††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† MY VIRGINITY Ė THE LAST TABOO
VIRGIN ON THE RIDICULOUS?
In the 1998 Greater Manchester Humanist Group memberís questionnaire responses on the subject of suitable newsletter material, one member asked for ĎMORE EROTICAí. I would love to oblige by exploring this issue, but a thirty-six year old male heterosexual virgin has little experience of such matters to work with, or does he? If the initial shock of my casual breaking of the final taboo hasnít grabbed your attention, nothing that follows will either. My motives for ending up chaste instead of chased and chasing are twofold; 1/. a fear that I might not be much good at sex; 2/. on the whole a lack of interest in what seems to be the predominant male preoccupation among many of my friends.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES.
I learned the facts of life early on from my Mother, who described everything in dull turgid biological, medical detail, and a Catholic Church that regarded sex as vulgar and disgusting. Discovering a family friendís secret stash of porno mags, I found the contents mostly left me giggling, and at times, rather frightened by the garish legs akimbo shots of many of the women. Vagina pictures still look too much like brutal knife wounds to me.
Masturbation was a minor, mechanical guilty fascination for me, never practiced from lust, but from boredom. That men masturbate in direct relation to the sexual fantasy that grabs them at any time leaves me cold. It tends to make actual sexual intercourse merely an act of masturbation in itself, in which a woman is just used as an alternative to your own hand.
Many childhood friends boasted of their sexual conquests, (mostly untruthfully) and tended to regard girls only by their availability. The first schoolgirl I developed a crush on was the recipient of my first ever purchased Valentine card, which she took from me and immediately threw into the bin, torn in half, without a word. I was put off even talking to girls for years then.
THE CHILD MOLESTER.
A child molesting pensioner almost got his mitts on me when I was eleven. I was invited to his house in Cheshire (a long way from Moston for my first journey without my parents in accompaniment). I went to learn about how to develop photographs myself, as opposed to sending them to the chemists. He just spoke of sex the whole time, and just before I was due to leave, he grabbed at my inner thigh in his dark room. I shrieked and moved back, knocking expensive developer bottles over in the process. My attacker was now as nervous of me as I was of him, and he took me home. I said nothing to my parents, even when other boys stepped forward to tell what he had done to them, (far worse abuses than I had experienced). I had escaped lightly.
At parties, I asked girls to dance, but often got rejected and dejected. I was using contrived, unconvincing cliched chat up lines. I felt as though I was just going through a seduction act for the sake of it, and as a means to a single objective end; the end of my virginity.
In 1977, aged 15, a girl of my age seduced me. I was on an educational cruise organised by the school. She was from a school in Scotland. She told me she had lost her keys near where I was sitting, reading a book, on the quiet top passenger deck. I played along with what was an obvious ruse, from curiosity to see where we would end up. Eventually she realised I wasnít taking a hint, grabbed hold of me, called me a big duck egg, and kissed me with passion, and lips that wouldnít let go. Pleasure was just taking over from fear and surprise when the pain came. An old man hit me with his walking stick and told me to leave her alone. My first kiss was ruined. The girl and I drew closer because of him. Our passionate embraces were intense. (The girl, not me and him). We became inseparable, and hid from our respective teachers to be together, while our friends seemed to observe us as though we were pandas, hoping weíd mate there and then. Britain was getting closer. Our bliss was doomed. She asked me if I loved her. I was terrified by that word. ĎWe only just met. Itís too soon to tell.í I replied, but she demanded that I told her I loved her. I felt something, but I wasnít sure if it was love, which was a soppy concept I imagined only existed in my Motherís Mills & Boon books. I declined to answer. She threatened to kill herself. I told her not to be silly. She climbed over the guard rail of the ship and held on with only one hand, threatening to let go, which would have sent her straight into the sea. I told her I loved her because she looked crazy enough even to let go for real. Separated at last we wrote and phoned each other. She remained intensely emotive towards me, crying desperately each time she called. I wrote to her saying that I felt we were hurting each other too much, and even half heartedly advising her to find a boy closer to home as we would only ever meet at best, every blue moon. She took up my advise and never contacted me again. I was utterly lost for some time. The experience inspired my poem FIRST TASTE OF LOVE
Several holiday romances tended to end for me in things getting interesting just before the coach or plane was due to go.
