This is explicit, for those of you who may not want to read about sex.
I’ve been reading “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape”, an American anthology of mostly women writing about sex and sexual violence which won a Publishers Weekly non-fiction award last year.
The first thing that occurs to me is how little has changed since the second wave feminist movement of the 1970s. Most of this book could have been written then, with the exception of the attention to people who do not identify without binary gender identifications. This includes the gaps – 26 authors and not one of them an indigenous American, writing about what positive sex might look like in a Cherokee framework, or a Navajo cultural context.
I’ve just finished Hanne Blank’s contribution, “The Process Oriented Virgin”, in which she draws attention to women defining our virginity not by when we first had intercourse, or when we first had an orgasm with someone else, or the first time we had non-sexual abuse sex, but by the first time we had sex with someone else and it was good for us, at least as much about our desire as our (mostly male) partners.
Ms Blank finds the idea of women discussing and defining our virginity empowering, but potentially dangerous in terms of sexually transmitted diseases if we are not honest about activities in which we engage.
She got me thinking about my own virginity and how I define it. I don’t have a key moment to hang “losing my virginity” on, precisely for the reasons she identifies.
I can remember my first serious sexual contact with someone else. Ian, back of the Film Society at Naenae College, age 14, magic fingers, the idea of which still tease me with pleasure.
I can remember my first orgasm with someone else. Mark, his bedroom in a Wainuiomata house, age 16, and while I knew plenty about my own body by then, the process of coming through someone else’s mouth was pretty damn revelatory.
I can remember the first time I “slept with” a woman. Karen, Hastings, age 20, complete astonishment at the sensuous delight of entangling limbs and bodies with someone with the same softnesses as me.
All up, I’ve used these markers to define my loss of “virginity”. None of them have anything to do with my bedsheets being tested for blood, or intercourse, or the colour of my urine changing, or getting married, or any of the other weird and wonderful ways virginity has been interpreted (and still is in some cultures) over the years.
They have in common awe-inspiring and new experiences of my body with someone else. They have in common complete and utter panting, sweaty desire, tangled through the imaginary as well as the physical. They are all experiences I look back on and smile over, have discussed with lovers since, helped form my own sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure.
The first two, notably, are not about what I was doing to/for my male partner. Ian, I’m afraid, and uniquely in my sexual interactions with other people, did not receive parallel touch from me ever. We had nothing in common but the Film Society, I didn’t really fancy him, just his fingers, and the beautiful relationship lasted but three weeks. Mark on the other hand, I have many fond memories of desire and touching, on the Wainuiomata house night and many others.
I’m interested in how other people have defined their virginity – feel free to tell as much or as little as you wish.