love out loud: the first time
Although this column is ‘supposed’ to be about my experiences, I write it with the general hope that it’s going to be relevant to more people than just me. Yet, I am aware that there are a lot of things that aren’t all that pertinent to me now that probably are to many others, and between my present partner’s desire not to be written about in detail, and my concerns about being too me-centric, I’ve realised that addressing some of these issues may not be such a bad idea.
So. First Time Sex.
I was amongst the first (okay, I was the first) of my friends to have sex and even at the time, I found it disconcerting when a couple of said friends told me they no longer thought of sex as such a big deal because I was so flippant about it. This never was and never has been what I’ve wanted to convey, particularly not about the decision to “lose it”, but I do usually write and talk about sex in a pretty open and offhanded way. This is because there are a lot of funny things about sex and however unsuccessful I may be at it, I do try to write in a way that might be amusing. To some, at least.
Sex is a big deal, and it’s also not. It’s entirely overrated, and entirely underrated, and that’s why writing about the first time is such tricky territory.
Several days ago, I read an article by the fantastic Rachel Rabbit White citing research from Dr Laura M. Carpenter that categorises the loss of virginity into three groups: a gift (those who see virginity as something special and want their first time to be perfect), a stigma (those who see virginity as an embarrassment to rid oneself of, particularly as they get older) or a rite of passage (those who see it as a step toward adulthood and often plan it out).
I thought I was going to be a gifter, but my actual first time ended up being a haphazard and stupid decision when I was too young. I was put on the spot after already having said ‘no’ and I suppose my reasoning and alarm bells hadn’t yet fully developed.
It was a couple of minutes of me looking around the room before he realised that we should probably stop and said as much. He walked me to a tram stop afterwards and instead of going home, I cried on a jetty for an hour. As a result, I didn’t have sex again for almost two years.
Now, some years later, I no longer think of it as a big deal. A dumb thing to do, sure, but I don’t think it’s had an adverse effect on my later sexual experiences, and I only even ‘technically’ classify it as sex. And though my friends’ first times are incredibly varied – from losing it in a bar bathroom to planning it out with a friend to doing it with a long-term partner – what they have in common is that these people have all turned out remarkably okay.
Given that sex is something that’s incredibly personal to each individual, there is no right way to go about (except in a mechanical sense: if things aren’t touching, you’re doing it wrong), and no one should tell you otherwise. If you want to wait until you’re in love or married, that’s okay. If you don’t understand why everyone talks it up so much, that’s okay too.
People have all sorts of different reasons for why and when they decide to have sex and they’re generally all valid. The problems arise when people parade around their virginity or non-virginity as something more desirable than the alternative.
But if, like me, you walk away from your first time thinking, ‘oh fuck, what did I just do?’, try not to guilt yourself about it. Think about what you want sex to mean to you in future and remember that having done it once doesn’t open the floodgates for more, unless that’s what you want. No one else has to know anyway.
But whatever you do (as though you need any more reminders), practice safe sex!
(Image credit: 1.)