I lost my virginity at a fairly young age. Two years below the national average, in fact. According to national statistics, approximately 13 percent of my peers and I got that whole experience over and done with around the same time, and that was that.
To most of us, virginity loss is just an awkward or weird or silly or happy story we sometimes tell about our past. It’s neither inherently significant nor extraneous to your adulthood, but it is one of the largest parts of discovering your sexuality, regardless of the conclusions you make about sex as you get older. For some, it is the funnel through which they see sex and sexuality for the rest of their lives; for others, it was just a footnote of adolescence.
For me, it was the latter, and the best case scenario for my personality and history: I was dating a guy who treated me with incredible kindness, we used multiple contraceptive measures, I felt safe with him, nothing hurt, we went in mutual accordance our levels of comfort, and after we broke up, I was young enough that things didn’t devastate me for life. I got over him and bounced back, as teenagers tend to do. It was a good experience, I remember it fondly and I never regretted it (really, never). I genuinely believed that if I didn’t judge myself on how young I was, nobody else would either.
Naturally, I was wrong.
I’ve been fairly weird about sex and romance for the last few months, but right after I moved to New York, I decided to go on a date with a guy from OKCupid (I know, I know, but I’ve had generally swell luck with the site). He was funny, intelligent, polite, and the conversation didn’t take a whole lot of effort. But when we got to our upbringings, he mentioned that sex was something he had never experienced until he was well into his twenties.
I must’ve looked a little bewildered — not because sex after the teen years is something weird by any means, but because it is unfamiliar to me. He responded by asking me what age I was when I lost my virginity. I told him, to which he replied with very wide eyes.
“That’s…different,” he muttered. Being an awkward person already, I just sort of nodded and giggled because I had zero idea what else to do. He went on: “I don’t understand people who can just…do that. At that age. Where were your parents? And…why would you do that to yourself?”
I think it was the “do that to yourself” thing that got me, but throwing shade at my parents’ parenting skills was ridiculous, too. First of all, kids are kids and unless you lock them the hell up, they’re going to figure out a way to get around your rules. My parents weren’t excessively permissive by any means, but I was very strong-willed. I didn’t go get wasted or sneak out my window or vandalize property; I just had sex.
For several of my teenage years, sex was not only something I enjoyed, it was a means by which I was able to process the bad things that had happened to me when I was younger. Instead of my only memories of and feelings toward sex remaining negative, I wanted to cover those up. It sounds unhealthy, sure, but I do not regret beginning my more positive experiences at a fairly young age whatsoever. I firmly believe it helped me recover for the better.
Obviously, that isn’t the first nor only time that somebody had reacted negatively regarding this topic. I’ve had people look at me with a bizarre, pitying look of, “Oh, your poor childhood.” I’ve seen others shake their heads, wondering “what must have happened” to teens who start having sex early. But while I may be a survivor, I know so many people who began experimenting and experiencing sex in their teens, sans any traumatic past.
In fact, I asked people via the Internet to tell me about their experiences with virginity loss, age and judgment. The stories flooded in fast.
Many of the notes I received revolved around people’s friends and how they collectively viewed sex. As opposed to being an intimate act, this judgment makes it something of a spectator sport where outside parties get to judge ages, statistics and situations as though they are part of them. There were people who felt obligated to say they had lost their virginity earlier than they actually had. Others who responded explained that they had never had experienced judgment regarding their own virginity.
Here’s a few of the thoughts and stories from women:
“I did when I was 15 and didn’t tell any of my friends. Somehow they found out then were furious with me not because I wasn’t a virgin but because they didn’t know it about me. It was weirdly selfish/creepy of them.”
“I lost mine at an older age- 23. sometimes people would judge and others didn’t…but at the time before I lost it, it seemed as though every guy I’d see would try to claim it.”
“I’ve totally been judged because of the (relatively late) age at which I lost my v-card. I was actually once told at Planned Parenthood, ‘Wow! We never see that anymore!'”
