The Hook Up: Late Bloomers and the Definition of Virginity

I almost feel silly asking this because I know it’s something I should be able to figure out on my own, but either way I feel like I could use some advice. I’m an almost 21-year-old currently in the coming-out process. My close family and friends all know I’m gay at this point and I’ve been lucky in that I have encountered nothing but love and support from those I’ve told. This was a long time coming, and just being able to acknowledge to myself and others that I like girls makes me so happy.

The problem is it’s been over six months since I started coming out and I still haven’t, for lack of a better way to put this, done anything. I don’t know any other les/bi girls and I’m clueless as to how to meet them, maybe not so much clueless as scared. My (small, Catholic) university has a very minimal LGB presence, but it’s located in a large, liberal city so that in itself shouldn’t be a big impediment. I’ve looked up lesbian hangouts both in the city where I attend college and near my hometown but haven’t tried going to any (the fact that I don’t have a les/bi friend to accompany me is a big factor in this. I have some straight friends that I’m sure would be willing to tag along if I asked but is that something that’s OK to do?) I’ve thought about dating websites, but is that the right step for someone who has no experience with girls? What other options are out there?

I’m usually a fairly outgoing, up-for-anything kind of person, but when it comes to actually taking charge of my attraction to women I feel kind of lost at sea and it’s getting frustrating. Any advice for a lesbian who wants to get her foot in the door?

Anna says: You shouldn’t feel silly! You’re exploring a lot of new territory, and there are lots of questions. Thankfully, you have so many things going for you. One is the support of your family and friends, which is awesome. Not many people have that right out the rainbow gate, so high fives all around. Second, you’re in college! And a Catholic one, no less! Everyone knows Catholics are ripe for sexual experimentation. It’s all the guilt and repression. Just kidding. But it is good that you’re in a large, liberal city. It makes spotting the queers a little easier. Except in San Francisco where every straight hipster girl (and sometimes boy) looks like a lesbian. You leave our librarian glasses alone, you hear!

I see no harm in asking your straight friends to accompany you to queer events or cafes or bars (when you turn 21). It’s not like you have to be trolling for p—y to have a good time at an Ani DiFranco concert or what have you. Most of my friends are straight, and I make them come with me to all kinds of weird outings, including an insemination ritual once. So yes, bring a buddy. Choose an outgoing friend, and make her be your wingman.

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with joining a dating site to see what’s out there. You could always say “looking for friends or more,” if you’re nervous. Meeting people online gives you the added bonus of being able to vet people before you meet them, which is nice for weeding out Libertarians or people who don’t like Joss Whedon. Here’s another factor working in your favor: at your age, pretty much everyone is inexperienced. That’s the norm you’re working from, not the other way around. So don’t feel like you missed the boat or anything. Also, it’s such a fun thing to learn! It’s not, like, Intro to Metaphysics and Epistemology or something. As with most things in life, lesbianistic pursuits are best done by diving right in. Pursue everything and everyone that seems interesting, maybe even that crunchy underwater basket weaving class at the LGBT community center. At worst, you’ll have wasted one night. At best, you’ll have met some awesome people and maybe learned how to use a loom, which lesbians undoubtedly find erotic.

Also, take like a hundred Women’s Studies classes. I swear, every queer girl I met in college was in one of those classes. So were the teachers. And the TAs. Carry an Audre Lorde book around with you everywhere (I suggest Zami) and watch the lesbians flock to you like politically correct flies to organic, ethically-farmed honey!

Seriously though, don’t pressure yourself. You’re not on a deadline to life the gayest life possible. Enjoy college. Enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. It’s one of the most interesting time periods in one’s life. If you happen to meet someone awesome, all the better. Best of luck!

I’m currently in a relationship with a man. He knows about my past relationships with women, he knows that I’ve had sex with them, yet he still insists that I lost my virginity to him. I don’t feel like this is true and I feel a little bit offended, strangely enough. Is it weird that I feel offended or that I don’t define virginity the same way everyone else does?

He’s a great boyfriend in every other way possible. And I have no desire to be with anyone else. I just don’t want to feel like my past doesn’t matter because to me it does. is this normal? — Befuddled Bisexual

Anna says: I’m sure your boyfriend’s great, Befuddled, but he’s being kind of a jerk store about what is clearly a personal issue to you, and to lady-lovin’ ladies the world over. Actually, to everyone! Your boyfriend has offended the world! Congratulations, Boyfriend. I hope you’re happy. According to that line of thinking, gold star lesbians are all still virgins, even if they’ve munched the rugs of every Persian imaginable? That’s silly. And what about gay men? If they’re not into penetration, are they all virgins too? What about those Catholic school girls who think every sex act is fair game, as long as their hymen stays in tact? Are they all virgins?

You have every right to be offended, in other words, Befuddled. Because in essence what your boyfriend is doing is erasing your queer experiences, saying they don’t count because they didn’t involve a bona-fide boner. (And hell, for all he knows, maybe they did, if you used toys.) It’s a very heteronormative and egotistical way to view virginity, and it negates some of the ownership of your body and sexuality, which no one can lay claim to, but you. This is one of the things that irks me about men who don’t consider it cheating if their girlfriends sleep with other women, but would if they slept with a dude. It’s a crappy and weird double standard, and women have a hard enough time processing the objectification and the whole “look slutty, just don’t be slutty” shtick and how fewer women are having orgasms than ever these days and UGH. Tell your boyfriend to get over himself. Tell him that, yes, you and he shared something awesome (assuming it was), but that it wasn’t the first time you’d had sex with another person and he needs to stop trying to plant his flag on your moon. Your boyfriend can’t claim ownership of your virginity simply because he has a penis.

Virginity is a weird concept, if you think about it. What other new act is associated with the loss of something as loaded as “innocence” or “purity”? No one gets called a whore when they try oysters for the first time, you know? Also, it’s predominantly a mental thing. Depending on your culture, upbringing, religion, familial expectations, etc., your definition of virginity could be wildly different than someone else’s.

I actually define my virginity as two separate events (a boy virginity and a girl virginity, which, like you, happened for me first). If it makes him feel better, he can view it that way, but seriously, you don’t need to make him feel better. If he tries to argue, tell him that it’s your party and you can justify if you want to. I’ve known plenty of straight people who’ve never done the P in the V ordeal who don’t consider themselves virgins at all. While PIV sex may be the cultural norm around these parts, it doesn’t have to be around your lady parts. OK, I think I’ve soap boxed this to death.

Readers, what would you tell Befuddled’s boyfriend?

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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