#431 : I want to have sex for all the wrong reasons.

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.

133 thoughts on “#431 : I want to have sex for all the wrong reasons.

  1. ❤ Cliff. I went through a long long long way too long stretch in which I couldn't admit to wanting sex because it was "for the wrong reasons." Had I admitted it I might have actually gotten some, because it turns out that other people wanted it for the same (sometimes worse!) reasons. I hope the letter writer is masturbating regularly.

    1. I think a lot of people have wanted sex for “wrong” reasons. It’s hard to unpack that, though. I wonder how often it’s just that people want sex, because libido, and come up with “wrong” justifications for it?

      1. And does it necessarily matter that much in most cases? You want sex! Of course you do, sex is nice! Whether or not it’s a good idea to have sex is a different thing, but I think just wanting sex is totally natural and understandable 99.99% of the time.

        1. Unless it’s a case of “wanting” sex. That sort of feeling like you SHOULD want sex, so you convince yourself you want to have sex because the general norm is that people are supposed to have sex at this point in their life/relationship. Which…yeah, I know people say this is a very anti-sex culture (the States, I mean), and it kind of is, but at the same time, there’s still a lot of EVERYTHING out there telling you “Sex! It’s Something You’re Supposed To Be Having. “

          1. This, so much. If one is asexual or just not that interested or whatever, and not aware that “not wanting sex at all/very much” is part of the spectrum of human sexuality, it can become very unpleasant. I had a lifetime of “But surely you want to have sex with someone sometime!” and even worse “But surely you want to have babies!” No thanks, I’d rather have Lego constipation forever than have babies, or have sex with someone just because SEX.

      2. I think that happens, but… it’s one of those things that you can question yourself about, but not other people.

        “Am I coming up with crappy justifications to hide the fact that I just want sex?” — good question.

        “Are you coming up with crappy justifications to hide the fact that you just want sex?” — comes too close to “I know you better than you know yourself” to me.

        LW articulated their thoughts pretty clearly in their letter, so I’m taking their word that those really are their thoughts.

  2. I also wasn’t any different after getting a penis in my vagina, except I knew what it was like to have a penis in my vagina.* I did get to have conversations with my female friends about how I didn’t bleed all over the place (lots of girls break their hymens young doing sports or whatever), and it let me be “not a virgin”, I guess. I didn’t boink for good reasons, like a lot of people, and I had expected it to be All Kinds Of Important, and it just wasn’t.

    Now, what was super-crazy important was finding what turned me on and got me off. In my case, it involved reading porn on the internet and going to sex stores and learning about kink and getting into all kinds of awesome sexy stuff. That was revelatory… in ways that a penis in me just wasn’t.

    So for you, I say, explore what gets you going, while respecting your partner’s boundaries for himself.** No PIV with him, obviously! But is he one of those guys who is all “no sex until marriage” or “no sex until marriage *wink* *wink*”? Lots of people who won’t insert tab A into slot B will still have manual or oral sex, for instance.

    Yeah, as Cliff said, it is totally cool to want to have sex. And yeah, your reasons are kind of bad but that doesn’t matter much because wanting it is a good enough reason to want it.

    I think you have three good things you can do here:

    1 – Explore yourself and your sexual reactions (read, watch things, touch yourself in happy places, etc)

    2 – Talk to your boyfriend about sex and bodies and how it connects to his ideas about marriage and what it all means.

    3 – Using what you learn in 1 and 2, express sexuality inside your relationship! It might be, for instance, topless snuggling under a blanket watching Jeopardy. Skin-to-skin contact is super wonderful all on its own!

    Talking about sex is so awkward. And your boyfriend may not be up for it, because it’s awkward, or because he has totally legit boundaries against talking about sex outside of marriage. Got to respect that… but you can also make choices around that.

    * Under those specific circumstances. Which, you know, not the same as other specific circumstances!

    ** If he has boundaries about what you do with your own body in your spare time, that’s not so healthy and maybe you can think about if you are okay with that.

    1. I guess I wrote my advice with the assumption that the LW was already masturbating and doing non-PIV activities with their boyfriend, but maybe that was too much assuming, so these are very good points.

        1. +1 over 50 here and I still have a bit of that flesh, when my Doc told me I totally cracked up and for a while told people I was a “permanent virgin” 🙂

      1. I broke my hymen! And with a tampon to boot! It was a nasty irregular one, basically a string instead of a membrane. It snapped. It’s still there, but in two distinct pieces. Apparently it’s not very common though. I think it would have ruined sex to have it broken with a penis.

        1. Holy crap I thought I was the only one. The whole business hurt like hell and of course it happened during my first period so it scared the everloving shit out of me.

          1. Nope! I had a miserable first time (we were both virgins, it hurt like hell, and then he just wanted to be friends after) but I didn’t learn until much later how mine was formed. You aren’t alone.

        2. I broke mine when I fell down water skiing. I was 11 or 12, and when I did have sex for the first time, many, many years later I was all “I’m a virgin, like, have you found my hymen yet?” and he couldn’t find it, and I was terrified that he would think I was liar (no danger of that, actually, because I was kind of fumbly, but we both were, so it was okay! It took me forever to put the pieces of what happened together, and apparently some women are born without one (or a complete one–must have been horrifying back in the day when it was expected and checked for), too, but there was blood, and an oh, gee, there’s a hole there that wasn’t there before, so I’m pretty sure that was it. But hey, having that barrier gone for years, and knowing my own body when the time came made everything go much more smoothly and painlessly later, and he was great about it, so not important. Just a funny, inappropriate story I can tell people if I want to increase the awkwardness for uh, some reason.

          I’m so glad that everyone here is awesome enough to say “Hey, your body, your choice, but learn about your body and what you like one way or another (according to your values and what you’re comfortable doing–seriously), because he’s not a magic device that can read your mind and make happy times happen especially if you don’t even know what you want yourself”. There are many ways to reach these realizations. Be creative if need be.

          There’s not a special time frame when you should feel compelled to do this, LW. I know there’s a lot of pressure out there, with weird pressures for girls, and a whole “cult” of boys must have sex mentality (and hey, good for your boyfriend for knowing what he wants and being clear about it), but do what feels right for you (although it’s super nice if you’re with someone to be respectful and tell them your intentions, since hey, disease and cultural expectation confusion stuff). I also didn’t have sex until after high school, with a guy I’d been with a long time. People said things and made assumptions. They did not stop saying things or making assumptions afterward, and it didn’t change my life (although doing it when you’re not up for it or emotionally prepared might be a blow, so AGAIN: your body, your choice.) I know many wonderful, happy people who sleep with whomever they choose, whenever they choose (uh, consensually, I mean), and people who are waiting for the right person/time/marriage or don’t know how to approach the situation so never did, and people all the way in between. It’s not their approach/choices regarding sex that make them who they are, or influence their enjoyment. It’s how they feel about before and after, and their attitude, and what works for them that matters. You’re an individual, so do your individual awesome thing.

          I’m going to repeat this though, because no matter how many times someone says it, it bears repeating: You will never be a bad person because you have sexual thoughts/feelings. These things are not bad, dirty, or anything like that. They are wired into our biology, and you can be asexual or interested all the time and it doesn’t matter as long as you’re okay with it and it’s not disruptive to your life. It’s your actions and choices and the why that matter, and the person it affects the most is you. Oh, and if you do have a sex for a reason you regret, or the act/your partner isn’t what you hoped, please try to forgive yourself. One action/one evening/one unfortunate partner doesn’t take away your awesome.

  3. Oh, sex. Sex is so confusing and complicated and we all put so much PRESSURE on it. I was older than I thought I should be when I lost my virginity, and I know I felt like I should really get on with it. Like, I had a boyfriend now, so what was I waiting for? And so I ignored my misgivings about the fact that my lovely sweet boyfriend was currently being a complete dick to me, and slept with him anyway. It was horribly painful, I felt like I had ruined everything and it completely fed into my ‘if I have the right kind of sex with him our problems will magically disappear!’ complex, which only became worse when we broke up.