“I was friends with the “good girls” in high school who were all waiting for marriage to lose their virginity. I shit you not, one of them actually had a V-card that her church gave her. I lost my virginity at 16 to my first love and on/off boyfriend when we were on an off period. I told one friend in confidence because she had been thinking about having sex with her boyfriend. And she told the rest of my friends and they basically thought I was a demon and told me I was a whore. I had been trying to distance myself from them anyway because they kept bombarding me with religion, which made me uncomfortable. BUT STILL #rude.”
And here were tales from men (they isn’t a huge dichotomy regarding their experiences, I just thought it would be good to separate these somehow while maintaining anonymity):
“I personally have a hard time recalling instances where i personally was given flack for when i first knocked boots (nineteen, if you’re gathering statistics. haha). i’d say that’s maybe due to that being a “decent” age, whatever that means, and because i never let any of it affect me. my personal happiness, sexually or otherwise, was not subject to the thoughts of others; i guess i just never let it get to me. i’m also male, and society treats the sexuality of men and women…differently, to say the least, which i think is unfortunate.”
“I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 18, although I’d done mostly everything else around 15. However, I feel a lot of pressure to change my answers to something younger, especially because my current partner was a lot more sexually active than me in high school, and I feel embarrassed about how much of a ‘late bloomer’ I am. I often tell my friends I was 15 when I lost my virginity, due to the fact that they all say that they’re that age or younger.
They may very well be lying, as I am, to preserve their masculinity or “alpha’ mentality. I’ve never been one to put much stock by manliness, but with sex, trying to maintain my heterosexual identity is a bit more of a ‘gray area,’ thus necessitating, in my mind, having to have started having sex earlier, whether it’s to prove to my current girlfriend that I’m as sexual desirable as she is (she started doing sexual things a lot younger than I did), or to maintain my credibility with my dude friends.”
“My personal feeling is that while I met the right first person at 19, there shouldn’t be any big rush to do it just because you feel ‘left out.’ In fact, my first time, my reaction was pretty much along the lines of ‘Oh…so this is what sex is like.’ It was only years later, and with more experience that I discovered the stuff that makes your eyes roll to the back your head.
“Knowing what I know now about adolescents and brain development, I’d like to say that ideally people should wait until they’re 25 and can make halfway decent decisions about the person they’re about to sleep with; but I also know that hormones are powerful things.
“And as for my own daughters, I’m no idiot. I know what I did in college, I know what [redacted] did in college, and I hope that they both have as much fun as we did…and are just as careful.”
Other respondents to my request for stories and opinions explained how they felt regarding the whole judgment aspect.
“I don’t think people should be judged for their age. There are too many circumstances to consider. If someone’s proud of losing their virginity early that’s worth discussion but not necessarily judgement. I don’t think someone can be condemned as a slut for age. Hopefully it’s not a race and people who haven’t lost it by their 20s aren’t judged for it. I don’t like viewing virginity as something that can be lost because it also implies its something that man can take from a woman leaving her with less than before. I don’t like that way of thinking.”
“I’m sure I have been judged. I don’t judge.”
“I tend to judge people who lose their virginities very young — like 12 or 13. Not necessarily in a bad way, but more in like a WTF kind of way. But I don’t know if you’d want that input. I wish I had a fun/weird virginity story! But alas, it was simply one of the worst 11 minutes I’ve ever had in the sack.”
“Yes. people should be judged. lol”
“I have a coworker who’s going through this kind of thing right now though. I work at a restaurant (living that creative writing major’s dream), and one of my fellow hosts has recently started dating a server, both 20. During nearly every shift i’ve worked, people come up and ask her if “they’ve done it yet,” with no concern for privacy or otherwise. It’s become almost a sport, in one twisted way. I try to reinforce the notion it’s their choice–not anyone else’s–as often as I can, because that’s my feeling on it. To judge requires a benchmark of some sort, and in this circumstance, it seems too subjective and personal to be anyone else’s choice.”
