CW: childhood sexual abuse, and sexual assault
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the topic of virginity is not an easy one to discuss. When most people reflect on losing their virginity, it brings back happy, maybe funny memories. Maybe losing your viriginity brings you back to a long lost love. But for me, it untangles not only memories of my abuse, but also how my abuse caused my self worth to be so low that I lost my virginity out of convenience rather than passion.
At age eleven, I briefly considered myself not a virgin. I was in fifth grade, hormones raging, and many of my friends were starting to talk about sex. Some said they weren’t virgins anymore (although I now know that is bullshit) and it started me thinking about myself. Before that, I had not considered what my sister did to me to be sexual, and at that moment I realized it was. The way I coped was by being comforted that I wasn’t a virgin like my friends claimed to be. By then my sister had stopped abusing me so it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time because it was over, at least physically.
I only told one person that my abuse made me not a virgin. I did not expect her reaction- disgust, sympathy. In a way it validated me because she was the first person I told. But all she could offer me was validation that what happened to me was wrong. She used that information against me once we had a fight like friends do. She ended up telling the mean girl in our class about my abuse. But the mean girl dismissed the story as too outlandish to be true and didn’t believe her. I learned then not to trust anyone with my secret, not only because it was used against me, but because the mean girl’s dismissal of my experience taught me that there’s a possibility that people will not believe me. But why would I make that up?
After that, I decided I was a virgin. No penetration happened, I did not know that two women could have sex with each other. And life continued.
A year later I made out with someone for the first time. It started when my friend spent the night at my house on New Year’s Eve. I woke up to her on top of me. I laid there like a slug like it was my only defense. I joke by quoting A Christmas Story but that’s really what happened. I wasn’t attracted to her, and I wasn’t a stranger to having someone I don’t want on top of me. So I lied there, just like I did when my sister wanted to play. My mom called us down for breakfast after what seemed like ten minutes of me frozen not knowing how to react, and neither of us spoke of that awkward encounter ever again.
A few weeks later, I was at a sleepover with all of my friends including her. We started to play Truth or Dare and I was dared to kiss one of my friends. I started to cry. I couldn’t explain to them why I didn’t want my first kiss to be that way. I wanted it to be special because so much of myself had already been stolen from me. I wasn’t letting my first kiss to be a dare between friends. The game ended.
Not long after that I slept over at my friend’s house. She got on top of me again. This time I gave in and kissed her. We made out the rest of the night, stripped our clothes off, and did the same thing my sister and I used to do.
I returned home. Confused as fuck. Tried to write out my feelings in my journal. Was I bisexual? Or did I give in because that’s what I was used to? I confided in one of my friends about making out with our mutual friend, which again was a mistake. Soon the whole grade knew I made out with her, but I was the one labeled a dyke for talking about it. Yet, all I had done was react. I remained marked as a dyke throughout middle school- two years after the incident someone wrote, “fucking dyke” on my campaign poster for class treasurer. And life continued.
As a teenager, I was eager to have sex. By fourteen I was giving my boyfriend blowjobs regularly and he was trying to eat me out (although he never quite found my clitoris). The only thing that stopped me from having sex was birth control, and I was just waiting for him to get his license so he could drive me to Planned Parenthood because I didn’t want to ask my mom. We broke up before he got his license so I started out high school virginity in tact.
By then I had realized that my sexuality got attention and I liked it. I was out as bisexual, and many of my guy friends loved how I would talk about sex comfortably. I was watching porn and talked about that with them too. I knew they were attracted to me and it made me feel worthy. It wasn’t long before I started showing my breasts for money, one guy I even let take a Polarioid for $20 I think. I never told anyone about it; the only people who knew were the guys I showed my tits to. I know they talked because a guy mentioned it to me once but it was not enough to get a reputation, at least nothing anyone had the guts to say to my face. And life continued.
I now realize that I used my sexuality because I was searching for a loving, trusting relationship that I had lost with my sister. I could use my body to get people interested in me, even if it was superficial. If I initiated sex, then I couldn’t get hurt, or used, because it was my idea. By then, I had mastered separating any emotional feeling from sex and didn’t give a shit about people using my body as long as I got something out of it. Ten years later I now know that means I had low self worth.
When I was fifteen, I dated an 18 year old punk rocker. My parents knew his age, so sex wasn’t exactly easy and we dated for six months before it was supposed to happen. He was supposed to come over one day when my parents weren’t going to be home and it was very clear that I was planning on having sex with him. He ditched me for crystal meth so I dumped him.
After that, I just wanted to get rid of my virginity. I didn’t want a relationship necessarily, I just wanted sex. I wanted an orgasm. I wanted to feel the pleasure my sister felt when she violated me. It was my turn damnit. And that’s when I met a guy who was a year older than me who lived down the street. He had a car and a license, and he wasn’t a virgin. He was kind of nerdy too, a gamer, so I figured he wouldn’t pass up fucking someone as hot as me. He didn’t.
Sadly though, I was naive about an orgasm. Sex did feel good, but he wasn’t good at it. I thought he was more experienced but he kept falling out. I ended up having to be on top to make it work.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was over. And he started dating someone else a week later. I had enough self worth to be hurt and pissed off by him using me like that. Yet, it’s not like I didn’t use him. I never told him that I really just wanted to lose my virginity, but we did hang out on multiple occasions before we had sex. I thought he would at least date me for a little while. I wasn’t expecting fireworks, but it would’ve been nice to be treated with some respect.
A few months later I did find that loving trusting relationship I needed. And I did finally have an orgasm. I didn’t regret losing my virginity so flippantly, and I still don’t. It was something I wanted and needed at the time to reclaim my own body.
But now I know how loaded the question of my virginity is, and how much losing it was wrapped in my abuse. I can laugh it off when the topic of virginity comes up when sharing cocktails with friends, but I always come home with memories flashing through my head. Memories of how I’ve always been a flirt, how that was exasperated by my abuse, how it progressed into child pornography in my teens, and sexual assault by strangers at a hotel bar in my twenties. I remember the photo of me, age 9, sitting on an older boy’s lap. How my family laughed it off as me being a flirt. I wasn’t just being a flirt. It was learned behavior.
Then I remember how my parents were blind to it: my abuse, my hypersexuality. All these memories floating in my brain because someone brought up losing their virginity.