programs, and the near constant stream of slut-shamingrape cases dismissed or hushed up, and legislative attacks on women's reproductive rights and resources. Young women are also facing more pressure to have sex (call it prude-shaming?) and then get a steaming pile of mixed messages like the always-popular 'be sexy but don't have sex."

Even comprehensive sex classes don't talk much about how both women and men can get pleasure from sex, or how to ask for and respect consent. A woman having pre-marital sex may be more acceptable than in the past, but so is having your own bank account and keeping your last name.

One thing that continues to be frustrating is using intercourse as the sexual benchmark for these studies. Why are we measuring the start of sexuality by a penis going into a vagina? First,  it's a heterosexual framework, leaving out a chunk of the sex-having population. But also, our V-Card Diaries story collection is full of young women writing that everything they did pre-intercourse was pleasurable, but intercourse itself was a let down.

No surprise: that's not how most women orgasm, especially when they're first starting to have sex. But the study insists on measuring women's pleasure by how much they enjoyed intercourse, and then they're actually surprised that it's so low. Please let's stop selling intercourse the big sexual prize for women and recognize there are lots of ways to have sex that don't involve a penis in a vagina. 

The progress is great, but we need to keep working to change the conversation about women, virginity and sex to one that's not only non-judgmental, but also recognizes diverse sexual experiences, and puts consent and pleasure at the top of the must-have list.

MagicWand

[Get more graphics and gifs here]

V-Card Diaries: Young Lover V-Card Diaries: Young Lover "When I imagine sex, I think of a 120 mph iron train aiming at a mouse hole."

.A little about myself:

I'm a 16-year-old high school junior from New Jersey. I'm really involved in leadership and tutoring programs, and I box in my free time. College applications are starting to become the domineering force in my life, but I'm much more focused on some of my friends and their personal issues considering 2014 has not treated them kindly.

How I define virginity:

I'd define virginity as one who's never had penile-vaginal sex. I understand this can't include lesbian couples but I would say you can have that sort of sex without "making love" so to speak. When I define virginity, I'm thinking in completely physical terms.

Here's my story:

I know in the mindsets of most people, 16 is way too young to even consider having sex and to others it's the perfect age. I can remember naively discussing it with some of my friends. "I'll never do it until I'm 20 at least!" I said at the age where boys still had cooties.

I guess my issue is some of my most "virginal" friends have started losing their V-Cards, and it's made me realize that sex is not this enormous deal as it's portrayed in pop culture. Rather, it's natural, awkward, and–as I'm afraid–will probably hurt.

My mom decided it was time I visited the gyno a few months back, and I was terrified. Most of my friends have trouble believing me, but I've still never masturbated because I don't like the feeling of anything near my vagina. I had no idea what to expect when I spread my legs for the first time in my gynecologist's office, and when I heard her clanking through METAL, I instantly tightened all my muscles in full panic.

It seemed she didn't even know the meaning of consent. When she found the right tool, she dove immediately inside my funhouse, and I began to scream because of the pain. I begged her to take it out, which she did not do for several agonizing seconds. I was crying, and she still had the audacity to ask if she could do the same thing with a gloved finger. I was left alone in there for an hour to de-stress myself, and my vaginal muscles refused to unclamp during that entire time. Even thinking back on it now, it still causes me to clench.

After research, I believe I have vaginismus. The exercises to "cure" it terrify me still, as they involve stretches and inserting objects. Of course this is a self-diagnosis, so who really knows what's going on down there? My friend (17) recently lost hers to a 23-year-old–her old XC assistant coach. It sounds quite messed up, but she's in all the top classes and maintains an excellent GPA, so she hasn't been "misguided" in any way.

I guess the point of this is, I'm afraid. I'm very much afraid to have sex. About a week ago, my boyfriend brought it up (he'd never force anything of course), and was wondering if it was something I'd want to try, as we've done most everything else. I backed off immediately, remembering that experience at the gyno and my inability to even handle a tampon.

I'm definitely not asexual, but I truly can't imagine anyone being pleasured by having a penis inside you. Or how a vagina can even stretch that far for that matter (considering the size of an erect penis). When I imagine sex, I think of a 120 mph iron train aiming at a mouse hole. I don't know what to do, but I don't want him to know how afraid I am.

