- 11 Sep 18
Lots of people new to college may already have done the legendary deed. But, for many, first year is still the first time that young men and women are able to stretch their wings and begin to fly sexually. The only rule is that there are no rules as to how, where, when or with whom...
My mother, unwed and in her twenties was an active participant in the tight-knit Italian communities near the NY, NJ Tri-state area of the late 1950’s. In those circles, it was unthinkable to go outside the cultural norms and restrictions held about sex, women and their virginity. To do so would have cost her a potential marriage and family. She would have been disowned. The fascination with virginity began in medieval times. Virgins were valued in secular and religious communities. The unspoiled, undefiled girl was bargained over in aristocratic societies, in theory guaranteeing purer bloodlines – along with property rights. In practical terms, what is the definition of virginity? Some women are born without the hymen. Sometimes it breaks during the course of adolescence and childhood. What about the age-old practices of anal sex while keeping the prized membrane intact? What about boys? Is it not the definition of one’s “first time” or “first experience”? At the “Rethinking Virginity Conference” held at Harvard University, the #1 myth was that the hymen is THE definitive marker of virginity. Growing up, it was drilled into my head to wait for marriage before having sex. Every disparaging adjective about women who slept around was used in my borderline-pious household. These puritanical seeds were planted over and over again, only to be washed away by the culture I was actually a part of. As a Gen X-er, my contemporaries usually had younger parents. they were Americans born from Americans, in line with the sexual history and development of freedoms in the ‘60’s, ‘70s, and ‘80’s. My folks were of the church: lapsed Catholics, holding tight to dogma. Those old-fashioned concepts of marriage, property, and fidelity were a part of their belief set, and so they tried to teach me. Truth be told, I had no intention of following any of those traditions. But the irony of repression showed up in my young, Catholic school girlfriends. Most of those in checkered skirts “put out” long before I did. Still, messages repeatedly reinforced in one’s environment have a way of sticking. Like a ticking bomb. This rebel was tainted. I actually tried to lose my virginity multiple times, but had a knack of choosing boys on the effeminate side, candidates not really up to the job. They would try, they would fumble, and they would give up. Ultimately, after dabbling in all kinds of pre-intercourse sexual activity, I did actually get the deed done – but t’was with my first girlfriend, not boyfriend. I remember my first time. It was clumsy, sticky, mildly shocking being with another girl. Gayness was the ultimate rebellion and my dirty little secret.
HE DOWNLOADED GRINDR
Teenagers and young adults have an undue pressure to “get it over with” to fit into some cultural “norm”. Not much has changed over the past few decades. The peer pressure comes from friends, films, books, TV, videos and now, social media. It’s enough navigating the pressure of our own hormones, let alone pop culture rushing us toward adulthood. My friend Atticus, 20, shared his first love and sexual experiences with me. He describes himself as a kid who “didn’t belong” and “didn’t conform.” He never felt grounded – in anything. Back then, he described himself as “not straight.” But he hadn’t really clarified what that meant. His first impressions of sex were that “it should be special and done with someone special. It’s meant to be who you’re doing it with.” He had an emotional maturity beyond his years. He was forced to acknowledge his undeniable gayness after discovering he was in love with his BFF. “I was a college freshman and determined to explore.” He downloaded Grindr, and began talking to a guy in the Bay area, who was in a similar situation. “He hadn’t done much either,” he recalls. “So during our winter break, I invited him out. We met at the cemetery to smoke weed and talk. It felt dirty and cheap, the idea that I would meet up with a complete stranger to fulfill myself sexually…”