Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2

November 15, 2013 by

Losing My Virginity: Of Romance and Property Rights

TShechter.Bridal-copy2

The filmmaker in a virginal white wedding gown.

If only Therese Shechter’s film “How to Lose Your Virginity” had been around when I was a college student obsessing about “saving it.” Freed from endless years of mental anguish, I probably would have had enough time to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and, who knows, maybe even have some good sex.

Or not. …

The film gets its US premiere this Sunday, Nov. 17, at 9:30 p.m. at the DOC NYC film festival at the SVA Theater, 333 West 23rd Street. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Therese Shechter and producer Lisa Esselstein.

Sixty-plus minutes of virginity, virginity, virginity makes you feel like you’ve been exorcised from ever again wanting to think about the V-word. Shechter, a nice Jewish art student from the Toronto suburbs, now a filmmaker in Brooklyn, has truly delivered a film that entertains, horrifies and instructs.

Get ready for details of America’s chastity balls (next step chastity belts?), where girls hand over their virginity to their fathers for safekeeping until dads deliver the precious commodity to the future husbands. Get ready for the TV vampire whose hymen keeps growing back again and again, forcing her to go through first-time intercourse pain for eternity. And get ready for some healthy advice from former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. One memorable piece of government information: 50 million in tax payers’ dollars goes to fund abstinence programs in the schools that are both unscientific and ineffective. (Is it too much to hope that this will get axed in government cutbacks?) And get ready for a wildly inclusive array of women, including the filmmaker, weighing in on virginity.

Perhaps most poignant, most in the throes of the myth, is the hunky blonde in the process of transitioning from man to woman. She wonders, “What do you do when you’re a 50-year-old virgin?” She’s more attracted to women than men and  thinks it’s possible to lose her virginity to a woman but says if that first time isn’t with a man, “It won’t live up to my expectations.”

Ah, those expectations. Shechter certainly examines them every which way with curiosity and compassion. There’s the question of virginity for straight, queer, female, male, still unpenetrated by male organ, or saving yourself for marriage while Skyping your loved one as you masturbate. Brave new world of romance meets old-fashioned property rights and Madonna/whore dichotomy.

Shechter’s history of sex and power doesn’t go back to Lilith but it does go back to Eve. Shechter sees her as the first woman to be shamed. It’s “like God had posted her naked picture all over the celestial internet. The woman who wants to know… is the slut.” And her counterpart, the Virgin Mary, is the “virgin rock star worshipped the world over.” Next step is the multi-million-dollar virginity porn biz and the woman director/producer behind Barely Legal films. On location, Schechter discovers the porn director’s own teen loss-of-virginity trauma.

And of course inquiring minds want to know about Shechter, who lost her virginity at the age of 23 back in 1985. Best of all, she met her future husband while she was making “How to Lose Your Virginity.” The film includes their Jewish wedding under an outdoor chuppa, groom in yarmulke, bride eschewing white for a green and black gown with red flower. They do break the glass – but no mention of what this symbolizes.

And the film appears to be falling on fertile ground in Israel. “How to Lose Your Virginity” recently aired on Israeli television and was screened in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.

View the trailer here.

“How to Lose Your Virginity” (2013) and Shechter’s earlier movie, “I Was a Teenage Feminist“ (2005) are both available from Women Make Movies.


  • Shechter’s Husband

    The symbolism of breaking a glass at the wedding is actually one of the few discordant issues in our otherwise insanely happy marriage. Therese insists it represents breaking the hymen, but as far as I can tell there’s no historical evidence for that. Sometimes, like Freud says, a tradition is just a tradition.