"My friend, I may not know what you have that causes people to laugh. Be it a birth defect (as I have one, it has gotten me looks and rudeness from people) or a unique appearance. But nobody should give up. Heck, I too am a virgin and in my late twenties. But one thing I want you to know: Our imperfections make us interesting, somebody will see you beyond the appearance and love you as you are." From Tarantula on "I Was A Middle-Aged Virgin"
Today we're highlighting IP in Toronto, Canada, who whose relationship ended when she told her partner she'd made out with other guys before him. 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:
17, Female, Toronto
How I define virginity:
I used to define virginity as penis in vagina penetration however that mentality has changed drastically. It wasn't until I had had sex with a number of different people that I began to see how complex it really was.
Here's my story:
The first time I had sex was with another "virgin" and it was special, I feel 100% comfortable with how it happened and I wouldn't change it for the world. However, I really understood sex the first time I "took someone's virginity." I hate using that phrase but I feel like it encompasses what I'm about to say.
I first met this guy at an end of exams party in June. I was instantly attracted to his charisma and confidence. I immediately thought that he was this incredibly experienced, smooth talking, sex god but it turns out he wasn't. I spent almost the entire party talking to him and afterwards he added me on Facebook, however our communication seemed to stop there. He never made the effort to message me and his name would pop up in my news feed and taunt me every so often. We met again by chance at a concert but this time he asked me out as soon as he got home. Our romance progressed very quickly and after two weeks it felt like we had been talking for months. I soon discovered that he was a virgin which took me by surprise, he insisted he had "fooled around" before but something in his voice told me he hadn't.
One night I slept over at his house and making out soon turned into more, we ended up rolling around on his bed naked while he fumbled around trying to figure me out. He didn't have a condom so we couldn't "have sex" and at the time I still thought we hadn't. The week afterwards I had a party and he slept over. We would steal away every so often to make out in my basement and finally when everyone was gone we went upstairs. It felt like things happened in the blink of an eye. I asked if he wanted to, he practically cut me off with a yes, we figured out the condom situation and bam. It happened. Afterwards we lay in bed and started talking.
I mistakingly thought we were not dating at this point but he clearly did. He asked me if I had made out with anyone else and I said yes which warranted a painful silent treatment, followed by a lot of drama. We basically ended the second I told him about the other guy. Now, I think of our first time together as the night I was at his house instead of the night we were at mine. I feel as though that was the time we were the most intimate, which is how I currently define sex.
Having sex with someone encompasses so much more then just penetration, it deals with so much more. Anytime you feel intimately connected with your partner you are having sex, regardless of what anyone else defines it as.
Two great articles speaking directly to men about virginity and sexuality. We ladies cover this topic a lot on the blog, and I also enjoyed sharing similar ideas in an interview for an upcoming documentary on male virginity. Unfortunately, we ladies sometimes get a bit of pushback when we weigh in on this topic, but luckily, here's the same straight dope from a couple of actual dudes. So listen up and seriously, read the whole stories at the links. They are both super smart. From "Dear young men: The old stereotypes of what it is to be a 'man' are a load of rubbish" in The Independent
At about age 14, boys feel like they have to start bullshitting about their sexual exploits in order to survive. The pressure on these kids is just too great for them to speak frankly about it. Ignore what everyone says about their sex lives. They are lying, all of them, at least a little.
Forget the word “virgin” as a descriptor for both yourself and others. It’s an archaic, irrelevant word, meant to stigmatise and shame people. It oversells a person’s first sex act as some grand, transformational experience, which supposedly vindicates a young man and spoils a young woman. It’s an obsolete, religious, judgmental word. Let’s leave it behind.
From "The Problem With Male Virginity" in Paging Dr. Nerdlove
Your value doesn’t come from who you have or haven’t slept with. It doesn’t come from where you fall on the bell-curve of starting sexual activity, whether you were precocious or a late bloomer. Your value as a person comes from how you act and how you make others feel. It’s about what you bring to the table as a whole person, not how many vaginas you’ve managed to talk your way into.
