Are the rites of passage on the right track… or have they taken a detour?

Losing It in The Eighties: Virginity

“I was always such a jerk about sex. When I finally lost my virginity last year, I was too macho and too ashamed to tell the woman I was with that it was my first time.”

Jimmy, an eighteen-year-old college freshman from suburban Connecticut who now plays quarterback on a leading college football team, laughs sheepishly, then shrugs his muscular shoulders. “I was your typical high school stud. The football hero who’d been around and who seemed to know everything. Well, that’s what all the girls at school thought, what my teammates thought, and even, probably, what my parents thought. But the truth of the matter was that even though I looked sophisticated and experienced, and even though I tried to act casual, like Tom Selleck does, I was a poky little virgin and I was scared stiff, if you’ll excuse my joke.” At his Connecticut high school, Jimmy had been a four-letter man and an honor-roll student, and he’d also been voted the most popular guy in the class. “Nevertheless, my social life was a sham,” he admits now. Nobody laughed harder than I did at a dirty joke. Nobody checked out girls more. But I was sexually retarded. I’d take someone out, we’d start to make out, and I’d panic. I’d get a stomachache or a headache or asthma, and I’d have to take her home. What a laugh! All the girls thought I was too good for them. And/ was secretly thinking they were too experienced for me. I used to sneak into X-rated movies to study sexual techniques so that I wouldn’t be such a moron. It was horrible. I really thought I’d be cursed with my virginity forever.”

How did Jimmy finally let down his pretenses and fears enough to allow himself to lose it? “I went up to my college for my final interview,” says this full-scholarship athlete. “And this great-looking woman was assigned to show me around campus. She took me to all the popular spots. And then she took me “to look at off-campus housing,” meaning her apartment. What could I do? Tell her I wasn’t interested — and risk the possibility of losing my scholarship? So I went. And I guess I was finally ready, because I allowed myself to be seduced. Still, it was the most frustrating experience of my life. Imagine making it for the first time and not being able to say, ‘Hey, how should I do this?’ or ‘How am I doing at that?’ Keeping up such a dopey masquerade really sucks.”

Did this masquerade interfere with Jimmy’s sexual pleasure the first time out? “Of course it did,” he answers hotly. “Look, I was a guy who’d done nothing but think about sex for four long years. I’d thought about it so much that I couldn’t even do it. And suddenly a woman comes along who lets me know that she thinks I’m Mr. Experience, and who is very definite about what she wants from me. Meanwhile, I don’t even know where to put my hands, let alone my cock. Sure, I did the best I could, but it should come as no surprise to you to hear that I came instantly. And then you know what I did? I couldn’t help it — I began to cry.”

For a brief instant Jimmy’s face reddens as he recalls that moment of embarrassment. “Genevieve was so surprised at this flood of tears that she began to panic. I could see she didn’t know what to do. Maybe she was in bed with a madman? And for the first time I realized that I wasn’t in this alone. I was able to see beyond myself and my fears and needs. I understood, finally, that there were two of us involved in this act. And I figured I owed Genevieve the truth. So I told her. Well, she kept saying, ‘I’ll be damned, I’ll be damned.’ Then, when we settled down, we tried to do it again, but I couldn’t. Not at all. Not then. I’ll tell you, I really believe that all those years of fear and anticipation really made any pleasure the first time around just about impossible. Why, it wasn’t even as good as all those trial runs I’d had at home alone with my hand. But I’m realistic about it now, because, after all, losing my virginity was a big deal. It freed me from a lot of head stuff I’d been carrying around for much too long. Still, the bottom line is that my first sexual experience wasn’t anything like what it had been cracked up to be. Practically speaking, the whole affair was a real let-down.” Why should losing one’s virginity be such a letdown? Why, in the eighties especially — an era in which we all seem so smart and sexually savvy? And is the first sexual experience usually as keenly disappointing for other young people as it was, as he confessed, for Jimmy?

“‘It’s not unusual for boys to seek out older women for their first sexual experience. They know the ropes,’ says one teenager. ‘I didn’t want to experiment with someone my age.”’

