For this very special episode of BANG!, recorded in front of a live audience at The Basement Theatre, Melody Thomas and guests dispense advice, tell personal stories, recite erotic poems and have a few laughs along the way.
On the night, very serious BANG! News host Susie Ferguson delivered breaking news stories she'd never seen until that moment. As hoped, she struggled to keep it together.
We also had an appearance from episode seven's Shelley* - the 29 year old virgin keen to explore her sexuality but not sure how to start. In front of a live audience, she gave us an update.
Read Shelley's story below.
When Shelley was 13 she wrote an essay for a competition, explaining the importance of “virginal purity” and referring to herself as a “chastitute”. Like many of her church friends, she planned to have sex with only one person in her life - her future husband.
But when Shelley got to her mid 20s, she was yet to have her first relationship or even her first kiss. She began to rethink her earlier stance on sex.
“The idea of having a relationship that progressed at a pace that felt normal and where there was open communication from both sides - that felt a lot more real and genuine than a relationship where there’s certain rules that someone else has put on you,” she says.
Shelley did some research, including listening to podcasts like BANG! and The Savage Lovecast. She also took a friend’s advice to try masturbating.
“I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m doing it right?’ … and she said, ‘Just trust me, you will know when you get there’… And once it did happened I was like, ’Oh yeah… that’s definitely a thing’,” she laughs.
Shelley went on a few dates and had her first, awkward kiss - but soon after that began to feel a little stuck. This is when she reached out to talk with me for BANG!
While the idea that there’s a magic window of opportunity for losing your virginity is obviously nonsense, most people still have an idea of what they think is ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ for first-time sex. Shelley couldn’t escape the feeling she’d missed her chance.
She was also confused about disclosure - she wanted to be open but didn’t know when was the ‘right’ time to tell a potential partner she was a virgin. She didn’t want them to feel unnecessary pressure to give her a ‘magical’ first time, or to worry that taking that step with her meant love and marriage.
Towards the end of our conversation she confided in me that she’d been thinking about asking a friend to “help her out”.
I joked that if she did and things went well, we could get her back for the BANG! live show to update us on how everything went.
Not long after, I received this message.
Fast forward to the BANG! live show where Shelley is taking her seat in front of a live audience, all of whom are eager to hear what’s happened since that interview.
Turns out, virginity is an arbitrary social construct... that no longer applies to her.
She’s had a couple of great sexual experiences - the first with a guy she connected with on a date, and later with her friend: “Both of whom were really good at asking along the way and checking in.”
While she might have liked to explore and experiment from an earlier age, Shelley also thinks there are bonuses to doing these things for the first time when you’re a bit older.
“I could control it, I chose my timing… I thought I might feel funny about my body, when it’s the first time you're seeing someone naked and they’re seeing you… [But] I didn’t really care about some of the things 15 year old me would have cared about, which is really nice,” she says.
And the best part of all? Shelley has no regrets.
“I thought I was going to wake up and feel really bad because of this ingrained guilt that had been there for a long time, but I really didn’t. I enjoyed it, I would have stopped if I didn’t. I wanted to do it and was curious and into it, and it was great.”
* Not her real name
Listen to the full episode at the link above, including Jacob "The Duchess" Tamata talking about the importance of the arts when you're young, brown and queer, Laura Borrowdale from NZ's own erotic literary journal Aotearotica reading a poem and sharing a story submission involving an orgasmic motor vehicle, and father-daughter sex advice dynamos Nic and Lena Beets answering listener and audience questions about vaginismus, polyamory and elusive orgasms.