THE SWINGING SOCIETY? COUNT ME OUT.
Twice, I ended up at parties where people had sex in front of the guests., which I found appalling. Many guests simply shouted encouragement and fought for a closer viewpoint. In both cases, I left, as I did when a party host put on a home made video of his wife taking off her clothes, as she and everyone else cheered.
Literature tends to magnify sex to an earth shattering, mind blowing proportion that far transcends the reality of the experience for many people. Rapists and misogynists are probably people who find the reality of their sex lives doesnít measure up to what they think everyone else is up to and achieving. A book that hurt me hard was Dumasís Three Musketeers, with its terrible female villain, Milady De Winter, who seduces men to their destruction ands makes good men do evil things for her. I began to wonder if I was doomed to meet women like that. In fact, I once was.
SEDUCED INTO CELIBACY AND CHASTITY. 1981-85
Soon after my Fatherís death , and a Hepatitis attack that nearly sent me after him, a girl lifted me out of my sense of depression by inviting me on a date. Thinking I was finally there, I was lead by my lust into a chaste religious cult, called the Divine Light Mission, where I would remain for four and a half years. My Milady De Winter nightmare had come true. I never missed sex at all, as I hadnít had any. The cult members always talked of failed marriages, and sexual disasters in their lives that reinforced my view that I was better off without sex anyway.
A girl came from Sweden to see our guru, and didnít have enough money to get home with. She was blonde, tall, and extremely attractive. She seemed the ultimate sexual archetype. Unable to help her in Birmingham, where our Guru had held court, I brought her to Manchester by Train, where I helped track down the Swedish Consulate to help her get money to go home with. In the three days it took, she was hidden from my parents in our spare bedroom, right under their noses. A policeman I asked for help (at the police station) accused me of trying to seduce her and of using her as a sex slave. His eyes crossed when I told him about our Guru. The only time we even considered touching was when we kissed each other goodbye when she finally left for her long journey home.
I really did fall for a girl who we were trying to recruit to the cult. We started sneaking out for meals and drinks and dates. The cult treated her badly as if she was a painted Jezebel seducing me away from them. One member even pushed her violently to show his resentment over her. It was the beginning of the end of my cult involvement, but sadly, we split up when I discovered that I was her Ďbit on the sideí and that she had a more steady boyfriend.í I wasnít jealous of him. I felt sorry for him, and gave her back to him, without getting as close as I would have liked. The full extent of my cult experiences is covered at BRAINWASHED - A CULT SURVIVOR'S TALE
POST CULTUS INTERRUPTUS - DESPERATION SETTING IN.
Safely out of cult land and reverted to atheism, I decided to get sex properly. I joined a dating agency. The dingbats and basket cases who wrote to me, and especially the one who went out with me for a single evening soon put a stop to that pursuit line.
Then there was Susan (not her real name), who started talking to me in a pub right under her boyfriendís nose. It was clear to everyone that there was a real chemistry between her and me, but not her and him. I discovered later that he beat her and abused her badly, and offered to take her as mine, but she remained loyal to him, despite her instincts and her Mother and me all advising the opposite. One night when he had walked out on her and she felt particularly depressed, she asked me to come and sleep with her. I did. We SLEPT together, naked, and in each others arms, but we never had sex of any kind. We seemed to both know that we were comfort and support enough for one another as we were. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I have no doubt that it would have been spoilt if we had of made love. Eventually she jilted him for another man, who treated her just as badly as the first one did, and I felt terribly hurt and sorry for myself that it wasnít me she came to. Again, the events inspired a poem, SLEEPING AROUND †
ROMANCE, LOVE & SEX TO COME.
