I lost my virginity at age 15, in a double wide trailer. I remember his abs glowing under the black-light and the mood music–a Ginuwine album on repeat. I had snuck out on a snowy school night, holding my shoes in my hand. I felt sort of frozen and surreal, somehow knowing this was the night, and barely noticing the fact that I was just wearing wet socks in his car.
There isn’t much to describing first time sex. I felt more like I was watching myself from above than experiencing it, thinking Oh my god, this is sex! or Just move your hips with Ginuwine. Afterward, naked and side by side, I stared into his eyes, my heart feeling huge. My virginity had become a burden that past year and this was, surely, a turning point in my life. He suddenly locked eyes with mine and opened his mouth. I wanted to remember every second of this moment.
“Want a Capri Sun?” he asked.
The next day at school, I shared all the details with my friends: his penis size, what we did and in what order, and what it was like. A group of girls sat below me on the bleachers, their eyelashes batting and attention rapt.
Take my blog reader Kate, who describes her first time as such: “He just sort of rolled off me, he was drunk and probably also high, and I just sat there for awhile and stared at the ceiling while he snored. I remember I got up, put my underwear and pants back on, wondering if at that point he would get up and hug me or something. I sat there in my jeans and bra, thinking, ‘That’s it? What the hell just happened?’ Looking back and forth from myself, to the big sleeping blob that was him.”
Chara, one of my Twitter followers, says: “After losing my virginity, I became more concerned with how my naked body looked. I will still, on bad body days, look in the mirror and think, ‘Gross, I hope my partner doesn’t want to have sex at some point today.’”
She’s not alone.
A new study found that while guys experience a self-esteem boost after their first time having sex, women feel worse about their body image after. And past studies have revealed that women feel depressed after first time sex much moreso than guys.
This resonates with me on so many levels. After I cashed in my v-card, I was proud to tell my story to the other girls the next day. I felt delirious with excitement, or with the three hours of sleep I’d gotten. Yet as days passed, that excitement tunneled into obsession. See, the gentleman who kindly offered me the Capri Sun wasn’t my boyfriend. We were “just talking,” in high school parlance. I had wanted to lose my virginity to him because he was cool and good-looking. I thought it would sound okay when people asked. It was a bit like making sure you wear your best outfit on the first day of school when everyone is looking to see how much you’ve changed over the summer.
But now, I wanted something from him. I thought about him every five minutes, so calling his house every few hours seemed like nothing. Curiously, he was never home. I’d hang up, disappointed, waiting for the next few hours to pass so I could call again. I finally had to be told by a weary mother, “Please, stop calling here.”
And this is where the depression part kicks in. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to eat. And if Ginuwine came on the radio—forget it. The reasons I felt depressed might be different than other girls’, but it seems women are already at risk for depression after losing their virginity because of cultural programming. Virginity faces girls with contradictions. We are told it’s this precious, special gift for your husband. We are supposed to be “good” girls. But we are also told that we have to be sexy. And hot. Add in another trigger—like fear of rejection or body concerns—and suddenly you are a Sylvia Plath knock-off, clutching that bad poetry as your only weapon.
And maybe it’s also that our expectations are off—not only of the first time, or of the relationship afterward, but our expectations of ourselves too. Part of the cultural programming seems to be some impossible sexy standard we feel have to live up to, even the first time we have sex.
I wish I could plop down on the bed next to 15-year-old me, share that Capri Sun and tell her first time sex is both totally momentous and not. I wish I could have her tell me the story. Because something happens when we share our stories. In naming what happened, we process it. That liberation of our stories, amongst friends, can be powerful for understanding ourselves.
So, now I ask you: How did you lose your virginity? And what terrible song was playing?