The virgin diaries
A new book opens the lid on an unspoken milestone: the first time So, do you remember your first time?
It is an experience few of us will ever forget, even when it is best-described as forgettable. In The First Time, a new book by British writer Kate Munro, ordinary people open up about how they lost their virginity. The result is an often-touching insight into one of the most intimate and rarely discussed events in a human being's life.
"I got the idea sitting on a beach with my boyfriend," says Munro. "We were swapping stories about our own first times having sex and I was struck about how different the two stories were."
She began talking to friends and very quickly discovered the extraordinary range of people's experiences.
"Everyone was really enthusiastic about the idea of putting a book together on the subject. It really wasn't that hard to find volunteers," she says.
All the interviewees speak anonymously. "I think that was important because for it to work people needed to be honest."
Her overall impression is that the truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
"Disappointment is a constant theme especially in the younger generation. We live in such a sexualised society I think there's an assumption that having sex is going to be an amazing experience. Older people I interviewed told me they didn't really know what to expect and I think that explains why there is less disappointment in their stories," she says.
In conversation with Carissa Casey.
I handed over my money, hands trembling
-- Damon (35) lost his virginity to a prostitute when he was 16
"Get the violins out. I was the last of my friends to lose my virginity. I was the 'safe' one. The funny one. The one that girls would tell their problems to. When I was 16 I went to stay with my big brother.
"One night he said: 'Do you want to go somewhere and pop your cherry?' He didn't need to ask twice. Armed with a pocketful of cash we made our way to a delightful establishment that offered massage, sauna and steam.
"After we were buzzed in we walked up the dark stairs with an aroma of damp around us. In the 'reception' a tiny, middle-aged woman with glasses asked us what we wanted. 'It's £35 for massage and full personal service,' she told me.
"'Personal service?' I asked. 'Look, love, we're a brothel!' she answered.
"Two girls appeared wearing sexy underwear. One was amazing, with long dark curly hair and full pouting lips. I handed over my money, hands trembling and said, 'I'll go with Tanya'.
"She led me into a back room. It had a massage table and for one moment I thought that I was actually going to get a massage and nothing else. Then Tanya told me to strip and lie face down on the table.
"Thoughts swirled in my head. 'What do they do in porn?'; 'How do these places get away with it?'; 'Is £35 a fair price?'.
"Half an hour later we were done. That night opened a floodgate. I'm not a bad person, but I do bad things. I don't think being faithful is in my programming.
"For me there is no such thing as too much sex. I get it where and when I can at the risk of relationships and such. Why? I don't know. Is it because I was the last to do the deed and am still making up for it in my head? Is it because I paid for my first time and see sex as a transaction?
"Or am I just a greedy bastard?"
I cried. We both did; it felt amazing
-- Sabina (32) first had sex on her wedding night, aged 30
"You can say you're bisexual or gay and no one will bat an eyelid, but if you say you want to be a virgin no one believes you.
"I've been interested in the idea of God since I was a girl. In my teens, I quietly made a decision with God that I would keep my virginity for marriage.
"It took us five years to get married because we were focusing on our careers. If you are both committed to not having sex before marriage, you can just switch it off.
"On our wedding night, I wasn't nervous. I'd had a talk from some married friends who had done the same, so I felt that it was natural, it was the next step and I didn't have huge expectations. I knew that we'd get better at it.
"We knew it would be a bit crap physically and would probably be painful and quick -- and it was all of those things, but, as virgins, what neither of us had expected was the emotional side.
"Something really amazing happened that night that was beyond the hedonistic side of sex... although once you've got a bit more experience, that bit is nice, too. I cried. We both cried, actually; it felt amazing.
"I suppose it felt as if we had united ourselves spiritually. We had become 'one', we had sealed the deal. I wasn't expecting the feeling of unity and emotional intimacy to be so strong, but it was."
What I had with my wife was different. It was intimacy
-- Arthur (86) found sexual awakening during the Second World War, aged 19
"In 1942 I joined the Army. But I never had time to go with women because I was a front-line soldier. Then we went to Austria and annexed a couple of hotels on a lake. It was beautiful and I used to row round the lake at night and one night there was this girl, Sabine, on the jetty.
"She took a fancy to me and I began to get a stir. One night we had a nice night of rumpity-pump and it happened. Just like that. But there was nothing splendid about it at all, nothing splendid at all.
"I got demobbed in 1948 so I decided to travel. I went to Canada, Italy, Tasmania, Aussie and Denmark. I had plenty of crumpet because women were becoming more forward. But I was looking for a friend.
