I lost my virginity at nineteen. It was underwhelming.
It happened at my then-boyfriend’s place while his parents were away for the weekend. Because we were ignorant of the benefits of lube, everything felt tight and painful (rubber burn, anyone?) Halfway through, I fell down the gap between his narrow single bed and the wall and got stuck there, thus bringing the situation to a very awkward end.
I came away from that experience thinking, ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ It would be years before I understood that first attempts at sex rarely feel effortlessly enjoyable. And it would be many more years before I learned how to keep my coital awkwardness to a minimum.
This article is supposed to be about why virginity isn’t important, right? So why start by talking about it? One thing I did learn from my first attempts at sex is how overrated that capital F ‘First’ experience is. Many people get hung up on the fact that they haven’t had sex yet; they feel ashamed. And we’re often told that losing our virginity will be a HUGE deal; an amazing experience, that it will change us as people in some indefinable, but definite way.
Well, I don’t think losing your virginity is as big a deal as it’s made out to be.
If you’re considering seeing a sex worker to lose your virginity - as many people do - then I’d like you to think about what virginity means to you. Not just to make sure that seeing a sex worker is the right choice, but also to help ensure you have a good first time, when the time comes.
The basics: What is ‘virginity’?
At its most dictionary-basic, virginity is a term used to describe the state of someone who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. It’s usually assumed that ‘intercourse’ means vaginal or anal penetration… so, for most straight folks, that means ‘losing your virginity’ is all about having penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex for the first time.
The word ‘virgin’ has been used since ancient times, but it didn’t always have the same meaning as it does today. People in Ancient Rome and Greece used the word ‘virgin’ to mean a woman who wasn’t attached to a man by romance or marriage. Vestal virgins were priestesses who tended to the sacred fires in the temple of Vesta and who were accorded many more rights than other women, such as the ability to vote and own land.
Over time, as owning private property became an important feature of community life, concerns around inheritance led to greater concerns with female sexual behaviour. To make sure a man’s children were really his biological offspring, women were discouraged from having sex before marriage. And, thus, the modern idea of ‘virginity’ evolved. This way of thinking also exists outside Western moral and religious standards, but the Western view has undeniably had a huge cultural impact on the concept of virginity.
These days, losing one’s virginity is often seen as a rite of passage for people of all genders. The movie American Pie - a film I watched in high school, around the time I first did the deed - deeply impressed on me how much of a value Western society places on having sex! If you’re a straight guy, it’s a sign you’ve ‘become a man’. And in a modern world that often lacks formal coming-of-age rituals, penetrative sex is a milestone that helps us feel as though we’re growing up and into adults.
I think sexuality is something we should celebrate. But should we focus on virginity specifically?
Virginity is a construct… and it’s not helpful
When it comes to sex, why do we focus on the ‘first time’ as being so important? And why do we assume it always means penis-in-vagina sex?
Many modern sex experts say that virginity is an outdated idea. It’s a ‘construct’ - an artificial concept we’ve created to try and help make sense of things. Social constructs aren’t facts! They’re just ideas and values that the dominant social class spreads around. So, when we use the term ‘virginity’, we’ve basically decided as a society that having penetrative sex for the first time is a really big deal.
But the idea of virginity isn’t super helpful when it comes to having a good sex life. Here are a few reasons why.
Not everyone has penis-in-vagina sex
Getting intimate with someone can involve all kinds of activities, from penetration to mutual masturbation. I know someone that can orgasm just from a really good makeout session! And if you’re queer, having sex with another person might look completely different to the hetero scenes we’re told are ‘standard’. What if your first oral sex session feels more significant than your first time with penetrative intercourse? Or what if you never get around to intercourse at all? As Otis says in the TV series Sex Education, ‘Hand jobs is sex. Virginity is a construct.’
Being a virgin is seen as shameful
You know what else comes along with this socially-constructed idea of virginity? Expectations around how - and when - it should happen. If you haven’t lost your virginity by the ‘right’ time, you might feel as though there’s something wrong with you. There’s a lot of stigma around being a virgin, especially as people get older. Sometimes people just want to ‘get it over with’ so that they don’t feel bad about themselves. Or their shame makes them feel so anxious that they try to rush through it. I’ve spoken with many potential clients who wanted to book a sex worker to lose their virginity - often, they were ashamed that they hadn’t had sex, even though not having that experience made very little practical difference to their lives. That’s a lot of pressure!
Not being a virgin is seen as shameful
In some cultures it can go the other way, and losing your virginity before marriage is considered to be a moral or religious failing. Clients who crave intimacy but aren’t in a long-term relationship may feel guilty for having these desires. This means that they often struggle to relax and enjoy themselves when they spend time with sex workers.
We focus on ‘doing’ sex rather than exploring our sexuality
When ditching your virginity is the only goal, it’s easy to miss other, more impactful considerations. Exploring your sexuality is a long process! Sometimes it’s about trying new things. But it’s also about learning to do sex better for you and your partners. If you rush to ‘doing intercourse’ instead of exploring at your own pace, you might not have a comfortable experience. And if you assume you’re done as soon as you’ve ticked the PIV box, you might not put any effort into the fun that comes afterwards. And that would be a tragedy.
Advice for sex work clients
Are you considering seeing an escort or another kind of sex worker to lose your virginity? If you want to ensure a good experience, I’d recommend you focus less on that goal, and more on the idea of exploring and figuring out what feels good.
If a client feels ashamed of being a virgin, they might see sex with a professional as a box-ticking exercise: something they just want to get out of the way. They might even resent having to engage a sex worker to do this, since we’re so often told that losing your virginity should just happen naturally.
If this is how you’re approaching the situation, I have some bad news: you’re probably not going to have a great experience. Treating your provider as a last resort means you won’t be connecting genuinely with them as a person. And if you see sex as a box-ticking exercise, you won’t slow down and enjoy all the sexy activities that make this kind of encounter worthwhile.
Instead of bringing expectations of negativity into your session, I recommend focusing on a slow exploration of your sexuality. What turns you on? What do you need to get comfortable with another person? An encounter with a sex worker doesn’t need to include intercourse! Instead, you might practice kissing or touching. You may want to explore your partner’s body and find out what they enjoy.
When sex is approached in this way, sex workers can be an amazing resource and excellent guide into the world of sex. If you’re honest with us about your level of experience, we can create a safe space for practicing sexy touch. Because of the nature of the relationship, you have more room to ask for what you want without judgment, as well as space to spend time experimenting. And because providers are so knowledgeable about sex, we can likely answer some of the questions that you may feel too shy to ask elsewhere.
Sex workers can be amazing companions on your sexual journey. But first, you’ll need to understand that losing your virginity isn’t the only thing that matters! If you feel ashamed of being a virgin or stressed about what your first experience will be like, perhaps it’s time to shift your perspective and see things differently. I think we should all let go of the construct and concentrate on figuring out what makes us feel good.
Are you a sex worker with tips or experiences to share? We'd love to hear from you!
The Good Client Guide destigmatizes sex work while providing guidance on how to be a better client and ally. Better experiences for workers mean better experiences for clients! To make this happen, we’re welcoming submissions from your favourite providers.