What it felt like the very first time

Eve Waltermaurer, a professor of sociology at SUNY New Paltz, is producer and director of FIRST, a documentary about women’s sexual first times. The film features ten women, ages 16 to 89, spilling the beans in their own bedrooms (complete with teddy bear and framed prom photo, in one case). We chatted with Eve about all things cherry-poppin’…

EM & LO: How do you define virginity or losing your virginity? It’s a term we’ve often struggled with ourselves — for example, traditionally people think of intercourse, but that obviously excludes the gay community. Was that something you dealt with when making this film?

EVE WALTERMAURER: Luckily we did not have to define virginity – we left that to each woman to decide for herself. I myself wonder if the first failed attempt Jon B. had with me counts or not. We are interested in this idea of when the loss of virginity occurs particularly for a woman who has never been with a male. Clearly these women, over time look back and do not think of themselves as virgins. But is there a single point in time where they see the shift happening? All of our gay women began with men but we are still looking to explore this idea more.

We love the 89-year-old woman you interviewed, she’s awesome! And she has such an amazing attitude about sex. Having made this film, do you have any insight into what gives someone such a great relationship with sex? Parents? A good doctor? Your friends?

For our 89 year old, there was clearly a (relative) openness about sexuality in her home. That helps. I would also attribute great sex to three other criteria: 1) being of the right mindset when you do it; 2) doing it with someone who is supportive and loving of you; and 3) maturity — meaning it may take time for you to find the first two criteria right.

We were surprised by how many women remembered their first time so fondly, especially given how many of them approached it as something to get over with. Someone told us recently that so much of sex is the stories we tell ourselves. So do you think someone’s first-time story becomes a better memory the further they get from the actual experience?

Every women I asked to interview — including those who said yes and those who said no — first made it a point to tell me that their story is boring. I do not think they remember the experience fondly as much as it is a fond experience recounting these stories. Because, let’s face it, when someone is smiling or laughing at the stories you tell, you get a pretty good inkling that they must not be boring.

What was the hardest thing to get your interview subjects to open up about?

Probably masturbation. I think males are taught to feel more comfortable with this than females. I obviously had a couple of women who were fine with discussing their own masturbation, but then I had the one who is yet to try it and a number of women who, when I asked said, “Pass.”

What surprised you the most when making this film?

While I was banking on openness, I guess I also found the incredible openness of these women the most surprising. These women revealed a lot — we have over an hour of footage for each woman, so you only heard part of it. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how similar the younger women were to the older women when they were young. I know that’s confusing. Amanda (age 21) thinks her vagina is not nice and so she does not want a guy to give her oral sex. Eileen and Jacinta (both in their thirties) felt that way when they were younger as well. But they got over it. I hope Amanda does too.

Have you found that people always want to tell you their first-time stories after seeing this film, or after hearing that you made this film?

The stories we hear after screening or from people who read about the film are probably the most bizarre. We were accosted by one woman who was a 35-year-old virgin, complaining that we did not tell her story. She told us she was saving her virginity because her voice was her instrument (she was a singer) and she did not want to risk any damage to it. I thought of pointing out that this fear was illogical or suggesting ways she could protect her voice during sex (yell into a pillow???) but I thought better of it.

For more information about First, visit Walgurl.googlepages.com.