“I don’t think anyone should be judged when their sex life is concerned. Who you have sex with, when, and how, is none of my business. Unless I want to have sex with you. That’s the only time it matters.”
One of my best friends wound up giving me an excellent, empowering anecdote of how she saw her introduction to sex. Considering she’s incredibly confident and healthy in her relationships, it came as no surprise to me that she had a positive story, but it is still important to tell it since so many people, like my aforementioned date way up there, assume people who start having sex young will wind up miserable forever.
“I was 15 and there was never a minute that I regretted losing the way I did or to whom I lost it to.
“Virginity was never anything sacred to me. I’m not so much a loose woman or anything – but even in my adolescence my V-Card wasn’t something that I was taught to hold so dear. I was certainly never encouraged to screw every guy in town… but I think that my role models knew that in today’s age girls are having sex younger and younger and rather than having them base their principles on saving themselves for marriage – it’s more important to teach them the value of self respect and responsibility.
“Whether or not the guy was special to me – it was just the start of my growing into myself as a woman. I felt ready, so I did it… and with someone who wasn’t the most special to me at the time. Why? Because I thought that the longer that I waited the more of an importance I would put on it and the person it happened to be with.”
That last portion, in particular, sums up exactly why I’m thrilled to have begun having sex at a younger age. I already have a tendency to fall hard and fast when it comes to relationships, but if I placed serious importance on sex, as a whole, I think I would wind up devastated every time a relationship ended.
So, why do people vocalize opinions on others’ sex lives whatsoever?
The concept of judgment regarding other people’s sex lives is wasted on me. I mean, I understand the concept of judging people for certain things, in general. Examples:
- Harming other people
- Animal abuse
- Bragging about spending $10K on Instagram
- Being racist, sexist, transphobic, xenophobic, and so on
- Facebook contest posts
- Appreciation for or enjoyment of shrimp
But here’s the thing about judging other people’s sex lives: you don’t really gain…anything. They don’t gain anything. Nobody gains anything from it. You might feel a little better about yourself — oh, wow, that sounds so familiar as a concept — and they might feel a little worse, but in general, it will do nothing. You aren’t straightening out the world morally; you’re just presumptuously assuming you know what’s better for another human being’s life than they do.
On the other hand, when it comes to your own sexual partners, things are a bit of a different story because your own emotions are involved. While I wouldn’t be too wary of somebody who began having sex at a young age — probably because it would be entirely hypocritical; I’m not about to pretend I’m unbiased — I might think twice about having sex with someone who is a virgin. It isn’t about skill, it is about experience, and I would be afraid of him or her getting attached (as often happens when one has sex for the first time…not always, just often). For one reader, this was a similarly big issue.
“At some point in the past few years, I was seeing somebody who was a virgin but didn’t tell me. Or, rather, he lied and said he had had sex with a few other people, but this was his first serious relationship. Long story short, we split up and he became incredibly stressed out about it. He would call incessantly, text me on unknown numbers via apps, send huge emails and just generally refuse to leave me alone even though I had made it clear things were over.
“After several months, he admitted he was incapable of getting over our relationship because he had lost his virginity to me without ever expressly stating that. He explained that it felt impossible to move on as a result. I felt guilty for not being able to continue the relationship, but staying with somebody because of that single aspect is unrealistic and wrong.”
It is important to be honest with your partners, just as it is important to be honest with yourself. If you are ready and feel confident in your knowledge of birth control, contraceptives, STD risks, pregnancy risks and the like, then go for it. It’s not up to anybody else to judge. If you feel like you want to wait until you’re 26, then you should wait until your 26 (and beyond, if necessary).
Now, look down. That is your body: use it how you want it, and don’t be afraid of what other people think of its choices. And anybody who thinks they have the right to dictate mine or yours? Well…
Photos: Kids (1995), Shutterstock, An Education (2009).