These days we like to think that we’ve come a long way from the dark ages of the fifties and sixties, when sex was naughty and covert, an act usually reserved for the conjugal bed; when masturbation brought warts; and when sexual variation meant doing it with the lights on. Today a wealth of sexual information is available even to beginners. Unquestionably, too, sex is more permissible than it was even ten years ago, more people are experiencing it early than ever before, and we’re more sophisticated about it as well. Which is natural if we take into account the sexual revolution of the sixties, the Pill, and the freedom of the seventies. If we consider, too, the popularization of the works of such sexperts as Masters and Johnson and Dr. Alex Comfort, the whole world should be having the time of its-life.

Yet the irony is that certain truths about losing one’s virginity that existed ten, twenty, and even thirty years ago also exist in 1982. And why not? For most people loss of virginity is still the first and perhaps most symbolic moment of adulthood. Today as well as yesterday, a young person’s initial sexual experience remains charged with incredible curiosity and occasionally, too, fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of an inability to perform. Fear of clumsiness or exposure.

Take Luke, for instance. Luke at nineteen is a student at M.I.T. and an electronic whiz kid. He had a sorry and awkward introduction to sex. “First, let me say that I was a nerdy kind of teenager,” he says now as he stretches out his lanky six-foot-one frame and swivels his chair away from the controls in the swanky wood-paneled recording studio where he’s at work remixing a soundtrack for a rock group. “I was the kind of kid who was the last one chosen for a team in gym class. I always felt shy with girls and would cover my shyness by making jokes and being the class clown. They all laughed, but they still wanted to date the football players, not me. And all I wanted to do was find a girl — any one, I wasn’t particular — and have sex.”

If he was so eager, why didn’t Luke pay for it? “Nope, that wasn’t for me,” he says, firmly shaking his thick blond head of hair. “While I wasn’t fussy, the thought of a hooker was too loveless and calculating. Also, I was afraid of picking up a case of the clap the first time out of the gate. Besides, the guys I knew made it a point of pride not to pay for sex. I would have been embarrassed to lose my virginity that way. Besides, it was all around us, so why pay? Right?”

Instead Luke waited and obsessed. Then, when he was seventeen, during his first year at M.I.T., he went to a dorm mixer and met Carla, a tiny Simmons student “with enormous dark eyes and great tits. She was nice enough, and we dated a couple of months — seven, to be exact. I was a slow starter. At first we just held hands. Then, on the next date, we kissed. On the fifth date we French-kissed. On the seventh we touched each other above the waist and on the tenth below the waist. See, I remember exactly. I’m sure this is what most kids were doing back in the ninth grade, but it was a first for me. I was constantly petrified, afraid I was doing it wrong.”

Finally Luke decided it was time to make “the big move,” as he puts it. “We were dancing to records in my room, and I remember this one song — Barbra Streisand singing ‘Evergreen’ over and over while we danced really close, rubbing up against each other, up and down, back and forth. Then we slid onto my bed and really went at it. Everything seemed so natural, so easy. And then I panicked. I can’t tell you how horrible that feeling is — trying to seem cool and experienced while the sweat is forming on your forehead and rolling down onto your cheek, and you wonder what the hell you’re doing. And so then I took out this rubber. It was the best money could buy, smooth and lubricated and ‘like a second skin,’ as the guy in the drugstore told me. And I couldn’t get it on. It was like a nightmare. I would be hard as a board, and then I’d start putting the rubber on and I’d go soft, like a wet rag. Now Carla was as nervous as I was — she was a virgin, too — but she’d get down there and suck and suck and suck, trying to straighten me out. Which, looking back, seems really sporting of her. Well, after we’d been at it for maybe thirty minutes, just trying to get that miserable little boot on my bum cock, she began to laugh. Now I know it was nervous laughter, but at the time I nearly cried. Anyway, that was the abrupt end to my first sexual attempt. Carla and I never did get it on together. In fact — no surprise — we broke up shortly after that night.”

For a year Luke harbored the secret of his failure with Carla, afraid to try again for fear of repetition. “It took me a while — another two years before I summoned up my courage — but this time I waited until I was nuts for the lady. I mean, I was mad about her. And, I promise you, I didn’t have any problem at all. Not then. And not since.”