Dare I suggest that sex itself is overrated? I guess I now wear my virginity with pride and arrogance and some sense of fear. I certainly love women and feel attracted to women, while men never, ever turned me on. I am certain that I am not gay. My deviations from the norms of society take a rather more bizarre course. I am celibate, without even trying to be. I still desire sex, but Iíve never got round to it. In many ways, Iím a failed romantic. But I wonder if sex would destroy me. My fatherís death changed me. The cult changed me to a god-lover and Humanism changed me back to a man again. What will sex do to me? Will it make me possessive, jealous, violent? Will I turn into the kind of monster who ill-treated Susan? Could lust make me that way?
Sex involves a potent element of fantasy and abandonment. You lose your thoughts and reason in the heat of passion. I donít. I canít do that. In the kissing, French kissing and heavy petting that take me as close to actual penetrative sex as I know, I have always been too self conscious. I am aware that I am holding a lovely girl in my arms. I hear my mind telling me to kiss her. I sense myself analysing and questioning the experience. Move arm now. Touch breast now. Touch her hair now. My approach to sex is reduced to a mechanical, text book style, that fails to reflect the kind of warmth Iíd like to be able to project. I think I basically donít get sex because women know Iím likely to be crap at it. Hopefully, someone may put me to the test one day, but Iím not expecting a rush. If I die as I am, I donít really mind. Iím happy enough anyway. I get by with good books, (compensating for lack of good looks?) films, friends to drink and dine with, and of course, Humanism. I have a relatively contented life at present. Would sexual commitment spoil that for me? I expect it would, even if it does bring rewards of its own.
Pornography always strikes me as too artificial. It depicts a world of eternal sexual passion where people undress and get right down to it with little story or dialogue or life getting in the way. The characters and situations involved seem to be depicted for nothing more than their sexual prowess and the audience become voyeurs, just as I became at those parties where sex became a spectacle. . Erica Jong, in her hilarious novel, Fear Of Flying, describes the ideal sexual encounter as ĎThe Zipless Fuckí. where two people meet for the first time, and undress, and make love, and part company without even exchanging names, and without any complications or fuzz, and never meet again. That is Pornographyís utopian dream. Pure undiluted sex without complications or problems setting in. When a real couple turn to bondage equipment, or the use of vibrators to enrich their sex lives, the danger is that they will find the toys and gizmos and fantasies being played out more interesting than each other. Sex reduced to experiments with positions and variety of places to Ďdo ití takes over from itself. It can end up being an empty and shallow experience. Actual sex experience remains basic; foreplay followed by ejaculation of sperm in the vagina. The rest is window dressing, no matter how artfully contrived it is in creative expression. Pornography creates an unaesthetic illusion around the basic primary sex act. Real sex in the real world involves the complications as well, and as much emotional pain as pleasure between the lovers. Sadly many try to live the pornography dream. It is totally unrealistic. On the whole I find it impossible to take porn seriously. I donít see anything educational, or beneficial to me in it. It simply bores me. Sex is only a part of our lives, not their total sum. There is work, and a great deal of platonic social intercourse of a distinctly non-sexual nature. Those who live preoccupied by sex fail to see the rest of life and what pleasures (and pains) it can offer us.
All too often, courtship seduction takes place on the dance floor to music played so loud that your ears bleed, making conversation with your potential partner nigh on impossible. I am handicapped by the fact that I dance like an epileptic hippopotamus wallowing in quicksand. All too often, the loss of inhibitions involved in courtship involves both getting the partner drunk with alcohol. Generally Iím more comfortable at the dentists or having job interviews than I am in asking girls to go out with me.
COMING OUT OF THE DIY CLOSET.
