• Sun, Mar 16 - 1:00 pm ET

Losing Your Virginity Should Be Seen As A Choice, Not A Loss

losing your virginity is not a loss according to Todd ChrisleyI’m not a fan of reality TV, but for some reason I am obsessed with USA’s new show Chrisley Knows Best, about Atlanta real estate mogul (I think) Todd Chrisley and his tow-headed, picture perfect family. Last night I watched the premiere episode on demand, and something Chrisley said to his son has stuck with me. They were discussing sex when the son asked Chrisley at what age he lost his virginity. Chrisley replied:

“I didn’t lose my virginity. I gave it away.”

All I could think was YES. This is how we should be discussing sex and virginity with our teenagers. It got me thinking about yesterday’s post regarding Camille Paglia and her Time Magazine opinion piece on sex ed, and in particular about abstinence only education. I think the general consensus in America, in regards to virginity, is that it’s something we lose as young adults. But sex isn’t some battle waged against us by a weary foe. It’s usually a choice made between two consenting people. And the best way to ensure that teens make the right choice is to arm them with the right information.

I had sex for the first time at age 17, just two months shy of my 18th birthday. I would absolutely say that “I didn’t lose my virginity. I gave it away”. Or rather, I made a choice to have sex with someone I trusted (who later became my husband and the father of my oldest daughter). I don’t regret it for a moment.

I want to make something clear. I absolutely think that lessons about the benefits of abstinence have a place in sexual education for teens. I think this is obvious. Abstinence is the only way to ensure that you don’t get pregnant or catch an STD. In a perfect world no teen or young adult would have sex before they were both emotionally and physically ready for it. But we don’t live in a perfect world. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 62 percent of teens will have had sex by the 12th grade. Those teens need to know the facts, and framing virginity as a badge of honor that is lost is a terrible way to being that process.

Not only that, but the virginity loss fallacy and resulting shame are something placed almost exclusively on the shoulders of young women. When we talk about virginity as something that can be lost, or refer to women as “the cow that men won’t buy if they get the milk for free,”, we take away any chance for young women to have agency when it comes to their sexuality. Virginity is nothing more than a concept. When a person has sex for the first time, they are making a choice. Nothing more and nothing less.

Young adults are asked to make a lot of choices during their teen years. They often have to choose a college or university, which in turn determines much of the course their lives take. To make that choice, we try to give them as much information as we can because we know how high the stakes are. Well, the stakes are high with sex as well, and with teen pregnancy rates as high as they are, we need to get rid of the moral hand-wringing and do the same damn thing for sex.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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  • EmmaFromÉire

    I decided that it didn’t matter, sex was something I wanted to experience and virginity really didn’t factor in. I was 18 the first time I had sex, old enough to know what I was doing and naive enough to think I’d be with him forever.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin, there’s nothing wrong with not being a virgin. You can be the purest lily white snow fairy or a raging cockmonster, doesn’t matter. Your sex life is really nobody’s business but your own and whoever it is you’re sleeping with.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      “You can be the purest lily white snow fairy or a raging cockmonster” I literally spat my coffee out onto my laptop when I read this. Well played, Emma. You win the Internet today!

    • EmmaFromÉire
  • Momma425

    That’s how I would describe it as well.

    Technically, my virginity was taken, not lost. I was raped when I was seven.

    However, when asking about my first time, I don’t think about that. I consider the first time that it was MY choice to be my first time, and when I “lost” my virginity. After a conversation with my cousin about how it hurts, and previous memories, I had sex with a good friend because I wanted to see what it was like, and get that awkward, fumbling “first time” out of the way. I don’t have any regrets at all.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Sorry for your troubles. I actually had the same experience at age nine, so I guess technically mine was taken too. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to not consider that my first time, but it’s not an easy thing to over come. I’m glad your first “real” time (if there can even be such a thing) was something you don’t regret. XOXO

    • Katherine Handcock

      Wow, this is a powerful comment. I am so happy for you that you have come to a place where your first time is the one of your choosing.

  • Magrat

    Or we could teach our kids that there’s no such thing as virginity, that you don’t become a better, worse, different, grown-up person when you have cosensual sex, and a girl’s or woman’s identity isn’t bound up in a little piece of tissue that can break when she rides a bike.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I totally agree with you, Magrat. But I think young adults will always place at least a little significance on their first time, so it’s important to be there for them during that time of their lives. I know I’m thankful that my mom and dad were as open minded as they were about sexuality. I was given the right tools to feel comfortable in my decision to have sex.