For Luke, romance made the difference. It was the chief ingredient present the second time around, the one that had been missing from his first aborted sexual attempt.

On the other hand, Robert, a seventeen-year-old pre-med student at U.S.C., has no use whatsoever for romance. “Romance?” Robert echoes, incredulous. “Not the first time! For me, the first time meant a time for exploration. A time of learning. Learning how to have sex, that it was different from jerking off under the covers at night. I had a lot on my mind, and romance was the least of it.”

Robert’s initiation to sex was something else altogether. “My dad installed air conditioners for a living, and we lived down by the California-Mexico border in a town called El Centro. Summers there got real heated up — 100°, 110° — and if you didn’t already have air conditioning, believe me, you’d sell your mother to be able to afford it. During the summers I would help my dad. I’d go on calls with him, and sometimes, when he was real busy, I’d handle the installation or a breakdown. One day we got a call from this cathouse right across the border in a town called Mexicali, and Dad was so bogged down he told me to take it myself. So off I went, this skinny know-it-all fifteen-year-old kid. I remember it was a blistering morning, so hot that nothing moved. At the cathouse it was still early. The shades were drawn, and most of the chicks were hanging around the kitchen, having coffee, doing their nails, mending hems — chick things. Nobody was talking much, they were just sitting there, watching TV and conserving their energy. And what can I tell you — it was tit for tat. I came along and cooled things out for them; they made it hot for me!” Robert laughs heartily at his own little joke.

In truth, Robert’s virgin flesh must have made the girls hot as well. At seventeen he is dark, wiry, and muscular, with soft, curly hair and the kind of eyelashes girls would kill for. And at fifteen, he recalls, he was already well-developed. “I guess those chicks were looking for a little diversion on that hot morning,” he says. “First they sat me down and gave me a cup of coffee, which they spiked with brandy. Then Carmencita — she was the madam — started teasing me. ‘Hey, muchachas, I think this boy is cherry,’ she said, and because it was true, I blushed down to my roots. But I was feeling pretty hot myself. Maybe it was the weather, maybe the atmosphere, maybe the attention all these sexy chicks were giving me. Still, I was uncomfortable, so it was a relief to go about my business. I spent the next two hours fiddling with the air conditioner, which I had to take out of the window in order to repair.”

“When I was finished, Carmencita came over and embraced me. ‘Roberto, if you handle girls like you handle machines, your cock going to have busy future,’ she joked with me. ‘I tell you what. You pick any of my girls, I give her to you as present for your cherry.’ ‘I don’t want any of your chicks, Mama,’ I said to her. ‘I want the expert. I want you yourself.’ Actually, I don’t know why I said that — all her chicks were hot numbers, real knockouts. But there was something about Carmencita. She was thirty or thirty-five, I couldn’t tell, and was big and round and juicy. And I dug the way she smelled.”

He also liked the way she moved. Robert spent most of the rest of that day at Carmencita’s until eventually his father telephoned, worried because his son hadn’t returned to the office. “I figured I deserved a holiday,” he says. “After all, a guy doesn’t lose it every goddamned day.”

On a scale of one to ten, how would Robert rate his first sexual experience? “Eleven,” he laughs. “I got lucky.”

Two mornings a week for the rest of that summer Robert returned to the bordello in Mexicali. There he rendezvoused with Madame Carmencita and sometimes, too, with one or the other of her girls. In the fall he began going with a girl from his high school, and when they started having sex together, he found himself less inclined to visit Mexicali. Still, Madame Carmencita must have taught her prodigy well. Since Robert has been at U.S.C. he has been keeping steady company with a pretty graduate student in psychology.

Is it different with a nonprofessional?

“Yeah, it’s different,” he says. “Stacy, my girl, is still a beginner compared to Carmen. But I don’t mind.” He winks now. “You see, even though she’s chronologically older, I’m teaching her. And she’s a hot student.”

These days, it seems, it’s not unusual for boys to seek out older women as partners for their first sexual experience. “They know the ropes,” says Jonathan, a college sophomore from Detroit. “Last summer when I made a conscious decision to lose my virginity, I also decided to lose it with a woman who was considerably older. I didn’t want to experiment with someone my own age who would be anxious and scared, just like me. And I certainly didn’t want a girl who might be nervous enough to laugh, the way girls sometimes do when they are uneasy about something.”

