Get Real! Women Who Sleep With Women Losing Their Virginity

Heather Corinna

What you're discovering is one of the many ways in which virginity as a concept doesn't make sense. If you two pursue sexual pleasure together, however you choose to do it, you're having sex.

sexiguitargrrl asks:

I
am bisexual and my girlfriend and I are planning on having sex for the
first time. We both are virgins and want to lose it to each other but
don’t know how and how will we know that we lost it?

Heather replies:

What you’re discovering is one of the many ways in which virginity as a concept often doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

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Let me be plain: the way I see it, if you two choose to pursue sexual pleasure together, whatever you choose to do in that pursuit, you’re having sex; you’ll have had sex. That’s not
only the case for women partnered with women and men partnered with
men, but also for women partnered with men, or people having any kind
of sex together of any given gender or gender identity. We cannot
easily define what sex is or is not for all people, because when we try
and do that, we usually wind up leaving out a whole lot of people and
their sexual experiences. For example, you might not say that sex is
having your neck rubbed, if I feel sexual while I someone is doing that
to me, my partner feels sexual while doing it, and I reach orgasm that
way, to boot, how is that not sex? Conversely, while so many people
define vaginal intercourse as sex, if a given woman never enjoys that,
if it doesn’t feel sexual to her, and she never gets off with it, how
does it make sense to define that as sex for her? Ultimately, we have
to leave it up to everyone as individuals to define what sex is or
isn’t, because our experiences and sexualities are just too diverse to
try and fit us all into one box, and how I might define it for you is
inevitably going to be biased based on my own personal experiences,
ideals or agenda.

Let’s take a look at some of the conflicts the concept of virginity may pose to you and has posed for many.

We explain a lot at Scarleteen that virginity is not a medical term.
However, historically, many have made an attempt to try and make it a
medical term by considering the "loss" of virginity to be the
"breaking" of the hymen for women (there has never really been any such
attempt to medicalize virginity for men). That’s something we’ve known
to be flawed for some time now, for a bunch of reasons.

The hymen is a thin, elastic membrane tethered just within the
vaginal opening — which tends to cover it through childhood and some
of adolescence — which usually gradually erodes over time, a process
that most typically starts around puberty, and which can last anywhere
form several years to even decades.

That wearing away is typically due to a lot of different things: due
to vaginal secretions and menses, the increase of estrogen in the body,
general physical activity, partnered genital/vaginal sex or
masturbation of several types, even childbirth, since for some women,
the hymen will not have completely eroded by the time they give birth.
Generally, the hymen will start to develop what we call
"micro-openings," which get larger and larger over time, until
eventually, for most women, only a trace of the hymen is left — and
usually remains through life — just inside the vaginal opening. What
the hymen looks like as it wears away varies among women, and what rate
it wears away at also varies among women.

While some women may have a hymen earnestly break or tear — rather
than gradually wearing away — due to genital injury, rape or very
aggressive vaginal sex, for most, losing the hymen is not a one-shot
deal, something that happens all at once when any given woman has
intercourse or any one kind or incident of vaginal sex. Some women even
become pregnant with their hymens still largely intact (thanks to those
little micro-openings and the oft-mistaken idea that direct genital
contact with an intact hymen is safe), which is an occasional reality
that flies in the face of the historical notion that no previous
vaginal intercourse or a seemingly intact hymen means a woman’s progeny
can easily be tracked to the man responsible for first intercourse with
her or "breaking" her hymen.

Even for heterosexual women who define first sex as intercourse, if
what virginity is defined as is the "loss" of the hymen, then plenty of
women who have had intercourse will leave it still being virgins.
Conversely, plenty of women who have never had partnered sex, but whose
hymens have worn away or been torn would not be considered
virgins. There was so much ignorance about women’s bodies for so much
of history that until relatively recently, people just didn’t know all
of this stuff, and in some places still, they still don’t know
it, or choose to deny the reality of our anatomy in order to hold up a
cultural belief. These are some of the reasons why defining virginity
that way is seriously problematic, and why it is not a term you are
likely to hear a sound sexual healthcare provider use.