    There are a lot of not-very-good reasons to have sex, and like Admiral Backward says above, there are a lot of people having sex for not-very-good reasons! Just because they aren’t great reasons doesn’t mean that you should feel like you’re at all silly for wanting to have sex for those reasons.

    In terms of your boyfriend, have you talked to him about this? Is there other stuff you could do (mutual masturbation, using a vibrator together) that would allow him to feel comfortable and yet allow you to get the sexytimes you want? Your choices aren’t completely ‘break up or no sex’ here – there are a lot of kinds of sex, hopefully with some communication you might be able to find some you both want.

    On the other hand, if you DO want to have sex, and you want that enough that you aren’t happy being with your boyfriend any more, that’s OK too.

  4. LW- Do the BigM. Possibly with toys. Seriously, I would so buy some toys myself but my I am currently living with my parents and they are conservative enough for it not to be pretty if they found them.

    (*Goes to whiteboard and marks off another day on the “six month plan to move overseas” calender*)

    And the best thing is that if you want to save sticking something up there for your guy, then that’s fine! There are toys that only stimulate the clitoris. Which I have been lusting after for awhile now (I just feel a little weird taking my own V in how I define it, yanno? And it’s not like the pleasure ain’t already the bomb with just me.)

    And this suggestion might seem a little flippant, but I don’t mean it that way. For myself, I still have my V card and don’t plan to give it up unless I feel 100% trusting of the person involved. And I’m not in any hurry ’cause LW, society is messed up about virginity and it ain’t gonna make much difference to me to lose my card in the long run, so I’m not worrying about it. Why worry about something that really doesn’t define you? Heck, I know more about sex then many of my married friends. Which is kinda sad. Having sex does not make you more worldly or anything like that, it’s the attitudes you adopt.

    1. “I would so buy some toys myself but my I am currently living with my parents and they are conservative enough for it not to be pretty if they found them.”

      Just saying, the undercover “discreet vibrator” market gets awesomer by the day. Who could fault a girl for owning a nice tube of lipstick and a rubber duckie? 🙂

          1. I did notice that, but… I don’t want to pay as much for shipping as the actual vibrator, you know? I’m pretty sure I checked once and the shipping price was at around 50-100% of the actual product, and furthermore that’s been my experience with other US sites (threadless, why ;_;). Luckily other people seem to have site suggestions!

        1. There’s lovehoney and annsummers in the UK that I’m aware of that both sell discreet vibes (although I found the “quiet” one I got quite loud still) and post in very discreet packaging.

        2. Sh-womenstore.com are fantastic. They have a shop in London which is worth a visit if you’re nearby as well as their online store. Again with the discreet packaging and such. But going to the shop itself is good because it’s that rare thing – a sex shop aimed entirely at women. They’ll make you a coffe and answer any questions and it’s all very bright and friendly and not remotely sleezy.

        3. Lovehoney.co.uk is pretty good and has completely innocent packaging -they don’t even put the company name on the return address! Decent range, including discreet vibes, too.

    2. “For myself, I still have my V card and don’t plan to give it up unless I feel 100% trusting of the person involved. And I’m not in any hurry ’cause LW, society is messed up about virginity and it ain’t gonna make much difference to me to lose my card in the long run, so I’m not worrying about it”

      I feel like we should make a club, or something.

      Er, wait. That sounds awkward. But still, these are pretty much my feelings on the matter exactly. Sometimes it makes me feel kinda like a dope, especially when I get regarded as so very precious or what-have-you, but hey, like you said–it doesn’t really define anyone as a person.

      1. Yes, there needs to be a club! The “I don’t give a fuck about my first fuck Club”? Eh, too long. I’ll work on it.

        And I know! People are all “awww, you’re so innocent~” and I’m all “Dudes, do you even know what -plug in extensive list of kinks- mean?” At which point I get blank looks and roll my eyes. I’m am very sex positive and educated about it, I just personally don’t want or do casual sex and since I went from being too shy and dorky for a boyfriend to waaaaay to busy with too many plans for one, I frankly don’t care if I get laid anytime soon.

        I wish all these stereotypes and stupid hangups/associations with virginity and lack of it would go die in a fire. 😛

  5. I’m wondering why he wants to wait until marriage. Not that it’s Letter Writer’s job to evaluate *his* reasons, just that she may or may not share the general premises behind them. And whether there are other sexy things they could be doing together, without him breaking his (religious rule or whatever else it is).

  6. LW, are you perhaps… prone to overthinking/second-guessing yourself?

    You acknowledge that you want to try PIV sex because of love and feeling good. So whether the reasons you reject are valid or not, they’re pretty much make-weight. You want to have sex. You shouldn’t feel morally obligated to thwart your perfectly legitimate reasons just because they have been hanging out in dubious company.

    Plus, the way you describe the reasons you find unaccepatble, aren’t you really just saying you want to know more? That you’ve started down that path, and you’re curious to find out what is farther down that path because you think maybe you would like it? You have the feeling that there’s this club of people who know what PIV sex is all about, and you would like to join it. Which is not necessarily about social pressure or letting other people define who you are. It’s also about curiosity about how your own body works under certain circumstances. And while you can explore some of that solo, there’s stuff that calls for a partner, and it’s perfectly legit to feel like “and I want to know about that, too!” And I think that, with the right person, I’m ready!

    The real trick is the fact that your right person in terms of pantsfeelings and love and safety says he’s not willing to be your right person unless/until you’ve gotten married, and it doesn’t sound like that’s on the table (nor does it sound like it should be in terms of the status of your relationship overall).

    Seems to me you should be figuring out why he doesn’t want sex until marriage, rather than working at sublimating your own desire better.

    There are lots of religious/philosophical/emotional reasons he might feel that way. It’s possible he’s someone who doesn’t feel particularly sexual (or sexual towards women), and saying “not ’til marriage” is a cover for other reasons for not wanting sex with you that he is afraid may be unacceptable to you, and would cost him a relationship he values as is.

    Which is not to say that wanting sex is the norm-from-which-he-must-justify-departure, or to pass judgment on the validity of his reasons — he’s entitled to them whatever they are. Just as you are entitled to say “I want sex to be part of my serious relationship(s) at this point.” But until you know what his are, you can’t assess whether there is common ground to be found, or whether what you want and what he wants are fundamentally incompatible… much less decide whether it’s a deal breaker for you.

    1. Yes! I, too, wanted to point out that while the reasons the LW gives are not, as stated, good reasons to have sex, they are right next door to a very good reason to have sex: because I’m curious about it and I feel ready.

      Also, for me, passing the PIV barrier was a very important milestone and I did feel different afterwards. I was proud of having communicated a desire to have sex and acted on it. I felt like I had taken my virginity, not lost it: like it was mine and I had finally claimed it.

      So, depending on how you feel about what I’ve written above, LW, the bad news may be that you do have some good reasons to have sex. In which case, you’ll have to decide if setting those good reasons aside and abstaining for the sake of your partner is something you want to do.

  7. I think a major step in coping with this frustration is not to feel bad about the frustration. Adding guilt into the mix isn’t going to make you hornier, but it will make horniness a less pleasant state.

    The other step I would suggest from experience with the long distance relationship with my fiance (no longer long distance – yay!) is to talk with your guy about your ideas, hopes and fears for your future sex life as much as you’re both comfortable doing so. And – if you’re not already having these conversations – listen to your guy’s ideas about sex and why waiting is so important to him. If you’re going to wait for marriage, that waiting is a team effort.

    Virginity is a really odd state, because as Cliff says, it means something and nothing. I think it might be compared to whether you’ve ever travelled abroad. Some people are very well travelled and have many stories to tell about their experiences in foreign lands, but some people take regular package holidays to a beach resort where everything’s just like home but sunnier, and you might think that’s less interesting and adventurous than times you’ve spent exploring your local area. Taking a day trip across the channel (or the border, depending on where you are) doesn’t make you a different kind of person.

