When I decided not to be a virgin
This is one of my submissions to the ongoing series “When did you know?”, an examination of the intersection of labels and identity. Information on how to submit your piece to the series can be found on the Join Us page. To see all posts in this series, click here.
Having sex had nothing to do with it, because to this day I have not engaged in any kind of partner sex. My Catholic upbringing regularly impressed notions of chastity, purity, sexual repression, and guilt guilt guilt. I have been socialized with the idea that if you get to 22 and you haven’t had sex yet, there’s something wrong. I was sure being overweight had something to do with it. I was sure my personality had something to do with it. As I got older, I was sure my lack of experience had something to do with it. There’s got to be something wrong with me, or my body, or my way of life.
But here’s the thing: there isn’t.
The revelation of my not-virginity came to me in pieces. The first was while I was skyping with Becky. We were talking about me being a virgin, despite the fact that I know more about sex than a lot of people. Despite the fact that I am better than most people at talking about sex. Despite the fact that I am extremely familiar with my body, my desires, my needs. The second half of this revelation was a day later while re-reading Yes means Yes!, particularly in an essay by Hanne Blank about “process-oriented virgins”. I have subscribed to a transitional approach to virginity for a while, but in my brain claiming “not virgin” still required experience with some kind of partnered sex. Why is “virgin” a label people people can claim despite conventional evidence to the contrary? Why isn’t “not-virgin”? And of course, it is.
I still carry with me a lot of the implications virginity has on my life. Sometimes I am sort of terrified by the idea of flirting because it might lead to some kind of relationship (friendship or romantic) and I would feel weirdly obligated to reveal my virginity and they would scoff and leave me alone. Now I can start regularly thinking “I am not a virgin”, acclimating to the idea, and letting those words sink into my daily actions.
I am not here to stabilize notions of virginity or female sexuality. I am here to claim my body as my own and claim my experience as valid. I have never engaged in partner sex, and I might never choose to do so. I have decided, here and now, not to be burdened by the label of virgin.