Sunday, December 13, 2009

Girl, Deflowered

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.


  1. Wow. Wow. Lisabet. Wow.

    I just love this. This is my favorite of your posts, flat out, I just love it. No matter how the rest of the posts this week go, it was worth risking this topic just to read this one. Its partly just my own buttons, real world eroticism is more powerful for me than fantasy eroticism. A story of a woman giving herself to a vampire lover doesn't ring my bell the way awkward forbidden passion between real people does. I just love your story, I just love it. I would love to have known your thoughts when you were tiptoing downstairs in the early morning, filled with fear and romance I would guess. I would love to have known his thoughts, waking up horny the way men always do in the morning and then having this gigantic temptation, this gift, suddenly appear and crawl under the covers. Of course he took you. Of course he came quick, what man would not? You have to be a man of great moral conviction to resist that desire, and he was not that man. This story has a lot of soul. One thing that stands out to me is how much it is about the period we grew up in. The incense sticks in the dashboard. (That's a nice touch. Bravo.) The aunt who lives in a commune with an Indian guru. There were so many in those days. You don't see any of them anymore. It all seemed to be such a good idea at the time. I've only read your piece once but I will reread it. It is so much a part of that time and place and the magic of being young. wow. Thank you.


  2. I love your memoir story here and think it would be wonderful, fully expanded.

    What frustrates me is the assumption behind your opening sentence: "is it kiddie porn if you write..."

    The assumption behind banning written kiddie porn is its supposed seductiveness--if we have it, we'll encourage people to become child predators, either directly or by creating a demand for photographic kiddie porn. I reject that patronizing logic.

    I've argued elsewhere that rather than make possession of photographic kiddie porn a crime, we should be prosecuting people who hold it as accessories to rape, since they have evidence of a crime that they didn't turn over to authorities. That's the real crime. But going after the real crime requires us culturally being adults instead of just slapping a on a label "under 18 equals bad." I'm frustrated by how hard that maturity seems to be.

    Additionally, besides the supply/demand argument not holding water, I think the failure to explore what it's like to be a teen, via fiction or memoir, does a disservice to the current teens. Of course, I may be influenced by recently seeing the musical Spring Awakening, based on a Victorian Era play, in which the teens come to tragic ends because the adults won't tell them basic truths about sex. As you write, it is a tale worth telling. Particularly if told well and thoughtfully.

    Which is the real shame of the ban. There's plenty of underage fiction out on the net. Most of it is crap because the serious authors, the professional authors, won't touch it. So we've not eliminated the topic, but shoved it to the back alleys where it'll be treated worse than it ever could if exposed to the light of day.

  3. It seems to me that the prohibition against writing underage sex applies only to romance. I know I've certainly read some pretty explicit depictions in YA novels and even novels aimed at adults that are categorized as something other than "romance".
    I think it may be intent; the perception is that a sex scene in a romance novel is intended to titillate the reader, and publishers don't want to titillate adults with depictions of underage sex. A sex scene in a YA or other, non-romance novel, in theory, is intended to advance the story, not to titillate, so those authors can get away with it.
    Not saying that's the right way to look at it, but I think that may be the logic behind it.

  4. Lisabet! Yeah, me again.

    Wow. Anyway, listen, I just had an interesting thought about something your mother told you. She said to you to be careful because the first man you have sex with will have a great emotional hold on you. I think that's true. I've never heard it said that way, but I believe it. You never forget your first. Scientists have been baffled by the existence of the woman's hymen (maidenhead they call it in romance novels), what biological or evolutionary function does it serve? I remember once when I was a kid my dad telling me something important. Then he slapped me. It startled me and he said "That's so you don;t forget." I think when an emotional shock or pain is associated with an experience we tend to remember it. I wonder if the tearing of the maidenhead is a biological thing designed to intensify the bonding between a woman and her mate, that First Guy? Just a thought.