    One final point is not to judge yourself by standards you wouldn’t apply to others, as I’m sure you’ve never looked down upon or made presumptions about a person on the grounds of whether they’ve had PIV sex, however quiet and “cute” they are (cute is not a bad thing to be – this is the cutest I’ve ever been, aged 32). Lots of straight and bisexual people, for all manner of mechanical, neurological, hormonal and psychological reasons can’t have or really don’t want to have PIV sex and lots of people older than you have not had PIV sex because they’ve never met anybody with whom they had a strong enough mutual attraction. And it gets easier for these folks as time goes on, because angst about “virginity” really is a high school hangover (which isn’t to say it’s childish to care – high school is a deep and enduring experience – but it would be childish for other people to be interested or concerned about whether you’ve “done it” yet.)

    1. This is off topic, but thanks for sharing that picture. You look your age and look fantastic. I’ve been angsty recently about hitting that tipping point where my body is fully mature and will be downhill rather than up. I’m now looking forward to how the next ten years are going to change my body.

      1. @FlyBy – Thank you very much! I have never been so happy with my appearance and my body as I am now. 🙂

        @Married to my boat – Yes, you’re right, sorry! The slip was made because of course, there are lots of couples for whom PIV sex isn’t any kind of issue at all, and that’s a point worth remembering (lots of highly sexually-experienced folk might be defined as “virgins” by that definition), but I then messed up in my groupings. After all, one of the reasons some straight couples can’t have PIV sex is that both of them have a penis or both of them have a vagina.

    2. And it gets easier for these folks as time goes on, because angst about “virginity” really is a high school hangover (which isn’t to say it’s childish to care – high school is a deep and enduring experience – but it would be childish for other people to be interested or concerned about whether you’ve “done it” yet.)

      I really do not agree with that at all. As someone who is over 30 and still “carrying my V-card” I absolutely dread the subject of sex coming up in conversations. Just try telling anyone that you’ve over 30 and still a virgin and watch their faces screw up and get all confused. Then they blurt out stuff like, “But you’re not religious…” as if the only possible reason to not have sex is “I’m a homeschooled Jesus freak who must be pure for her husband*.”

      People actually do care. I agree that most of us do not think about it when we encounter other people, but I have a shitton of personal experience that suggests that’s because everyone assumes nobody is a virgin, and many many people are painfully judgmental if they find out you are deviating from that norm.

      * – homeschooled folks, religious folks, Jesus-loving folks, freaky folks and people who want to wait for marriage are not bad. I am using the words in the context of “This is what’s been said to my face by judgmental people in the past.”

      1. Seconding drst; I’m in the same situation–over thirty, never had sex with anyone else for the simple reason that I’ve never met anybody I wanted to have sex with, and I emphatically do not feel comfortable sharing this information with people. I feel comfortable with the *fact* of it, and I don’t worry too much about whether or not I ever will have sex–if I meet the right person, I will, and if not, I’m more than equipped to meet my own sexual needs–but people don’t seem to have any kind of adult category for adult virgins besides “religiously conservative,” “loser who can’t get laid” or “emotionally dysfunctional.” I avoid the topic even with my family, because as loving and accepting as they are, I can’t shake the feeling that they’d be distressed if I made it clear that I’ve never had sex with another person. (They’ve probably inferred it from my quiescent dating history, but never asked for confirmation.)

  8. 1. Having something more significant/further along the bases metaphor than what happened with first boyfriend

    If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I want to have more and different kinds of sex just because I want to have more and different kinds of sex. I don’t see that as a bad reason to want sex at all. YMMV.

    1. More kinds of sex : good goal.

      But wanting sex that’s “more significant” or “further along” suggests that sex acts are a ranked progression toward the Ultimate Sex, and that’s not such a good goal.

  9. Nobody’s mentioned this one, and I think it’s important.

    LW, you say this: I want to have sex

    Are you currently doing ANYTHING sexual with your Amazing boyfriend? Kissing, touching, making out? That’s sexual. Is someone getting aroused? That’s sex.

    You don’t say what your boyfriend doesn’t want to do before marriage. If he’s not willing to do ANYTHING with you, it might be time to leave. But if he doesn’t want to PIV with you but you have awesome oral sex, or whatever, well >>> that’s sex.

    Because, and this is really important: not every couple has a penis in bed with them. But that stuff I do in bed with my partner? You’d better believe we’re having sex. Please don’t negate that.

    So you might want to do a specific sexual act that you haven’t experienced yet, but please don’t say you aren’t having sex if you’re doing sexual stuff. You’re selling yourself short, honest.

    1. LW gets to define her own experience without it reflecting on yours. I think the important thing to remember is that everyone can have their own individual definition of ‘sex,’ and their definition might even vary in different situations. For example, there are some things that I consider ‘sex’ if I do them with a woman, but with a man it’s ‘not sex,’ and vice versa.

      1. Everyone on this planet gets to learn that “sex” is a broad term that includes many different activities. As it happens, LW has learned it, but we didn’t know that from her initial posting. (She came back and specified that she & her bf are having other kinds of sex, and that’s good.)

        For example, there are some things that I consider ‘sex’ if I do them with a woman, but with a man it’s ‘not sex,’ and vice versa.

        You use the word “sex” in a highly specific way that I do not understand. Can you help me out here? This is a legitimate request, because I’m confused and I want to not be confused.

        1. Sure! As an example, I usually consider oral sex with a man to be more along the lines of foreplay, but oral sex with a woman, in my mind, is more like the main event. Does that make sense? I mean, in both cases it’s a sex act, so it’s technically all ‘sex,’ but that’s how it’s organized in my head and that’s how it feels. It’s hard for me to come up with a strict definition of sex/not-sex because a lot of it is about whether something feels like sex. I guess in my mind ‘not-sex’ is often an alternative to ‘sex’ when ‘sex’ requires more energy, intimacy, physical contact, etc, than I have/want at the time. ‘Sex’ takes longer, is more likely to result in orgasms and is generally a bigger deal than ‘not-sex.’

          It sounds strange when I try to put it in words; I’m struggling to come up with examples without being too graphic. If I were with a man and didn’t want PIV sex for whatever reason, I’d offer/ask for oral sex or manual stimulation. In my mind that’s ‘not-sex’: less time, energy, and physical and emotional intimacy needed. But if my partner in that situation were a woman, oral would have been ‘sex.’ If I didn’t want ‘sex’ with a woman I would have told her that I just wanted to make out, because somehow that’s ‘not-sex’ in that situation. This isn’t a hard and fast rule; sometimes exterting more time and energy makes oral with a man seem more like sex, while very brief oral with a woman might feel more like foreplay.

          This very messy logic only applies to my own life, obviously, and there aren’t many (any?) situations in which I need to say, “Was that ‘real’ sex?” I’d rather concentrate on “Did everyone involved have a good time? How do we feel afterwards? Do we want to do that again?” It’s also reason #2461 why I hate, hate HATE it when people judge others based on how many people they’ve had sex with–how on earth am I supposed to even count??

          1. (Don’t worry about graphic on my account, but only if it would cause problems with filters. It’s extremely difficult to talk about sexual activities without being either graphic or medical. I prefer casual terms but try to avoid crudity in settings like this.)

            Okay, so now a couple of questions: if you were in bed with a man who didn’t care for PIV sex at all, and you have sexytimes with him, will that count as sex? And when you’re in bed with women, do you ever use fingers or toys for penetration? In that case, does the oral count as sex?

          2. It’s not about penetration; it would mostly depend on how much time and intensity is involved, and whether I consider a particular activity to be our primary or secondary sex act. I mean, all it comes down to is that sex an idea as flexible as orientation.

