HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY begins in the city where I grew up. On a street I walked countless times. next to a hair salon called shagg. in a basement apartment, which is now a flower shop called bloom. where I had sex for the first time.
When I finally lost my virginity at age 23, it wasn’t because I finally found Mr. Right. I had simply grown tired of waiting for him. So, I had sex with the next guy who asked. Looking back on my haze of fear, shame and confusion, I wondered if others felt the same way I had, and why it’s still so excruciating to talk honestly about sex. I also wondered what exactly I had lost.
My early myth-shattering sexual experience is a jumping-off point for a quest to understand the impact of idealized virginity on young women; virginity’s historical role in U.S. culture; its power to mold a girl’s self-image; its commodification-something manufactured, sold, given away, taken.
Using the grammar of popular culture to deconstruct its message of “be sexy but don’t have sex,” I address young women and men in subversive, disarming and entertaining ways to broach sometimes uncomfortable topics. The style of How To Lose Your Virginity is open-minded, accepting, and positively reinforcing. While some stories may be explicit, they are not intended to titillate, but to present an honest telling of sexual experiences. The interviews are shot without extensive set- ups in an atmosphere of trust and openness with subjects. The goal is to open doors to private spaces and show images of real women that are rarely seen on a screen. Everyone has a virginity story to tell, but this project isn’t just about virginity, it’s about the larger power of connection and community through storytelling.
For nearly a decade, my work has looked at the world through a feminist lens. I Was A Teenage Feminist (modern feminism), How I Learned To Speak Turkish (sexuality), #SlutWalkNYC (rape culture), The End (romance narratives) and Womanly Perfection (body image) all share my personal style and tone, the way I use humor, my intimacy with subjects, and how I leverage my personal experience to make universal points. They exist on a thematic continuum that runs through all of my work: The ability of each of us to define who we are and what we need, without judgment or shame.
My first-person female voice is grounded in the tradition of feminist filmmaking that treats the personal as political, that our personal issues are a reflection of a systemic problem, and that we are not crazy nor alone in experiencing them. My personal arc guides the larger narrative; I explore public issues by thinking through my own intimate experiences. I am pushing back on the conventional wisdom that men’s personal stories are universal while women’s are only specific. I consider the work a radical conduit to dismantle deeply held beliefs on female sexuality, and my outspoken voice recently led a conservative blogger to label me a ‘Brazen Advocate of Slut Culture,’ (a distinction I am proud of).
I’ve always been a DIY filmmaker, working on shoestring resources, depending on in-kind contributions and community fundraising one $25 donation at a time. I find it is worth the effort when I received comments like this one from a rough-cut viewer, below...