Don’t spend your time focused on getting laid for the first time, spend your time on becoming a better person. Cultivate an amazing life. Learn to connect with people, to build relationships. Don’t throw your hands in the air and just assume you’re uniquely cursed, work to fix things. Practice your social skills – getting good with women, getting good with people, is a skill that you can learn. Yes, you may have problems. You may have circumstances in your life that make things harder for you. But harder isn’t impossible, no matter how daunting it may seem.
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?
"The church, and the men that I interviewed, don’t believe that women would need a space to talk through these issues. They believe that men are highly sexual beings and they have "natural urges" that need to be controlled, but they don’t believe that women have that natural desire to be sexually active. Women are the providers of sexual activity for their husbands."
From "What Happens When Evangelical Virgin Men Get Married? This Secular Female Sociologist Found Out," and interview with sociologist Sarah Diefendorf at The New Republic.
While some evangelical churches encourage a pleasurable sex life for both partners, this one apparently does not. What a sad way to start a marriage, thinking your wife's duty is to become a sexual vessel to satisfy you and keep your beastly urges in check. Equally sad, Diefendorf reports that while the men have support groups of peers to deal with issues around masturbation, porn and masculinity prior to marriage, this support stops dead on their wedding day.
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."
"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-shaming, rape 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.
[Get more graphics and gifs here]
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.
Today we're highlighting The Shadow in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a lot of pressure not to be a virgin at his all boys' school, so he was glad to lose his virginity at a pool party. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:
I am a 48-year-old straight male living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
How I define virginity:
I would define losing one's virginity as vaginal or anal penetration.
Here's my story:
I was 16 years old, and went to a pool party at a friend of my father's in Palo Alto, CA. I drank there, and ended up spending the night with her. She was much older than I was; it was a Mrs Robinson situation...like from the movie The Graduate, but I was relieved and glad that it was finally over. I went to all boys' school, and there was a lot of pressure to not be a virgin.
As high school winds down, my newsfeed is overwhelmed by pictures of everyone all dolled-up for their big prom nights. Seeing all of these (seemingly) happy couples in their matching prom attire makes me think of my own encounters with the weird "prom culture" that erupts from all of the hoo-rah surrounding the event.
Now that I'm a college junior, that prom courting ritual that seemed so dramatic and overwhelming feels absurd and even funny. Instead of seeing a crystalized moment in time where a couple looks pristine and happy, I think of all the drama that leads up to this single photo.
Prom really isn't just one night. It is an entire process. I was a member of a private Facebook group for both my junior and senior proms called something along the lines of "PROM DRESSES 2012," a place where high school girls posted pictures of what they planned to wear so that no two people would (god-forbid!) show up in the same dress.
But these groups have an underlying hostility simmering beneath each post with teens calling each other out for having the same dresses as them. On a friend's prom dress Facebook page, one group member posted an image of her dress with the caption "DO NOT GET MY DRESS!!!!!" Another person commented on someone else's image, "That is an easy access dress!" And some minor fights even erupted. "Just wanna let you know I have that dress in a different color i posted it on here like a month ago” one angry member of the group wrote when she saw that her classmate posted the same dress as hers.
These posts are benign compared to other Facebook prom dress groups. One group goes by the name of, "Bitch don't steal my dress!" And in the same ilk, "If YOU steal MY prom dress, bitch I'ma cut you." If you google the now deleted Facebook group "steal my prom dress and i'll knock you the fuck out" you can find abounding remnants of the threats that were once posted.
In my own group, people commented as early as the beginning of January (5 months before prom!) with what dresses they will wear. Some changed their dresses as many as 3-4 times. Most people put up all of their "maybes” (that is, what they might be wearing) so that they could lay claim to all of their potential options.
The posts are territorial, passive aggressive, and some just straight up cruel– and they reveal how prom means different things for different people. For guys it may be a last chance to lose their virginity before college, but for girls it is about the pressure to look flawless, about losing weight for their dresses, and getting the perfect tan.