      I also don’t think virginity should be what people focus on, but rather the pros and cons of sexual activity (sans moral hand-wringing, like I mentioned in the article).

    • Magrat

      Oh, definitely, and I’m not even saying that “Sex is no big deal LOL.” Just that we shouldn’t have different words for people who have and haven’t had sex.

    • Angela

      Yes, so much this!! I was raised in Mormon purity culture where virginity was very heavily emphasized. I understand that having sex for the first time is a big decision and I certainly don’t feel it should be taken lightly but at the end of the day I am so much more than what has (or has not) been in my vagina.

    • ted3553

      yes! the whole virginity issue just isn’t a big deal to me. I don’t cry about the fact that I’m not married to the guy I first slept with or how I lost it. It was just the first time. Really-No big deal. I spend more time talking to my girls about them not having sex with a guy they barely know because he may not feel the same way about it as they do and that it’s not a way to an end goal. If you want to date him, sleeping with him is not necessarily going to achieve that goal and in fact, in high school, often ends the situation right there like it or not.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I love this way of framing the discussion! I absolutely believe in having a serious respect for the significance of starting sexual activity, but I also believe that refraining from sexual activity shouldn’t be a badge of honour. If it’s consensual, considerate, and positive, sexual activity is no more a loss than any other step along the road to adulthood.

    I still remember reading a fascinating article by a Catholic priest arguing that sex SHOULD happen before marriage- he argued that marriage is a sacrament, and therefore shouldn’t be entered into simply to gain sexual access. He also argued that loving sexual union was a metaphor for contact with the divine, and therefore you needed to know that the union between yourself and your future spouse would be satisfying, or a critical element of the relationship was absent. It was a really thought-provoking way of looking at it!

    • EmmaFromÉire

      That’s a really good argument by that priest. I know there are very religious people who get married so they aren’t sinners for having sex, and I think that’s really really sad. I’m a firm believer in test driving the car before you marry it for forty years or more. I didn’t want to marry a man and then find out the sex was absolutely terrible, then have no out.

    • moonie27

      “I’m a firm believer in test driving the car before you marry it for forty years or more.”

      40 years is a long time to test drive the car! :)

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I would love to read that article if you ever stumble across it again. I tried to use my Google-fu to find it, but alas, no luck. :(

    • Katherine Handcock

      I wish I could find it again too, because that particular article was so well-written. There are lots of other discussions in a similar vein, but many of them are written for fellow theologians and therefore not very accessible.
      If you haven’t read A.J. Jacobs’ “The Year of Living Biblically”, it’s a really fun examination of what the Bible ACTUALLY says (and whether it’s possible to follow the laws of the Bible literally.) One of my favourite quotes from it is when Jacobs speaks to a professor named Robbie Harris about the Song of Solomon, which is often considered a poem to erotic love. Jacobs asks, “But married love, right?” And Harris replies, “The don’t sound married to me. They sound to me like young lovers hightailing it to the woods.”

  • moonie27

    My favorite phrases are “swiping the V-card” and “making your sexual debut.” I try really hard to never use “losing your virginity.” It’s not a loss! It’s a gain of a fun new experience. (non-consensual experiences not included.)

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      “swiping the V-card” I LOVE this!

    • Roberta

      I love the idea of a “debut”. I started having sex with someone I knew had way more experience, knew I didn’t have much at all, and treated me with respect. Did we love each other? Hell no, we stopped dating 2 weeks after the fact. But it opened me up to a whole new world and let me be shameless and guilt-free and still smart about my choices.

      I certainly lost nothing. I gained a helluva lot.

    • moonie27

      In all fairness, I took that one from Laci Green, who has an amazing sex ed youtube channel, for the curious and/or inexperienced in your life!

  • Williwaw

    I think we need to move away from language like “losing virginity” or even “giving away your virginity” because both make it sound as if virginity is something precious and that losing it makes you of less value, somehow; even “giving it away” makes it sound like a valuable object and that you shouldn’t choose to give it away to just anyone. It’s not a loss or the giving away of something precious – it’s (excepting nonconsensual sex) a beginning of a new and exciting part of your life. Why can’t we think of it in entirely positive terms, the way we do about other milestones, like leaving home, starting a career, or falling in love? There should be no negative associations with the first time a person has consensual sex – whether the first time is with the love of your life or whether it’s a one-night stand with someone you barely know. It’s your choice.