For Jonathan, the opportunity for sex arose at the country club where he spent the summer before his freshman year. “I met a woman at the pool. She was about thirty-seven, with a sensational figure — after all, she’d swim about sixty laps a day — and great red hair. She also had a husband who was constantly out of town on business, three kids who were at sleep-away camp, and a lot of time on her hands.”

Was sex the first time round everything that Jonathan had imagined it would be? “No,” he says honestly. “Not even with a woman of experience. I was so awkward and self-conscious that I couldn’t really enjoy it. It was so-so intimate. And Marilyn had her troubles too; after all, she had a kid who was only three years younger than I, and so she had to wrestle with a lot of feelings of her own. But she was sweet and patient, and thank goodness we both had a sense of humor about it all. And even though the first time I orgasmed so quickly and she didn’t orgasm at all, we worked on it. And in the course of the summer it got really good. Sex is one of those rare sports you can learn very quickly if you happen to luck out and get a good, uninhibited teacher.”

“My first time was with an older woman, too,” says Tony, a teenage grocery clerk from the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. “It was four years ago, and I planned it that way. In fact, Steffie was my barber — I mean, my hair stylist. One afternoon I walked in for a haircut, right? And like I’m her last appointment. We get to talking, right, and one thing leads to another-you know how it is — and we finally split for her place on the Grand Concourse. We’re both panting, we want at each other so bad. Steffie begins massaging my neck and my back, and then we strip down to our underwear and begin dancing close. It was real nice. But then, while we’re fooling around, she starts in saying to me, ‘Forget it, you’re just a kid!’ which gets me real pissed off, so I wrestle her to the ground and we start rolling over and laughing. Then suddenly my rod is as stiff as a bat, and I begin kissing her all over, and she keeps saying to me stuff like, ‘Oh, God, I want you, baby, I want you.’ So I pull down her panties and open her legs wide. And then you know what happened?” Tony leans over and drops his voice to a half-whisper. “I come all over her. My prick hasn’t even touched her belly. I haven’t even put my hand in that pussy yet, and I come! Man, it was the most fucking embarrassing moment of my life. Of course, no one knows this but her and me and now you too. So, look, watch it — and whatever you do, don’t use my real name in the piece, please.”

Lighting up a cigarette, Tony (not his real name) exhales deeply, then closes his eyes as though the humiliations of the world are still on his shoulders. “But, see, that’s not the end of it,” he says quickly. “Steffie knew what was happening almost before I did. She was a good kid. She took me in her arms and began stroking my head, the back of my neck, my chest. In five minutes my rod is stiff again. This time she guides me inside her. And, it’s so fucking terrific, so hot, so soft. For a moment I stayed perfectly still. I was afraid to move. But then I couldn’t help it, and almost immediately I popped inside her. Again! I fucking wanted to die. ‘You stupid fairy!’ I told myself and began to worry that something was goddamned wrong. But she read my mind. ‘Relax, baby,’ she shrugs. ‘I can see you’re just starting out, so leave everything to me, okay? You’ll be great.’”

Tony spent the rest of the night with Steffie. “After the first two pops, I was calmer but still horny as fucking hell. This time she shows me just how to do it. She has me lie there on my back, and she rolls over on top of me and rides me up and down like she’s busting some bull in the goddamned rodeo. Shit, but it turned me on! I’d probably still be there today if her cousin hadn’t walked in right in the middle of our little ride.” Tony takes another puff on his cigarette and grins. “But ever since, I really dig getting my hair cut.”

“You’ve seen all those TV flicks about the delivery boy and the older woman?” asks Ian, a young part-time clerk at one of Manhattan’s largest supermarket chains. “Well, I lived it. Really. When I started working here three years ago, I’d deliver groceries after school. And so one day I take these packages to this woman’s penthouse apartment. When she goes to pay me, she asks me to follow her into the bedroom. I do because I’m a good kid, and what do I know besides the fact that I have to get paid, right? Besides, this lady is no ordinary housewife. Bunny is about thirty-two, with shiny black hair and dark eyes. And while I’m waiting for her to write the check, she makes no bones about it — she just lies down on her big, king-sized bed. I must’ve been standing there with this weird look on my face because then she takes my hand and gently pulls me down beside her. ‘I like you,’ she says to me, and before I know it, her sweater is off, so is her bra, her skirt is up, and she’s pushing my head down between her legs.”

