May 10, 1996

The Loss of Innocence

I was still just a kid when my innocence was lost,

In a mobile army whorehouse, gift of the army free of cost.

Jacques Brel

It is Sunday morning and I am lying in bed thinking about that most prized and overrated commodity: innocence. I think about one of my favorite movies, The Summer of '42. That movie was about three high school age boys and their search for their first sexual experience during World War II, and their loss of innocence. It is a movie that I wouldn't attempt to describe because, to me, it represents the perfection of the writer's and movie maker's art. That movie has a special relevance for me because 1942 was the year that I graduated from high school. I did not lose my innocence in high school. That waited until I was in the army and it was an experience that had no sweetness attached to it.

Most innocents don't value their innocence, and would just as soon lose it, but to us oldsters, it is a prize. It is precious because once it is lost, it is gone forever. All that remains is a memory.

That loss of a child's innocence is something that a parent usually has no control over. Most of the time it is almost accidental. Given a choice, most parents would like that loss of innocence to be a happy experience, generally with a peer who is equally innocent. They would like it to be the way that it often occurred in the good old days, when people lost their innocence on that first night in the marriage bed.

Often it doesn't happen that way. Generally one partner is more experienced than the other. The disparity in age can be very great. Sometimes the experience of the innocent one is a good one, and sometimes it is a sordid one leaving behind a sense of shame and guilt.

When the experience involves an experienced woman and an innocent young man, as happened in The Summer of '42, it is often looked upon almost with approval. When an older experienced man contributes to the loss of innocence of a young woman, it is often viewed as criminal.

Men have been known to take their sons to a whorehouse for their first sexual experience. Would he do the same for his daughter? Horrors! That is unthinkable! criminal! terrible!

What I have called a "loss of innocence" is inevitable. Celibate priests and nuns excepted, it would be sad indeed for someone to be a 40 year old virgin. That is because when that innocence is lost, there is a definite gain associated with it. That gain is the sexual experience, which, from my perspective, can range from good to one of the most wonderful experiences that life has to offer. Nature has insured that reproduction will occur by making the experience exquisitely pleasurable. If there is such an experience as bad sex, I have never had it, although some experiences have been better than others.

I have heard some married people say, after 20 or more years of marriage, that it is just as good as it was when they were married. I find that hard to believe, unless it was a mediocre experience to begin with, in which case it might actually improve. It is true that the experience gets better as people learn to love each other, but there is a point where it starts to falls off. Think of your favorite food. How long would it remain a favorite if you had it every day? For most old marrieds, habit and the bond of friendship is what holds marriages together.

Many people search in a vain attempt to repeat that first experience. Is it possible? I doubt it, but that doesn't keep people from trying. I think that it is impossible because, while it is possible to find someone who is innocent, the person trying to repeat the experience has already lost that irretrievable commodity.

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