What I write here sounds intimate and private in the extreme. Members may wonder what it has to do with Humanism. I believe we must be open and totally self-honest on all aspects of our lives. We break one taboo by declaring our Humanism. We break others by simply opening ourselves up to discuss our sexuality and our understanding of the issues involved there. Many people discuss sex only in childish sniggers and with a cliched bag of innuendoes to play with. For all my lack of experience in the practice. I think Iíve got the theory worked out better than many. I suppose for some though, that is like memorising the Highway Code and never taking a driving lesson. Occasionally gay men see that I am without a girlfriend and try to ask me out. One man asked me bluntly if he could jerk me off, but most gays are more polite than that. At first I was shocked and frightened, but now I react with good humour and a polite Ďno thanks.í A few people may still think of me as a closet, latent homosexual, but I doubt it. Iíve never been afraid to openly discuss my atheism, my former involvement in a bizarre cult, or my Humanism. I explore this question further in AM I GAY? ĖCould admitting to homosexuality be any worse? I doubt it, though GAY & LESBIAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION (GALHA) members, who's work and courage I respect enormously, may feel different. It will be interesting to see what reactions I get to an admission of thirty something virginity. Will people laugh, feel shocked, or feel total indifference? I donít know if I will ever marry and/or have children of my own. I would like to, one day. I certainly wonít marry just for the sake of doing so, or to gain acceptance by other members of society who like even now to insinuate that my lack of sexual partners makes me Ďqueerí. If I wanted sex, for the sake of it, I have no doubt that I could get it. I donít frequent singles clubs, or dating agencies these days.
If I was really desperate, Iíd just go and pick up a trollop on Princess Street, where the prostitutes hang out in more ways than one. Perhaps I donít want syphilis as a souvenir of my first love. Iím not sure that making love to women is the best way I can show my love. It would be arrogant of me to think of myself as some kind of Don Juan, when Iím not. So, there you have it. You donít have to be gay to come out of the closet. As I donít belong in theirs, Iíve built one of my own instead.
"Make love. We must make love instead of making money." Adrian Mitchell.
PLAYING FREUD - AN ATTEMPT AT SELF- ANALYSIS.
Many people will feel that I have pulled deeply private thoughts and feelings too violently into the public arena. Some people will wonder if they weren't better off buried in my head and heart forever. We should all be open and candid about our lives. I am no more ashamed of my sexual identity than I am afraid to declare myself a Humanist. Supposing I had never expressed my feelings of discomfort with the Catholic faith of my upbringing. I might now be still in Church, singing the same hymns as the people around me, unable to express my feelings there either. I am a Freethinker in the sense that I have learned to be open and candid in my views on religious, social and moral issues, but when it comes to feelings of private, personal sexuality, why am I expected to remain not so free spirited in thought and expression?
HUMAN FIRST - HUMANIST SECOND.
The area of life where we have to be most ĎHumaní is with our wives, husbands, girlfriends, or boyfriends. For many, sexual relationships are not only personal, and existing only between the sexual partners, but are also used (rarely consciously) an expression to others of virility, potency and strength. Men like to be seen to be flirting with beautiful girls, and to be seen to have sired at least one healthy, happy looking child. The eternal bachelor nowadays provokes only the rumour that he might be kinky, gay, or somehow perverted . Occasionally I do hear Ďwankerí being mumbled behind my back, (though happily not from Humanists). I am increasingly often asked why I have not married, or whether I am divorced. My being Ďsingleí, (footloose but not fancy free) is becoming increasingly noticeable, and eyebrow raising. The social solution seems to be making sure that I am seen in female company. Occasionally at pubs and clubs, I have danced with girls, and found discomforting the fact that my friends watch what is going on with intense scrutiny, and some comment. One way or another, we all have public sex lives. Whether we like it or not we all end up conforming to peer group pressure. Take the gay experience; At one time, homosexuality was a private personal activity, but today the closeted gay (or lesbian) is forcibly publicly outed, often through pressure from others in the community and obliged to step into a pigeon hole, before being left alone to live the life of his or her wishes.