 Painful sex can sometimes be caused by physical issues that need to be treated by a gynecologist or physical therapist. Read more about that condition here. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here

V-Card Diaries: OwlShroomGirly "My boyfriend would annoy me until I agreed to have sex with him."

*Trigger Warning for sexual assault*Today we're highlighting OwlShroomGirly in Florida, who knows she deserves someone who loves her for who she is, regardless of her past. 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 20 years old. I have a Pentecostal/Baptist background, thoughIi see myself as spiritual. I am currently in college (a Florida university). Being only 5'2'' I don't really stand out. I consider myself multi-ethnic (I have a medium brown pigmentation). I have a boyfriend who is multi-ethnic, though he is caucasian in complexion.

How I define virginity:

I honestly believe that the idea of virginity depends on the individual. There can even be spiritual virginities, if you want to go that far. I do.

Here's my story:

My first time was with a friend of mine. I was curious on my sexual orientation so, we experimented. It ended with both of us just wanting to be friends. That was my first consenting sexual experience. I had been sexually abused my a family member when I was a little girl and it still has a tendency to haunt me even with me being 20 years old. I had a boyfriend(first boyfriend), it was a terrible experience, he was forceful and would annoy me until I agreed to have sex with him. It took me years to figure out that I deserve someone who loves me just for me, regardless of what happened in my past. My current boyfriend has been understanding and accepting of all my past. I am confident in own life and what makes me, me is not my virginity but my personality and my principles.

Women feel less guilty about losing their virginity, but is that the conversation we need to be having?

 

Image via Rise, Rebel, Resist tumblr

As someone who's been working for years to bust mythologies and change the conversation around virginity, I give a serious hooray for reducing guilt around first intercourse for women. Writing about a new study,  Salon reports in "Science: Losing your virginity isn’t as awkward as it was 20 years ago":

"According to a study from the University of Illinois, young adults have felt better and better about their first-time sexual experiences for the past 23 years, with the difference between men’s and women’s emotional responses to early sexual intercourse decreasing over time."

And this:

"The researchers discovered that gender differences in response to virginity loss diminished greatly over time, which they suspect might be “because of a reduction, in general, of social regulation of female sexuality and in the double standard” of sexual expression for each gender."

It's no surprise that women are feeling less guilt and shame around becoming sexual. They have more agency to choose how, when and why they'll become sexual. (Thank you, Feminism) Women know more than they ever did about their bodies and how to get pleasure from the experience (Thank you Scarleteen and the other fantastic online resources). And maybe, just maybe, the guys are paying more attention to women's pleasure as well. (Thank you again, Feminism).

But, as writer Jenny Kutner points out:

"It’s important to note, though, that men do still exhibit more positive responses and experience more pleasure than women — also because of the “reduction” in the policing of women’s bodies and not its complete obliteration."

Reduction, not obliteration, and I'd argue in the last 8 years, some significant increases. There's the $1.5 billion worth of inaccurate, sexist shaming  from Abstinence-Until Marriage programs, and the near constant stream of slut-shamingrape cases dismissed or hushed up, and legislative attacks on women's reproductive rights and resources. Young women are also facing more pressure to have sex (call it prude-shaming?) and then get a steaming pile of mixed messages like the always-popular 'be sexy but don't have sex."

Even comprehensive sex classes don't talk much about how both women and men can get pleasure from sex, or how to ask for and respect consent. A woman having pre-marital sex may be more acceptable than in the past, but so is having your own bank account and keeping your last name.

One thing that continues to be frustrating is using intercourse as the sexual benchmark for these studies. Why are we measuring the start of sexuality by a penis going into a vagina? First,  it's a heterosexual framework, leaving out a chunk of the sex-having population. But also, our V-Card Diaries story collection is full of young women writing that everything they did pre-intercourse was pleasurable, but intercourse itself was a let down.

