I Was Afraid To “Pop My Cherry”

Writing by Irene Shrader // Photograph by Anais Nannini

Throughout most of my middle and high school years, I dreaded the day I would lose my virginity and was accustomed to limiting sexual contact with my partners. There is nothing wrong with abstinence, but I picked it for all of the wrong reasons.

Due to a lack of proper sex-ed, I thought first-time sex was destined to hurt. This mainstream (and false) belief was ingrained in me after I’d heard countless horror stories from friends who simply weren’t ready for their experiences and I had read from misinformed books that braced me for distressing sensations. I imagined myself rigidly laying on a bed, bleeding and scrunching my face in agony — a disturbing imagery for a preteen to have, no?

I also thought sex would make me undergo some kind of identity metamorphosis and that I would be eternally regretful if I didn’t do it with someone I truly loved. I wasn’t even sure what love was back then.

Being part of a generation where hook-ups seem to be more casual than ever, sex was a generic topic of conversation amongst my peers. I distinctly remember a former guy-friend tell me that I had “go all the way” before I went off to college or else it’d be “too late”, asserting the twisted logic that not having had intercourse would decrease my value as a person. I didn’t believe him, but this conversation did give me a sneak peek into the stigmatization of adult virginity nowadays. He’d even proposed I pay money for him to give me an orgasm.

What complicated my relationship with the notion of sex even more were some violating experiences I’d gone through — I wish I learned about the importance of consent differently.

I believe that self-love and confidence are vital. Looking back now, I’m glad I never forced myself into anything I wasn’t comfortable with for I most definitely would have constantly put someone else’s pleasure above mine. I knew I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin and I am grateful I took the time to heal and grow. Part of me regrets having been so insecure that I evaded many relationships that only ever lived to be flings and ‘almosts’. Getting out of my comfort zone and opening up to people was a long and complex journey, but I am happy to say I did dodge a few bullets here and there!

By the latter years of high school, I’d educated myself on sex and taken the time to grow into a better mindset. My first time wasn’t scary to me anymore by the time it happened. It was consensual, relaxing, and the chemistry was delightful. I did it with someone I love, but nothing about that specifically changed me as a person.

My past worries surrounding something that shouldn’t be frightening at all make me hope my children will be provided with in-depth sexual education, have helpful conversations, and feel open about the topic.


Irène Schrader

Irene was born and raised in Paris, France to an Eurasian family. She currently lives in Shanghai, China and spends most of her time making music, writing essays, and teaching children English. She enjoys traveling, learning new things, reading books and going to museums.

Anais Nannini

Anaïs is a photographer from France. See her photographs on her Flickr, Facebook and website.

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