Since virginity as a concept has historically nearly always been —
and usually is still — about heterosexuals and also about marriage,
when we talk about virginity, we’re going to find ourselves talking
about heterosexuality, heterosexism and heteronormativity a lot. If
you’re looking in history for inclusion of lesbian women, or bisexual
or heterosexual women who have had sex with other women, when it comes
to concepts of virginity, give on up. There’s nothing to find.

However, even for heterosexual women, defining when they have had
"real" sex as when they have had vaginal intercourse is a strange thing
to do since a majority of women, vaginal intercourse isn’t an activity
where they are even likely to reach orgasm or experience as much
pleasure as they might with other activities, like oral or manual
clitoral stimulation. Like so much else when it comes to virginity (and
even sexuality as a whole) as a concept, this is another area where
what sex is and is not is being defined not based on all the bodies and
persons involved, but on one: while most women do not reach orgasm from
intercourse alone, most men do, and that’s who, through most of time,
has also been in charge of defining sex and virginity.

Lastly, I think the idea that when we choose to be sexual with
someone else, we "lose" something is pretty backwards. When we choose
to share our sexuality with someone else who also wants to share theirs
with us, we are creating something which did not exist before, not
losing something or taking something away from someone. We’re making
something new. While sometimes the notion of sex as loss is about loss
of childhood, the idea of sex as a loss mostly tends to come from
places you probably — especially as someone who loves women — would
not appreciate; from ideas about women as property, women as nonsexual
beings, women’s sexuality as an object or something to "give" to a
husband or man who "takes" it away, or women’s sexuality as something
rapists rob from us. One would hope that those kinds of notions would
be left well outside the bedroom in a healthy sexual relationship
between equals and partners who are seeking to share mutual physical
pleasure and emotional care or love.

What sex is and is not for any given person or couple just isn’t
something we can easily or universally define, because we are all
different, our sexualities all vary somewhat, and our sexual
experiences vary. How we have sex with someone isn’t one given thing:
some days, we may want to have oral and manual sex, some days, manual
sex all by itself, some days, shared massage with intercourse (and
women who want that with female partners can experience that with hands
or sex toys), some days, a lot of kissing, verbally sharing fantasy and
mutual masturbation. We find out how we have sex with a given partner
by talking with them, communicating in other ways, and experimenting
together to suss out what feels good and what doesn’t. That’s a
constant process, too (and part of what makes sex exciting): we don’t
learn how to have sex with any given activity once, and then do or
enjoy it exactly the same way every day or with every partner.

As well, what sex is and is not is not so simple as talking about
what tab is in what slot: it also has to do with what’s going on
interpersonally, emotionally and psychologically, which is, for
example, why rape — for the person being raped — is not sex, even
though some of the same things may be happening physically which two
people choose to do when both people are consenting and are seeking
shared pleasure and/or union.

Frankly, I’m a proponent of throwing away the whole notion of virginity. This is the 21st century, after all, not the 10th.

Personally, I just feel like it is a concept so steeped in the
oppression of women (and which historically and globally has been and
is sometimes still rife with violent and tragic consequences for many
women), in ignorance about sexuality, and in defining sex in ways that
strike me as counter to healthy, positive sexuality that it’s way past
reclaiming. Now, you may have a different opinion, and find that it is
something you want to reclaim and redefine for yourself. Some women,
despite the history, do find concepts of virginity personally
liberating. If you do want to do that, then the answer is that you get
to define it however you choose, in whatever way makes sense to you and
fits your reality. I can’t tell you how to do that or what that will
be, because I have no way of knowing what your experiences will be
like, what sexual activities you two will engage in, or what each of
your personal values are: this is one of those things you’re going to
have to find out about for yourself.

