Greetings from London and the funny old world of The Virginity Project. I don’t mean funny ha ha - although I have laughed out loud many times - but just that when you set out to interview people about the most intimate moments of their sexual lives, you do discover that truth is stranger than fiction.

‘You wouldn’t want to hear my story about virginity loss’ they say. ‘It’s really boring’.

That’s practically a cast iron guarantee that it will be an absolute cracker. Almost everyone thinks their own story is boring but it never is. It’s almost as if our own internal landscape is so ordinary, so ‘everyday’ to us that we cannot possibly conceive that it could be of interest to anyone else. I beg to differ.

All of our stories reflect our own unique set of circumstances, thoughts, impulses, hang ups, backgrounds, motivations, whatever you want to call them and however you want to define them, every one of us has a story that is so uniquely ‘us’ that it is practically the sexual equivalent of a finger print.

Listening to these stories has been interesting. Many a time, people sit back at the end with that satisfied grin on their faces that was almost certainly lacking from the experience itself and say ‘Now I see where I was coming from at the time. I never understood that back then’.

Because there is something about returning to familiar territory, to a story that we know so well in our heads, and re-living it in the presence of another human being, that can be enlightening, cathartic even, mainly because we are doing it with a more certain sense of self. We are doing it with the eyes of an adult and it is always a surprise to see how much we have changed and, with a little bit of luck, moved forward.

From time to time on my journey, people have expressed surprise that I interviewed men. Quite apart from the fact that this was practically the whole point – I’m a woman, I know what’s going on in my head - it was the underlying suggestion that virginity somehow didn’t matter as much to men. Crap.

Fast forward three years and my blog, The Virginity Project, fills the gap where the interviewing for my book left off. But the interesting point is that I get sent stories from all over the shop and most of them are from men. Men are gagging to talk. It is hardly surprising given the world that we live in. Women are excelling in every area. Everything is up for grabs. We all have an adjustment to make – which is something that women are often better equipped to deal with. Flexibility is part of our make up. For men, this is tougher territory to conquer.

No matter. Constant change is the way of the world, we all have to flex and grow. That’s what evolution is all about, and along the way, it is nice to record history. To listen to other people talk, to hear their stories and hopefully record them so that somewhere along the way, other people will be able to listen too and look back and see, not just how they have changed, but how the world has changed with them.

For the better? Who can say, I’ll leave that up to you.

Without further ado, here is a small story that makes a big impact. You’ll probably never think of your local bookstore in quite the same way again…but that may not be a bad thing.


‘If I pause for even a second, I won't send this to you, so I am just going to send it as I wrote it before I have a chance to change my mind. It was ten years ago this month that I lost my virginity and the experience has left me with memories at once beautiful and bitter.

I was in college, working at a bookstore where it was my job to catalogue all their books for sale on their website. I had a key and often worked late at night and this meant that I and the girl I loved had a place where we could go and be away from the dormitories and our roommates. To say that I loved her would be a pale word for a feeling of radiant brilliance. I savored her. Every angle, every facet of her mind and her words and her eyes seemed to infuse me with an energy that I had never experienced before. When I was with her I felt that blessings were falling around me in a circle, shielding us both from a grey and chilly world.

One night, late in the dark store, after talking about Joseph Conrad novels, we kissed more and more deeply, and everything began to spin around me; all the square angles of the books and shelves blurred like a cartoon as I removed the lace from the curves of her body. It was hard to believe she was real—that anything could be so beautiful. Of course I had seen naked women before in pictures, and that had somehow infused the whole idea with a degree of unreality that now seemed to surround us.

We were laying on the floor between shelves of old books, and it all seemed like magic rather than reality; like music rather than sounds. I remember how her heat surprised me. I remember how her legs felt when they moved up around my ribs. I remember something she whispered to me—a whisper I sometimes still hear at night. I remember when I climaxed, the feeling rising up in me in a rush of heat: not like the feeling it had been when I was alone.

I remember playing with her hair afterwards, as we lay together panting and hot. And most of all I remember the feeling much later, as the sun was rising and we left the store. She was wearing my coat. And everything in the world was different. I noticed it instantly—as though the world had changed color; as though everyone had been speaking in a foreign accent and now suddenly switched to my own. I felt connected with the earth and the trees and the animals around me, and, of course, with her. It was truly a revelation.

I felt redeemed, saved somehow from an emptiness of which I had once had only a vague notion. In the ensuing weeks, as we made love more and more, I felt as though I had discovered a spiritual salvation of which religion had always seemed a bland imposter. I had never been a religious person, although I had appreciated religion's emotional aspirations. Now I was part of those aspirations.

It was only weeks later that it ended for us, under peculiarly painful circumstances. We tried briefly to salvage what had been, but it did not work. I was faithful; she was not. My heart was truly broken, as it has never been before or since. I fell into a depression and a year later decided to kill myself. I lay on my bed holding a knife and staring at it. I put it to my skin, but did nothing else. I won't go into what happened next, or describe how my desperate attempts to salvage what she and I had were rebutted with two painful betrayals. Suffice to say that I put my life together, and in the decade that has passed since I have made a successful and happy life, one of which I am deeply proud; one which makes me so glad I did not take my life as I so seriously considered then.

Six or seven years ago I saw met up with her again at a restaurant on the East Coast. She was with someone else, and after our lunch, I was able finally and at last to let her go. At home, I threw away my mementos of her. Since then I have found a woman I love with all my heart and this summer will be our five-year anniversary.

My college girlfriend has married, and I hope she has found a life of tranquility, and that her husband fills her heart, as evidently I could not. Although the pain she caused me can never be washed away, and can never allow us to be friends, I am still intensely grateful for what she gave me, and I am able now to look back on that night and the other nights with magnanimity and fondness.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking of her and I am reminded of lines from my favorite poem, Tennyson's ‘Ulysses’: ‘I am part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch where through / Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades / For ever and for ever when I move.’

I told her then that I would always love her, and, for better or for worse, it seems to be true.'

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