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Like a Virgin

Author: Tsara Shelton
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Published: 15th Oct 2022 - Updated: 21st Nov 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Tsara's Column Publications

Summary: Virginity is a problematic concept worth revisiting and revising.



A person who has never had sexual intercourse.


Main Document

There are women around the world who can be exiled or even killed if they lose their virginity in a "shameful" way. Regardless of the culture, religion, or generation we are growing up in this influences our feelings about women's worth in unjust ways. The current idea of virginity, also, disregards experiences of people who explore sexual intercourse in same sex relationships, or simply without penis in vagina penetration. It is discriminatory, leading to less inclusive education and growth.

I've rarely thought about virginity.

There have been times, of course. Like when I was fourteen and in my first long-term relationship. As a ninth-grade girl dating an eleventh-grade boy, it was not only on my mind, and on his, but on the minds of our peers as well. Long before I "lost my virginity" classmates were assuming I had.

It bothered me. It bothered me because it was taking courage for me to tell my boyfriend to wait. He was hardly pushy about it. His near-constant declarations of patience, his promises that we would wait until I was ready, his descriptive discussions with me on what to expect, they served as proof of his manliness: he would not make me do it, but it was certainly on his mind.

So, I said, "not yet," at my own risk. How long before he felt I was not a real girlfriend? How long before he decided I didn't think he was special enough?

But, to say yes was a risk as well. Already, before deciding to say yes to vaginal penetration, kids at school were calling me easy and sleazy. Dating an older boy, one who hung out with punks and skinheads they'd heard, meant clearly I was putting out. And it was not said in a way that made putting out sound romantic.

My mom, in the meantime, was begging me to wait. Promising me that as a young woman, I could have a long pleasurable sexual life ahead of me but it would be fraught with unnecessary pitfalls and dangers if I started too soon. Unsure and unprepared. Spoiler Alert: mom was right.

Back then, at fourteen, my boyfriend and I waited until we'd been together three (maybe four?) months, and then we had the kind of sex that made it clear and absolute: I had lost my virginity. There was a little blood on the bed to prove it.

As it is for so many girls, it was underwhelming. I mean, we had already done a lot of heavy petting and oral stuff. We'd already, in truth, had sex. Just not the kind that could get me pregnant. Or make me unmarriable in many religions and cultures. Or have me ostracized by family and society, who might check my hymen (a notoriously unreliable procedure) to be sure I was clean and pure.

I remember laying there, filled mostly with the feeling that I should be feeling something more. That was it? It had hurt a little, and I had bled a little, and we were done. Over the next several months we continued to do it, but it never seemed much different from the other sex we also had, other than the potential for pregnancy.

Until recently, I rarely thought about virginity. Other than to know I am lucky and grateful that my story is actually quite a simple and sweet one. Highschool boyfriend, waited a while, lost my virginity, stayed together a while afterwards, the end.

I know it isn't that simple for a lot of people.

I did wonder back then about people who had been forced into sexual penetration. Technically, they weren't virgins, right? But did they "lose their virginity"? I mean, when you are having a friendly conversation about losing your virginity, do you include that? Or can losing your virginity be when you chose to have vaginal penetration for the first time?

I remember dating a boy who was a virgin when I myself was not. He was older than me, but only a little. I felt sexy, knowing about something he did not. At first he only wanted to kiss and touch. I liked that very much because, even though I had been in sexual relationships before, I did not like sex. Eventually, though, he wanted to try penetrative sex. I felt pressure to be amazing, to blow his mind, to teach him gently but sexily. I did nothing of the sort. I softly spoke and guided him... and it was over. I felt so embarrassed for messing it up. I felt awful and hateful toward myself. He could never get that back. I had somehow ruined his virginity story.

Many years later, I became the mother of four sons who would one day lose their virginity. As they hit puberty, one by one, I practiced teaching them about sex. About being in no hurry, about preventing unplanned pregnancy, about the desire for sex being entirely natural, beautiful, and meaningful. About the act of having sex being inclusive, creative, and above all, needing clear consent. Their consent and the consent of anyone involved.