      2. I think this all just reinforces the fact that sex is a *spectrum* of activities. Things can fall anywhere on that spectrum – and it’s not a “more like sex” or “less like sex” thing, so maybe “spectrum” is the wrong word, but – there are all sorts of things that are Sexual, and different people put the dividing lines in different places. And that is OKAY.

    2. Yup, we are having non-PIV sex. I would like to have PIV sex (soonish) while he would prefer to wait for that particular kind of sex. Sorry for the confusion.

  10. My husband and I didn’t have sex before we were married, for a variety of reasons. (Mostly religious, it was the right choice for us, etc.)

    We dry humped like crazy. It was some of the best sex we never had.

    My point is that it’s possible to explore sexual feelings without doing acts that usually get labeled ‘sex’. If your boyfriend is up for it, it can be terrific fun, as well as very intimate. If he’s of the mindset that you must act like there’s no sexual attraction at all until you say ‘I do’, that’s more problematic.

    Did having sex for the first time change me? Eh, yes, but mostly because it happened in the context of getting married then holing up in a cabin for a week and fucking like bunnies. What has really changed me is the many hours spent with my dearest – before and after the wedding – exploring attraction and intimacy and what happens if I touch him this way at this time and oh hey, that’s why people say nibbling on ears is fun.

    As others have pointed out, just wanting sex because your body is saying “Rar, sex!” is totally legitimate. It can be acted on – or not – in about a million different ways, and for people who choose to wait until marriage there’s usually a lot of negotiation around what’s permitted and what’s not. I hope you and your lovely BF are able to find a solution that works for you.

    1. I waited until I was married as well but in a much more conservative upbringing. Biggest mistake ever!! We were COMPLETELY incompatible sexually. Of course we didn’t do all the good advice ideas going on here. PIV sex is just that. One sex act. In the midst of THOUSANDS of sex acts!! And they are all so much fun and awesome and can be great fun to explore. But if your “World’s Most Amazing Guy” is not exploring sexually with you (even with PIV off the table) then think really, REALLY carefully about staying with him. Sexual compatibility is exceptionally important to a romantic relationship.

      1. Can I ask what you mean by sexually incompatible? I’ve heard the phrase a number of times, but don’t have any examples of what it means.

        My husband and I did enough experimenting ahead of time that there were no doubts about being very attracted to each other and very interested in pleasing each other. And he was always, always patient and respectful of my limits (which were more strict than his). I was pretty sure he’d make a great lover, and I’m happy to report that I was right. 🙂

        1. Not FoeChristina, but incompatibilities I have run into include: different needs about frequency. Different interests about specific activities (even before getting into anything particularly racy; some people can only get off in one way, and it sucks if they’re with someone who hates that activity). Different interest in variety, which can still be a problem for people whose Default Sex is far from the norm. I recently read a complaint by a man who was upset because his wife wouldn’t shave her bits or do anal or have more frequent sex; those activities were what he thought were important for being Good At Sex.

          Then there’s stuff like “I need to be the passive partner and so do you” so nothing ever happens.

          That’s before you start getting into attitudes. Someone who is just not comfortable with sexuality is not compatible with someone who is a very sexual person. Even if the actual amount of sex had is the same.

        2. @carbonatedwit makes some excellent points about the various kinds of incompatibilities. Lots of times a good sex therapist can help with those and others. I’m of the opinion that most problems have a solution if the partners involved care enough to get help and/or do their homework, though nobody can call the shots for anybody else about this. How difficult is too difficult depends on who has to do the work.

          Other incompatibilities can include a bad physical fit, for example, one partner’s parts are too large or too small to the point of discomfort or lack of sensation. Or one or both partners may be disabled or ill or their disabilities or illnesses require some kind of compromise or adaptation. Or one or both partners may be post-operative transgendered people and their new sexual parts may need special treatment to be functional.

          In any case, there are lots of ways incompatibilities can occur, and lots of ways they can be resolved, depending on desire and ability.

          I hope this helps answer your questions.

        3. I will second the above comments. Incompatibilities I have found in otherwise awesome relationships were incompatibility in desire levels, incompatibility in “tone” of sex (for a specific example, I think squishy/emotional/lovey-dovey/touchy-feely sex has it’s place, but, like, once every couple of months. It gets very boring to me very quickly. I prefer sex that is more physical than emotional, even if the emotions are there. This was a big mismatch with two partners.), “I’m a sub… wait, you’re a sub? There’s no way this is going to work, is there?” (And we tried. For like a year.), importance and/or willingness to do certain activities (often work around-able, but not always, especially if your partner being /really into/ what’s happening and not just /willing, to please you/ if important, the function of sex within a relationship, and plain ole physical sexybits-compatibility (and not just size–angles too…I’ve been with partners where we could really only both comfortably have sex in one position… not great).

          Anyway, it is true that most of these can we worked around. But it comes back down to what you value, how important sex is overall in the context of your relationship, and how important certain sex acts are to you. If you primarily value being together and the non-sexual parts of your relationship and sex is a way to increase intimacy, maybe these are smaller issues. But if you’re like me and satisfying PIV sex is important to you and a lack of it will ruin your relationship in other ways, suddenly these issues are much larger. You DON’T have to actually have PIV sex before you get married to get a good idea of sexual compatibility. But you *do* need to talk about it and take it seriously.

        4. I have a [male] friend who married a woman who turned out to be a lesbian. My understanding is that they saved all of the sexual stuff until after they got married, so they didn’t really do a lot of experimenting and whatnot until it was “too late,” in a manner of speaking. They divorced amicably, but it was still terribly awkward; it would have been better if they could have figured that out *before* they got married. As the other commenters have said, you can figure a lot of things out without intercourse; this sort of thing is only going to be difficult for people whose religious or ethical beliefs preclude *any* sort of remotely sexual behavior prior to marriage. (And unfortunately for them, their beliefs tend to preclude divorce as well.)

  11. Sex is so important to me, and so critical, that I can’t imagine going forward into a “permanent” relationship without knowing what it will be like. If you’re frustrated now, how will you be when you find out s/he only wants sex once a month? Or once a year? Or hates that one thing you absolutely have to have to feel satisfied? Or they ned something you can’t/won’t ever provide? Or they just aren’t willing to try. You get to test out all the other aspects of a relationship, but not this one?

    1. RR, I agree with you to the extent that I personally think sex is important, I personally could never feel “fully in a relationship” without sex, and I would never consider marrying someone that I wasn’t sure I was sexually compatible with. In fact, I have had several perfectly good relationships ruined by sexual incompatibility (and, uh, continued several terrible relationships because the sex was AWESOME… but this also left me a little fucked up. I don’t recommend this strategy).

      However, the tone of your post came off a bit… judgy? scare-tactic-y? Regardless, it made me feel icky.

      For one, all we know is that the LW and Boy aren’t having PIV intercourse. However, there are lots and lots of other sex acts they may or may not be doing now and may do before hypothetical-marriage. I think it’s totally possible to establish most factors of sexual compatibility (sex drive/frequency, communication, similar desires, things they refuse to do/aren’t interested in, etc.–in fact, just about everything but “Do our bits physically fit together super well?”) with non-PIV sex acts. You can definitely test drive adequately without buying the car and going on a wild joy ride, if I may painfully overextend the metaphor.

      Second, this is you and I. For some people, sexual compatibility *isn’t* a super high priority. I feel a little weird making this argument, because usually I’m all like: Sexual compatibility is important! Not being sexually compatible is a perfectly legitimate reason to break off an otherwise great relationship! Culture is wrong!

      And this is true…. for people who value sexual compatibility. So it’s OKAY if sexual compatibility is important to you and it is OKAY to leave if your sexual needs aren’t being met (and “I want sex but he won’t try anything and think it’s weird that I masterbate” is not meeting the needs of a person who’s ready to be sexual. But “No PIV, but maybe other things and we talk about it and also I have awesome toys” could meet a sexual person’s needs temporarily).

