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Sunnyside man releases book of interviews on losin’ it

After catching a movie at the Cleveland International Film Festival about a girl’s search for the right man to take her virginity, Sean Wickens, 34, now of Sunnyside, ended up making himself an unusual dare.

“At an after-party for the screening I asked a few strangers how they lost [their virginity] and was amazed how candid everyone was,” Wickens said in an e-mail.

Afterward, he set himself up for what he called an “unattainable” goal: to interview more than 1,000 people about their first time. Three years of interviewing and three years of editing later, he had a book, “How to Lose Your Virginity (... And How Not To),” which is now on sale.

The stories in the book run the gamut from sweet to strange. The excerpts on Wickens’ website include a man from Florida who lost it watching “As Good As it Gets” in a movie theater, another who lost it to a porn star he met on his paper route in Japan and another man who lost it in a squat in London, only to meet up with a former classmate the next morning who had also lost her virginity that night in the house.

To get those and many other interviews, Wickens traveled to 34 cities across the United States plus Montreal. He said the interview process took so long because Wickens — who moved from Cleveland to New York in 2004 and now currently works as a window-washer in Manhattan and a stand-up comedian — had to raise the money himself.

“I had thought about asking friends and family for donations or applying for grants but determined energy spent on fund-raising would be best channeled into the project itself,” Wickens said. “I also worked at a place that would let you work extra hours in exchange for vacation time, so I did a lot of that.”

Wickens said he picked many of the cities — Montreal; Nashville; Roswell, N.M.; Austin; and New Orleans — because he had wanted to see them in the past or, had family in areas like Wichita, Kan. and Tulsa, Okla. Other times he went to a place because it coincided with a major event, like visiting Boston for the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

“It was a lot of fun driving around and interviewing people,” Wickens said. “And collecting stories for the book gave me a drive and a purpose on these trips that in a way made them more enjoyable than if I were aimlessly driving around America.”

Wickens said his favorite story was about a girl from Tennessee who lost her virginity working on a salmon boat.

“She ends up having her first experience with the boat’s cook, but she told her story with such nostalgia and epic detail I was speechless when she was done telling it,” he said.

There are some funny ones he liked as well.

“A guy stole his brother’s car for a date and while the two were fumbling around in the passenger seat his foot snagged an A/C hose, covering him in freezing water,” Wickens said.

Wickens laid out the book himself and a photographer, Emily Bryan, took some pictures for it.

“[Bryan] told me she keeps it on her coffee table and finds that friends she brings over, without fail, gravitate toward the book and start flipping through and reading random stories,” Wickens said.

The book is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Wickens’ website, lossofvirginitybook.com. Wickens is donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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