Why I Waited to Have Sex
I was 21 and embarrassed to talk about sex with my friends
It took me a long time to be comfortable with myself as a sexual being. I grew up shy and introverted and suffered from very low self-esteem. I had a range of crushes and fantasies growing up, as any normal child might, but they were secretive and only mine.
Crushes were whispered between friends, discussed in hushed voices by the pine trees near the blacktop. Handwritten notes were passed, and swift glances were made. But I kept my secrets as close to my heart as possible. Rarely did I mention who I liked to my friends. And confronting my crush and telling him how I felt was never an option, because rejection was the only outcome that I could see. I preferred to indulge in my fantasies; my mind was safer than the risk it would take to express my true feelings, not just to my crush but to my friends as well.
That lack of vocalization takes a toll. I conditioned myself into believing that sexuality was meant to be hidden, put away, sinful even. I grew up going to church every Sunday, attending bible studies, and pretty much believing everything that my pastor and parents said until I was well into high school. And although no one ever said it out loud, I knew that expressing myself as a sexual being was taboo.
When I went off to college, my mother told me to take care of myself, that I was a "good girl." And when I started dating my first boyfriend, she told me to be careful. She didn't say what to be careful of, just that I needed to "take care."
I don't like that phrase. It makes sex sound dangerous. (If you are being put in danger, if it is non-consensual and someone is put at risk, that shouldn't be considered sex. It's rape.)
Having consensual sex is healthy. And beautiful. Sex allows you to experience an intimate connection with another human being. It's fun and exciting. Sometimes it can be sad or boring or routine. It can be all kinds of things. But not dangerous. And implying that without your virginity you will forever be marred is an antiquated and manipulative way of creating anxiety and fear over something that most everyone has: sexual desire.
At 21 I was still embarrassed to talk about sex, even among my friends. I was scared I would never lose my virginity and wondered if I could really be considered sexually attractive to another person.
There was a made up ideal in my mind that I felt I needed to achieve before I could have sex, before I could really allow myself to be vulnerable in that way. How could I let someone see me so bare when all I could see were imperfections? I kept telling myself to wait until I lost a couple of pounds, wait until my acne cleared up, wait until… But all I ended up doing was waiting.
Well eventually I realized that, like most things in life, there was never going to be a right time. And if I wanted to make a change, it was up to me to make the first move.
So, I got Tinder. At first, I was embarrassed to turn to dating apps, but it honestly takes so much of the pressure off of traditional dating. Both parties know why they’re there (more or less) and all it takes is a couple of swipes and messages to get a date. I was very selective though, and even though I had a fair number of matches and conversations going within just the first week, there was only one person I decided to meet in person.
Him and I ended up dating for four months officially (six months in total), and he was my first everything. And even though it didn’t work out in the end, there was so much that I learned from my first relationship—maybe I’ll touch on that in another blog post. But what really stood out to me was that once I accepted myself as a sexual being and allowed myself to freely express my desires, everything else fell into place.
I had a wonderful first time and within that relationship I had the chance to connect with someone on a deeper level than I ever have before. But it took self-acceptance and confidence in myself for me to get there.
In some respects, I understand my mother's concern. It’s scary to be vulnerable with someone else. When you have sex, you let your guard down, you remove your inhibitions. The person who sees you in bed gets a chance to see the real you that no one else knows. So yes, it is scary, but when it works out, it’s a moment of empowerment.
The biggest lesson I learned in all of this is that it all starts with me and what I believe about myself. You hear it all the time, but it really is true: You can't expect someone else to love you if you don't love yourself. I needed to be open to the experience, to believe that I deserved that kind of attention and love, and I needed to be the one to take the first step. If you put the intention out there, the rest will follow.