By Manisha Pani
I’ve recently turned 30. There was one overwhelming thought that consumed my mind as my birthday crept up on me: my virginity.
I’m an independent woman with a successful career in a multinational company. I’m a late bloomer in the relationship/sex department. You’ve got to get it over with, some of my female friends tell me in disbelief, in shock. Don’t tell men that you’re a virgin! They say. Don’t tell anyone that! In the world of online dating and casual sex, I’ve learned, being a virgin is taboo.
Three years ago, I moved to Bangalore for work and was determined to explore the relationship/sex department of my life. I was curious to know what it felt like to be loved by a man. My masterful fingers grew tired of pleasing me. A year into settling in Bangalore, I dated a friend for a couple of months. It was my first relationship and I was very awkward when it came to physical intimacy. I giggled, I asked questions, and apparently I killed the mood for him. I read, watched videos on how to kiss, tongue, give a blow-job. While I was giddy with excitement, I also felt uncomfortable, mostly because I felt like I was unable to satisfy him, I wasn’t good enough. My partner supported me through this uncharted territory but somewhere along the way, he became impatient. Our relationship went from caring “Are you ok? Shall I stop?” concerns to “This is your first time, you don’t know anything” statements. The one thing he said that still causes my stomach to churn was “You are stiff as a log in bed”. That relationship was short-lived.
Through my first heartbreak, I persevered and continued to date to prevent myself from returning to my shell, a shell that took me 28 years to come out of. I met men through friends and online platforms like OkCupid and Tinder. Since then, I’ve been amazed by the men I’ve met and the conversations I’ve had.
I’ve met men who were great conversationalists, storytellers, suave, gentlemanly, awkward, nerdy, shy, self-deprecating and just plain awkward. I was also introduced to the world of labels — open relationships, non-monogamous, monogamous, polyamorous. I was intrigued and amused.
On my way to turning 30, I was reminded of a pact I had made with my high-school friends in my late twenties. The pact was to have sex before my 30th birthday, or else they’d send over some male strippers (which they were anyway unlikely to follow through). But the universe conspired to align to my desires. A man I’d met on OkC asked me if I would be interested in becoming friends with benefits with him. A married man in an open marriage asked me if I would be interested in a casual relationship. I’d come to a point where the approach of my 30s and sexual frustration were consuming me. I was tired of waiting for the ‘right’ man that popular culture tells me I should believe in. Both these men met my basic criteria — respectfulness, an ability to hold a decent conversation and attraction. But I was hesitant moving forward, plagued by questions. Should I tell them that I’m a virgin or not? How will a man react to this?
I decided to be honest. I told these suitors that I was a virgin. Friends with Benefits politely declined and told me that he was looking for someone experienced because he didn’t want things to become emotional and complicated. Married Man told me that we would take it slow, at my pace, and he would connect with me soon. He disappeared.
On one hand, I felt empowered and was glad that I took control of the conversation on my terms. On the other hand, I was still plagued with questions. Was sexual experience that important in casual relationships? Why can’t a woman just want sex and nothing else when it’s her first time? Am I not attractive? Would anyone want to have sex with an inexperienced virgin?
I spoke to my friends about it — both women and men. Some said I shouldn’t tell my male partners and wait till we are in the heat of the moment for them to find out. Some said that I shouldn’t go into the details. Some said that my virginity was creating a mental block that was hindering my confident self from just being me.
Wanting to be sexual with someone, casually or romantically, is about mental readiness. As I reached that state, I also felt that I was reaching an expiry date. Again, I had questions. Was there an expiry date? Did I need to ‘lose it’ by 30?
I don’t have the answers to my questions yet. I don’t know what I will say the next time someone wants to have a casual relationship.
But this is what I do know: I want to ‘lose it’ with someone I’m comfortable with, on my terms. I want to love my narcissistic self, please myself (thanks vibrator!), own my sexuality and its many quirks — one of them being that I haven’t had sex with a man yet.
And I want to talk about it.