Aside from the community of hostility these groups create—similar to (or perhaps a result of) the hostility created by a society that constantly pits women against each other— they also reveal a culture’s obsession with what is (typically) a heteronormative event that excludes anyone who veers from the “ideal” couple. What about queer people, trans* people, aromantic people? What someone is wearing is among the least of worries for a gay couple restricted from taking one another to prom. A trans* girl who wants to wear a dress has bigger problems to face than someone showing up in the same outfit as her.
At the end of it all, prom is really just a night of false norms and unmet expectations.
Hollywood, social media, and most importantly, 80s teen flicks, have turned prom into what is supposed to be one of the most important nights of a young person's life. It is a rite of passage into college where we tie up all those loose ends, fit in all that awkward teen stuff before we diverge on our separate paths of adulthood. And perhaps this fixation on hooking up and “maturation” by means of the prom is why it is such a big deal for people. Perhaps this is why teens are purchasing dresses months and months in advance and assuring they are the only person on the entire face of the Earth to ever wear it. And I don’t mean to critique just the women but instead use this group as a firsthand example of all the prom drama ("proma"). We treat this night as if it will change our lives forever.
Thinking about my own dreadful junior prom experience now makes me laugh. Between my breakup at the time and fear of having no date for the prom (because how could one possibly go to the prom–gasp–alone?!), and ending up with a date who I barely spoke to the entire time, my own experiences were nothing like what the movies told me it would be. The prom itself consisted of some gross food, little dancing, and an anti-climactic (no pun-intended) after party that I did not attend. But despite all the trauma, I now realize how insignificant all of it really was.
In one of the very first posts on my prom dress group, its creator ironically writes (after dictating a number of rules about posting dresses), “It’s going to be okay. Seriously.” Though she meant it passive aggressively, it’s true. Prom will be okay. You will survive it even if you are wearing the same dress as someone else. You will survive it even if you go without a date.
Instead of focusing so much on the socially constructed “rules” of prom, we should be fighting against them. Next year, instead of wearing dresses, all the girls should wear tuxes. Next year, instead of caring about who is going with who, we should fight against the fact that some schools still don’t allow same-sex couples into prom. Next year, instead of worrying about the perfect prom couple photo, let’s rebel against the binaristic gender norms that underlie the event. Next year, instead of getting involved with the after party hook up gossip, let’s worry about how the fixation on partying and “losing one’s virginity” on this big night can cultivate unsafe environments for sex.
Starting right now, let’s focus on what really matters, instead of if two people are wearing the same dress.
Alexa is a student at Emory University and a summer intern at Trixie Films. You can read more about her here.
If you read this blog, you know how important issues like identity and community are to us, including those of self-identified older virgins. In light of the killings at UCSB, and the torrent of misogynist hate speech 22-year-old Elliot Rodger left behind, I think there is an important conversation to be had that includes men and virginity right now. But it's not the one about the poor sex-and-love-starved virgin male (And by the way, there are many 22-year-olds who haven't become sexually active yet) Many of his rants were made on behalf of "incels" (involuntary celibates) with whom he identified but also despised. Before this weekend, most people had never heard about the incel community, but I know there are incel-identified folks in our audience as well as contributors to The V-Card Diaries. I also know the original community is a welcoming female-inclusive space far removed from the hateful rhetoric of Rodger and his ilk. (Tracy Clark-Flory did a great story focusing on that community's hate speech so I won't link to them here).
I wrote a story for Nerve as a way of framing the conversation about men, virginity and shame. I think it's important to point out that many adult virgins of all genders (who don't want to be virgins) feel some shame or frustration about their situation. It's how they deal with it and who they blame for it that makes all the difference. I'm grateful to the members of the You're Not Alone incel board for their participation and assistance in this story, and to our intern Alexa Cucopulos for her amazing research.
