On the weekend of its release, I saw 50 Shades of Grey twice. My tolerance for the ridiculous is quite high, so I enjoyed it both times. But there was one scene that kept echoing in my head weeks after seeing the movie and it wasn’t a good echo. I won’t recap the whole thing—I’ll assume either you know a bit about it or you don’t give a shit. All you need to know is that main character Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) reveals that she is a virgin and Christian Grey (Jaime Dornan) responds with a pithy comment about “remedying that situation,” which cues cheesy, romantic music (okay I like this song) and a beautiful love scene where a woman loses her virginity in one of the most outrageous lies I’ve ever witnessed with my own eyes. There’s no pain, no awkward readjustments, no pauses at that critical moment, just thrust, thrust, sigh and fade to black.
Well I’m sorry to shatter any illusions, but very rarely is the loss of a girl/woman’s virginity a beautiful love scene.
Google search: Virginity in America
Google search: Statistics on Virginity in America
Results from Wikipedia:
“The average age of first sexual intercourse in the United States is 17.0 for males and 17.3 for females, and this has been rising in recent years. The percentage of teens who are waiting longer to have sex has been increasing. For those teens who have had sex, 70% of girls and 56% of boys said that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner, while 16% of girls and 28% of boys report losing their virginity to someone they had just met or who was just a friend.
Teens are using birth control (contraceptives) more today when they lose their virginity than they did in the past, and this is in part due to the AIDS epidemic. Of sexually experienced adolescents, 78% of girls and 85% of males used at least one contraceptive when they lost their virginity. A detailed qualitative study of girls’ loss of virginity found that their experiences “were almost all quite negative (and, in some cases, horrific).” Before age 15, “a majority of first intercourse experiences among females are reported to be non-voluntary.”
My own loss of virginity story is not horrific. In fact, I was very much in control, as much as a 17 year-old could be with the limited knowledge I had of the world. At some point in high school I’d decided that I could not go to college as a virgin. I assumed that everyone would have experience and I didn’t want to be at a disadvantage. What, Monet? What was wrong with you? Anyway, very deliberately I looked at the choices at my high school: yikes. But fate would work in my favor. I developed a crush on a football player, who was very much into me. Even more fortunate was that he was black like me, not be taken for granted when up until that point my family assumed I was attracted to non-black boys. His blackness and his southern manners made him a fan favorite and our dating was accepted with an ease that I took full advantage.
And still when I decided I was ready to divest myself of my virginity, it was not like I imagined. We were on his parent’s couch, his parents due home at any moment. I was pushed into the corner when he climbed on top of me. There was some heavy-petting, some condom fumbling, and then he was pushing his way inside me. And FUCK. It hurt. Like if you’ve ever dashed your genitals against the bar along the seam of a men’s bike, but add in a tearing sensation and the doomsday feeling that my crotch would never stop throbbing. It could not have lasted more than five minutes, but I thought it was a lifetime and when he pulled away from me he sucked in a deep breath, his eyes going wide. I looked down and saw that I had bled, a lot. Jesus. Was that normal? Was I broken?
Phone (Text) A Friend(s): Hey, how did you lose your virginity? Was it beautiful? Was there music playing? Or was it like mine – awkward, agonizing, the beginning of a what-the-fuck-have-I-done-stage that lasted 7 years?
- Definitely not beautiful. His parents were downstairs.
- I don’t even remember
- I bled
- He was a dick about it
- It hurt. The first few times.
- I blocked it out
- Boyfriend at the time wanted to do it. I didn’t but I loved him, so I did it.
I know several women who waited, who held onto their v-cards well into their twenties, but these were no babes in the woods. They owned vibrators, had been in relationships, and had engaged in oral sex. Their sexuality was no less vivid than mine. They were in control of the who, the when and the why. And still their virginity loss stories are similar to us who lost it as clueless teenagers: awkward (that’s key here), painful, and completely lacking in romance novel gloss.
And yet the myth of how women lose their virginity persists in film and in American culture in general. The thing about movies (and really an kind of art), I think, is that it represents who we are at any given time, whether we want it to or not. And so it makes me wonder, why are we so desperate to believe that this pivotal moment in a person’s life – male or female – is anything other than what it is.