No surprise: that's not how most women orgasm, especially when they're first starting to have sex. But the study insists on measuring women's pleasure by how much they enjoyed intercourse, and then they're actually surprised that it's so low. Please let's stop selling intercourse the big sexual prize for women and recognize there are lots of ways to have sex that don't involve a penis in a vagina. 

The progress is great, but we need to keep working to change the conversation about women, virginity and sex to one that's not only non-judgmental, but also recognizes diverse sexual experiences, and puts consent and pleasure at the top of the must-have list.

MagicWand

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V-Card Diaries: Cheeky Charmer "I thought I had tempted my rapist by showing skin. I was eleven years old."

Today we're highlighting Cheeky Charmer in Pennsylvania. She blamed herself for a rape that happened at a young age based on teachings from a week-long Christian purity seminar. She now knows that her choice to have sex or not does not define her worth. 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 22-year-old female from Pennsylvania.

How I define virginity:

 It's a life long journey of finding identity through new experiences.

Here's my story:

I was raped. I don't say that to be pitied; save your flowers and sympathy for someone who needs them.  I say it so that you understand my story. When I was eleven I was innocently lying in bed and someone I trusted and loved dearly took away the part of me that I valued.

The week after it happened I attended a retreat called Pure Freedom; a seminar to help Christian girls seek out God through pledging abstinence. We were given assessments, books, and tests to measure how “modest” we were. The whole weekend was devoted to the new transformative meaning of that word “modesty.” We were informed how our clothing would appear to men. They told us that men cannot help themselves because they have the fight or flight system in their bodies that causes arousal by a woman who bears skin or wears tight clothing. The whole day was spent learning techniques on how to wear modest, God-approved clothing. We took tests on what we watch, what we say to men, and how we dress, and we were given clothing tricks to assist men in their journey to Godliness. We were responsible for men’s relationship with God based on how we carried ourselves.

The speaker stood in front of an audience of five hundred girls and told us that modesty wasn’t just about what you wear but how you carry yourself, how you talk to other men, and what you do with other men. We were told that God wanted us to wait until we were married based on what the Bible said. We were told not to be the “hoe of the universe” by engaging in sex before marriage.

The whole week I couldn’t help but think that I was what caused my rapist to attack me. This Pure Freedom was actually what felt like a prison; guilt swelled like a balloon about to burst. I realized that I had tempted my rapist. I was wearing only a bra and underwear that night and it was my fault. I remember thinking that God was punishing me for showing skin that night.  It was only natural for a man to see my skin and be aroused. The rape was entirely my fault, and God was punishing me for what I had done. I was eleven years old and I was carrying this burden for a decade.

After ten years of believing this myth, I made the conscious effort to take ownership of my sexuality; it never belonged to this organization that brainwashed me into thinking that my value was in my virginity, my clothing, and my future husband. My value does not have a scale that is virgin or slut. God loves me whether I have sex or not. I am not an object: I am a woman with the right to choose when, where, and who I have sex with. My sexuality cannot be bought by people who make young girls feel inadequate to sell a book and a T-shirt. I was raped and that doesn’t define who will love me. My virginity is mine and I define what it means; it does not define my value.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”–Margaret Atwood

“If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you” “If we can’t solve our problems we must DESTROY our problems...One day incels* will realize their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system. Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU." Elliot Rodger, as quoted by The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the first to call the shooting a hate crime.

"...Whether any theoretical mental illness had anything to do with his rampage, it doesn’t negate the fact that he grew up believing in a toxic form of masculinity. That he believed he was entitled to women’s affections and to women’s bodies - and that being deniedwhat he thought was his due meant that the best thing he could do is go murder as many people as he could to punish them. Because that was exactly what he was doing: punishing people for the crime of not fucking him. Of forcing him to be a virgin, of making him less than a man. Because that is exactly what the cultural narrative of masculinity says. A woman who is a virgin is a prize, holding her “special gift” for a “special person”. A male (not a man, a male) is a failure. He is a boy, not a man. He is a failure, because masculinity is rated in two axis’ - in our capacity for sex and our capacity for violence." –Dr. Nerdlove, Paging Dr. Nerdlove on Tumblr