Here's an excerpt of the story:
“In a society where sexuality is always in our faces, if you don’t have the tools or access, or aren’t comfortable establishing intimacy it’s going to isolate you from social environments,” explains Dr. Burgess. “You don’t want to talk to your family or friends for fear of being teased or ostracized, and that’s why these incel groups have become especially valuable.”
So, why did the misogynistic groups proliferate, leaving the more introspective and female-friendly groups like You’re Not Alone, and other sites like the sub-reddits Forever Alone and Forever Alone Women, feeling like outliers?
Society still defines sex by intercourse and ejaculation, and masculinity by the tally of those sexual conquests. Men who buy into this mythology end up feeling both entitled to it, and frustrated at not getting their due. When they can’t fulfill their expected masculine roles, they blame women for not giving them what they think they deserve, instead of examining themselves and the mythology they were raised with [...]
I can only speculate that these men already had misogynistic and entitled ideas about the women they felt they were owed, and began to take advantage of the growing echo chamber and megaphone of the Internet, looking for kinship in spaces that reflected their attitudes back at them"
Please read the full story and leave your comments here.
We just got this comment on the post A Shout-Out to Older Virgins from Some Older Virgin, referring to the horrible murders at UCSB this weekend. Many reasons have been floated for why Elliot Rodger did what he did, including the series of quotes I posted earlier dealing with the climate of toxic masculinity and misogyny, part of the MRA and PUA movements Rodgers was so interested in. Feel free to post your own thoughts on the events or on what Some Older Virgin wrote:
"As a 44 year old virgin, who has posted on here before but haven’t recently, I can’t get over that 22 year old UC Santa Barbara Student who rent on a rampage killing people and himself. He cited the fact he was a 22 year old virgin and who couldn’t get love and sex from women. A 22 year old virgin thinking that somehow at that age he not only should be at a certain level in terms of sexual/romantic level but that he would be so depressed about it that he decided to kill people and himself?
"I mean there are some people out there like myself, that have way way more to be depressed about but would never dream of then killing people and then myself. Ya I get plenty depressed and have thought about suicide before but I would never seriously think about going on some rampage. I hope that what happened in Santa Barbara doesn’t cause people to have even more preconceived stereotypes about virgins than society already has."
“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 “denied" what 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.
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.
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?
Today we're highlighting TeddyBear in New York City, who has never wanted to be sexually involved with anyone. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:
Age 55, male, live in New York City.
How I define virginity:
Never having had sex with someone else.
Here's my story:
I'm a 55-year-old male virgin. I'm rather asexual. While I do fantasize and masturbate, I've never wanted a sexual involvement with anyone, including a girlfriend with whom I lived and shared a bed (though cuddling with her was nice).
Do an internet search for the words 'creepy photos,' and you’ll likely be directed to Purity, Swedish photographer David Magnusson's haunting photo essay of fathers and daughters all dressed up for their Purity Balls. A Purity Ball, if you don't already know, is sort of a father/daughter prom, with the difference being that the girls pledge their virginity to their fathers for safekeeping, so it can be handed over to their husbands on their wedding day. They happen all over the country, although with a bit less frequency than the constant coverage might indicate.
Still, every time news of these events pop up, in photos, or on a recent episode of Nightline on ABC, the non-Purity-Ball-going readership responds with a collective shudder, most often invoking the word 'incestuous' in headlines and comments. Looking at Magnusson's photos, (or my own film) I can see how people may come to that conclusion, but ask one of the dads in the photo and he'll just tell you that you have a really dirty mind and the Balls are beautiful events. Wherever you stand on this issue, getting all weirded out by the images is just a distraction from the truly creepy aspects of events like this (and the culture behind them):
Purity Balls are an invention of the evangelical Christian movement which believes that men should have control over women's bodies and sexual choices. Girls as young as 7 or 8 ritually invoke their father, their future husband and their God during these ceremonies–three male authorities tasked with policing her sex life.
Purity Balls are a throwback to when women were property and unmarried daughters without their virginity were damaged goods no one wanted to buy. The idea of a woman's 'most precious gift' comes from the understanding that she is the gift, valuable as long as she's still wrapped in her original packaging.