“Christ, I’d never had my head there before. I’d never even touched a woman there! And so I started to get scared. I mean, her body was a grown woman’s body; it all looked so strange and felt so strange. ‘Kiss me, kiss me there,’ she ordered me. And I didn’t know what to do, so I obeyed her. I really don’t know why I got so hard, because I’m not sure if I liked what I was doing or not, but I guess it was sexy. Anyway, I started getting hotter and hotter. And finally Bunny pulled my pants off, and I climbed on top of her and started pumping away like there was no tomorrow. I must’ve been in a trance or something. When I finished, she looked up at me and asked, ‘You’re new at this, aren’t you?’ I just about died. But she took me in her arms and held me. ‘Do you want to do it again?’ she whispered. I did. And I was grateful she was so understanding. But I was also afraid I’d get fired if I stayed there, so I said no.”

How does Ian look back on his first encounter? “Well, it sure as hell was nice,” he recalls, his eyes smiling. “But I was pretty anxious. I mean, this woman was so sophisticated and — and I was really still a kid. You know, when it happened I’d been thinking about sex, but to tell the truth, not enough to actually get up and go out and try it. Who knows, maybe Bunny came to me too soon, but I’d say it was an adventure that at the time seemed as scary as it was exciting. In fact, it was too scary. Frankly, jerking off alone was. better. But at least I’d gone through it. I’d survived my first experience. And I was up for more.”

Did Ian and Bunny ever get together again? “No,” he explains. “After that day, I tried to do more of her deliveries. But the funny thing was, I was never able to find any. Maybe she had second thoughts about the whole business and switched supermarkets. Too bad. I never saw her again.”

“My first sexual experience was really wild,” says Matthew, an owlish young man of eighteen who is now a junior at Fordham. “I was always very precocious, and because I had skipped two years in junior high school I was also rather small for my age and kind of self-conscious about it. Therefore it was tough for me to initiate anything with a girl I really liked because she was always older, taller, and more fully developed than I was. But one night, during my senior year at high school, I went to a beach party along the Jersey shore. It was one of those humid June nights, and the whole senior class was there with gallons of vodka and orange juice, packets of Quaaludes, some incredible grass, and even — though it mystifies me how those kids can afford it — a couple of grams of cocaine. Well, after a few screwdrivers, a joint or two, a ‘lude or two, and a few toots of coke, I was feeling full of self-confidence. Conversation was easy, and suddenly I found myself lying on these secluded dunes with two girls. There we were, trying to talk at 2:00 A.M., laughing our heads off, and falling all over each other. Before I knew it, we were all nude and kissing and hugging. Then, suddenly, the mood changed from giddiness to something more serious. Our touching became more sensual. Both of these girls were seventeen or eighteen to my fifteen, and they were a good deal more experienced than I was, too. But soon it didn’t matter, for the three of us began making love. In a sense it was just the way it had been in my fantasies-a truly marvelous moment.”

Matthew, like most of the men interviewed for this survey, rated his first sexual experience as a positive one; and when asked if, given the second chance, he would want to rework the scenario in any way, he, like most of the others, declined. “Nope. Not unless I could trade those girls at the beach in for, say, Nastassia Kinski and Debbie Harry,” he says. “But that’s just quibbling. Really, I couldn’t have lost it in a better way or at a better time.”

What is striking, however, is that so few of the women interviewed experienced as many good feelings as their male counterparts did. Few had really positive initial experiences.

June is an exception.

“When I finally had sex, it was marvelous, fantastic — everything it had been cracked up to be,” she confesses. June, a psychologist of twenty-eight, is something of an anachronism in that she remained a virgin until three years ago. “Maybe it’s because I’d thought about sex for so many years and had felt so deprived about not being able to have it,” she now explains thoughtfully. “Or, more aptly, not being ‘eligible’ to have it. You see, I suffered a six-year bout with anorexia nervosa. Sex was like food — I totally denied it. I never masturbated — ever. And I protected myself so well that I didn’t even have to deal with dating, let alone sex.”