  5. One of my favorite authors as a teen was Norma Klein. Her heroines were sexually active at 14 and 15, and showed the issues surrounding sex before they were emotionally ready, or being able to handle it in a mature manner, not turning into sex kittens.

    Two years ago, I tentatively showed a scene from my 3rd Arbor U book to another author, who dismissed it as 'unpublishable', all because the heroine was 19 and the hero in his early 30's. Since this was based on a true relationship I had observed, I was flabbergasted to learn such a pairing would 'never be accepted' and 'hinting at sexual predator' issues by the hero.

    As I'm sending it out this week (fingers crossed!), I've torn it apart slightly and have reworked some of the scenes. But their ages remain.

  6. Lisabet,

    Yup, we could have been sisters, sort of. I too was very young that first time, even younger than you. Shocking, I know. But what I found of interest was, it was your idea. The man, even though he was so much older, was the passive partner. At least that's what I got from your story.

    I've often thought it would be wonderful to publish stories about teenagers and their introduction to sex. There are some amazing, beautiful stories to be told, but because of those few people who would pervert that beauty, we're denied that pleasure.

    Nice post. It brought back some great memories.


  7. Hello, Garce,

    Glad that you liked it ;^)

    What I found while writing was that it was bit difficult to actually recapture the emotions. It was so long ago.

    I also didn't want to write this blog post in a manner to titillate. But to do that, I would have had to embroider the truth, given the time lapse.

    I do think, though, that our earliest sexual experiences deserve to be treated in a literary way. You can be involved with someone sexually early on but it takes a long time to really understand and enjoy the act itself. At least that was my experience.

  8. Hello, Big Ed,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you about real "kiddie porn". I also feel that lumping together teens and children is a silly over-reaction.


  9. Hello, Karenna,

    Thanks for joining in the discussion.

    The prohibition involves romance and erotica -- the genres that explicitly deal with and depict desire.

    It's interesting that YA fiction doesn't seem to enforce this rule. I think that I could write about early sexual experiences in a way that was enlightening for teens. However, I'd also like adult audiences to think about the pain and fire of teen lust.

    The logic behind the rule seems to be, if you are an adult, it's somehow wrong to be aroused by thinking about a younger person (teen) in a sexual situation. But we were all teens once...

    Anyway, I appreciate your input!


  10. Hi, Jude,

    Interesting that we have this in common. It sounds as though your experience also was good, or at least educational,

    I wouldn't say that P. was "passive". After all, he was the one who moved the relationship to the edge of sex. It was just that I was the one who stepped off that edge.

    Actually he must have been pretty immature. I rather wish now that my first lover had been older and more experienced. I might have had a better time ;^)


  11. I just had an interesting notion. I wonder if P. was a virgin, too, despite his age. Not completely impossible...


  12. Not impossible, very interesting thought, and of course you wouldn't have known I'm sure.

    As with Jude I was even younger (eye roll), and it was also a determined seduction, although in my case it was my best friend's older brother (lots of sleepovers at her house). You brought back a lot of memories...and I had to change up my post on the topic, it would've sounded way too similar, lol!

    Great post, Lisabet!!

  13. As regards the sexual portrayal of teens in literature, I agree it can be a bit confining at times to an author. I recently wrote a coming of age story and had to very pointedly place their ages at college level as opposed to the teen years setting which probably would have made more sense in the story.

  14. Lisabet,

    Wonderful writing, as always, and a fascinating insight into a defining experience.

    This promises to be a compelling week.



  15. Hey, Devon,

    I guess I wasn't as daring as I'd like to think!


  16. Greetings Ashley,

    I'll be looking forward to YOUR post!


  17. I think you've perfectly captured that feeling of longing that comes in the teen years. Although I will say that feeling didn't end when I turned 18, but followed me for years after, until I finally figured out how to stand on my own two feet as an adult.

    It's a beautiful story, Lisabet, one that brings back some memories of my own.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.