Making Out Like a Virgin


What does it mean to not just survive, but to flourish?

Is it possible to ever again feel powerful and confident in one's own body and within relationships?

Can someone move beyond being limited or controlled by a tragic event?


Making Out Like a Virgin is the collective power of a community of people who have refused to let the circumstances of their younger selves dictate the course of the rest of their lives. The individuals in this community have found the strength to become sexually and emotionally whole—a healing that transcends gender and orientation.

- from the Foreword by Sue William Silverman, author of Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey Through Sexual Addiction



Catriona McHardy, editor

Catriona McHardy has spent her life studying human sexuality and formally held a career promoting healthy expressions of sexuality, individually and culturally. In 32 years at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, she rose from health care associate to longtime Vice President for Education and Training. She led a team of "sexperts" who provided sexuality education and training to professionals, teens, and parents regionally, nationally, and internationally, including Uganda and Russia. Catriona is a consultant and trainer on issues pertaining to sexual expression and sex positive culture, and a faculty member at Community College of Vermont, where she teaches courses in communication, race, ethnicity, class and gender, and human sexuality. She has served as national co-chair of the Association of Planned Parenthood Leaders in Education and has won the PPFA's Award as Director of the Year. Catriona was named as the first Distinguished Alumni Award from the Vermont State College Hall of Fame. She was a longstanding board member of the Women's Crisis Center in Brattleboro Vermont and Outright Vermont.


Catriona McHardy.jpg

Cathy Plourde, editor

Cathy Plourde's plays on coping with eating disorders (The Thin Line) and engaging bystanders in interrupting violence (You the Man) have been presented across the US and have been culturally translated for use with Melbourne's Deakin University. She has presented and published nationally and internationally on theatre and arts for social change, wellness, education, and community building, and has received commissions and artist residencies from numerous organizations to develop works addressing these issues. As founder and director of Add Verb Productions she raised over a million dollars to promote this work, including the award-winning performance and activism anthologies (Out & Allied, vol. 1 and 2) for LGBTQ youth and their allies. She attended the Breadloaf School of English, was a long-standing Honorary Artist in Residence at the University of Southern Maine, served as a founding member of Boys to Men Maine and the Pride Youth Theatre Alliance, and taught in Integrated Health Sciences at the University of New England.

Tavia Gilbert, producer/narrator

An acclaimed narrator of more than 400 full-cast and multi-voice audiobooks for virtually every publisher in the industry, Tavia Gilbert is an eight-time Audie nominee and the recipient of fourteen Earphones Awards, a Voice Arts Award, and a ListenUp Award. With frequent inclusion on Best of Year and Annual Top Ten lists, Tavia is a trusted and sought-after actress for work across every genre, from children’s and YA, to literary fiction, non-fiction, and genre fiction. Audible recently named her a Genre-Defining Narrator: Master of Memoir, and Library Journal said of this highly-acclaimed actress, "as close as you can get to a full cast narration with a solo voice." Tavia is also a producer and writer who holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Making Out Like a Virgin's Contributors:

Caitlin—By confronting her family’s silence and setting her intentions in love and commitment with her partner, Caitlin reclaimed her voice and the ability to have the kind of sex she wanted to have without pain.

Truc took steps to find someone that she enjoyed having sex with, and by rediscovering love for her own self and with love she received from a partner, she left behind loneliness. Patience and love, whether in brief encounters or long term partners, helped many of these contributors find pleasure within reach.

Glen initially relied on humor, but now he also focuses on his children’s future to tell his truth. Similarly,

Nefer and Maureen both hold their roles as mothers central to their own health and well-being.

Maureen and Sally found careers advocating for education, policies, and change regarding sexual violence. Maureen’s immersion in the feminist movement sparked and now fuels her self-growth and evolution as a parent. Sally describes the evolution of her advocacy from against something to for something. Both found their strength by fighting for others first.

Kevin and Sarah rely on storytelling, writing, and humor. Kevin has developed quirky and evocative metaphors to frame his history with abuse and to understand who he is now. Sarah had so many stories to tell about desire and intimacy, but she settled on one that couldn’t be more intimate—--how her ownership of her body grew to include being able to pleasure herself rather than all pleasure in her body being reserved for others. Cairo Girl echoed this sentiment, and it seems either she or Sally could help you pick out a vibrator!

Teri’s narrative dips into diaries written nearly 40 years ago to share how shame and desire were tangled up in abuse, leaving a her blaming herself and asking unhelpful questions like “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why did I sometimes want it to happen?” Teri marks the passage of time with a progression of layers of self doubt peeling away, each an advancement in her process of regaining the wondrous feelings of her own desire.

Lynnette framed an aspect of her growth and healing as including challenging the negative voice in her head and the messages she received about sex and relationships. She was one of many who spoke of meditation practice for finding and restoring balance, sharing how the voice inside that shreds self-worth and self-respect and can be silenced.

For many, anger is a byproduct of being sexually violated. Anger can help one feel as if there is purpose. It is a twisted lifesaver. Sometimes that anger took years to be recognized, and even after it was unattributed, was veiled by a pattern of risky behavior.

Kyle and Jordan revealed anger for the people who should have protected them, and how they turned that anger inward in self-destructive ways. Nefer, Teri, and Saidhbh expressed their anger in feelings about their mothers’ unwillingness to address the truth. Lynnette used her anger as a “jetpack” to get out of her home, poignantly on a day that many Americans were trying to get home.

Religion and spirituality are another common thread in the lives of these writers. Lynnette, Kevin and Saidhbh spoke to their upbringing in Christianity, and about secrecy and shame about sexual expression and gendered expectations. Tara, Nefer, and Cairo Girl’s connections to something larger has guided each toward reclaiming a more positive and healthy life. Despite the absence of religion in her family, Justine found herself talking to a God that she allowed to exist, and negotiated a good deal with her own special God to secure a way out of a dangerous corner.

Several of authors introduced their gay identities in their writing. T. M.’s multi-dimensional story offers many insights on his process of both being oriented toward girls and eventually accepting himself as a man. Jordan, Saidhbh, and Kevin in particular had to grapple with the internalized questions and cultural misconceptions about sexuality--did being abused make them gay? They all came to realize that their sexual abuse did not make them gay – they were gay.

Click here for the full press release for
Making Out Like a Virgin: Sex, Desire & Intimacy after Sexual Trauma