"Because of the misogyny he so plentifully expressed, I read the manifesto looking for examples where he would have been rejected by women.  Oddly enough, there are none, unless we count a girl who pushed and yelled at him in childhood, because he first bumped into her.  Other examples are of the type where a woman he smiled at didn't smile at him, where a woman he said "hi" to didn't respond.  If female rejection was what he mostly blamed for his suffering, where is that rejection in his manifesto?  Or did he expect women to flock to him, without any necessity to make an effort to meet them or talk to them? I cannot say for certain.  But the impression I got is that he never approached women at all, that he expected women to approach him, and when they did not, he felt enormous pains of rejection." Echidne of the Snakes

"So what can we do to stop this? We can refuse to participate in policing other people’s sexuality. We can call it out when we see others doing it. We can petition the media to address the misogyny and sexual double standard when discussing these murders. We can talk about it- blog about it, post status updates about it, write school papers about it, talk to friends about it. When it happens online, we can report it. But we have so much work to do." Dr. Jill McDevitt, The Sexologist on Tumblr

"@virginitymovie: #YesAllWomen because being a man is not defined by whether you've put your penis into a vagina." One of our contributions to #YesAllWomen, many powerful ones at this thread

* Incel is short for involuntary celibacy. Not all incel groups or hubs identify with Men's Rights or Pick Up Artist beliefs, and can be very supportive and female-inclusive. I'll be writing about this in another post.

V-Card Diaries: Diana "I was sexually abused as a child and am still working through this."

*Trigger warning for sexual assault* Today we're highlighting Diana in Europe, who is overcoming some sexual issues after a childhood trauma and a family who was very prudish about sex. 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 25 year old woman in Europe.

How I define virginity:

I don't think it's as simple as saying it's vaginal sex. I think I would define it as a moment of immense, positive emotional and physical connection with another person. In relation to the physicality of it, I absolutely believe that vaginal, anal, and oral are all definitive of sex.

Here's my story:

I have not had vaginal sex. I was sexually abused as a child and am still working through this. I am in a long term relationship with a man and we have had oral sex. We enjoy a certain amount of sexual intimacy and he is understanding of my past and is loving and patient, thankfully.

I also grew up in a very prude family in which sex was an extremely taboo subject. I grew up thinking that sexuality was dirty, forbidden and not for me. I now realize how damaging this was and am overcoming it more and more with every day that passes. I hope to one day trust my partner enough to have vaginal sex with him. I hope to transcend my fears and insecurities and achieve a new level of sexual fulfillment.

Many of my friends assume that I am having sex with my boyfriend in the vaginal sense. I don't bother to correct them as it is an intimate issue between me and him.

V-Card Diaries: Jessie " It was not until I began to go to therapy that I reclaimed that part of my sexuality."

Today we're highlighting Jessie from California, who was molested at 6, but learned she was not dirty or a slut with the help of her therapist. 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 twenty-one-year old college woman who does not have a single clue what she wants to study. I live in California.

How I define virginity:

I define "virginity" as something spiritual. It is not something physical like a hymen. You lose your virginity when you willingly give up a part of yourself to the person you are with. Just because you are not physically a virgin, it does not mean you are not one.

Here's my story:

I was molested by another girl at the age of 6. It was at that age that my hymen was broken, and when I learned about virginity at the age of 11 I was very ashamed of myself. For many years I never talked about what had happened to me. I shyed away from any form of sex talk, and even when I did go on dates it was extremely difficult to kiss boys without bringing up memories.

I had thought that a girl who is not a virgin is dirty and a slut, so I mentally beat myself up for that. It was not until I began to go to therapy that I reclaimed that part of my sexuality back. With the help of my therapist I drew up my won conclusions about my virginity and my sexuality.

I was not a slut because I had been abused when I was young. My virginity was something for me to give away or lose to whom I pleased. When I finally did have sex, that is when I defined myself as not a virgin anymore. I had sex with someone of my choosing. Even though I never saw that person again after we had sex, I do not regret my decision of losing my virginity to her.