But what I’d suggest is that you consider allowing the sexual
experiences you two have together to determine what is meaningful and
enjoyable for you both: not for anyone else, just for the two of you.

I would also suggest that by all means, if you want to recognize and
celebrate any or all of your first-times with sex or a partner, that
you feel free to do that — however you define those first times —
with the love, awareness, reverence or delight you feel. First-times of
all sorts are important to many people, and we can recognize and honor
them whether or not they have anything to do with anyone’s pre-existing
ideals or standards: we all get to determine what our own milestones
are. I would suggest that you focus not on any kind of loss, but on the
quality of the sex and relationship you are discovering, creating and
cultivating, and on you two exploring sexual activities together based
on what feels authentic and good for you both — physically,
intellectually and emotionally — and which is a unique reflection of
who you both are separately and together as a couple. I’d suggest that
you bear in mind that despite numerous attempts to try and make it so,
there never has been and never will be a one-size-fits-all definition
of what sex is or isn’t for all of us. Sex between people, or even
alone with masturbation, has always been diverse and highly individual
when people let it be that way, rather than trying to do what they
think they’re supposed to, or try and fit someone else’s set of ideals
or cultural mandates.

The great part about approaching sex with someone in these ways is
that this kind of approach also tends to be what results in a sex life
which everyone involved will feel best about and enjoy most.

Here are a few additional links to round this all out for you:

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

Commentary Sexuality

Auntie Conversations: Black Women Talk Sex, Self-Care, and Illness

Charmaine Lang

These auntie conversations were just as much about me as they were about my aunts and mama. I really want to know what to expect, what to anticipate, and perhaps, even, what not to do as I age and grow in relationships so that I, too, can have a fulfilling and healthy partnership.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

“You’re just being nosy,” one of my aunts said, after I asked her if she enjoyed having sex with her husband. I assured her this was all part of a research project on the intimate lives of Black women. She relented a bit, but still gave me the side-eye.

I’ve been engaged in archival research for the last year. While the personal letters of Black women writer-activists and the newspapers of the Third World Women’s Alliance are remarkable and informative, they provide little insight into the intimate lives and sexual desires of Black women. After all, sex improves our mood and alleviates stress: That immediate gratification of pleasure and release is a way to practice self-care.

So on a recent trip home to Los Angeles, I asked my aunties to share their stories with me at a little gathering they threw in my honor.

And they did.

I asked them: “What’s your sex life like?” “Do you want to have sex?” “Are you and your husband intimate?” “You know … does he kiss you and hold your hand?” And I learned that contrary to tropes that present us as either asexual mammies or hypersexual jezebels, the Black women in my life are vulnerable and wanting love and loving partners, at all stages of life.

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Between 1952 and 1969, my maternal grandmother had six daughters and one son. All of them grew up in South Central Los Angeles, witnessing white flight, the Watts riot of 1965, and the crack epidemic. At the same time, the women have kept the family intact. They are the ones who always plan big dinners for the holidays and organize food drives for their churches. And they arranged care of their mother toward the end of her life. I’ve always wondered how they were able to prioritize family and their own desires for intimacy.

So I asked.

My 57-year-old aunt who is a retired customer service representative living in Pomona, California, told me: “My lifetime of sex consisted of first starting off with getting to know the person, communicating, establishing companionship. Once that was done, the sex and intimacy followed. When you’re younger, you have no frets. You experiment all the time.”

I wanted to know more.

“You’re not just trying to get in our business? You’re actually going to write something, right?” was my mother’s response.

When asked about the state of her sex life, my 59-year-old aunt, a social worker, said: “I am a married woman without a physical sex life with my husband. His illness has a lot to do with this, along with the aging process.”

My Pomona aunt went into more detail about how as we get older our ability and desire changes.

