Virginity in the 70s was a pain. And no, I’m not talking about losing it, I’m talking about the pressure to keep it. That was the pain.
Listen up all you wayward 16 year olds banging your way through high-school – it wasn’t always like this. Hell, when the Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in the U.S.A. in 1967, they made Mick Jagger change the lyrics of a really dangerous song that threatened to bring society to its knees.
Those naughty boys only wanted to sing “Let’s Spend the Night Together”! Yes I know – shocking. Thankfully, they changed the lyric for that performance to ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ and as a result no one ever had pre-marital sex again. Phew! That was a close one.
There was only one acceptable way to lose virginity back then and that was with the hem of a big white dress up around your ears.
Not just any old white dress; a wedding dress. Yes seriously.
I blame the 60s. And the 50s. And the 40s. They all played their part in making our lady gardens no-go zones in the 70s. Mine had an enormous ‘Keep Out’ sign sticking out of it handwritten by my mother.
For most of my teenage years, I thought my mother owned my ‘noo-noo’ (I can’t say vagina it’s rude). I thought I just rented it to wee out of. I was quite shocked to find, in later years, that despite all the rules and regulations my mother laid down regarding my ‘flower’ (help, I’m running out of euphemisms here), it actually did belong to me. By that time, it had missed out on a lot of fun.
It may surprise all you girls who are now running off to college and university to get an education, but there were those of us back in 70s England who had far more important things to do. Personally, I was too busy guarding my virginity (whilst looking for a suitable candidate to take it), to get an education. My goal was to be a housewife. Yes you heard that right a housewife.
Who needed a degree in physics or chemistry? It wasn’t likely to help us girls make a nice apple crumble for our husbands.
Virginity for the ‘nice girls’ in the 70s, at least where I came from, was a fucking nuisance, if you will pardon the very crude pun. (It’s there, just think about it…)
I hung on to mine with a grip of steel. My knees could be heard locking firmly together behind the gravestones at St Mary’s Church on youth club nights as various boys tried their luck. I performed a brilliant self-righteous virgin flounce along the churchyard path back into the church hall once hands had strayed too far south.
Friends got dragged off ‘the dance floor’ (an area next to the Dansette record player operated by the vicar), and into the girls’ loos where we would sit on the sinks whispering indignantly about the dreadful things the boys wanted to do in the churchyard.
Wearing our bright blue pearly Outdoor Girl eyeshadow out of a tube, along with our Miner’s cake mascara mixed with spit (Yuck! But that’s what we did!), we used to sit around the edge of the old church hall on chairs waiting to be asked to dance. Yes you 16 year olds, do you hear that? We had to flipping wait to be asked in those days.
There was a whole ritual involved. It went like this. The girls danced in a line to Spirit In The Sky (one, two, three kick, one two, three kick – small twizzle, start again. Repeat until song finishes). The boys sat on the chairs in their Ben Sherman shirts and pretended not to watch. Then someone would put out the lights while someone else distracted the vicar. Girls would huddle round the Dansette sorting through the 45’s for ‘slow songs’ (under 50s take note – 45s were little tiny records we used to play. Records were…oh sod it – just Google it).
Once the girls finished arguing about what order the stack of 45s should be loaded in the record player, we used to go and sit nonchalantly on the chairs and wait. Boys would come over and ask us to dance. I use the term ‘dance’ quite loosely. The boys used to maul us while breathing heavily in our ears, often while singing the song very badly at the same time. While doing this, we would be turning in a very slow circle in time to the music. The girls spent much of the dance pulling hands up from butt cheeks back to waist level.
Before long, things started to happen in various pairs of trousers. The girls pretended it was nothing to do with them. Then would come the inevitable invitation. ‘Do you want to come outside?’ I can still feel the hot, damp boy-breath in my ear to this day, along with the feeling that my left thigh was being attacked by a very large broomstick.
Then a chorus would go up from 10 different girls – ‘But my song hasn’t come on yet!’ And the boys would suffer slow-dancing through however many more records until their partner’s song came on.
Mine was ‘Something’ by the Beatles. Three minutes of that and I was ready to ‘go outside’. As long as Julie went as well. And Marilyn. And Janet. “Can’t go without my friends! And you aren’t ‘getting anything’ either. Ok? I’m a virgin”.
Hands going south wasn’t going to happen. North? Mmmm – a bit. However, going north with me was a little disappointing as there wasn’t a great deal to be found there. I got my first bra at 45.
We all did the graveyard ritual which generally ended in frustration for the boys. The end of the ritual was when the girls got fed up with all the fumbling and heavy breathing and we would go marching off down the hill en masse towards the old Defiance pub. Once there we would stand outside comparing notes regarding who did what. Frantic kissing with tongues seemed to be the worst that anyone did. We all used to agree how disgusting that was and that we all needed to wash our mouths out with Babycham. Then we used to stand and argue whose turn it was to buy the Babycham from the barman at the Defiance Pub Off Licence as we were extremely under age.
And so it went on until, at 16, I met ‘the one’. I then hung on to my virginity like grim death for 2 more years to ‘earn’ my white dress. (I can’t believe I am writing this but it’s all true!)
When the day of reckoning eventually came, it took place at a hotel in my hometown. It was my wedding night. I was 18. It did not go well. I spent an hour hiding in the toilet down the hall crying while my new husband tried to cajole me out.
I was deeply upset about my new Pippa Dee nightie. It wasn’t in my suitcase. Only the completely see-through matching negligee was in the suitcase.
After we had left the reception to change into our ‘going away’ outfits, Robert, my very experienced 25-year-old husband called down the stairs at my parents house, ‘Is there anything else you need to put in your suit case?’ I asked him to pack my nightie.
Stupidly, I did not go up there myself. My wedding night attire was hanging on my bedroom door. A beautiful 1970s Pippa Dee ensemble (anyone remember Pippa Dee parties?) consisting of a Bry-nylon empire line pale pink nightdress and a sheer negligee to go over the top. In retrospect, it was seriously horrific – naked would have been best but it’s a little late now.
I had bought the set months before the wedding in breathless anticipation of this night. He came downstairs with our cases and a broad smile.
We went back to the reception at St Thomas’s church hall to be ‘seen off’ by our guests. We were going off on honeymoon to the Isle of Skye for a month. But first, there was the ‘wedding night’ to deal with. Oh dear.
When I realised what he had done, I fled down the hotel hall in tears and refused to come out of the loo. He ruined my dream. And I guess I ruined his.
Somehow, by morning, my virginity was no more. Over breakfast, I pondered what the big deal had been for all those years I guarded it and before we left for Scotland, I made Robert stop off at my mum and dads house to get my nightie.
Things have changed a lot since we were all ‘saving ourselves’ for our future husbands and the Stones got banned from singing ‘Let’s Spend the night together’.
Performers scream out explicit lyrics and pop videos are more raunchy than the soft porn we used to get in cinemas in the 70s. There is no mystery anymore.
I may have been a pathetic little virgin on my disastrous wedding night but I did make up for it on my own terms in the ensuing years. I’m not kidding.
Our times in the 70s were innocent ones. There is something wonderful about those precious memories of waiting for boys to ask us to dance and having a ridiculous fumble in the churchyard.
Have those days really gone now? Does anyone in the western world still hang on to their virginity? Or have girls wised up and realised there is more to life than getting married so young? Have young women taken charge of their own bodies now or do mothers with outdated ideas still lurk in the shadows?
I am glad I lived through those innocent times but at the same time, I am mighty glad I broke out of that claustrophobic conditioning in the end.
The marriage lasted 2 years.
During that two years I grew some magnificent wings and then…I flew away.