There is no doubt a valid case for outing homosexuals in public office, when they use and abuse that office to pass legislation and comment that makes life unpleasant or impossible for other, more brave and open practising homosexuals,. Outing is dangerous practice to others who will feel obliged to see themselves as either straight or as gay, but still as Ďsexually successful' in their own eyes and in social recognition. The idea of a life lived relatively unaffected by practised sexuality seems utterly alien in todayís society. I start feeling like Iím a freak. I start wondering then if I should contrive and manipulate a love life around myself, by becoming openly seductive, and going to pickup bars, etc, but that would be me using women to further a personal and a social need of my own. It feels Ďfalseí and engineered, rather than sincere and spontaneous. I wouldnít be happy with that. Iíve trapped myself in a Catch 22 vice that is largely of my own cerebral devising. Sexuality is about abandonment, and letting go, to experience and feel through the senses. Passion is about giving in to your feelings. Much sexual uninhibition involves a sense of fantasy and role play. Couples turn the lights out and close their eyes to kiss,. People will dress alluringly. My mind doesnít switch off. I am too mentally aware of where I am. That kind of sensual relaxation seems to be too deeply suppressed in me. I believe I am by nature simply not very good at sexual practices. On the whole, that fear tends to keep me out of the game. Many a girl I have fancied has gone off with another man, sometimes right under my nose. One girl I wanted a relationship with turned me down, but at least told me openly why. She said I lacked aggression,, and that I was just too insufferably nice, with a tendency to put women on an impossible pedestal, and handle everything with kid gloves, as though dealing with Aphrodite herself. My very fear of proving inadequate to meet needs of the females I do adore has distanced them from my reach. Iíve tended to approach women with love, but not lust and fire in my eyes. Mine is a quaint, soppy world of chocolates, cards and flowery romance. Sadly, I donít often get to save women from fire breathing dragons, and when I do, they usually just say thank you and marry another errant knight instead.
FILM AND TELEVISION INFLUENCES.
In the 1960ís television shows like the Avengers depicted the elderly bachelor as a man of near saintly virtue, and moral integrity. No one really expected John (Patrick McNee) Steed to bed his leading ladies. In the 1990ís we have The X-Files TV series depicting a working platonic relationship between two FBI agents, but after four series of the show, the producers are under pressure to show the two agents getting laid. For 60 years, Superman (Clark Kent) and Lois Lane had an unconsummated love for one another that never interfered with their work, or narrative story telling. Now the TV series has had to show them have sex together. Once that happened, the series went off the air. The public had seen all it wanted to see. In the recent Titanic film, the lovers are seen having a platonic love affair, but just before the ship starts sinking, the film just has to show them having sex. Whatever happened to films where the hero only even kisses the girl in the final reel? People have a craving to know what we do, and think and feel towards one another. Princes Dianaís life was destroyed by such intense scrutiny. The young man with an unsuccessful string of failed relationships behind him may well panic and enter into marriage with a girl he doesnít know well at all, and pin his hopes on things working out well. Sometimes, things do work out for them. Often they donít. Divorce becomes likely.
FEMINISM AND HUMANISM.