Just The Tip: Virginity in the News with Broad City's Ilana Glazer, Purity creepiness, virginty auctioner revealed, sex myths, and campus rape stats

I've been asking people about this very thing for so many years now, and I've seen a lot of other people try it with mixed results. It's tough to get strangers to talk honestly about sex on camera, but Ilana is really sweet and funny and some of the stories are really touching. I shouldn't have been surprised given her other work, most lately Broad City, the show she created with Abbi Jacobson. It started as a web series about two young and underemployed women in NYC, and was picked up by Comedy Central, with Amy Poehler Exec Producing! If you haven't sampled it yet, do it now.

***

There's a photo series all over the internet right now by Swedish photographer David Magnusson called Purity. Everyone is freaking out about how creepy they are. So, yes, purity ball photos can sometimes look incestuous, but know why they're really creepy? They represent a culture where men own these girls' sexuality, purity balls fund CPCs, and their freak-show quality distracts us from all the sexuality bs happening in the rest of the world. Yes, I'm writing about it, so stay tuned.

PS Judy actually spotted this project last year and loved it so much she used it as part of her story "How I went from Purity Pledger to Queer Radical Feminist, thanks to two years of ‘Cotillion’ Classes." Above is the image we used (our favorite) which for some reason they're not including in the galleries online.

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Juliana at Feministing wrote a lovely piece on our film and we especially loved the fact that she watched it with her little sis! Here are two excerpts that meant a lot to us, because they spoke to our goals for the film:

I have a little sister and, like any good feminist, I spend a lot of time making sure that she knows that her worth extends beyond her beauty, her body, and her sexuality. As she is still a teenager, a big topic in her life and that of her peers lately has been virginity. Personally, I don’t think that my sexuality or “virginity” is an object to lose, or give away, and I don’t want her to think that either. That’s why I was so excited to watch How to Lose Your Virginity with her...

..In spite of the fascinating and telling historical context, the true triumph of How to Lose Your Virginity is in how relatable it is. The first time I had sex, I was surprised at how anti-climactic the whole thing was. Watching this film, it was touching to see my experience mirrored back at me."

I think we need to start a See It With Your Sister campaign, pronto!

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3adb6ae4af129bdcbd30348211f44554Over at Policy Mic, we got another shout-out in a story called 17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex, with tackles everything from virginity and hymen myths to period sex to women who watch porn (and illustrated by Ms Ilana Glazer) It warms my mythbusting heart that this exists, so I was pretty shocked at the vehemence with with people were challenging it in the comments.

One of the biggest points of contention was myth #1 "Virginity exists" and hoo boy did people have problems with that one! There were several comments to the effect of 'virginity does too exist and it's real and everyone knows what it is.' Well, everyone does NOT know what it is, and in fact the lack of any concrete definition is what's confused and terrorized women forever (the simple fact that many women don't bleed on penetration has done untold damage)

But for the record, we do think virginity exists, just not in the 'one-magic-moment-when-the-penis-goes-into-the-vagina" way. It exists in many forms, with each new experience and new partner. What doesn't and shouldn't exist is one specific virginity that's used to categorize, judge and police people (mostly women) based on their sexual choices. That's bullshit. And truth be told, that's pretty much what Policy Mic was saying as well, it's just that heading that got people so out of joint.

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Jaclyn Friedman wrote a rather chilling but important article on a new way to select colleges– check the campus rape statistics:

Those precious few who ask at all tend to check a school's reporting numbers, assuming that a low rate of rapes reported on a campus is a good sign. But most of the time the reverse is true: every campus has a rape problem – the ones where students feel comfortable reporting are actually safer campuses.

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Virginity auctioneer Elizabeth Raine, who I wrote about here and here, has decided to show people what she looks like. She was initially concerned about getting kicked out of her med school if people found out who she was, but now says: "I actually didn't like the anonymity. People mistake it for shame." Her top official bid is $550,000 and her auction ends May 7th.You can see more photos and learn more about her at her site.

I really enjoyed deconstructing virginity myths with Liz in our Nerve.com interview, and I hope this whole process doesn't fuck her up. I don't mean because of the sex (although I hope that goes OK as well), but because of the crude attention and News of the Weird nature of virginity auctions.

 

Found some Virginity in the News? Be a Just The Tipster and let us know! Email us, or post to twitter with @virginitymovie in your message.