      BUT it’s also TOTALLY OKAY to value other things over sexual compatibility. And if he is the most awesome thing ever and treats you with respect and is all you want and you see a future together and spiritual marriage is a high priority and sex is not a high priority, that is OKAY too. (But if you know in your heart that sex is kind of a priority, don’t ignore that! It is an important need.)

      I know people who got married super young so they could have sex, and they were combinations of miserable/divorced and “that was a lot of hard/awkward work but worth it”/still together. I also know people who didn’t get married young, but dated for years after college before they got married and still didn’t have sex. And I am positive that if they turned out to not be the most sexually compatible ever, the things they valued in their relationship would have seen them through anyway. (But from what I understand, they’re both pretty sexytimes happy.)

      Anyway, rambles, but hopefully kind of coherent. tl;dr–It is *your* life and *your* sexuality–only you get to define what is really important to you. Then act accordingly.

    2. While I don’t necessarily think that such a pragmatic approach is right for all relationships, I do at least think the LW should have a long talk with her fiance about their sexual desires and expectations. It can be difficult and embarrassing, and may lead to some places they don’t want to go – but the only thing worse would be having that discussion a year into the marriage.

      1. I agree 100%. If you are not having sex but trying to determine long-term sexual (and otherwise) compatibility, you should probably be talking about sex as much or more than a couple who is actively having sex, as weird and awkward as that seems. (Also, I am strongly of the opinion that if you can’t talk about it, you probably shouldn’t/aren’t ready to be doing it.)

    3. I agree with this completely in that it’s absolutely true for me and I can’t even imagine being in a romantic relationship in which sex wasn’t an integral aspect of the relationship. But I’m not sure it’s true for everyone? I think sex just isn’t a dealbreaker for some people.

      That said, it might be a dealbreaker for the LW. At this point, I wonder if the advice “if nothing was going to change in your relationship for another year/five years/ever, would you stay?” might be worth considering. Because I think if you’re going to be in a relationship with someone for an indeterminate amount of time, knowing sex isn’t going to happen until marriage and having no guarantee that marriage will happen, essentially that’s EXACTLY the situation – that nothing is going to change. You don’t even need to frame this in terms of “but what happens once you do get married”, because right now the deal is that sex isn’t on the table, and this could be the case indefinitely, quite possibly for the entire duration of the relationship or at least for a few more years. I think the LW has to decide if she can live with that (or if there’s a compromise that can be reached which makes both people happy).

  12. Hey, LW. I was in an eerily similar situation. What made it work out was that we talked a lot about turn ons/offs, our sex drives, and our expectations (there were a bunch of little questionnaires various places on the Internet, and we’re both nerds who like questionnaires. They can help if you’re feeling awkward about a conversation and don’t know where to start). He was also all for doing “everything but PIV.” Well, by the time we got around to doing PIV, after almost 2 years together (he changed his mind with no pressure on my part), it just felt like an extension of what we were already doing and not a big deal at all. Had we not been communicating about our wants/needs, and had we not had plenty of other kinds of sex, the “waiting for marriage” idea honestly would have been a dealbreaker for me. It sounds like it might be a dealbreaker for you. That is okay.

    1. Oooh, I wonder if one of those questionnaires was mine! 😀

      Regardless, I’m glad that kind of format was helpful.

  13. I feel like I kind of relate to your dilemma about good reasons vs bad reasons for sex, although when I experienced it, it was specifically with regard to casual sex. Even so, I wonder if what I eventually worked out might be helpful to you too?

    I started having casual sex a few months after ending a serious relationship. I did it because I wanted to and it was fun and I liked it, but I’d also internalised a lot of stuff about women who have casual sex being fucked up and doing it because they hated themselves or were using it as a bandaid for emotional pain. It wasn’t exactly that I believed any of that, but part of me wanted it to be true because that would be proof my last relationship had mattered and the effect its ending had on me was real and important. I spent a lot of time with my thought processes going something like this:

    “but I like it and it makes me feel good about myself!” –> “but internalised misogyny!” –> “but you don’t BELIEVE that” –> “but that makes it worse because you’re only doing it because you WANT it to be true” –> “but I DON’T really want it to be true, that’s ridiculous, I just like it!”

    On and on and on, plus a few other misconceptions and weird feelings in there for good measure. It was really confusing and frankly it sucked.

    What ended up really helping me was I came across this article, in which the author talks about some of the reasons she’s glad she had casual sex. It helped because she reaffirmed what I already knew – that sex was fun and could be good for you and didn’t have to stem from all the negative ideas people generally thought it did. But it also helped because she acknowledged that yeah, sometimes she did have sex for unhealthy reasons and sometimes she did have not-so-great experiences, but that things got better as she went on.

    In the end I realised that it wasn’t an either/or situation – I could want to do it for a lot of good reasons, and also have a few bad reasons for it, and the bad reasons didn’t undermine the good reasons or make them less true. Once I accepted that, I became a lot more chill about overanalysing my motives for things and found that the good reasons overwhelmingly and increasingly outweighed the bad.

    I think you might already be ahead of where I was in that regard, since you actually talk about having both good reasons and some not-so-great reasons for wanting to have sex with your boyfriend and talk about wanting to get rid of certain motives, not the desire itself. But what I would suggest is maybe… cut yourself some slack? You’ve acknowledged the problems in some of your reasons for wanting this and you sound pretty self aware, so I think you can probably assume that any decisions you make will not be unduly influenced by those reasons. I think the fact that you can verbalise these factors and are aware of the flaws in them is a good sign in terms of your readiness for sex.

    It sounds like your real problem isn’t whether or not you really want to have sex, or want it for the right reasons, but what to do about it now. And I have to agree with other commenters here that talking to your boyfriend is a good idea. I’d suggest reiterating to him that you respect his boundaries and don’t want him to do anything he’s not comfortable with, but do have a conversation about what sex means to him and why he wants to wait until marriage (and also about what sex means to you, what you’d like to do and why you’d like to do it) and find out if there’s any middle ground that might make both of you happy.

    And as many people have said before, if there isn’t any middle ground, it’s okay if this is a deal breaker for you.

  14. I don’t know whether this is helpful, as it’s a somewhat dissenting piece of advice. Nevertheless, it is my experience. The first time I had sex was with somebody who wasn’t close to me in a long time relationship sense, but was a compassionate, giving, understanding partner. We never became integral parts of each others lives, but we’ve always remained casual friends and I stood in their wedding.

    I did feel significantly different after I first had sex, in many ways. I also did not feel different in many other ways that surprised me. But it was also significant that I experience the surprise-at-not-feeling-different part, which itself was an important lesson that I don’t think I could have learned second-hand.

    I think it’s important to make peace with your own desires and not try to talk yourself out of them because you think they some of the reasons are bad – we are complicated, nonlinear creatures and our desires rarely listen to reason. It’s important to understand them better, yes – but I suspect that there are more reasons contributing to LW’s desire to have sex that she enumerates, because it’s a complex and subtle and messy and psychologically, motivationally deep area.

    That said, it’s also okay and healthy to say to yourself, “yes, I want this, but it’s something that I am choosing to defer because I am building a life with my partner and we have to figure out how to lovingly work out mutually contradictory desires. This will not be the last or the biggest time we encounter this kind of disagreement, and how we approach it will be a template for the future.”

    1. ‘it was also significant that I experience the surprise-at-not-feeling-different part, which itself was an important lesson that I don’t think I could have learned second-hand.’

      YES, I so completely agree with this part.

      I had that experience when I first had PIV sex. I then had it again when I first had sex with a woman, and then again when I first had group sex. None of these things made me cooler, queerer, or more worldly than I’d been before. But that feeling of ‘oh wow, I have done this thing that I thought of as a milestone in relation to trait XYZ and I’m still exactly the same person’ isn’t something I was able to get from people telling me that in advance. Often it felt almost patronising when they said it, even if I knew I agreed with them really – like it’s all very well to say that PIV sex isn’t that different from other kinds of sex if you’ve had it, but it can look quite different from the perspective of someone who hasn’t.