My sons have all had sex. Two of my sons are fathers now. All but one of my sons has been sexual with both men and women. None are virgins, but I am uncertain of their stories regarding virginity. My uncertainty, in part, stems from their own.

"I feel I lost my virginity the first time my genitals touched my friend's genitals in a sexual way. But, technically, I guess I didn't lose my virginity until I had sex with a girl, the one who really badly wanted to get pregnant," one of my sons told me.

If a boy puts his penis in a girl's vagina for the first time, but does not ejaculate at all and merely finishes because he isn't wanting to keep going, not because he had an orgasm, does he feel like he lost his virginity?

What is it, this virginity? Before my own hymen was broken I had been quite sexual with my boyfriend. And before that, sexual things had been done to me without my consent. And long before that, I had played "doctor" rather willingly (actually, I think it was my idea) with a few neighbor boys.

Even with my own history of confusion on the subject, it has hardly been a thought for me. I am privileged that way. Because my story is sort of clear and simple, I can not care too much.

But recently, I started thinking more about it.

It started with my step-daughter. She is eighteen and has not had vaginal penetrative sex with anyone yet. Or, more accurately, she has not had consensual vaginal-penis penetrative sex. She talks about wanting to lose her virginity so she doesn't feel like a loser. She's sort of on a mission, actually. But the thing is, she's had sex. Her hymen is maybe intact, maybe not. She's not a virgin, really. And yet, she is.

A loser? Um, no! She's cool. Smart. Beautiful. She says "no" to sex she doesn't want. I think that's the least loser-ish thing about a person. It's something I had a hard time learning, and one of the things I'm most proud of now. How comfortably I say no without feeling apologetic or cruel. She has that.

Meanwhile, I myself have recently lost my virginity. I have four adult sons, I have been in several sexual relationships leading up to now, but now I feel like I've truly lost my virginity.

Am losing it, actually.

I am in a relationship now that is bringing me newness, teaching me things, showing me places, introducing feelings that I have never known. Some I had hoped to one day know, others I never knew to hope for. I am losing my virginity.

Until sex with Ian I did not know all the things sex could be. And the funny thing is, we don't have penetrative sex as often as we enjoy all the rest. Our hands, our mouths, our skin, our discussions, our connecting and laughing and moaning and teasing. It doesn't only bring me to the edge of orgasm and beyond, it brings me new knowledge of what I like and who I am. It brings me questions about who my lover is and he tries to give me answers. In the trying, he shows me who he is.

Like a virgin, I keep being touched for the very first time.

Virginity became an interesting concept to me again while editing my mom's upcoming book. She's writing the story of a woman she knows. That woman (who was diagnosed with DID - dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder) has a few different stories of losing her virginity. They are all, in different ways, valid.

The stigma - for men and women - about virginity changes depending on religion, culture, social trends. But stigma is there.

Why do we even have virginity? We become sexual in different ways, differently, over the entirety of our lives. Even my best friend, who married her high-school sweetheart (they have been together for over thirty years) has had the experience of working through a variety of virginities. She and her husband love sex and are comfortable having conversations about it. They are playful and honest. Yet they have had many times of insecurity, bodily changes, parenting interruptions, and now aging is playing a role. Having sex is not something you one day do and now you've done it. It evolves.

So, I get that women might get pregnant when they have vaginal penis penetration, and this is something we should always explain and teach, and I get that some sexually transmitted infections are more easily transmitted with penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) than others, and this should also be taught and cared about. Anal sex in particular is inherently risky for infections, not only of the sexually transmitted variety. These are things we ought to practice talking about comfortably.

But why ever focus on losing our virginity? Unless it is, as I'm now learning, to focus on losing our many virginities?

Like a virgin, I'm new to this. I hadn't thought much about it before but suddenly, it feels important. It feels as if our society has created something seriously problematic, often dangerous, and I can't for the life of me see a reason to keep it up.

Author Credentials:

Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to

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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2022, October 15). Like a Virgin. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

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