I was 19, a technical virgin willing to try any (PG-13-rated) thing except actual intercourse. One night after a party, I was rolling around in bed with a casual friend. Clothes were coming off, we were both tipsy but not drunk, and he said if “If you don’t leave right now, we’re going to have sex; I won’t be able to help myself.” I laughed, thinking he was being dramatic and said no, that I didn’t want to have sex. We could do other things.
We kept kissing.
He helped himself.
I cried the whole time.
Sometimes I think about that story and argue both sides, prosecution and defense, not really sure who’s on trial.
I guess the thing that bothers me the most about how I lost my “virginity” – and you can tell from the flat, vague “wait, what?” way I wrote about it – is that I’m filled with ambivalence about it to this day. We’ve come to define ambivalence as not caring. A half-shrug, “Whatever.” But ambivalence doesn’t mean you don’t care either way. It actually means you’re uncertain, unable to make a choice.
Here’s something I DO know for certain: when it comes to your sexuality, it’s your body, your choices. Ambivalence shouldn’t be part of the equation. You can and should make decisions for yourself when it comes to all things sex related. As we talked about in our other awkward sex conversation, you need to formulate your own personal policy on sex – asking yourself what’s my attitude toward sex? When will I have it? Under what circumstances? With whom? Using what protection? This is YOUR call. No one else has the right to police, pressure or shame you, or take away your consent. In formulating YOUR policy for the first time, keep in mind some things the Aunt-bassadors wish they’d known about sex before they actually started having it:
Don’t buy into the Myth of the Molten Honey
I was brainwashed by what I call the Myth of the Molten Honey when I spent an entire summer reading all of my grandmother’s romance novels. There was always some variation of the scene where the heroine (a gorgeous virgin who somehow has no idea how beautiful she is) finally “gives in” to the rakishly handsome hero (a world-weary cad who finds our heroine’s innocence intriguing and refreshing.) Their passion overwhelms her and they fall into the bed in his chateau. (Or the hayloft in his private stables. Or the stateroom on his yacht.)There is a brief, sharp pain, then what feels like molten honey coursing through her veins.
Um … no.
Sex can be messy, clumsy, wonderful, sticky, funny, tender, athletic, or dozens of other things. But if you want honey, you need to bring your own squeeze bear to the party. In fact:
- You can have sex wrong. It’s true. The first time, I knew what went in where but we were both fumbling about and it was awkward and weird. I can laugh about it now, but back then I thought it would be such an easy thing to do and I was embarrassed that we couldn’t get it right the first time. – Chivon M.
- “Sex does not happen like in the movies. It doesn’t just fly in there. I’ve also never had an “out of body, mystical experience where my partner and I became one cosmic being” … usually it’s “I’m done, but I’m totally happy to go to town on you cause I see you aren’t quite there yet” – And younger generation…you need a partner like THAT.” – Jenny A.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Or say no to what you don’t want.
Consent is key. Every step of the way. Having a personal sex policy up front means there’s no ambivalence about what you want, when you want it. Not ready for sex or want to wait till marriage? That’s absolutely fine and any partner that doesn’t understand isn’t right for you.
- It is 100% okay to ask for what you need, and to demand it if you have to. – Melissa S.
- You should be 100% sure you’re ready to do it, otherwise you’re going to resent the person who pressured you into it. – Martha Jean S.
With great sex comes great responsibility.
It may seem very fun and romantic to get caught up in the moment, to be spontaneous and carefree. But there are real consequences to being so casual. In your personal sex policy, know which form of protection you plan to use and have it at the ready. Yes, you!
- Both parties are equally responsible. – Heather N.
- Use protection. And get tested regularly if you’re sexually active, and ask your doctor for the full screen — the tests for the most common STIs are sometimes left out. And get tested even if you use protection! Many things can be transmitted by other means even if you use a condom. – Clair E.
Sex and love aren’t necessarily the same thing.
This one’s tough, I know. Sex can create a false intimacy. What you think is love and passion may only be hormones. Or vodka. To me, if you want to be truly intimate, don’t sleep with someone. Nap with them. I don’t nap with just anyone.
- I wish I knew how easy it was to mistake sex for love. – Laura L.
- Something [what] makes you feel so close to someone can also leave you feeling pretty lonely. If you’re not in a strong relationship, or even if you are, sex for the first time may be a bigger deal to you than to your partner, and being left with that afterward can make you feel alone at first. – Jennifer K.
While sex and love aren’t synonymous, they also don’t have to be.
Want to be casual about sex? That’s fine too. Your personal sex policy is your own business.
- [Sex for the sake of sex] in and of itself is okay, it doesn’t make you a bad person. – Heather N.
- Having sex doesn’t make you any less of a human. It’s not something shameful, but some others won’t agree. F*ck ’em. It’s your body, it’s your choice. – Clair M.
- I wish I would have known that it wasn’t AS big of a deal as my mom and church made it out to be. I know that it’s an important step in life and can mean different things in different situations. But definitely the black and white, good and bad of its perception made “losing it” scarier than it should have been. It’s complex like a wine. For the most part enjoyable but sometimes you may have to change bottles. Prohibition wasn’t the answer. –Rebekah S.
And most importantly:
- It’s not about losing something. But rather it’s about ‘gaining’ in experience and knowledge. – Heather N.
Do you have a personal policy on sex? (It’s never too late to formulate one.) Do you have something you wish you’d know before your first time? Sound off below.
Good to know:
This video is filled with several things that I straight up did not know. (We’re all learning here.) Favorite part: “The hymen doesn’t exist. It’s just something we made up to be mean to women. Like Entourage.”