      Building up to PIV with my first sexual partner was very different to when a few years later I started having casual sex with someone else, and after our first couple of nights together had to really think back to remember whether we’d actually had PIV yet or not, like trying to remember a minor detail. Because yeah, it’s all just sex really – aside from specific pregnancy/STI worries associated with particular acts, or personal preferences on what you actually enjoy doing once you’ve tried it out enough to know.

      LW, if you’re having sex, regardless of whether it’s PIV or not, then you’re having sex. You’re becoming aware of your preferences and turn ons, and your chemistry and compatibility with the person you’re doing it with, and that’s what’s ultimately important in a lasting relationship, not what you’ve put where. (Behold, my long term relationship with my girlfriend). But if you find that perspective hard to access from where you’re standing now, I completely understand.

      I think it’s one of those paradoxes. If you think of PIV as a huge deal, a relationship and coming-of-age point, then that makes it into something that feels important to do for those reasons (…but can also feel hollow, when you also understand that it’s not actually transformative magic). On the other hand, if you think of it as simply another form of what you’re already doing, then it can feel pointlessly arbitrary to wait. (And correspondingly, it’s hard to fight off every cultural influence ever telling you PIV is a major whatsit and More Proper Sex than other kinds).

      Probably you will find that your brain contains a bit of both perspectives, and that’s okay. Probably your boyfriend’s does too!

      I’m glad to hear you and your boyfriend are so open with and accepting of each other, and that you’re comfortable with his reasons for preferring to wait. I hope the comments and stories in this thread have helped you to some extent with the reasons you listed in your original post, and that you find some new ways to satisfy some of the happier desires that are pushing you towards PIV (exploring new things together, expressing warm fuzzies, feeling experienced in a wide variety of things, etc).

      So I guess I just want to say that it’s okay if this still feels like something that’s unresolved for you on some level, or a genuine compromise you are making from your own preferences, since while you respect and understand his reasons to wait you don’t share them as convictions for your own self. That may be something that you’re happy to sit with for however long, or it may reach a point where you’re not. Your boyfriend’s preferences may change over the months/years, or your opinion on them may, or they may not. And in all these cases, I reckon you’re going to be just fine, and I wish you every happiness 🙂

  15. I’m getting a few red flags here that may or may not be real, or just reading too much into it.

    “working through those issues will keep me from putting a strain on the relationship.”

    YOU are not putting a strain on the relationship! You want one thing, he wants another. This is not your fault! At all! If you’re going out to eat and he wants Mexican and you want Chinese, are you a Bad Person? NO! Sit down, look in a mirror, and go “We are equals. My wants and needs are equally as important as his wants and needs. They may not be compatible, but that is not my fault.”

    All too often someone (usually a daughter) has pressure put on to be The Good One. The Selfless One. For The Good Of The Faaaaaaaamily. And you start feeling that by expressing a different opinion you’re Making Trouble, and Being Difficult, and Causing Drama. And this is a pile of moose-pucks.

    “but I’ve found that some of the reasons I want it (besides love and good feels) aren’t necessarily good reasons.”

    Where did you ‘find’ this? Did you sit down and realize that, yeah, when you’re down you start thinking ‘I’m so ____ my boyfriend won’t even have sex with me.’ ? Or every time someone calls you cute you go “If I was having sex you wouldn’t think that!” Or did he explain these things to you?

    I mean, I’ll be the first to admit the brain is dumb. I have had to go “Self, you do not want pancakes and hashbrowns. They keep showing them on TV and they look amazing but you are always disappointed. You don’t want hashbrowns and pancakes. I’ve already had dinner.” And my brain goes “NO OMG HASHBROWNS AND PANCAKES NOW NOW NOW.” “Brain, in 5 minutes they’ll switch to BBQ and then you’ll want that.” “No I won’t! I…. OMG BBQ NOW!” “Sigh”

    The brain has a hard time distinguishing from what the background radiation says to feel, and what it really feels. However! (And it’s a big however!) it doesn’t change that you want something, and you’re feeling shame for wanting it because your boyfriend doesn’t. Are there other things he’s telling you it’s wrong to want? Are you ok with the idea that 10 years down the line your kids (if you want kids) are going to be told it’s dirty and wrong to want sex before marriage? Hopefully in 10 years it’ll be moot, but what if your kids are gay and/or bi and your state isn’t there yet? Tell them they have to move or be celibate forever?

    I’m a firm believer that partnerships are about compromise and how you handle conflicting wants and desires, and right now the method is for you to see your own wants and desires as inferior and wrong and dirty and a product of society. And that scares me and doesn’t seem like a healthy partnership.

    I could be totally wrong. He could be very supportive of your desires and tell you they’re healthy and normal and wonderful, but his own desire for No Sex Until Marriage is just as valid and healthy and normal and that whatever other people decide is on them. But…. If it’s not, think about it?

  16. I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this but the LW says that she had a bad sexual experience with the ex boyfriend and I think this is a major part of what’s going on here maybe?

    I can totally understand wanting to know that PIV/any sexual acts do not have to be painful and leave you feeling horrible. It’s a nasty state to be in where you wonder if sex is always going to be like that. LW, can you not get rid of that nasty niggling that sex will always be horrid by enjoying foreplay and perhaps oral sex with your boyfriend? That is sex too.

    Also I just want to re-confirm: it is okay to break up with your boyfriend if sex is really important to you. You should feel absolutely no guilt if you come to that conclusion. I know I couldn’t be with someone who wouldn’t have sex before marriage.

  17. “Hugging someone you have deep feelings for can affect you more than intercourse with someone you don’t.”

    *deep breath* I needed to read that. I’ve been on the verge of a paradigm shift for a while now regarding sex – I don’t know that I’ve ever had it for healthy reasons – and this very simple truth may have pushed me over. I need to do some stuff differently.

  18. The fucked-up way that we talk about sex with young people in the US (and maybe elsewhere, I don’t know) can leave them thinking that there are just two options: wait until marriage, or have lots of sex now now now. A whole range of other options (e.g., wait until later, then have lots of sex, or a little sex, without getting married) often get swept under the rug.

    It’s possible that LW’s boyfriend settled on his wait-until-marriage stance after considering all the available options – which is a totally valid choice. But it’s also possible that his reasoning went “I know I’m not ready for lots of sex now now now, so I must be waiting for marriage, because that’s the only other option.”

    1. It may be. But it may also be a serious boundary for him. It may even be a boundary he developed for bad, sex-negative, misinformed reasons, but which is still real for him and still needs to be respected. I do think LW should talk about this with their boyfriend and explore his reasons and his openness to non-PIV intimacy, but I don’t think they should put a ton of “what’s your problem, can’t we do it a little bit?” pressure on him. He drew a line about what he wants to do with his body.

      I’m a little concerned that this comment section is leaning a little too far toward the sex-positive yay-sex side–which I’m normally all about, obviously–but without acknowledging that people can decide not to have sex for reasons that don’t have to make sense to us.

      And that “I want sex because I have some messed-up expectations and ideas” is not always a declaration of healthy sexual desire with a “just add sex!” solution. The messed-up expectations and ideas do have to be addressed and it is possible the LW won’t want PIV (or won’t want it the same way) after that.

      1. I think the comments have leaned that way because we see a young woman whose wishes do not match up with her partner’s, and she wants to know how to get rid of the trivial reasons she wants what she wants, to enable her to better accept what he wants (which can be seen either as honoring the legitimate desires of the person she loves…. or as sublimating her own needs… and we don’t know enough about the relationship overall to know whether their relationship is always skewed that way or not), even though her not-so-trivial reasons still remain. People want to be sure she understands that those reasons are reasonable and sufficient, and that in a healthy relationship the accommodation should not all be on one side.