Fortunately, a slow but intensive course of therapy helped June gain control over her eating habits and begin to view her adulthood with less terror and more acceptance. “It took me three years of refeeding and retraining before I looked normal again,” she says. “And it took even longer for me to start to feel like a grown-up woman. In fact, not until I’d finished college and was on a graduate fellowship in psychology did I allow myself to begin dating.”

The process of reentry into the world of grown-ups was painful. “In some ways, I suppose, I was like a fifteen-year-old — nervous, cautious, fluttery, unsure of my appeal. But in fact I was twenty-four, and for the first time in my life I let myself experience sexual feelings. I developed the most enormous schoolgirl crush on one of my professors. Warren was a man of great kindness and intelligence, and he became my mentor. Gradually we began spending more and more time together, and not simply for intellectual purposes. Soon I was head over heels in love. Also, it was exciting because our relationship was kind of illicit. Here was a respected professor at a major university going out with a student who was almost half his age. At any rate, Warren became my father, shrink, and friend as well. He knew about my past and my ‘condition,’ as I called it. I trusted him completely. And so, after a year of being turned on twenty-four hours a day and thinking about nothing other than my embarrassing chastity, I finally begged him to rectify it. And he did. And well, it was wonderful.”

Considering the number of years June had spent denying her body in one way or another, how is it that she was so responsive the first time round? “I don’t know,” she shakes her head thoughtfully. “I was lucky to find Warren, a man who seemed to have the key to my heart. And to my sexual temperament. On the other hand, maybe I was just ready, for sex and for him. Yet I’m sure the fact that I was able to orgasm so powerfully and so easily — the fact that I discovered my ability to have multiple orgasms-was directly related to how loving he was, how understanding and experienced, too. Sometimes I think that had I not met him, I’d still be a virgin to this day.”

June’s blunt and exhilarating recollection was unique among the women interviewed. More commonly, these women, and especially the young ones, felt alienated and sometimes embarrassed at the impersonal quality of their first sexual encounters. They were all much more private about the experience than the men had been, and also, not surprisingly, much more reluctant to give details. And when they finally did, their anecdotes were shorter, less enthusiastic, and more to the point. Like Doreen, most women were disappointed in the quality of the experience. Despite birth control and extraordinary state-of-the-art knowledge of the sex act and those currently popular sexual buzzwords such as “S&M,” “orgy,” and “menage,” most of these young women were not able to orgasm the first time. No, not even in this era of sexual sophistication. How could that be?

“I was simply too young when I lost my virginity,” says Allison, who is sixteen and a sophomore at a Chicago university. “Too young to get any pleasure. Too young, almost, to know what was happening. I was thirteen, and it was a time when I was really mixed up. I grew up in Iowa, and as a kid I always did extremely well at school, with the result that they skipped me two grades. So by the time I was in the ninth grade, I was considerably less mature, both physically and emotionally, than everyone else in my class.”

At the same time Allison was being pursued by a friend of her brother, a boy of sixteen who was insistent she have sex with him. “Now let me say I idolized my brother, and consequently I adored his friend as well. But Mark kept at me, chipping away and chipping away until finally I gave in.”

The experience, however, was far from pleasant or pleasurable. “No, I didn’t come,” Allison says, her voice cool and emotionless. “I had no sexual feelings whatsoever. I was so physically immature then. My breasts weren’t fully developed. I had hardly begun to menstruate. I tell you, I was literally too young to have sexual feelings. But I wasn’t too young to feel a truckload of guilt. First of all, I was petrified my brother would find out. Second, I was desperately afraid I’d get pregnant. And worst, while I was dying to talk to my parents about it, to seek some kind of comfort from them, I knew I’d done something wrong and figured I had just better shut up. Soon I simply started avoiding both my brother and Mark whenever possible.”

