Sex, Virginity and Value

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.

10 thoughts on “Sex, Virginity and Value

  1. Parkertron says:

    It took me a while and some concerted effort to stop being bothered by the idea that having sex with a new person would mean my “number” went up by one. Totally not bothered about it any more though, woohoo!

  2. tesskitteh says:

    From my experience, the first time with someone you have an amazing connection with will always be special whether or not you set out candles… or whatever. I’ve had first times where we’ve basically taken the first available opportunity… and they’ve still felt incredibly special and significant.

  3. Byghan says:

    Is it strange that I actually felt the opposite pressure?.. I felt that i needed to be experienced and that the people around me were not interested in a Virgin. Despite being a woman I felt that by not being available and even more importantly sexually skilled (through experience) I was less valued. I was not so much rendered unacceptable because I wasn’t ‘saving’ myself but considered untouchable because no one wanted me (who’d want the girl no else thought attractive enough to fuck) or else frigid and deviant/gay (as a negative stereotype).

    I am now comfortably not a teen, or a virgin, but still get a surprised reaction when I tell people how many sexual partners I have had – sadly especially in the alternative community – because there are so few. There is still a part of me that says I can’t possibly make a good judgment about who I want to spend my life with or what good sex is without a statistically relevant pool – maybe that just makes me a geek though.

    • missamaranth says:

      No, not strange at all! I write here only from my own perspective/experience (also informed by others I’ve spoken to about their experiences!) I always like to hear what people have to say, whether their perspective is similar or totally opposite.

      Thank you for sharing, and that’s really interesting. I was considered unfuckable when I was younger, (at my school it was considered freaky to reach 16 and still be a virgin,) and didn’t have the context to express how fucked up that was. It was my first (and still longest-term, having lasted just short of 6 years) boyfriend who made me feel that being “untouched” was where my value lay. I feel it from both sides these days, to some extent – society (and my exes) tells me that men want innocent virgins and will be put off by a reasonable level of sexual experience, whereas alternative/sex-positive communities are surprised at how relatively low my “number” is, and how difficult it is to get me into bed. Hmmm. This stuff is complicated!

  4. I agree that our ideas of sexuality are really screwed up. I never know where I stand to be honest. I’ve got a…let’s say, tentative relationship with sex anyway, and having recently jumped back in, I found the pressure immense because women are expected to have both a thorough knowledge of these things and yet not deemed to be a “slut”. How is one supposed to gather this knowledge and confidence then, eh?

  5. Ludi says:

    Awesome post, and actually, I’m absolutely fascinated with the abstinence movement for many of these reasons. I can recommend you some books if you’d like? /massive geek

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