A woman’s virginity is one of the most praised idols of worship in all religious texts. Mother Mary was a ‘virgin’, in Hindu mythology we have ‘Panchkanyas’, Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari, Sita and Draupadi- group of five ideal women and chaste wives.
I was brought up in a world where my bed-time stories were supposed to be epic sagas of ‘Mahapurush Rama’ asking his wife Sita proves her chastity by undergoing a trial by fire. Even before I could spell the word, I was indoctrinated with all kinds of ideas about what big deal virginity was.
Women’s virginity has always been considered as the most pronounced compass to gauge where she lies on the moral scale of being ‘a good woman’.
Growing up in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, my upper-caste Hindu family made me believe that my body was my most prized possession, that all my honor lied between my legs. The day someone other than ‘my husband’ ingresses it, I would be the biggest slut of town. I was taught, in no sophisticated words, that having sex before you were married made you like a piece of chewed-up gum, damaged goods- something that no one would want.
Our very own Bollywood movies had taught me that my first time was supposed to be special, that you couldn’t just lose your virginity to anyone! It had to be special, with the man of your dreams, the one you will be with for your seven lives to come. Then there was the completely absurd concept in Indian movies, where no matter what happens the heroine never has sex with more than one man, sometimes not even with the hero before marriage. If at all she was a particularly wild girl, she would go behind a tree and maybe let the hero kiss her.
Purity was important. I wanted to be pure, god, but the prospect of growing up and having sex seemed so bloody attractive.
I think it was sometime during that period, I decided “Fuck purity, I want to have fun.”
As a 16-year-old living under the vulture eyes of my mother, overbearing father and strict (read oppressive) house rules, I enjoyed holding hands with my then-boyfriend, kissing him and just experimenting with things a little too much.
My desire to experience ‘stuff’ had transcended the elephantine teachings of those around me, and from a very young age, I knew that what my parents told me was just a load of hypocritical bullshit. Miley Cyrus still didn’t scream ‘Virginity is a social construct’ but the 17-year-old me knew.
Contrary to popular beliefs and the not-so-subtle pop culture insinuations, when I lost my ‘virginity’, a sudden wave of emotion and love did not hit me. Like it was a weird and a nice feeling, and I had a little blood rush out but that was it. I zipped up my pants and went back home. It wasn’t the happiest day of my life, it wasn’t a bad day, it was just a regular day where I had had sex. I wasn’t emotional, I wasn’t screaming how much I loved him, I didn’t want him to marry me. Nothing happened that I had been conditioned to expect.
I did not feel I lost something. It did not change my identity, it was not life-altering. It was simply a new experience, exhilarating, liberating. And I wanted more of it.
I lived in a society full of upper-caste Hindus, with an inflated sense of ego and a completely hypocritical view of the world, whose life’s one loyal mission was to safely guard their ‘honours’ which they had conveniently rested in their daughters’ vaginas, till it was transferred to the future husband.
When I was 13, on a quiet summer afternoon, I found my mother and my uncle whispering to each other in hushed tones in the corridors, my uncle telling my mom how I should be kept away from a girl ‘Dolly’ who lived a few blocks away from my house. Dolly was elder to me, probably 16. She wasn’t my best friend but we used to hang out sometimes. Dolly was nice.
Turns out Dolly was ‘caught’ making out with a guy in the society. Since that day, I was never allowed to meet her or talk to her. Dolly had become the worst thing that could happen to your child according to the parents in society. When Dolly grew up, no guy wanted to marry her because of her sexual escapades in public, and she always became the most controversial person to be present in a party. Yes, more than the uncle who beat up his wife, more than the man who came home drunk and cerated a ruckus every other night out on the streets, more than the aunty who once undressed her 15-year-old son and hit him with a cane to teach him a lesson. Dolly was worse than all of them, because she had kissed a boy, or maybe let him slip his hand under her dress.
A young girl consensually enjoying the touch of a guy – what a blasphemy!
I did not understand what happened back then. But thinking about it makes me really sad. I wish I could give Dolly a hug, and tell her she is not a bad girl. That her desire to be touched doesn’t define her ‘character’. I wish I could tell her that there is so much more to her than her body, that her kindness, her compassion, her grit, and her intelligence mattered so much more than what lies between her legs. I wish I could tell her that virginity isn’t some innate, observable mode of existence. I wish I could make her understand that society has gendered virginity, and charged it with a moral value. And that, on the outskirts of a patriarchal belief system, it holds no meaning or significance.
As I grew up, I could relate to Dolly more and more.
You know how they tell you, that you will always remember your first time, it has to be special blah blah blah. I think it’s just a load of BS to uphold the patriarchal values and establish control over women’s lives and bodies, because in all honesty, why are only the girls made to follow these rules? In fact, for men, losing virginity or having sex for the first time is often seen as a symbol of adulthood, as a conquest, while for women most often than not, it makes them an object of shame and ridicule.
Sex for me the first time wasn’t the mind-shattering, life-changing experience that the movies showed, it was nothing more than a speed bump. I wasn’t in love with the guy, and looking back at it, I am glad because he was a bit of an asshole.
But looking back do I regret ‘losing’ my virginity to him? Never. Simply because it was just one of the many, many new experiences for me growing up, and because I know my honor rests in my actions and humanity.
It helps to realize that whether it’s your first time or you have sex all the time, society always expects you to feel one thing: shame. So why bother anyway!
And in all honesty, in my sexual journey, there have been far more interesting and fun things, like hitting the right spot and having my first orgasm. Simply life-changing. So I don’t get all the hullabaloo about ‘losing’ your virginity, because life is short and you only get so many orgasms, so you might as well get started.