        Her guy absolutely gets to say “not ready for sex with you” for any reason or no articulable reason… Just as we would say if the genders were reversed (or matched each other). But it’s pretty common for a partner who is not getting what he/she wants out of a relationship to write in, and for us to say “Yup, that’s a reasonable thing to want. You may want to see if there is a way to get close enough to it for the wonderfulness of the rest of the relationship to outweigh not getting that thing. But if you can’t, it’s legitimate to leave over that and you should not feel bad about it. Your wants are as important as your partner’s.”

        1. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but I saw it from a different angle–that maybe she’s not trying to rid herself of trivial objections but that she’s working through some genuinely toxic beliefs.

          She may (okay, probably will) work through those beliefs and still want PIV, but I feel like the wrongness of “PIV makes you a Real Grownup who has Real Sex” as a motivation can’t be ignored here or brushed off as necessarily just being a sublimation of physical desire.

          I feel like maybe this would all be clearer if she was a high-schooler? That societal pressure to have sex and desire to have sex can coexist, and desire doesn’t make the societal pressure and the false expectations it creates any less damaging.

          1. No great surprise: I agree with you, too! Those are some seriously toxic beliefs, and it’s perfectly reasonable for her to not want them contaminating her decision-making processes. In which respect, your advice is spot-on that having had PIV sex isn’t going to make her a whole new woman and that whatever changes she is hoping for it would be better to go at directly.

      2. I think you’ve made a really good point here, Cliff. I consider myself sex-positive, but I’m also waiting until I get married for religious reasons. Those things are not necessarily incompatible. I mean, if sex-positivity isn’t as respectful of my decision to wait as it is of someone else’s decision not to, it seems like it isn’t really positive so much as it is another way of shaming people for not making the “right” choice.

        1. You know, if you’d be willing to, I’d like to enter into some discussion about that. I’m seeing someone new, who seems to have your perspective — he shared on our first date that he and his mens’ group in church talked about dating and “chaste relationships”. I was trying to remain in Listening Mode, but my mind went immediately to “What does that mean?”, because when utterly deprived of physical affection, even babies die. There are papers.

          What’s ironic to me about this whole thing is that I’ve never been a “sex for sex’s sake” sort of person, and considering entering into a new relationship I’d anticipated participating in an in-depth conversation about when to have sex and what it meant. I just find myself startled to be on the opposite side of the conversation than the side I *thought* I’d be on ( postponing/resisting sex without certain agreements in place).

          1. Did you ask him what he meant by “chaste relationships”? For some people, that means everything-but-PIV. For others, that means nothing that would have been censored in a 1940s Hollywood movie. I’ve never personally run across anyone for whom it means no physical contact of any kind, but I’m sure they exist.

            For some Christian men’s groups, it’s theoretically about respecting women by not objectifying them. Which is a great idea, but it can easily slide into the madonna/whore dichotomy with all the attendant weirdness about female purity.

            Another common approach is to emphasize the “brothers and sisters in Christ” connection. That is, men should view women who are not their wives as if they were their sisters. Which seems fine to me for married men, but I don’t know how that works with dating.

            It’s also probably worth sounding out this guy’s views on male headship and/or its only slightly less sexist cousin, complementarianism. (If I have to go to one more family wedding prominently featuring Ephesians 5, I’m going to start giving books on feminist Christian theology as wedding presents, I swear.)

          2. Your comment about being “utterly deprived of physical affection” really bothered me. Because it sounds like you’re saying physical affection and sexual contact are the same thing, which they’re really not.

            I’m asexual, but enjoy hugging/cuddling/roughhousing/etc. with friends and family. That doesn’t mean I need or want anything sexual in my life. A chaste, platonic relationship can have just as much love and just as much affection as a sexual one. Touching people you care about is important, even for babies, it’s true. Sex/sexual affection is important to some people. But it’s not universally necessary the way general affection is. The idea that all physical affection must automatically be sexual is very damaging, and is something I have to confront on a daily basis.

          3. because when utterly deprived of physical affection, even babies die. There are papers

            I’m with baytree. Citation needed. Also assuming “physical affection” must equal sex is not cool.

          4. This is the thing: being chaste isn’t the same as being “utterly deprived of physical affection”. Also, phrasing it that way makes it sound like I’m making a choice that is irrational and kills babies because SCIENCE. It’s simply that I made a commitment to myself a long time ago that I wanted to wait until I was married to have sex. Additionally, it means no looking for ways to skirt that; for instance, saying oral sex or mutual masturbation “doesn’t count” because it isn’t PIV.

      3. I agree with this completely. I tried to think of a way for LW to talk about this possibility with BF without violating his right to set boundaries for his own body, but I couldn’t think of one, so I didn’t say anything.

        And the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure it’s relevant to LW’s particular question. Even if BF is “waiting until later” rather than “waiting until marriage,” it’s still okay for LW to feel that that’s a point of incompatibility between them, if zie feels ready now.

        Another thing I wanted to mention was all the suggestions to just do things other than PIV. Non-PIV activities can be awesome and fun, and LW and BF may be doing a lot of them already. But if they’re not, it may be because BF doesn’t feel ready for those things either. “Waiting until marriage” can sometimes be a token objection that refers only to PIV – but it isn’t always.

  19. Other bad reasons in need of debunking:
    -my lack of experience will cause trouble in case I find someone who I do feel more for then lust(this is poppycock-a good listening ear, clear communication and being comfortable with the other person are just as, if not more, important than how many notches you have on your bedpost)
    -having my v-card at age X means there’s something wrong with me(no and yes: no, there’s nothing abnormal about it, and yes, the fact that you’re angsting about it means there’s something wrong, but the v-card angst is a symptom of, not a cause-be it low self-esteem, a toxic environment that gives you flak for it, or some other issue that a good therapist will help you determine)
    -sex will somehow be the magical solution to a wholly unrelated problem(the most hilarious one I’ve heard-it’ll give me incentive to have more discipline in exercising because I’ll have a solid reason to want more stamina)
    -if I don’t do it now, I’ll never find an environment again in which I’m likely to easily lose it(college, meet scandal stories about bridge clubs)

  20. LW, I can’t tell from your letter how much you have talked about this with your boyfriend, and I wonder if that might help. It doesn’t surprise me at all that your wants have changed in the > year you’ve been dating your boyfriend, because that’s what people do. They change and the things they want change with them. This doesn’t mean, of course, that he will also have changed and that a conversation about this will definitely lead to sex. But dealing with these kinds of feelings all on your own can definitely contribute to a strain on the relationship, so, if you feel safe and comfortable with it, I would definitely recommend telling your boyfriend the kind of thoughts that you’ve been having recently and seeing if there’s a way you can work it out together.

    Also, I just have to say that Cliff is super wise. I think there are very few bad reasons for wanting to have any sex, and I think that wanting to have PIV sex so that you can now be a person who has had PIV sex is totally fine, but I completely agree that if you’re looking for a major change in how you live your life or how people see you, you won’t get that from any kind of sex.

  21. Ahh. Having a youthful-looking face is a curse to one’s feeling of sexual agency.

    Wait. Wait, no. That’s not right. Let’s try that again.

    Living surrounded by people who both fetishize and belittle their narrow idea of innocence, based on little more evidence than a face that’s much more youthful-looking than its owner, can be kinda hard on one’s feeling of sexual agency. I’m close to thirty and still regularly get mistaken for a teenager. Sometimes this is frustrating and sometimes I feel like I have to be twice as vulgar and outspoken in order to be taken seriously as a sexual person.

    It doesn’t help that I was (past tense operative) very hung-up on narrow definitions of “virginity” for a long time, so I felt like I was “sexually inexperienced” and by extension inexperienced in general… even though I know a lot more about my own sexual pleasure, than do a bunch of people who’ve had PIV a dozen times a week since they were eighteen.