    Also, I really admire the courage of the sexual abuse and assault survivors here who have chosen to share their stories and move on with their lives.

    • Magrat

      Totally agree. Either way, saying you’ve “lost” or “given away” your virginity implies that there’s something you had at one point that you don’t have anymore.

    • http://www.benwhoski.com/ Benwhoski

      I prefer to say “I didn’t lose it. I know exactly where I left it.” :)

  • Angela

    Honestly I don’t like the idea of giving away your virginity a whole lot better. If you give something away it’s still something that’s no longer yours, the opposite of owning your sexuality. It also makes it seem that sex is done more for your partner than yourself. Obviously you should be sensitive to your partners wants/needs but ultimately you should become sexually active because it’s an experience YOU want to gain, not to give your partner a gift. I want my kids to view their sexuality as a gift to themselves first and foremost.

    • chickadee

      Yeah, the idea of it being a gift you give someone else is kind of squishy and sentimental. I just had sex when I was 19. It was fun. It wasn’t monumental or something I cherish, though.

    • Angela

      My first time was actually with my husband on our wedding night as we were both raised in religious purity culture. So yeah, it was pretty special (if not incredibly awkward) and something I do cherish. BUT if I had it to do over I would not have waited. It hasn’t made our relationship any better than anyone else’s and really only served to have us go into marriage less informed.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      You make a good point. I think my over all intention here was to say that virginity isn’t something to be lost. I think “giving it away” absolutely should mean as a gift to yourself with someone you trust.

    • Angela

      I prefer to think of sex as something to be shared rather than given (or taken). ITA about not promoting virginity as something that once lost can never be regained. I prefer to emphasize a person’s “first time” as an experience that once gained can never be lost.

  • AlexMMR

    I intend to teach my girls that they will pretty much remember everything about the first time they have sex. They’ll remember if they were afraid of getting caught, if they were insecure and hoping the boy (or girl, I don’t judge) really likes them enough to be taking this risk with them, if they felt pressured into it or if it was a fun, joyous activity. It’s their choice when to create that memory, but if anything is happening that they don’t like, or generally don’t feel good about, than they should consider waiting to make that memory another day. If you’re going to remember something, make that memory as good a memory as possible.

    And by the way girls, here’s some instructions about your own anatomy. Get to know yourself for a while so you know what actually feels good. I’m hoping that by finding out what clods teenage boys are in the bedroom because they’ll know what they can accomplish on their own, they won’t be in such a hurry to try to get all those great feelings you see in movies from someone else. By knowing they can go it alone, they’ll be pickier about who they let join in.

    • Magrat

      I love this. It’s not judgey and it doesn’t give some arbitrary date when they’ll be “allowed.” It puts the decision totally in their hands and asks them to really think about whether their choices are going to make them happy or not. Brava!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I couldn’t agree more with this comment.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    I dread the day my stepdaughters ask me how I lost mine, cos that question WILL COME one day lol.
    Horrible awful experience. I don’t know whether to lie to them or tell them the truth. My partner reckons they’ll never ask but they will lol!

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Oh, they WILL ask. I asked my step mom when I was 11 or 12, lol.

    • Ddaisy

      Ewww, I can’t imagine asking my MOM that (or stepmom, I guess, but I don’t have one, so I can’t say for sure). Who wants to think about their mom having sex in any but the most abstract way?

      I know I wasn’t conceived via IVF, and that’s all the details I need, thank you very much :P

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Well,I didn’t exactly ask for a diagram. I just wanted to know how old she was. Lol!

    • Ddaisy

      Haha, that still makes you braver than me :p Maybe I’m just squeamish

    • Jayamama

      I agree. As far as I know, my parents only had sex four times (one for each of their children) and that’s it. I’d say something about hoping that they had a great sex life if they were still married, but I almost prefer it this way. The idea of my in-laws still doing the nasty just creeps me out. I’ve never asked either of my parents for any details of their sex lives, past or present. But maybe I should admire the openness you and your step mom had about sex. It was not something that was really brought up at my house.

