Figuring It All Out
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Losing My Virginity at 21

Until it happened, I thought it never would. But then, one night, it just did.

I was 15 the first time I heard the word “virgin” used as an insult. And until only three weeks ago, the word plagued my own self-perception. Until only three weeks ago, the socially constructed concept of virginity was an inherent and undesirable part of who I was. (Hell, even my astronomical sign is a Virgo).

I’m only 21, I know. I have an entire life ahead of me. But in our day and age, sex is part of our social vocabulary from the time we enter high school – or worse, sometimes earlier. I was 16 the first time I considered having sex, and while I see now that waiting so long was worth it, the embarrassment that came with my inexperience never failed to exacerbate the pain I felt with each failed connection or disappointing encounter; at seemingly every possible occasion, I called into question whether I would ever find the right person to “lose it” to – as if the soundness of my virginity sealed the fate of my romantic future.

For years I had taken solace in a friend who shared my experience (or more appropriately, a lack thereof) – we both felt the gravity of our differentness in everyday gossip with girlfriends, at parties where hookup culture dominated, and in the anxiety-ridden hours leading up to first dates. Last summer, she lost her virginity, and I lost the crutch I had been resting on. Nothing can appropriately convey the feeling of my world crumbling around me upon hearing the news. For weeks, I had never felt more lost or alone, and I suffered from an exponentially deteriorating sense of self-esteem. What was wrong with me? Or even more dramatically, would I be a virgin forever?

I tried returning to my mantras: I hadn’t found anybody I was comfortable with, I was waiting not for the perfect scenario, but a good one – and I just hadn’t discovered that yet. But parasitic thoughts kept me questioning why I hadn’t encountered that kind of comfort yet. Everybody else had, hadn’t they?

By summer’s end, I had worked through this breakdown like I had all the others – I was back to my strong, independent self. All I had to do was internalize the logic that I knew: virginity is a social construct, and if I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore, I didn’t have to be. My lack of sexual experience was a powerful and personal choice made by me, not a sad reality imposed on me against my will. I was waiting for the right scenario: one in which I felt in control, one in which I was with somebody I actually wanted to have sex with, and one that I wouldn’t regret. And after hearing the experiences of so many friends, I have come to comfortably understand that that sort of experience is not as common as I once believed.

When it finally did happen, it felt right. I was ready, and he was a gentleman. While there wasn’t a mystical moment where I knew it was time, when it did happen, I felt in my bones that it was what I wanted. I had waited for years for that sort of certainty, worrying it would never come – but when it did, it felt so natural that there wasn’t room for a momentous realization.

If I’m being honest, the decision to lose my virginity to the person I did came with a realization that my expectations didn’t match with those of society. I didn’t need to be in love, and I didn’t need to be in a relationship; in fact, while for some those factors are necessary to be comfortable, and completely valid, their absence made my experience all the more liberating. All I required was comfort and agency in the situation – and when those were present, there were no more barriers to overcome.

I’m not here to nullify any similar experiences to mine – the anxiety I felt was real, and that alone validates those fears. But to anybody in the shoes I was in three weeks ago, know that you will realize – and this knowledge can only be internalized upon experience – that all along you had nothing to worry about. The next day, you’ll look yourself up and down in the mirror and see the same person you have been looking at your whole life.

Written by Anonymous. Photography by Grecia Villa.


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