By Lisabet Sarai
Is it kiddie porn if it's your own life?
I "lost my virginity" at age fifteen. I put the phrase in quotes because the act was a deliberate choice. In fact, I was the aggressor. Oh, and my partner was twenty one. Don't go reporting me to the morality police, please!
I was in deeply in love with P. We had met a year earlier when I traveled a thousand miles by bus, on my own, to spend Christmas with my aunt. (That was another first, a true journey of discovery for a sheltered, shy girl like me.) My aunt lived on an ashram founded by an Indian guru—P. was one of the guru's followers. He was truly beautiful, a gentle golden-haired prince wearing a peace sign around his neck and carrying a camera that he wielded with impressive skill. The photos he took of me caught a beauty that I didn't believe I had, a beauty that he perhaps evoked.
P. was responsible for my first French kiss, that Christmas Eve, a few days before I was scheduled to return home. I was wearing a wreath I had fashioned of tinsel, a turtleneck jersey and bell bottom jeans. The house was dark except for the Christmas lights; everyone else must have been in bed. I recall the shock when I felt his tongue enter my mouth—physical shock, not moral—my total surprise at the sensation, though I must have known something about the practice. The thrill stayed with me on the long slow trip back to my ordinary life of school, chores, reading and daydreams.
Over the next year, P. and I corresponded. He wrote me twenty-page letters on lined loose-leaf paper in green or purple ink. He sent me photographs. I think he was as much in love as I was, which strikes me as strange now, given the difference in our ages. In some ways he must have been as unworldly as I. He was a genuine hippie, living in a wood-heated cinder block hut in the woods near the university where he was an occasional student, baking cornbread and making pots of chili, wandering around town taking pictures and striking up conversations with strangers. I realize now that he was a major influence in helping me overcome my painful shyness.
We saw each other at least twice over that year, on a summer trip with my mom to see her sister and when my father (who was divorced from my mother) took me with him on a business trip to the area where P. lived. That's when I saw P.'s cabin. He and I kissed—a lot—but didn't do much of anything else.
Then P. drove up to New England to visit the week before Christmas, in his rickety Ford Falcon with the incense sticks stuck in the dashboard. My mother welcomed him and let him sleep on the studio couch in the den.
I think he must have been with us for at least two weeks, but perhaps that's the time-dilating effect of intense emotion. My younger siblings adored him—at that point in history he represented the essence of cool. We all did crazy things together, going to midnight sales at the local chain stores and playing miniature golf despite the season. Meanwhile, in private, he and I advanced from French kisses to what was known in those days as “heavy petting”. In high-school parlance, we "got to third base".
I was in a haze of constant confusion and excitement. I had never seen or handled a man's erection. No one had ever fondled my genitals. I suppose I should have been alarmed, but I trusted him, and he never hurt me. I was eager to explore this new territory. When he touched me, I was overwhelmed, as much by the knowledge of what we were doing as by the physical sensations.
New Year's and the end of his visit drew near. I wanted him more than ever, and I was determined that we should make love before he returned to his home so far away. So one early morning I tiptoed downstairs and climbed into bed with him.
If he had been rational, I suppose he would have kicked me out. But he didn't. (He was either in love or uncontrollably horny. Perhaps both.) He kissed me, rolled on top and entered me.
I could pretend that this first experience was marked by incredible pleasure, but I'd be lying. There was little pain or blood, but it was over far too quickly. I remember just beginning to feel something, the tingling of a distant orgasm, when he came. That really didn't spoil it for me, though. Rather I was intensely proud of myself, and more in love with him than ever. I walked around school for the next month clutching my delicious secret to myself and fantasizing about my sweet prince.
Where was my mother while all this was happening? Asleep upstairs. Was she really unaware of what was going on? Probably not completely, but she was fighting her own demons of loneliness and alcoholism. I do recall a conversation with her, during the previous summer, when she warned me that the first man I had sex with would have a strong emotional hold over me and that I should be careful. I now believe she was reflecting on her own experience, that she had sex with my father before they were married. I do know that he was six years older than she, and they met when she was fifteen and working at a summer waitress job.
And what about pregnancy? P. and I didn't use any kind of contraception, but my period had just ended and I knew that I was extremely unlikely to be fertile. Looking back, I see in myself an odd mixture of maturity and innocence.
In fact, after that winter, P. and I drifted apart. Probably he realized, belatedly, how literally dangerous it was for him to be in a sexual relationship with a minor. Why did I let go? I'm not sure. Perhaps I understood that our relationship was not going any further. Probably I fell in love with someone more accessible and appropriate. After all this time, it is difficult to remember.
Despite the myths about teenage sex, this early introduction did not immediately turn me into a slut, nor did it scar me for life. Actually, I didn't have sex again until I was twenty. I did go a bit wild in my later twenties, but I doubt that this had much to do with my first time—except of course that I had a positive attitude toward sex based on my initial explorations.
The current taboo on writing about sex involving characters under eighteen strikes me as ridiculous and unfortunate. (I'm not talking about youngsters, here, but teens.) As a teenager I was consumed with lust, even though I didn't correctly attribute the source of my bewildered exhilaration. I wonder now how any teen manages to make it through school, given the demands of raging hormones and the romanticism of innocence. This is a story worth telling, a set of emotions worth exploring. I'd love to try to capture the inchoate ache of teenage desire in my fiction. The lust of a fifteen year old is distinctly different from that of an eighteen year old. Writing fiction in this vein is, however, verboten.
All I can do is write about my own life. Looking back, I'm still amazed by who I was then and what I dared. But I'm not in the least bit sorry.