My sister, who is three years my junior, has had sex. I, however, have not. When this happened and she told me, I wasn’t all that surprised. She was always the one with a boyfriend, the one with more experience and the one who my extended family liked to interrogate about her dating life (after attempting to interrogate me with poor results, I think they realized her romantic life was more exciting). This rarely bothered me. I knew my time would come and I knew that I would have my fair share of romantic endeavors. That was until I realized that, among my group of friends from high school, college and beyond, I had become the last fish in the barrel. That is to say, I am the only one who has yet to have sex.
All of a sudden, knowing my younger sister had passed this supposed “milestone” became too much for me to handle. I was no longer the cool, collected, secure-in-herself older sister I had always been. I was constantly thinking about my “virginity,” to the point where I felt like I was wearing it like a red flag. It gave me anxiety to feel like the last one, to feel like all of my friends had lapped me in the proverbial race that represented how I saw romance.
So much of our society is predicated on the prowess of coming in first (no pun intended). We are constantly compared to, ranked among and analyzed alongside one another. It seems totally logical, because it’s the way we have been brought up to see the world, but if we take a step back, we can see that it doesn’t really make that much sense. After all, how are we expected to enjoy or reflect on any of what we’ve done if all that matters is how it looks in comparison to someone else and the things they’ve done? If it’s about coming in first (or at least not coming in last), time is of the essence. Everything is timed, and we’re all pitted against each other.
If we’re looking for love in our romantic endeavors, this certainly doesn’t seem like a way to it. And even if we’re not, it still doesn’t really make sense that we’re viewing this as a competition. We reduce romance to this arbitrary end result, and lose any ability to enjoy our experiences in the process. Even if sex and dating aren’t about finding “the one,” even if it’s about satisfying desires or just having fun, what’s the point in doing any of that if it’s just for the sake of ranking yourself?
As I started to settle into the knowledge that I was the last “virgin,” I came to realize that that wasn’t a way of seeing sex or romance or passion or courtship that I was comfortable with. I came to realize that whether or not I had had sex meant nothing.
So, this article that I’m writing is about a lot of things. It’s about how I think that “virginity” isn’t a great way to conceptualize your first time. It’s about how “first time” isn’t something we should be racing toward in an effort to out-compete one another, but it’s also about how you shouldn’t feel obligated to wait if your first time having sex is something you want to do. It’s about how I came to realize that it really didn’t mean anything that I was the last “virgin” among the people I knew, unless I wanted it to.
It’s about how, in an effort to live your life without regrets, you should make these experiences ones you’re proud of. It’s about how that means different things for different people. You can absolutely be proud of something that your friend might find completely embarrassing or regrettable. You can be proud of something I might seem to denounce in this piece. My ultimate message, though, and what I hope you take away from reading this, is that it’s about you.
While looking for pictures to accompany this article, when I searched “virginity,” the most common result was some varying image of a single flower. An orchid, a rose and other singular flowers I am not capable of identifying with my limited botanical experience came up. They all had this one thing in common—they are pictured alone.
This struck me as slightly ominous at first, and perhaps if I had a different understanding of virginity, that meaning would have resonated with me most. Maybe these pictures have some relation to the notion of “deflowering,” another highly problematic term that requires another article in its entirety for me to grapple with. So, at first, I was perplexed. But then I realized that this was the exact point I was trying to make.
Regardless of how you conceptualize your first kiss, your first time or any of your romantic endeavors, what I believe is important is the notion of you and “your.” At the end of the day, you are the one with the memories and the power to feel good (or bad) about them. You are the one to whom your experiences belong, and you can’t let anyone take that away from you. Not younger sisters, friends nor society at large.
I know that this topic may seem tired. I know I might sound like an inexperienced weirdo shouting into the void, like I’m sitting here petulant and whiny about how no one has had sex with me. I certainly know I’m not the first person to have written about this topic, but, given the amount of time I still spend thinking about how my sister had sex for the first time before I did, I feel like a reminder might be necessary. And this isn’t just a reminder that terms like “deflowering,” “v-card swiping” and “cherry,” to name a few, are completely arbitrary.
This is a reminder that, in the world of romance, in my experience anyway, we often forget to put ourselves first. We forget that, like Cristina Yang says, we are the sun. We let other people’s standards get mixed up with how we feel about ourselves, and end up not feeling too good about ourselves! This means that it’s necessary to rethink how we feel. We have to set our individual standards straight so that, when the time comes to have sex or to evaluate how we feel about having sex, we are comfortable with the terms, with ourselves and with how we feel. Only then can we be remotely comfortable with whoever else is involved.
When I first sat down to write this, I wanted to effectively preach my position about how virginity is meaningless. And I still believe that—virginity is a concept that was made up to make women feel bad about themselves. To slut shame, in effect.
But my opinions are meaningless if they’re that one-dimensional or one-sided. After giving this more thought, I understand that there are religious, personal and other reasons why people want their “first time” to be special. Hopefully this piece has made clear that I don’t want anyone to feel bad about making that a reality. I hope your first time is special if you want it to be! I know people at all positions on the spectrum. Friends who thought they didn’t care if their first time wasn’t “special,” friends who thought they didn’t care but then realized they did after the fact and friends who did have sex for the first time with people they loved.
All of these experiences are relative, and I’ve told all of these friends the same thing. I’ve told them that, no matter how they choose to deal with the events, I’ll support them, and that no one else has any dictation over how they classify these experiences. Just them. If they feel good, that is all that matters.
So have sex with all of the people you want, or wait for Mr. or Ms. Right. Be in between, have sex with a handful of people you do or don’t like, love or don’t love. Just remember that the power is in your hands, and that, though the power that societal standards possess may seem immutable, no one has the right or the ability to decide how you feel except for you.