For a while in high school, I had my mind made up that I’d lose my virginity on top of a water tower. Back home, there’s this great set of rolling hills at one edge of town, and kids would drive up there at night to mess around. A short hike up the hill from one of these spots, you can scale the chain link fence and haul yourself up the ladder to the top. The first time I stood up there, looking down at the twinkling lights of suburbia with the wind on my face, I made up my mind. This would be the spot.
I did have other requirements for my first time: for one thing, I wanted to be in love. I figured throwing out my crazy water tower suggestion to whichever guy I fell in love with would be a pretty great test of compatibility. Plus, my first time had to be epic. I was totally averse to the idea of doing it on a couch with some action movie sequel playing in the background.
I wanted to make a really big deal over it. After all, wasn’t I supposed to do that? Lose it. Don’t lose it. Save it for marriage. Make your first time special. Get it over with already. My friends, parents, teachers and boyfriends all had different things to say about virginity!
This week, in an anonymous survey, I asked other students to lend me their perspectives on the following: If you’ve chosen to have sex, how did you know you were ready for your first time? If you haven’t done it yet, how will you know you’re ready?
Many of the students surveyed expressed the need for a deep emotional connection with a first-time sexual partner:
“The reason why I decided I was ready to have sex with my boyfriend was because I knew I loved him and felt comfortable sharing myself with him in a way that I hadn’t done with anyone else. He didn’t pressure me; in fact, I initiated it, which made me feel even more sure about my decision.”
“I think it will feel right when I’ve been with someone I really love for a while, and I trust that person completely. I’ve waited this long, I don’t just want to give it away to someone who doesn’t deserve it, you know?”
“I feel like I lost my virginity twice: when it actually happened the first time and when I had sex with someone I felt emotionally connected to for the first time. An emotional connection has since become a deal breaker for me when it comes to deciding whether or not to have sex.”
For many other students surveyed, love was not necessarily a factor. They explained that they felt ready and able to have great, fulfilling sexual experiences when they found partners who respected their needs and made them feel comfortable:
“There is a lot of pressure to wait for “true love,” especially for girls, and a lot of stigma surrounding losing your virginity to someone you are not in a serious, committed relationship with. But once I reached an age where I knew I was emotionally ready to have sex, I realized that I could not let waiting for a boyfriend dictate my life choices.”
“I think you have to trust yourself and ask the questions, ‘Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do I trust this person? Am I comfortable in this setting? Am I making this decision for myself or for someone else? Will I use a level/type of protection that makes me feel safe?’”
“I think I’ll be ready when I know it’s with somebody who is thinking about me just as much as, or more, than they are thinking about themselves.”
“I felt comfortable talking with my boyfriend about being a virgin. I felt comfortable voicing my fears and concerns. He was prepared to go slow, walk me through it, take our time. I didn’t feel pressured. He was patient and skilled and we had great conversations about what felt good for me and what felt good for him. He got tested, he wore condoms every time and I was on the pill, so I felt totally safe.”
“Really, all I wanted from my “first time” was to be with a guy that made me feel comfortable, treated me right, and whom I was sure was going to call the next day. And, I have no regrets!”
The awesome truth is you can define your virginity however you want. Your first sexual experience can be a gift you share with someone you love, or something you take for yourself to celebrate your own sexual desires; for many people, it’s somewhere in the middle. Whether you’re waiting for a wedding ring or a Ryan Gosling look-alike, the important thing is to decide what you want out of your sexual experiences, and to not settle for less.
And regardless of the level of attraction or connection you may be looking for in a partner, it’s incredibly important that you feel comfortable communicating your sexual boundaries and discussing methods of protection with that person.
So did I end up having sex on top of that water tower? The answer is no. I’m proud to say I lost my virginity on a couch, with 2 Fast 2 Furious playing in the background. An action movie sequel and everything. It was exactly what I said I’d never do, but it didn’t feel like I was settling in the least. This particular night was the night I realized I really didn’t really care about that view from the top of the hill. Sharing my first sexual experience with someone I loved and trusted was all I really wanted at the time. I knew it was enough for me, and that’s how I knew I was ready.