Purity Balls focus on female sexuality exclusively. There is no male equivalent of purity balls because young men are sent different messages and held to different standards. Integrity Balls, which are relatively rare, are events for mothers and sons, but the prevailing message for young men is that they shouldn't have sex before marriage because they will ruin a girl's value for her future husband.
Purity Balls assume everyone is heterosexual and interested in marriage. The fact that queer people exist, with their own definition of what constitutes sex or virginity, and their own ideas of who they might want to have sex with or marry, is never discussed or even acknowledged.
Purity Balls are intimately tied to Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs which provide no real sex education, but instead teach that sex before marriage will cause physiological and psychological harm, that contraception doesn't work, and that girls are responsible for controlling boys' sexual urges lest they be branded sluts. To stay a 'virgin,' a young women will often engage in far riskier activities like oral or anal sex, fulfilling the letter–if not the spirit–of their pledge. And since their abstinence classes don’t teach safer sex practices, they’re extremely vulnerable to STDs. These programs been proven ineffective by our own government, despite the fact that they are still being funded by our taxpayer dollars, at over $1.5 billion to date.
Purity Ball culture is enmeshed with political forces that oppose reproductive rights, supporting groups that are fighting to deny women birth control (or at the very least not have insurance cover it) as well as any access to safe and legal abortions. In fact, many Purity Balls are hosted by Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which use deceptive advertising and intake methods to prevent women's access to contraception and abortion. Google recently removed CPC ads that lie about providing abortions because of that deceptive advertising.
Purity Balls have a freak-show quality that distracts us from seeing the very same issues in our own back yards. Policing and controlling women’s bodies is not limited to a bunch of evangelicals, but turn up all over the cultural landscape, from limiting reproductive rights, to telling rape victims they asked for it, to slut-shaming women (but not men) for having too many partners.
Purity Ball reporting often ignores the dilemmas these young women are face. This culture’s core values embody damaging messages about women and sexuality (see above), but there's nothing inherently weird about having a warm relationship with your dad, or looking forward to a dress-up party with your sisters. As photographer Magnusson says:“it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful,” but when you're in the middle of this environment, it's may be very hard to step out of it and call bullshit, even if you find it confusing or unfair. As one woman recently said to me:
“Some of those girls are too young to even realize what they are doing. I made a vow like this when I was only 12 and it didn't quite go as planned. I was guilt-tripped and got really close to being hit when I broke that vow. Virginity doesn't define your worth and I absolutely hate how many girls buy into the lie that once you've lost it, you're basically used goods. I bought into it and went through some terrible times of anxiety and depression.”
At a recent university screening of my film, another young woman who grew up in this culture shared her story. She’s finally starting to get over feeling dirty and worthless because of sex, and the fact that she was ever made to feel this way is the creepiest thing of all.
We got such a great comment for our last V-Card Diaries from Katherine titled "I'm so afraid of rejection that I don't know how to approach a guy I'm interested in", that we're sharing it as a post so no one misses it. It's from one of our contributors MHiggo, and we hope it'll have some helpful advice and resources for others who are feeling like Katherine. Hi Katherine,
I mostly lurk here but feel compelled to respond as your situation sounds very familiar. Being a virgin at 20 may put you slightly on the trailing edge of the bell curve, but it hardly makes you a space alien or an object of ridicule. Also, given Hollywood’s treatment of it, it’s understandable if people think college life is a cavalcade of booze, drugs and sex with the occasional class mixed in, but reality is, as ever, far more mundane. The hook-up scene just does not appeal to some people, and by no means are you a lesser person for not partaking in it.
As for your second paragraph, while people are free to have their preferences, any man who would overlook you simply because he thought your breasts weren’t big enough is a man you likely wouldn’t want to date anyway. Obviously men are not one monolithic group, and a probably-not-insignificant number even prefer women with smaller breasts. Of course, ideally men would be interested in the whole of your person — after all, you’re a human being, not a cup size.