“You try to keep pace with pleasing your partner, and he tries to please you. But it is hard when you are a full-time worker, wife, and mother, and you commute to work. You’re tired. Hear me: You’re tired; they are not. You grow older, gain weight, and get sicker. You start to take medicine, and all that affects your ability and desire to perform.”

“For me, in a nutshell, [sexual activity] feels like work: I don’t feel excited. When it happens, it happens,” she said.

I learned the combination of energy spent on wage work, domestic labor, and mothering is draining, dissipating the mood for sex or intimacy. A husband who does not have the same domestic responsibilities has more energy for sex. The unbalanced load equates to differences in desire.

I wondered: Did my aunts talk to their partners about this?

Illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer, can cause anxiety, depression, and fatigue, which interrupt lovemaking. Talking to a partner can help to create a new normal in the relationship.

However, as my social worker aunt made clear, “It takes two to talk openly and honestly, which I find very difficult most of the time.”

“To be vulnerable is hard because I do not want to get hurt emotionally, so I protect my heart from harm,” she explained. “[My husband and I] can be harsh and curt to each other at times, which leads to me shutting down and not expressing my true feelings. My husband can be prideful and unwilling to admit there are issues within the relationship.”

Aunt April, a 47-year-old Los Angeles teacher, had some things to share too. “My love life is complicated. After suffering an overwhelming and devastating loss in 2011 of my husband and mate of nearly 20 years, I’m very hesitant to fully try again.”

She hasn’t dated since 1991. After much counseling, grieving, and encouragement from her 12-year-old daughter, she decided to give it a try.

“I have been seeing someone, but I have a lot of fear that if I relinquish my heart to him, he will die. So, I think about sabotaging the relationship so that I don’t have to get to know him and start worrying about his well-being and wondering if he feels the same way I do. In my mind, it’s easier to be casual and not give too much of my heart,” she said.

Intimacy, then, is also about being vulnerable in communicating how one feels—and open to all possibilities, even hurt.

As a 34-year-old queer Black woman figuring out my dating life, my aunt’s words about communication struck me. At times I can be guarded, too, fearful of letting someone get close. I started to ask myself: “What’s my sex life like?” and “What role does intimacy play in my life as I juggle a job and doctoral studies?”

These auntie conversations were just as much about me as they were about my aunts and mama. I really want to know what to expect, what to anticipate, and perhaps, even, what not to do as I age and grow in relationships so that I, too, can have a fulfilling and healthy partnership.

“I enjoy sex more now then I did before,” my mama, Jackie, said. Now 55, she remarried in 2013. She lives in Gilbert, Arizona, and works in the accounting and human resource field. “My husband loves me unconditionally; with him, I’m more comfortable. It’s more relaxing.”

My mama expressed her ability to enjoy herself with her husband because of the work she put into loving herself and prioritizing her needs.

I always talk to my mama about my dating life: heartbreaks and goals. She always says, “Learn to love yourself first.” It really isn’t what I want to hear, but it’s the truth. Self-love is important and central to the success of any relationship, especially the one with ourselves. My social worker aunt often takes trips to the spa and movies, and my aunt April is an avid concertgoer. They have found ways to have intimacy in their lives that is not informed by their relationship status.

The journey to self-love can be arduous at times as we discover parts of ourselves that we don’t like and want to transform. But with much compassion and patience, we can learn to be generous with the deepest parts of ourselves and each other. And isn’t that a necessary part of intimacy and sex?

The stories shared by my womenfolk reveal a side of Black women not often seen in pop culture. That is, Black women older than 45 learning how to date after the loss of a partner, and finding love and being intimate after 50. Neither mammies nor jezebels, these Black women, much like the Black women activists of the 1960s and 1970s I study, desire full lives, tenderness, and love. My aunts’ stories reassure me that Black women activists from decades past and present have intimate relationships, even if not explicit in the body of literature about them.

The stories of everyday Black women are essential in disrupting dehumanizing stereotypes so that we can begin to see representations of Black women that truly reflect our experiences and dynamic being.