Like most people, I was once a virgin. And like a lot of teenage girls, when I was 15, I believed wholeheartedly in shedding my hymen as if it were the old snakeskin of childhood. ‘There are things you’ll just understand when you’ve done it,’ girls in the hallway used to say to each other knowingly – and, on more than a dozen occasions, I was urged socially to ‘lose it before it’s legal, or it’s totally lame.’
Turns out, I must be totally lame. I’m no longer a virgin, but I had sex when I had a proper boyfriend who I trusted, which was well after the legal age of consent. It’s lucky it fell into place that way, because if I’d had a bit more confidence around boys, I’m 99% sure I would have thrown myself at the nearest teenage penis for a bit of social validation – teenagers can be like that, you see. They buckle under peer pressure. And even when I did have sex, it was after weeks of pestering my admittedly perturbed boyfriend, who I vividly remember asking me: ‘What’s the rush?’ He was a secure, self-assured young man, one of those rare teenagers who breezed through sixth form without tearing themselves apart over what everybody else thinks; more usually, I was riddled with adolescent insecurities, hopelessly impressionable, and deeply, jealously affected by the sight all of my peers getting told off for dry-humping on the field. It wasn’t just that no one was dry-humping me – to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even want them to.
What was wrong with me? I used to wonder, as the thought of a cheeky finger in Pizza Hut failed to give me even the slightest twinge. Well, I just wasn’t ready. And, as a Twitter follower recently pointed out to me, some of us are never ‘ready’ for sex – some people just don’t want or need sex in their lives at all. That’s cool, too. You know what I think of people being asexual? I couldn’t give a tiny rat’s ass. What anyone anywhere does in the privacy of their bedroom – whether it’s back-to-back sessions of hardcore S&M or back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey over spaghetti bolognese – has failed to interest me since I first let that lovely boyfriend of mine into my vagina, and came out the other side feeling completely underwhelmed.
Now, this is no reflection at all on the efforts of the boyfriend of my youth. He tried his hardest (no pun intended) and we had a lot of fun together. Having sex with him failed to move mountains, however – I still preferred sharing chips with him in the pub, and while I did eventually come to absolutely love sex and want to do it most days, it wasn’t until a lot later. I was pretty disappointed that after all I’d been promised by Mandy Morrins outside of maths class, I’d never come to some deep understanding about the human condition at all.
All of this is blatant common sense to most of us above the age of around 18 (and, of course, many below.) However, ‘virgin shaming’ is nowadays as common, if not more so, than the infamous campaigns of ‘slut shaming’ – and everybody knows it. Catch the episode of Girls where Shoshanna admits ashamedly to her own virginity – and is rejected by a potential lover because of it. Witness the relative silence you encounter on Twitter when you ask about the experience of virgins being shamed: a veritable black hole of communication versus the multiverse of anger you encounter when asking about ‘slut shaming.’ People are ready to call out those who ‘slut shame’; when virginity is involved, however, everyone clams up, still afraid to put themselves out there as the one who still has what all the grown-ups already lost.
A number of my friends, in their mid-twenties, are still virgins; some for religious reasons, some because they just haven’t come across the right guy yet. None of them actually want to talk about it out loud, of course, because even though they feel perfectly happy with their own principles and the way they’ve chosen to live their lives, they know how much of a big deal it might be over a pint of cider in the pub. One reported being told to ‘grow up’; another got told ‘you’re boring’; a tweeter even told us that when she told her boyfriend, he instructed her not to tell his friends about her virginity because it might make ‘him look bad.’
In a world where we normalised Rampant Rabbit discussion over civilised dinners a decade ago now thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, where we’ve seriously seen a Vogue sex article called ‘Poo: The Last Taboo’ (no, really), and where Ann Summers actually sells an underwear set that is both crotchless AND lacking in nipple coverage (in other words, the biggest material mark-up in the history of retail), can we still be seriously recoiling when people say that just haven’t had sex yet? Has this sexual opennness really backfired so badly? Because if it has, let’s all take a step back here. Naughty bits are all very well and good, but what you do or don’t with them just shouldn’t affect your kudos.
And really, if you think that rocking out with your cock out gives you social balls, then you’re probably a bit of a cunt.