You probably don’t need to mention your virginity right up front, be it on your profile or a first date. Let your date get to know you as a person first and, if things look like they’re taking a physical turn, you can tell them “Hey, by the way, I haven’t been on many dates, so I might need you to take the lead.” (Note: That does not give said date carte blanche to violate your boundaries or disregard your feelings.) Roll it out as a bonus for the other person rather than you having some dreaded disease — after all, they’re looking at a potential partner who’s eager to learn and hasn’t picked up any bad habits from years of dating. You’re a catch!
Lastly, please don’t fret over “catching up”. Everyone progresses at their own pace, and comparing your dating life to that of others is fruitless as your wants and needs are bound to vary. If you’d like some reading material aimed at people with no or very little dating experience, I highly recommend Dr. Nerdlove and Captain Awkward.
http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2013/01/20-30-40-year-virgin/ http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2014/01/starting-from-zero/ http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/09/dating-introverts/all/1/ http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2013/05/youre-ok-i-promise/ http://captainawkward.com/2013/08/07/500-online-dating-for-scaredy-cats-or-why-the-overthinking-it-tag-was-created/ http://captainawkward.com/2012/10/02/367-368-am-i-too-ugly-to-date/ http://captainawkward.com/2011/05/17/reader-question-50-im-a-27-year-old-virgin-and-im-mostly-okay-with-that-but-sometimes-i-feel-like-a-loser/
Please take particular note of the last link as the letter-writer is a woman in a situation much like yours, even down to being in Europe. It’s not too late for you — not even remotely — and your best days are ahead of you. I wish you all the luck and happiness in the world on your journey.
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.
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!
Over 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.
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.
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.
Today we're highlighting Garrett from California who realized that casual sex didn't make him feel unclean or ashamed–just stupid. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:
I am a 21-year-old bisexual male from California. I never considered my virginity important. I didn't feel like I had to lose it. Sex didn't and still doesn't make me feel uncomfortable. The first time I slept with a woman she questioned if I was in fact a virgin, since I was calm and seemed to know what I was doing. The same thing happened when I had sex with a man for the first time.
How I define virginity:
I do not define virginity as a single entity that can be lost all at once, but rather in bits and pieces.
Here's my story:
I always felt sexually stunted compared to all my friends growing up. Sex just wasn't a high priority for me. It wasn't until I had my first girl friend at the age of 20 that I began gaining sexual experience. We started things slow for the first four months. First hand on genital interaction, later oral, and then vaginal intercourse. When I realized I loved her I had no problem having vaginal intercourse. However, none of these experiences made me feel like I had lost anything.
It wasn't until about seven months later that I truly felt that I had lost some form of purity. I moved away to go to school and the long distance became too much to handle. We eventually broke up but decided to remain in touch. This might have worked out had we not had meaningless sex the next day. I think the break up sex was meant as a last resort to salvage our relationship but all it did was make me feel awful, ashamed, and dirty. I had hurt myself and hurt someone I cared deeply for. I had damaged an emotional connection with sex.
The first time I had sex with a man was a casual hookup that lead to a short term dating experience until he ignored me completely. We were both on the rebound and got along well, it was easy. The first time we kissed lead to hand jobs, oral, and anal sex all in one night. I never once considered that it was a second chance to lose my virginity. I thought of him as my second sexual partner, not as the man I gave my gay virginity to.
I continued to casually date and have sex with him for about three months until he started sloughing off slowly. Then I started to feel used. I would ask him if he was done with me and he would say that things weren't like that and he respected me. Ultimately I found out that translated to him just wanting to keep me on reserve until he knew what he wanted. I ended it and wished I'd never met him. This experience didn't make me feel unclean or ashamed, but stupid. It made me feel stupid for trusting someone so easily and having sex with them so quickly. I realized that casual sex is not for me.
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]
Today we're highlighting Mitch in the US. He lost his virginity with a woman he met at a single event and is glad it happened with a woman he cared about. 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 40s male in America.
