It won’t come as a surprise to any of my readership if I say that, as a culture, we have some seriously fucked up notions of sex and sexuality. We teach our men that they must get as many women as they possibly can, in order to be successful or attractive. Yet we teach our women that their value as a partner is directly inversely proportional to their level of sexual experience. How, please explain to me, does anyone win in this scenario?
In my first long-term relationship, it was made no secret that a good deal of the value I held in my partner’s eyes came from my total lack of sexual experience. Much later, after we started practising polyamory, I was told that I was effectively ruined because another man’s penis had been inside me. All my rational thought and all my feminist values tell me that this is completely ridiculous, but – like so many messed up notions – this stuff gets seriously internalised, and I find myself struggling incredibly hard to break away from it.
Let me be clear, this prejudice is directed internally, not externally. I am not disgusted by the women I see who have broken away from this. I am envious of people who can proudly reclaim slurs like “slut.” But for myself, I am not there yet. I struggle with a deep sense of inner shame because I have been sexual to some degree with -*cough*- people. I find it easy not to judge others on their number of sexual partners, yet virtually impossible not to judge myself.
For a long time, I’ve found the language surrounding sex – and particularly virginity – to be somewhat problematic. A woman’s virginity is supposed to be a precious, priceless gift that, once given away, will tie her to that man forever. Fuck, I don’t want to be tied to the man I first had sex with forever, thank you very much! (On the flip-side of this, virginity or a lower experience level in a man is seen as a sign of being less masculine, and therefore a bad thing. Once again, how does anyone win here?) Yeah, it’s true that you probably won’t ever forget your first time, but it certainly won’t be the best sex of your life. Possibly it won’t even be the most loving or meaningful sex of your life. Yes, absolutely, having your first time be with someone you love and who loves you is a wonderful thing, but you are not ruined if it happens in a way you regret. You are not less loveable to the next person you get into a relationship with. (And if you are, DTMFA, please!) You are not damaged goods if you don’t marry/spend the rest of your life with the person you lose your virginity to. This latter point, in particular, took me a long time to learn… and to some extent I’m still learning that my value as a woman doesn’t lie in keeping my “number” as low as possible.
If there’s one thing you have probably picked up on about me by now, it is that I am extremely soppy and sentimental. As such, I always want the first time with a new partner to be special, whether it’s my (or their) first time or ten thousandth time. Nomad went to great effort to make our first time together special, which meant more to me than I can easily say.
I think making sex special and meaningful should be a sign of love, not something that becomes less and less significant depending on the number of partners one has had. I might have had -*cough*- sexual partners now, but I still want people who get to sleep with me to value me for me, not for the fact that they think they get to leave their mark on me as their property forever and ever.