When someone writes a first person essay in which he or she reveals a highly personal, and typically private, detail, there is an instinct to want to hold back and not launch criticism. However, the fact that the notion that there is some inherent good in avoiding sex seems to be so bizarrely common that I feel compelled to add my own weak little objection.
When I read the title of the essay by Amanda McCracken that appeared in the New York Times a week or so ago, entitled “Does My Virginity Have a Shelf Life?“, I was immediately put in mind of the first scene in “All’s Well That Ends Well”.
‘Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with
lying; the longer kept, the less worth: off with ‘t
while ’tis vendible;
“The longer kept, the less worth.” But that begs another question, was it ever worth anything in the first place?
We talk about virginity as if it were an object, as if a woman’s virginity were as concrete an item as her head or her foot. It is nothing more than the lack of experience in a certain realm of human endeavor. Why would anyone see a lack of this sort as having value?
One reason the writer, now thirty-five, appears to be waiting is because she wants to give her thing that is not a thing to a particular man. When I was young enough that men, or rather boys, who had never had sex were readily available, I used to very much enjoy having sex with them. It was a great deal of fun to share the experience of a boy having sex for the first time with him. They always seemed so happy. I didn’t feel like I “took” anything away from them or that I “received” anything. We were sharing an experience together. What a paltry thing virginity is to give a person. The first time I had sex with a man, I felt as if I was doing far more taking than giving. After I had acquired a bit of experience, I felt as if I had far more to offer boys than I did that first time.
Waiting for the right person, especially waiting so long, has always struck me as being a dangerous business. In putting much importance on one event, it seems to lower the relative importance of all other acts.
I couldn’t help thinking that I happened to have sex with two different men recently, and the first was quite lousy. Prior to actually getting in bed with him, there was no real way to know quite how bad he was going to be. If a man like that had been my first lover, it would have been unfortunate. If I had been waiting and waiting, that would have been a disaster.
When I think of all the young men I initiated when I was a teenager, I do like to think that I was very gentle with them. They sometimes seemed very nervous. I did feel a certain sense of responsibility in making sure that they had a good time. But I hope it was just the beginning of long and happy sex lives for them.