What 150 women answered in response to a questionnaire that Bouris (coauthor, Random Acts of Kindness--not reviewed) distributed nationwide, asking about women's first experiences of sexual intercourse--or, in the case of lesbians, first sexual encounters. The many meanings of virginity are examined here in the words of the respondents themselves, as well as in those of writers as various as Shakespeare, Freud, Sylvia Plath, and Dear Abby. They range from the benign (virginity is a precious gift that a woman offers to the man she truly loves) to the malignant (virginity is an attribute that men insist upon out of egotistical and territorial impulses). Women who ``saved themselves'' until their wedding nights (most of these over 50) speak out, along with women who had their virginity forcibly taken from them; women who turned away from men and embraced other women; and ``the romantic minority''--women who enjoyed a nearly ideal first experience of sex. Common to many of the stories are alcohol as a precipitant of sexual encounters that were later regretted; conflicting pressures on women to ``do it'' but, at the same time, to remain chaste; a nearly universal lack of real physical pleasure in the act the first time or the first few times; and a need for an emotional bond in order to make sex satisfying. Sexologist Luanne Cole wraps things up with an insightful afterword: ``A woman can have unrealistic expectations of earthshaking rapture (much like winning Wimbledon when you've never picked up a tennis racquet)....'' A candid report that offers reassurance to women whose first experience of sex may not have been positive, and that provides specific information that others can use to make their own initiation rewarding. Should be of keen interest to men, too.