How I define virginity:
Never having had sexual intercourse (vaginal for heterosexuals and anal for homosexuals).
Here's my story:
On my 21st birthday, I was downright depressed. I was sure I was the oldest male virgin outside of the Vatican. It's not like today when you can get on the internet, google "adult male virgins" and wool ah you have all these forums and blogs where you can see for yourself that you are not alone or the oldest.
I really thought I was alone. Nor did it seem like there was any hope. I thought my chances of losing my virginity that year were about as high as winning the freaking lottery. I was beside myself. What was wrong with me? I might have been on the short side, but I wasn't bad looking. I was athletic, smart, clean shaven, dressed pretty decently, and even opened up more socially (by pledging a fraternity). Yet, I was going nowhere with women and the prospect of losing my virginity seemed like a modern miracle to me.
Then....Lo' and behold....the summer between my junior and senior year of college, when I was in my hometown for the summer, *it* happened.
Well, it didn't "just happen." I was proactive, got off my lonely, lazy arse and went to a singles event for 21+. Honestly, I did not go to these singles events with the purpose of "getting laid" or even finding a girl friend for that matter. I just wanted to try something different and meet other people. So, one Saturday night, I went. The first singles event I went to, I didn't get a date out of it, let alone a girlfriend, but I did have a ball. We started out hanging out at somebody's apartment and eventually ended up at an adult disco-tech. One of the women from the event actually asked me if I wanted to dance. She was 28 (a bit older) and she smoked, which kind of turned me off, but I did enjoy dancing with her. It felt great to get out there and I felt like I was shedding a good chunk of my shell off. I came home that night pretty satisfied.
The next Saturday night, I went again. This time we started out in a restaurant. We were all sitting around the table. This woman and I started talking. For the purpose of staying anonymous, I will call her Rachel. I can't remember if she started talking to me first or the other way around, but we seemed to hit it off, although I didn't think anything of it at the time. From the restaurant, we progressed to the same disco-tech as the week before. We didn't stay as late as the week before and ended up at somebody's apartment. Rachel and I traded numbers and then I went back home. Still no date or girlfriend, but I felt satisfied that I was at least doing something different from my routine, putting myself out there, and meeting new people.
Then, then next day Rachel called me. She actually called me and asked me out on a date. And so we went out. On our first date, we went out to eat and then to a movie. During the movie, Rachel started grabbing my hand. At the end of the movie, she kissed me on the lips!!!! I was thinking, "Is this happening to me?!?!". I thought I was going to faint, but I managed to hold my own and kiss her back. We drove back to her place, I walked her to her door, and kissed her goodnight. I couldn't believe it. This was for real!!!!
To make a long story short, we dated for about five weeks before making plans for the "big day.". We booked a room at a hotel near an amusement park. I couldn't believe it. *It* was going to happen. I knew it was for real when I told my parents about this planned "get away" with my girlfriend and told my work that I needed a couple of days off. I don't remember too much of the drive to the hotel (it was about four hours), but by the time we got to the hotel it was close to midnight. Both of us were wiped. The next morning we woke up and started kissing. Without getting into too much more details, before we knew it we were both naked and that's when I reached for the condom. Rachel helped me put it on and then I got on top of her. She also needed to help guide me in, if you know what I mean.
Rachel knew I was a virgin. I had told her a couple of weeks before. So, I didn't catch her off guard. I was her fifth or sixth sex partner, so she had experience. I had trouble coming. For some reason, try as I did, I could not reach climax (it took me a few times until I was able to). Rachel sure did though (unless she was faking it). At any rate, it happened!!!! I lost my V-card. I was 21 years, 6 months, and 26 days old. Rachel has just celebrated her 23rd birthday 17 days before, so this was like a birthday gift for her (the trip and my giving her my virginity).
The best part is that my first time was not with a prostitute. It wasn't even a one night stand. It was with a woman I cared about and who cared about me and even went out with for a year and a half. True, we broke up after a year and a half, but at least we had a long term relationship. Rachel moved on and I moved on, but I will never forget her.