"My wife, Audrey, was 36 when I met her. I knew I was on to a good thing straight away. You just get a feeling. It happened one night when I said, 'Don't you think this is silly, love, just kissing and cuddling?' And she said, 'Well, I never had it before.'
"So I said, 'Well, nor have I.' Then I stayed the night and that was it. It wasn't like that before. Eventually, we got married, nine months later. Which was just as well, because we had a baby.
"What I had with my wife was different. It was sex, but it was a loving sex. It's intimacy. You can tell somebody you love them, it's only words, isn't it? It's what you show."
I realised I had power over an older man
-- Sherrie (54) a former glamour model, lost her virginity at 15
"The gap between my parents' generation and my own was a chasm.
Continued on p34Continued from p31
"We had nothing in common. We had come out of the dark ages, but my parents wouldn't let me see the sex education film at school. It just made me more curious.
"When my father fell ill, I was packed off to an aunt's house and that's where I met the man I lost my virginity to. He was an artist and it was pure lust. Losing my virginity wasn't a fumbling, horrible thing like it is for so many.
"I was 15, he was 23. My aunt never spoke to me again because she thought that I had led him on, which is probably true. But I was also sensible. I went to the doctor and got the Pill. I asked him not to tell my mother and he said, 'Yes, that's fine but you'll have to give me £20.'
"Finding out that you can actually reduce most men to a pulp when you are young and beautiful was incredibly empowering. At the time, I had a body and face to die for, and the belief that I could have any man I wanted. I did Penthouse, calendars, I was even a Page Three girl.
"I asked our 15-year-old son last week, 'What are your hopes, wishes, dreams and fears for next week?' He said: 'To get laid.' I did laugh, but my heart would have cracked if my daughter said that. She's 12. It scares me because sometimes I look at her and think, oh my God, she's me. And then she looks like a child again.
"I thought I was invincible at that age. Only now do I see that I was vulnerable."
"I thought my mum would go, 'You've had sex because your character's changed and I can tell from your bowed legs'"
-- Sunita (35) from a Punjabi family, had her first sexual experience at 18
"We never spoke about sex at home. Except once when I was in town with my mum and we saw this Indian girl who wore quite a lot of make-up and my mum said to me, 'Oh, you can just tell her character's changed. She's obviously been bad.'
"From that, I just took this whole thing that my mum would know. The moment that I walked through the door, my mum would go, 'You've had sex because your character's changed and I can tell from your bowed legs.'
"I lost my virginity when I was 18. It was with this older guy. I was living in halls of residence, doing the things I couldn't do at home. To me it was just this act. Afterwards, he did try to make it a tender moment for me, and I don't think I felt like that. I just felt relief."
I got into a situation -- I didn't want to upset him
-- Diane Hill (65) lost her virginity at 17
"I didn't know anything about sex. When we got television, in about 1953, anything on TV that even hinted at anything sexual would mean that I had to be sent out of the room. I was pregnant at 17.
"The guy next door in the electrical shop was the father of my first two children. I used to go out with him delivering televisions. I got pregnant immediately.
"It happened in the back of the van. It was really quick and I remember it not being very nice. It was not pleasure. Because I got into a situation, women get into a situation, when you feel obliged. You don't want to say no. I didn't want to upset him.
"Then, of course, all hell broke loose because you didn't have unmarried mothers in those days. I was married within two weeks. Top hat, tails, Rolls-Royce, the whole bloody thing.
"I was with him for two and a half years, then after I had lots of different experiences, and I found myself living in the red-light district in Liverpool. I used to watch the girls take the guys behind the lorries from my window. It was fascinating and I became friendly with the women.
"So one day, I went down the road and I thought: 'Oh well, let's give it a go.'
"At about this time I was invited to a Tantra workshop.
"Now I work as a Tantric sex teacher and I feel that I've come full circle.
"I teach women and men how to give themselves pleasure. The biggest thing I learned is that it's not about sexuality.
"Men are looking to get back to mother, and they think that sex is going to do it. And for at least a few seconds, minutes, it does."
I was frightened on my wedding night and when I saw how he looked, I laughed. I'd never seen anything so funny
-- Edna (95) lost her virginity to her husband when she was 25
"Before our wedding, I would go up to London at the weekends when Henry was free, but we always had separate rooms. I was frightened on my wedding night and when I saw how he looked, I laughed. I was 25. I'd never seen anything so funny.
"On the first night, I thought 'this is much ado about nothing', but then I got to quite like it.
"The whole point about marriage is that you grow into a deep friendship. You grow older together and you become deeper friends.
"We were very good friends."
All names have been changed
Extracted from The First Time: True Tales of Virginity Lost and Found (Including My Own) by Kate Monro, published by Icon Books, £11.99.