Virginity has always been a complicated concept — even, paradoxically, for men, for whom it’s arguably not even a real thing. Traditionally regarded as a move from boyhood to manhood, but carrying with it all sorts of connotations around popularity, self-worth and maturity (or lack thereof), it’s often a relief to men to finally be rid of their cherry. But does that still hold true when you lose it at a shockingly young age? And how does doing so affect the rest of your life? We asked three men it happened to.
We were in middle school, my girlfriend at the time and me. I’d heard of other guys, in the grades above us, having sex, and my girlfriend knew of other girls, though it definitely wasn’t something others our age had done, as far as we knew. This wasn’t something we had elaborately planned, nor did it have a lot of dramatic tension built up around it.
We’d been a couple for probably a year, which, back then, was like an eternity. There was the normal progression, starting at holding hands, then first base, second base and so on. We just sort of got to sex step by step — we spent a lot of time together, and it seemed like the next thing to do, eventually. We didn’t do it for very long — I think I was nervous, and the condom probably didn’t help. It was kind of surreal at first, as I imagine it is for everyone. And anticlimactic, in a way. My girlfriend and I got a lot better at it, but in hindsight, it was still awkward teen sex. I think we had just got more comfortable with it.
I remember telling a friend not long after — I soon became “the expert” in sex among my friends, as I was the first among us to have had sex, even though I didn’t know what the hell I was doing myself, I had simply achieved penetration.
At the time, I didn’t think much about the age I was when I lost my virginity, but the older I get, the more people react almost negatively if it ever comes up. If it was cool then, it’s definitely less cool now. To other people it sounds really young, and it is, but I certainly wasn’t ashamed of it back then. I had a good friend who remained a virgin for a long time, not by choice. I remember he was embarrassed about it whenever it came up, or when he would get teased. I felt bad for him, but I was also glad I never had to deal with that.
It was the 1970s, and I was rebellious. I was raised in a pretty permissive, liberal household. There were no taboo subjects — I’d started smoking pot at age 12, and I liked to hang with the fast crowd. I was at summer camp and down at the rifle range, I was with an older camper I’d met a few days before. Every night there was a free hour before bed, so that’s when boys and girls would be hooking up — we did it, and it didn’t take very long. That was it, really.
I guess I felt a little different right away — I was excited that I wasn’t a virgin anymore. Having sex made me feel confident. I was a small guy, not tall and handsome. There were always a couple of super short girls in my school, but they always got taken by tall guys. If anything, losing my virginity and everything that led up to it taught me what’s attractive about me to women: I’ve never been able to rely on my looks, but I’ve always been great at talking to women. Being sexually successful from a young age taught me to open myself up to women far more than if I’d been a tall, handsome guy. I still rely on my gift of gab, and I think it only got better with age.
Overall, I don’t think there’s a right age to lose your virginity. Things are different in every generation. After losing my virginity, throughout my teenage years, I didn’t have sex with tons of girls, but probably as much as other people in the 1970s, which was before HIV and the days when you had to ask yourself, am I going to die if I have sex? It was a much more laid-back thing when death wasn’t a possible outcome. In the 1980s and 1990s, sex became a different ballgame. People were more careful, and it was on my mind like it was on everyone else’s.
My parents were gone for the evening one night, and my sister invited some of her friends over. But other people kept showing up, and it turned into a high school party, which she got in huge trouble for the next day.
There was beer, wine, vodka, loud music and lots of kids older than me drinking all over my house. I was there by myself — after a while, I came out of my room and had my first ever actual drink. I didn’t really know anybody because they were all in high school, so I ended up going back to my room, really buzzed, and just watched TV.
At some point, my door opened and an older girl walked in. I could tell she was drunk: She asked if she could lie down next to me on my bed. She was aggressive; I’d never gotten this far before, or very far at all. We had sex for a moment or two, then she got up and staggered out of my room a moment later. I went to sleep trying to make sense of it.
I didn’t tell anyone for a really long time. I thought about it a lot — I still do, once in a while. I used to have dreams about it. I never talked to her afterward or saw much of her again, so I’m not sure she remembered any of it.
I’m not mad about it; it is what it is, I guess. On the one hand, I was glad that I lost my virginity, to get it out of the way. There was relief in that. But it was a long time before I had sex again, and I remember it really messed with me that I wasn’t getting laid under normal circumstances. I also always avoided the “drunk girl” in high school and college. Probably not a coincidence at all.
When I think of the time I lost my virginity, I sort of picture an asterisk next to it. It didn’t turn me into a ladies’ man — I haven’t had too many partners, in fact. Even if I got my start at a young age, it didn’t make me any better at it. It’s just a physical act that anyone can do. Of course I still want it, though, like everybody else does.