Has Allison been able to have satisfying sex since then? She smiles, but her green eyes gaze with great seriousness. “I’m trying,” she answers with a candor that belies her age. “Really. But these things take time. I’m not a machine. It’s been very tough for me to learn what makes my body feel good. And hell, if I don’t know, how on earth can any guy know?” She pauses for a moment. “There’s something else that I think is important, too. I didn’t really have a lot of feelings for this friend of my brother. In fact, I had none. Since then I’ve met a boy who I’m seeing, and I like him tremendously. That helps. We also talk about sex a lot, which is very tough for me. I don’t know, I get mortified trying to explain to him what pleases me. But he really tries to listen and to make me feel good. Lately I’ve been on the verge of coming with him, and although I can’t believe how difficult it is, I just know it’s going to happen someday.”

Lisa, a Long Island high school student of eighteen, confesses to a somewhat, but not much, more positive first experience. “Oh, it was with my tennis pro last summer,” she says, running her long, well-manicured fingers through her sleek, well-coiffed, short dark hair. “Oh, I was mad for him, crazy! And frankly, I’d been thinking about getting rid of my virginity since I was fourteen. I’d been masturbating to orgasm since then, and this virginity was like a great big millstone around my neck. I hated it. So, one evening after my tennis lesson, when Kip, my pro, started kissing me in the racquet shed at the club, I could hardly resist. I did, though. I pushed away from him with all my resolve. After all, he hadn’t even asked me out or seemed seriously interested in me. Still, that night he invited me for a drink. He flirted outrageously, and I fell for it. I don’t know what self-destructive impulse propelled me to get drunk, but I did. I guess I just wanted to let go. I was loaded! Bombed! And though that’s no excuse, I let Kip make love to me in his Buick.”

Did Lisa enjoy it? “I loved it! I wanted to be with him all night. I felt so romantic. I wanted to share the entire summer with him. I wanted to come with him, just like they do in books.”

The reality, however, was startlingly different. “Actually, I didn’t come at all,” Lisa giggles. “Or at least, not until I went home and was alone. With Kip I was too uptight. I mean, a double standard does exist, and I kept worrying that he wouldn’t even want to give me a lousy tennis lesson again. I just couldn’t concentrate on my orgasm. And, to tell the truth, he didn’t seem to be concentrating on it either. Every time I’d be at the brink, he’d move or pull out or straighten up, something to throw me off. Anyway, I guess that in the back seat of an auto, it’s kind of difficult.”

In retrospect, how does Lisa feel about losing her virginity with Kip? She shrugs. “I wish it had been different,” she says. “I didn’t mind not coming. I had a great time anyway and figured that we’d have plenty of time to get things perfect. But we didn’t. Kip called me once more — I think he was nice enough to feel guilty — but we never actually got together. It was all a pretty cold-blooded affair, I think, which was my own fault — for jumping into bed with him right away. Most annoying of all was the fact that I had to find another tennis pro. Things between us became too tense. Too bad. Kip was a good teacher, more patient on the court than in the bedroom. But I wanted it the other way around.”

Three sorority sisters from a West Coast university sit drinking beer at a pub and reflect on their first sexual experiences. As they speak, Deborah, Laurel, and Karen mirror each other’s feelings and concerns. Each at the age of eighteen or nineteen sought to lose her virginity because, as with Lisa, she was desperately curious. Each chose a man she was friendly with but not crazy about. Each “submitted” to the experience in the man’s apartment or dormitory room, a place where she felt uncomfortable and “on display” for his roommates or pals. And each was too shy to explain to her partner just what pleased and excited her sexually.

“Chuck and I had been seeing each other casually all semester,” says Karen of her episode. “Frankly, I never even liked kissing him very much. He was sort of weak in the mouth. I think you can always tell by a guy’s kissing if he’s gonna be a good lover. And even though, with my nonexistent experience at the time, I tried to get him to move to my rhythms and touch me in places that felt good, I failed at it. I’m not very adept at these things, but I’ve subsequently found out that these men — Chuck was just the first — are very insistent on thrust, thrust, thrust! It’s their fantasy of what women love in bed, and it has nothing to do with what makes me excited.”

