Making Out Like a Virgin


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.  — Foreword by Sue William Silverman, author of Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey Through Sexual Addiction


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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.


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.


This book offers an emotionally powerful lesson in the complex reality of sexual violence. Through a diversity of voices and perspectives--all the richer for having included the oftentimes marginalized experiences of boys and men--we ultimately rediscover our common humanity. Those who have experienced abuse will find inspiration in these stories. And all of us will be transformed in knowing that regardless of how profoundly we may be hurt by others, it is within our power to not let ourselves be defined by suffering and abuse. Justin Trottier, Executive Director of the Canadian Association for Equality


An essential book about sexual trauma that chronicles the many ways that people move forward. The contributors tell many stories—of not just surviving but thriving, of naming and acknowledging feelings yet not having them define oneself, and of letting go for what comes next in each of their lives. Though of different countries, races, genders, orientations, backgrounds, and experiences, their tales weave together a tapestry of courage, strength, resourcefulness, resilience, and hope. Luca Maurer, program director and co-author of The Teaching Transgender Toolkit


Unlike other stories by survivors, these have been fully processed, some beautifully written, all self-reflective and showing insight uncommon to victimization narratives ...immensely helpful to those who call themselves victims and those who call themselves survivors and those readers looking for a more complex understanding of sexuality after trauma, growth, recovery, and healing. Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., Ph.D., ABPP, winner of the Books for a Better Life Award, for Packaging Girlhood, and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research Book Award for Sex, Therapy, and Kids


As a senior program officer who has been working to change the cultural acceptance of violence against women and children, I can't say enough about how important the stories are. Their tales of resilience offer hope to others who have been traumatized, to those who work in the helping/healing field, and to those of us who envision a world in which the forces of light have prevailed. Karen Heck, Senior Program Officer, The Bingham Program, Tufts Medical Center


These stunning essays of courage and transcendence remind us that the human soul is mighty, and that love is always possible. They will make you weep with joy. Karin Anderson, Honorary Board Member, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and former Maine Women’s Fund Executive Director


The powerful stories of redemption told in “Making Out Like a Virgin” offer a lifeline to anyone who is raped or sexually abused — an unforgivably gigantic number of women and men, girls and boys, still, despite decades of struggle to end the scourge. Hearing people describe in their own voices how they reclaimed their bodies and their lives is essential reading for anyone abused —  and for those of us who love, parent and teach them. Carol Ness, Editor and writer, UC Berkeley


Through these powerful, beautiful stories we recognize that life is complicated, messy, painful, and damaging. But like the phoenix from the ashes, healing hope, driving passions, and a deep love of self can be born amidst the rubble. What a sweet and inspiring gift to receive: stories that promise a life beyond the trauma – one that is vibrant, passionate, and full of possibility. Auburn L. Watersong, Associate Director of Public Policy, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and Episcopal Priest


A poignant, diverse and courageous collection of experiences of sexual trauma that celebrate our resilience as human beings to survive, heal, and live full, satisfying lives. Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault


This collection fills a gap in available literature about survivorship and healing, and is a gift for those of us working alongside survivors and those of us who are survivors ourselves. These are stories of survivors coming back into their spontaneity, their vivaciousness, and their desire. Jen Friedlander, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs


The common thread through this collection of moving essays is courage, hope, and inspiration. What a gift to anyone recovering from sexual trauma or anyone wanting to accompany them on their journeys to recovery and fulfillment. David Walsh, Ph.D. Psychologist and author of Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen


Finally, a book that explores the effects of sexual assault on both women and men. Understanding that sexual assault is a systemic problem, and tackling it on an individual, community, family, and societal level is essential to the elimination of sexual assault as an acceptable norm in our communities and societies. But until then, survivors can hear from other survivors that healing is attainable. Thank you for writing this book, and readers and Freedom Fighters, thank you for reading it. Wendi Dragonfire, Founder, Shuri-Ryu and Empowerment Self Defense, Netherlands and Germany


I wish I had read the book with a highlighter in hand so that I could create the mosaic within it that is “my story.” More than that, I bless all of the story tellers and collectors for presenting the first book about child sexual assault that has ever made me feel understood, heard, accepted into a community, and healthy in my recovery. The telling of our stories is not only part of personal healing, but I hope a part of a global healing that must begin. Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman, International Empowerment Self-defense Advocate and CEO/Co-founder El HaLev NGO


After 26 years of working with well over 800 male survivors and a couple dozen female survivors, I am well aware of the range of losses (or thefts) experienced by survivors of sexual abuse. However, the greatest theft is the loss of true intimacy—emotional, psychological, or sexual. The testimonies offer specific examples of the real possibility of regaining one's natural, joyful, and fulfilling sexual and emotional connectedness. It's not just a lovely sounding theory, this book gives concrete examples and thereby a newfound hope. Don Wright M.Ed., Founder/Executive Director, BC. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Vancouver, BC, Canada


As a faculty member who teaches mostly young college women and those with sexual and gender minority identities, not a semester goes by without at least one student telling me of a recent experience of sexual trauma, and all too many sharing histories of trauma and abuse. Some ask me if they will ever “recover” and be able to reclaim their full selves. I tell them it is a long, slow, non-linear process, but yes, I believe it is possible. With the publication of this book, my students will no longer have to take my word for this! Jacqueline S. Weinstock, Ph.D., Human Development & Family Studies, University of Vermont


Rich in honest details, these stories are compelling reading. Each writer shares a unique and powerful story of healing from sexual trauma. I came away enlightened by the variety of their experiences and inspired by the commitment of each writer to heal, grow, and thrive. Cheryl Burghdorf, Professor of English, retired


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