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?
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:
- Magical Cups & Bloody Brides: Virginity in Context
- 20 Questions About Virginity: Scarleteen Interviews Hanne Blank
- Yield for Pleasure
- Sexual Response & Orgasm: A Users Guide
- How do lesbians have sex?
- How do I have sex with another woman without a vibrator?
- Reciprocity, Reloaded
- What is Feminist Sex Education?