Her friends laugh and voice their agreement. Laurel, a pale-faced brunette, shakes her head ruefully. “I was just too shy to make any demands the first time round,” she admits, “and the guy whom I’d chosen for this initiation had come on like gangbusters. But when we got into bed, I found out that he was a virgin too. It was a mess. Neither of us really knew what to do. And Ralph was, for my money, a little too squeamish about my body — and his, for that matter. The minute after he came, he had to take a shower. It was as though he was disinfecting himself. Ugh!”

“I know it all takes time,” adds Deborah. “But what I regret most of all was the lack of romance. That’s what I really missed. I’m sorry I was in such a hurry to get rid of my virginity. And I’m sorry I picked a partner so randomly and without waiting until I had strong feelings for him. When it was over, when it was too late, I realized that I’d chosen a man for my first sexual experience the way I might choose a new hat: did it look smart and clean and pretty? It did, but it didn’t fit good. And it didn’t complement my needs either. I now realize that what I really wanted was to be courted and adored. I wanted to be special. And I wanted ‘it’ to be special. Everyone takes sex so casually these days, but frankly, the first time round should be more of a celebration than I allowed it to be. If I had another shot at it, I’d wait until I found someone who was really dynamite. And who really thought I was dynamite. Caring — that’s something they don’t tell you about in those modern sex manuals.”

Let’s face it. First sexual experiences are just as liable to bring disappointment as satisfaction. Yet what’s so surprising, if one can extrapolate from the comments made by the young women above, is that they often seem emotionally unprepared for the event. They may know about birth control and about mutual and multiple orgasms. They may even be more aggressive than they were a decade ago about when to give up their virginity and to whom. But in the eighties, an era of media titillation and sexual casualness, these young women seem to have such overblown expectations that the first experience sours simply because reality can never approach the fantasy of what it might have, could have, or should have been.

Moreover, these young women tend to take the big plunge in order to satisfy their curiosity and not their sexual urges. Often they are unable to communicate to their partners the needs of their own bodies; and their lack of communication is compounded, first, because the girls are still young enough to feel enormous shyness about themselves, and second, because their partners are often only nodding acquaintances at best. And so the adventure engenders little warmth.

Looking at the way young people lose their virginity in the eighties is not unlike looking at that proverbial glass of wine: whether it’s half empty or half full depends on your point of view. While only a third of the group surveyed revealed that sex as they’d experienced it the first time round was everything the media and their own fantasies had led them to believe it would be, the truth is that losing it in the eighties is qualitatively a much more rewarding experience than losing it in the seventies, or even the sixties or fifties, ever was.

The chief reason? Today women know so much more. They can bring themselves to orgasm, and do. In fact, most of the women interviewed had been orgasmic prior to losing their virginity, and a quarter of those masturbated to orgasm on a regular basis. These women know, to some extent, what they are looking for, and ought to be able to translate this knowledge during the sex act.

They also expect more, from sex itself and from their partners. Not one woman said, “I didn’t come but I loved it anyway!”, a way of looking at sex that a decade ago was more popular than most women today care to recall.

In light of all of these complicated new responses from women, it may or may not be coincidence that so many more young men than ever before are seeking out older, more experienced females to initiate them into sex. Are these men intuiting women’s needs? Are they simply enamored of the new independent and glamorous image of the older woman? Or are they just sensible about choosing partners the first time round who can really show them what they need to know about the female sexual response? It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. Whatever, it’s clear that now, more so than in the seventies or at any other time in history, there’s a real pressure on men to perform and to give pleasure, to understand and truly delight in the female body, the woman’s rhythms, the woman’s erotic centers. Her mysteries.

This new awareness can only be for everyone’s good. The more men and women know themselves and each other, the greater the sexual possibilities and the stronger the pleasure. Not just for the first time. But for the second, the third, and all the rest.

Naturally this topic lead us to try an look up “virginity statistics” because, and we can be honest here, our lives in this industry do not as a rule put us in close enough contact with the general population to ask this personal of a question. Of course the people we do interact with regularly will almost always talk about anything at all, at any time. We found a reasonalby interesting chart, but it was surprisingly difficult to find virgin data — as it were. There were wildly conflicting opinions about the “average” age of one’s first intercourse experience, for example. And here we thought that if you find it on the internet, it must be true. We saw that on a commercial — on television — so that must be true too. Right?

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