One of the craziest dichotomies in American culture is the one about, you guessed it, your virginity. Practically from birth, we’ve been told how important it is to “protect” your virginity and “save yourself” for the right person, while media and popular culture simultaneously bombards us with an obsessive amount of half-naked models and actresses, advertisements for condoms and lubes, and music videos with glorify sex .  For some people, virginity becomes a stigma, something you should “get rid of” in order to grow up and move on with your adult life.

So what’s the deal- which do we choose?  Is virginity a prized possession or a hindrance to your growth as a person?  I would argue NEITHER.

Losing your virginity is something that happens.  Point blank.  Hopefully, it will be with a person who respects you and hopefully, you will enjoy it.  But studies have shown that people who place greater importance on losing their virginity are less likely to be satisfied with the experience (wish I could site my source for that, but I can’t find it!).  For me, losing my virginity was something I wanted to happen, not because I disliked the stigma of the word “virgin,” but because I wanted to have sex and feel intimate with someone.  Looking back, I’m not sure I could put a checkmark next to either of the criteria- partner who respected me or an enjoyable experience- but that doesn’t mean I regret losing my virginity.

Author Kate Monroe has written a book based on the experiences of 61 different people and how they lost their virginities- entitled “Virginity Loss: an Intimate Portrait of our First Sexual Experiences,” which she talks about in this article from the Guardian. She also keeps an updated blog called The Virginity Project where people can post about their first times.  I like the concepts addressed in the article and many of the stories, because they resonate with all of us in different ways: the awkwardness of not knowing how to handle your own body, learning slowly how you respond to different things, the frustration/alienation of being a virgin, the hesitation to actually have sex because of pressure from your parents, your health teacher, and society in general.  All of these things shape who we are and how we have sex, so it is really cool to hear the first-person perspectives on these issues.

As for me, I don’t know if I’ll submit my virginity story.  It wasn’t the most positive thing in the world.  But as I’ve told both of my partners who have come after that first experience, it helped shape me into the sexual person I am today.  If I had not lost my virginity when I did, I do not believe that I would have the same confidence in my body, my sexuality, and my voice to talk about such experiences that I do today.  Bad memories fade, but the ability to understand and take control of your sexuality will stay with you and shape you forever.