The need for a feminist movement is proof that male attitudes to women do not work at many levels. The subordination, subjugation, and reduction of women to property of the male (often with violence) that has gone on for many generations shows that too many men require a woman to be passive and controllable in order to be able to love her at all (if even then). Women have wisely, and rightly rebelled; suffrage, and the liberation movement towards equality have helped to partly redress the balance. Though there is still a long way to go. Humanism surprisingly lacks a feminist tradition. Feminist literature is open, frank and candid about womenís attitudes to foreplay, penetration and even female masturbation, in works from writers like Germaine Greer onwards. Male sexuality is too focused on possession, ownership and control of women. Men find a sense of immortality in their potential to have a son to take their name forward. The weak male, the castrated eunuch, the hen pecked husband, the cuckold, etc are figures of fun today, in film, and literature written by men (are they saying essentially, Iím glad weí machos are not like that, eh, lads?). Men set great store by seeing men as successful breadwinners. I have no doubt that presenting myself as single, but not divorced on a CV or job application will play against me at my age. Strindbergís The Father depicts a man driven insane by the fear that his wifeís pregnancy might not be his doing. We have GALHA who fight for gay rights, but no specifically Humanist feminist perspective on life. We need one, and fast. Religion has always looked on women as inferior and dangerous to men. There are still God fearing men who think women should walk three paces behind them. God himself is regarded as male. Sex itself is dirty talk for Christians, as the body is an earthly delight. My failed sex life would make me a model Christian if I could buy their God at any price. Ha! Am I sexist? Does my retained interest in (unpractised) heterosexual sex make me thus? Who would be the ideal woman for me to fall in love with;? Sheíd have sympathy for Humanism (though she neednít actually be a Humanist); an intelligence, and a sense of understanding and sensitivity would also be important. She will probably be a woman many men would find dull and uninteresting. I still donít see her face though.
Does this really qualify as Humanism and Freethought? Or am I kidding myself?
THE LAST TABOO REVISITED.
Few of my articles provoke as much feedback as the one above. This follow up statement summarizes events since then (yes, I am still a virgin) and addresses some of the criticism received.
†††††††††† One of my most controversial and frequently visited web pages, perhaps understandably, is that about me still being a virgin, now that I am in my forties. The article was written when I was in my late thirties).
††††††††††† Responses to it have varied from utter disbelief and incredulity to genuine interest and understanding.
††††††††††† From those who donít even want to comprehend, I have just received e-mails telling me I must be gay, which A/. Makes me worry about how they respond and react to real homosexuals and B/.† Tells me that they havenít read my companion article, AM I GAY? Ė
††††††††††† Most people just take my lack of sexual experience in their stride, as a curiosity and go on to read my other work. Some find it odd that I can successfully write so many erotica without having experienced a lot of it first hand. Some people just plain donít believe me.† One recent e-mail pointed out that the events on the ship, The SS Uganda, with a girl threatening to leap overboard if I didnít declare my love for her must have been cribbed from the film Titanic, but my article was written some years before the film even came out.
††††††††††† Sometimes, girls who read the article tell me that they appreciate my work and that they would happily satisfy the gaps in my life-experience if not for already being spoken for.†
††††††††††† The oddest reactions are from people who know me but who havenít paid close attention to my website and seen my virginity article. When they eventually do find it, they feel as if they have discovered a great secret about me. The fact that my life story is spelt out on the World Wide Internet Information Superhighway should really tell people that there is no secret. If anything, it is my casual honesty about my sexuality that shocks and amazes people. Breaking taboos can shock people.
††††††††††† In 2005, a feature film, The 40 Year Old Virgin was released. I thought, Oh, am I in for some hassle now, but surprisingly few people picked up on the similarities between my experiences and those in the film, which I loved and my review of it is up at /film.review-the.forty.year.old.virgin.htm
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† OTHER MIDDLE AGED VIRGINS
I was surprised to discover that I am not alone in my experience or lack of it. Middle-aged male virginity is surprisingly prevalent. American psychologists and psychiatrists have discovered that many seemingly healthily minded males (and in some cases handsome males) are still single and virginal.† Prostitutes also testify that many middle aged men come to them for late life sexual release and lessons in the practical side of having intercourse. I have found a few websites on the subject.
The release of The 40 Year Old Virgin led some US Virgins to threaten legal action, thinking that they would be subjected to ridicule and intolerance, but such fears strike me as groundless. I have generally found more good-humoured positive reaction and respect than hostility and pseudo-homophobia in responses to my article on the subject.
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