    • JLH1986

      Age appropriate truth. Hopefully it will make them think about their own experience. If their awesome step mom cringes at the thought maybe they’ll be a little more particular when their experience is on the line. My mom was pretty open about it: “I was young, thought I was a grown up, had NO idea and regretted it almost instantly. Think about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.”

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I think I’d be as you say, age appropriate honest.
      Tell them to please wait until it’s with someone you love/care deeply about and not be forced like I was.

    • JLH1986

      :( I never realized how, uncommon it is to have a choice. My first time was 100% by choice (a very poor choice but my choice all the same). I’m sorry for you, no one should experience that. I applaud your ability to move past it as best you could and be so willing to be open about. long distance high five!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Aw thank you, that’s sweet.
      It wasn’t pleasant but it could’ve been worse, I could’ve been much younger than 16.
      There’s always someone who has had it worse and I’m lucky I got away as lightly as I did.

  • FrankieHeck

    I really hate that you felt the need to quantify ‘giving your virginity away’ by stating that your first went on to become your husband. Not picking on you Frances, everyone does it, BUT I think we can be happy with our decisions about having sex without it needing to be a path to something bigger

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Sorry if it came off like that. He and I broke up and made up so often it was ridiculous, so he was hardly my only partner as a teenager. I mentioned that only to say that he was someone I trusted, not to imply that sex should be for marriage or whatever. Re-reading though, I can see how it looks.

  • meteor_echo

    Frankly, some of us HAVE lost it, even by the terms you suggest. I was raped at 19, when I was a virgin, and the next time I had sex, it was with an abusive partner who coerced me to have sex when I was starting my period. I got horrible cramps and a really bad UTI (also, might’ve been having a miscarriage from after the rape, but I don’t care at this point and won’t ever find out). No matter how you look at it, my “first time” sucked.
    However, it doesn’t make me a worse person. It just means that my initial experience with sex was subpar, that’s all.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      There is a comment above this where I say this but I’ll say it again. My “first” time was in a similar situation (I was 9). Obviously every person who has been through this type of thing will process things differently, but personally I choose to not consider that my first time. Rape is not sex in my opinion, because sex implies consent. Like I said, this line of thinking isn’t something everyone agrees with, but it helps me cope. I’m sorry for your troubles, *hugs*

    • meteor_echo

      I guess we think of it differently, because I think of rape as “forced sex”. As long as your line of thinking helps you cope, you’re absolutely entitled to it, of course.

      I don’t really ascribe much importance to what happened to me, in the grand scheme of things. Some people have shitty first relationships (I did), some have shitty first jobs, or horrible first childbirths, or whatever else have you. I had shitty first sex, and eh, there’s nothing I can change about it. I’m not fine with it, but I accept it.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I totally agree with you. I would say that most of my romantic relationships were shitty, lol and my first job was at a McDonalds, so nuff’ said.

    • meteor_echo

      Hahah, my first job was fairly shitty too, so I can commiserate with that! :)

    • Marisa

      I was raped. Counting him as a sexual partner would be suggesting that rape has anything to do with sex, when it has everything to do with power. You have no obligation to validate his behavior by letting it rob you of your first time.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Republic-Lost-Money-Corrupts-Congress--/dp/0446576441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394209018&sr=8-1&keywords=republic+lost David D

    Studies have shown that powerful sexual bonding short-circuits decision-making abilities

    http://www.livescience.com/10935-delaying-sex-relationships-study-finds.html

  • Rachel Sea

    I didn’t lose my virginity, I know exactly where it went.

  • Joye77

    I remember being teased by promiscuous friends for still being a virgin at 15. I remember my mom telling me that I didn’t really need to know too much about sex since I wasn’t going to have it until I was married, just like her. I was taught abstinence only sex ed in school.
    My virginity was this huge deal apparently and it hung like a heavy weight around my neck. I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough!
    As soon as I found a taker I got rid of it at 15. Not even so much to have sex but to get rid of my damned virginity!

    • Jayamama

      That’s kinda sad, that you were more or less pressured into it, even if it was you who was pressuring you. And 15 seems so young. I waited until my wedding night to have sex for the first time, and I have no regrets, but I’ll try to teach my daughters about safe sex so if they feel the same way you did, at least they can be responsible.

  • Psych Student

    The moment I read the title of this article, my first thought was (and I imagine others thought the same) “I didn’t lose my virginity, I know where it went”. It also reminds me of this cute LoL (I have so many and love to share them, sorry).

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