I had convinced myself I was completely ready. I had been in a relationship for almost three months and at the age of 20 was quite a late bloomer to all things sexual. I had never been naked in front of a boyfriend, had never let anyone touch me sexually, apart from some frenzied boob play every now and again. My boyfriend at the time, on the other hand, boasted about how young he was when he lost his virginity, about how many girls he’d had, about the reputation he’d built up as a player. He mocked men who weren’t as casual in their attitude towards sex and women. Despite all this, I believed him when he told me that he loved me, that he was desperate to ‘show me’ how much he loved me, that he was going out of his mind not being able to consummate our relationship.

We had been dancing around the issue of sex from the get go. He was eager and I was too, albeit shy. Without telling him I went to the university sanatorium and picked up three months worth of the contraceptive pill. I didn’t let on that I was thinking about sleeping with him, I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure. I wanted to wait until I thought we were solid, until we were in love.

This was important to me, given my background. I had been born to missionary parents – the type of Christians who were so fervent in their faith that they followed a nomadic lifestyle, devoting their career paths and their family life to God. One of the key tenants of this lifestyle was that sex was exclusively for marriage – anything more than kissing prior to the wedding day was deemed sinful. Following my parents’ guidelines closely up until I left home meant that I only had my first kiss at age 16 and my virginity was something that I guarded preciously.

When I went to university however, a lot of this slipped by the wayside. My parents’ religion suddenly became relegated to exactly that – my parents’ religion. I was exposed to new ideas, new theories, new people and new lifestyles. I kissed boys, got drunk and had fun. Somewhere in the middle of my second year I met S, the person I was to lose my virginity to. (I hate that expression – I didn’t lose my virginity, I very deliberately gave it.)

We were ill-suited. He was into drugs, raving and generally trying to be anti-establishment and difficult, I was into cider, partying with my friends and trying to please people.

I didn’t even find him that sexually attractive – I remember thinking that I would get used to the way he looked. So what on earth was the attraction?

The fact that he found me attractive. For a girl like me, with a sheltered upbringing who’d only kissed a handful of boys and slept with none, the fact that a boy such as him, a boy with clear sexual prowess wanted me was a heady self-esteem booster. Twisted but true.

We went out for almost three months: him groaning about his growing sexual frustration as time went on. I felt under pressure to sleep with him, yes, but I also felt excited about the whole thing. One night, after we’d been out we came back to his res room as we usually did. This time however, I told him that I was ready. Well, as ready as I was ever going to be.

For all his supposed experience, he wasn’t a particularly reassuring, gentle or giving lover. About three minutes of foreplay, the condom went on – no lubrication – and in it went. The pain and discomfort were overwhelming. He tried to soothe me with words whilst he continued to thrust inside me, but we had to stop after what seemed forever but could only have been a few minutes. I rolled away from under him feeling sore, used and as if I had failed as a girlfriend to give him pleasure. He rolled away even more frustrated than before.

Our relationship fizzled out quite quickly after that – in a few weeks he dumped me, saying we were incompatible. The sex had gotten somewhat better in the run up to the break up, but it was never particularly great. He was as selfish in bed as he was in life and so I never really found it pleasurable.

Sadly, as he was more experienced than me I assumed this was my problem, that there was something wrong with me sexually. This misconception was quickly cleared up when I met the man who was to become my husband – a man who was more concerned with my pleasure than his own, and with whom sex became something I yearned for rather than something I avoided.

I don’t regret the way I lost my virginity. Even if it was painful, uncomfortable and to someone who didn’t really care for me. It was an important point in my sexual life – it reminds me how far I have come as a woman. Back then, in that time-warped, tiny little res room I wasn’t in charge of my sexuality and didn’t value myself highly enough to ask for what I wanted or hold my partner accountable for giving us both pleasure. I wasn’t an active participant: sex was something that was done to me, not something that we did.

Now, I am at ease with my own body and my sexuality. I can ask for what I want and give what he wants with equal ease and pleasure. It’s a true sexual partnership, and it feels great.

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