Hey there, Captain Awkward (or Other Awesome Person),
I am currently lucky enough to be dating World’s Most Amazing Guy. We have been dating for over a year, and for the most part we get along great. The one major sticking point in our relationship is this: He wants to wait for marriage to have sex (PIV [Penis-In-Vagina] intercourse) and I want to have sex, like, 3 months ago. I try to not make him feel bad about his decision, but lately I’ve been getting more and more frustrated. I’m hoping you can give me advice on dealing with some of the not-so-great reasons I want to have sex in the first place, and that working through those issues will keep me from putting a strain on the relationship.
A bit of background – I’ve only ever been in one other relationship. I didn’t start dating until college, and my relative lack of experience occasionally makes me feel insecure. My previous relationship lasted two months and ended pretty badly. He fingered me for the first time and it hurt like crap for a week afterwards. During that week, he completely ignored me and made excuses to leave every time I tried to talk with him about how bad I was feeling. So I broke up with him.
So a few months later when I met Boyfriend, I was in no hurry to go further sexually. He told me right off the bat that he was waiting for marriage and I was completely fine with it. We are still dating over a year later, but I’ve found that my wants have changed. I want to have sex, and I definitely know enough to do it safely, but I’ve found that some of the reasons I want it (besides love and good feels) aren’t necessarily good reasons. They are as follows:
1. Having something more significant/further along the bases metaphor than what happened with first boyfriend, especially since I feel like I had to go through the shitty aftermath of losing my virginity without actually getting to have sex.
2. Getting rid of the stupid societal label of” virgin” which people use to mean innocent and inexperienced (even though virgin is totally a nonsense word and you define your own sex and it’s totally fine if you are inexperienced and yeah I know). I am particularly sensitive to this one because I didn’t date in high school and I’m also one of those small quiet people everyone always calls “cute.”
I want these to not be reasons for wanting sex anymore. Help?
I’m not going to talk you out of wanting sex, LW, because you don’t need to convince yourself not to want sex. Or even not to want PIV. This is a real, legitimate desire your mind and body and emotions have, and that’s okay. You can want something, decide not to do it, and still accept the wanting is legitimate.
But I’ll be happy to talk you out of your reasons, because you’re right, they aren’t very good ones. I hope it’ll help just to hear that in someone else’s voice–and it may help most of all to hear them in your boyfriend’s voice, so I definitely recommend you talk through this with him.
REASON 1: The bases metaphor is broken because sex acts don’t progress in an escalating order. You can’t hold a sexometer up to things and objectively declare “A is more sexish than B.” And even if you could, it still wouldn’t mean that you have to always do less-sexish things first and that more-sexish things will always feel like a bigger deal to you. Hugging someone you have deep feelings for can affect you more than intercourse with someone you don’t.
If your boyfriend respects you and is willing to talk through difficult issues with you, I think you already have something more significant with him than you did with your ex. Where you happen to put your genitals can’t compare with that. (Which again, isn’t to say that your genitals shouldn’t matter to you. But they shouldn’t serve as Relationship Realness Indicators.)
You don’t need to have PIV to prove that your boyfriend is more important to you than your ex, because you didn’t call your ex the World’s Most Amazing Guy and you didn’t have more than a year of getting along great with him. That seems like far more conclusive proof.
REASON 2: I’m going to get a little personal here. I didn’t date in high school either. I’m small and “cute” and although I’m heading for thirty I still get taken for innocent sometimes. (Such a crappy expression, by the way. Does that mean people who have sex are “guilty”?) And I had my first PIV partly for these reasons.
I woke up the next morning and it turned out I was the same person. My only transformation was from “shy and nerdy” to “shy and nerdy and had PIV.” On some subconscious level, I had expected PIV to be my “nerd takes her hair down and her glasses off” moment, my debut as a sexual being. And of course it wasn’t. Nobody treated me any differently, because nobody could even tell. I didn’t feel any different, because I wasn’t any different.
I’m sure none of this is a big surprise to you on an intellectual level. But… here’s two pictures of me.
This is me a couple years before I first had PIV. (Also, a baby alligator.)
And this is me a year after. Of course you can only tell so much from a photo, but do I look a little more confident, a little more comfortable in my body, a little more like an adult and less like a child? Does it seem like any of my earnest dorkiness has turned to cool worldliness?
I don’t know. Maybe it does. Maybe there is a difference people can see, or something that did change inside myself. But here’s something you should know: I lied. Those photos are in reverse order.
Looks can be deceiving, but I promise you, there was absolutely no self-assured sexual power hiding behind that goofy grin. That’s something I’m still developing, years later, not by having sex but by slowly building confidence and self-knowledge. I’m not there yet, but I’m a lot further along. Making new friends and getting new work experience helped a lot. Therapy’s helping too, as is finding mentors who have the qualities I’d like to build in myself. Touching penises with my vagina really didn’t help at all.
PIV is nice. It feels good. Okay, kinda great. You may work through all your hang-ups and decide you still want it, and I wouldn’t blame you. Whether that means you have to eventually reconsider your relationship may be a decision you’ll have to face. It’s okay to end a relationship over sexual incompatibility–it’s no more shallow or selfish than ending it over any other incompatibility. I’m not saying to do this tomorrow, but if the time comes that you still aren’t planning marriage (and for goodness sakes don’t talk yourself into getting married just to have sex) and you’ve sorted through your reasons for wanting PIV and you still really really want it, you are allowed to break up because your sexual needs aren’t getting met. Sometimes that’s just a dealbreaker.
But it seems like a lot of your reasons for wanting PIV are because you think it’ll make some symbolic change in your relationship or yourself. So… figure out what those changes are, and make them directly. If you want to feel more worldly, more confident, more desirable, more secure in your relationship, or more adult–well, that’s a lot of hard questions, but I can tell you this much: “have intercourse” is the answer to absolutely none of them.