    1. Yes! I don’t have an especially youthful face, but my appearance is very…”proper,” I guess you could say. Think movie librarian. I also have a very soft, feminine voice, and the way people expect me to act based on those two things alone (not to mention how SHOCKED they are when I *gasp* swear! Or talk about sex, which I am extremely comfortable doing!) never fails to frustrate me. The misconceptions can really get to you.

      I used to feel like I had to go out of my way to disprove those misconceptions, and it took me awhile to relax and sort out my own feelings from the external pressure, so I do think it’s good that the LW is examining her own motives. But I second all the advice to talk to the boyfriend about this (and want to add that she shouldn’t feel bad or guilty about changing her mind about wanting sex. That’s allowed too!).

      1. “…the way people expect me to act based on those two things alone (not to mention how SHOCKED they are when I *gasp* swear! Or talk about sex, which I am extremely comfortable doing!) never fails to frustrate me. The misconceptions can really get to you.”

        I can completely relate. I look younger than I am, act & dress pretty conservatively and feminine, and struggle to get taken seriously. For the first six months to a year of every job I do, people are always very serious & patronisingly having discussions along the lines of “ooh, better not say this bad word or talk about that subject in front of bluecandles”. I practically felt like people were patting me on the head and sending me out the room so the adults could talk.

        From the comments LW has made, it seems like her boyfriend is quite supportive and open to talking about sex. Hopefully, they’ll be able to have more mature conversations about it.

      1. It’s like a magically narrow path where you have to carry around a stopwatch to make sure you’re having exactly the correct amount of sex at precise intervals. And if you’re bisexual, you have to have exactly the same number of relationships with men and women. And they have to be exactly the same duration.

  22. I had to think about this for a while and I have to wonder whether making a journal while having talks with your boyfriend might help you untangle some of this. Because sex is big and important and messy and impossibly tangled with the very mixed messages society gives us about it. And so it’s right and good and important to start a dialogue both with yourself and with your boyfriend about sex.

    There are lots of reasons to have sex and lots of reasons not to or to not be ready to. And the good reasons will be mixed up with bad ones and I think you can learn a lot about yourself by examining all of these thoughts together. And it would be great to talk to your boyfriend about all of this, and not just about what you want and maybe what you two can do together in a sexual fashion, but to be vulnerable to each other and talk about your hopes and fears and experiences. And talk about the places in your heart where you are judgmental of yourself and others around sexuality. These are important conversations because they’ll teach you who you and your partner are and because a lot of this is the kind of stuff we probably ought to talk to our partners about before we have sex anyway.

    I am a little worried about your experience with your ex-boyfriend. That sounds absolutely awful and I wouldn’t blame you for being frightened after that. But I also think that you should be kind and careful with yourself in your next experience. There are two things I would highly recommend doing– and neither of them involve doing other sexual acts with your current boyfriend, sex acts don’t change, erase, or cancel each other out. That will always be one of your first sexual experiences and I’m sorry for that. What I would recommend doing is to establish good sexual communication with your partner before you get into bed with them. You are much more likely to enjoy any sex act if you can comfortably talk about it. Also, I would highly recommend spending some time with yourself masturbating. Our bodies are marvelously complex, and sex isn’t something you just magically know how to do. The first step to enjoying sex for me was to learn my own body– to learn what it feels like when I’m ready for penetration, whether and how much additional lubrication I need, how I like to be touched, how I don’t. The thing about being an experienced lover is that it starts with how well you know and can communicate your own needs and desires, and how willing you are to listen to and accommodate those of your lover, not whether or not you consider yourself a virgin

  23. LW’s 2nd ‘bad’ reason reminds me of an essay in Yes Means Yes about virginity. The author had been interviewing a variety of people about when they lost their virginity, and a few people said variations of, “Well, the first time I had PIV sex was [age or date], but I didn’t really lose my virginity until [later age or date].” At first it didn’t make sense to her and she thought this was some sort of face-saving tactic, like “Oh, that first time didn’t count, I still have my v-card, I’m not a whore, don’t tell my parents,” or something. But then she heard multiple rape survivors say, “The first time I had PIV sex wasn’t consensual, so I really lost my virginity the first time I consented to sex,” and that made sense. So did the gay and lesbian people who said, “Well I had PIV sex before I came out, and it was boring/icky/heartbreaking, but then when I first had sex with someone of my own gender, a lightbulb went off and that was when I lost my virginity.” There were other variations on this theme, like first orgasm, or first sex while in love.

    The author basically concluded that virginity is a social construct. Since the hymen doesn’t actually break and we all have different definitions of sex, there is no clear physiological or psychological basis for labeling ‘virgin’ and ‘not-virgin’ other than individual experience.

    TL;DR: LW, you mentioned a ‘societal label’ that really bothers you even though you already know all this. Where is this label coming from? Are your friends giving you a hard time for being a virgin, as they see it? Are you yourself uncomfortable with that label? Is it about sex, or is it about the connotations you mentioned? And is it about how people see you, or about how you feel about yourself?

    1. Yes, I’ve considered myself a virgin until a few months ago, when I had my first consensual sex act. But PIV happened for me over ten years ago in a horrible coercive situation. That wasn’t sex, to me. That was me letting someone put their penis in me even when I didn’t want them to. I still felt like a virgin (albeit a horribly violated one) because what happened COMPLETELY lacked all of the things that make real sex sex–I had still not been through the experience of building a relationship or trusting someone enough to allow them in my body or the agency of deciding this was a thing I wanted to do. That social aspect of “losing virginity” is JUST as important as the whole penis part (even moreso, especially since not all sex involves penises!).

      It really is all a construct. And even losing my real “virginity” a few months ago didn’t make me feel like a different person, except it opened a door of things-I-am-no-longer-afraid-to-do. The LW writes that they feel like they lost their “virginity” when their ex fingered them…it seems like overall this was an awful experience, with very little consideration for the LW’s feelings or comfort, and it’s understandable that she wants a new, better memory to replace it. But you don’t have to feel like you’ve lost a kind of “virginity” just because this happened, LW, and you also don’t have to go by the book on what kind of new memories you want.

      1. Hi Bittybird. I am so sorry about what you had to go through 10 years ago and I am really glad you found someone with whom you were comfortable losing your virginity.

        I just wanted to say somewhere in this post that what happened between me and ex-BF was completely consensual. As much of a jerkface as he was for not listening to me when I said, “I am sad and hurting,” he never pressured me into any acts I wasn’t comfortable with and had clear and enthusiastic consent before fingering me. I know this is anonymous but I felt the need to clarify that for some reason.

        1. I’m glad to hear it! 🙂 I only touched on the fingering thing because you mentioned it in one of your reasons and I wasn’t sure whether to read it as “wow that sucked I want better now!” or “that was awful and I want to make it go away.” (It still sucks how he treated you after and I’m sorry that happened). Mostly I just wanted to say what a weird, complicated construct virginity is, and how PIV itself isn’t everything. But it sounds like you’ve already got your head in the right place!

          Heh, and thank you–don’t worry about me, it took awhile to get my groove back but we’re making up for lost time. 😉

  24. This question comes at a pretty good time for me too; I am a young adult in a healthy relationship in which we both want to have sex together. However, my mother has been harping on me to NOT have sex because “OMG sex before marriage is always bad!” and “What if your hymen breaks and your future husband won’t respect you? Or what if he’ll divorce you because you like Asian guys* and Asian guys are all conservative!” This, along with a hell of a lot of personal baggage and a major terror of getting pregnant because pregnancy has completely, utterly, totally RUINED the lives of some people I used to know, has resulted in a lot of anxiety for me. Which is stupid because I want to have sex but “ARRRGH PREGNANCY IS BAD”. Of course, we’d use protection but it’s still terrifying.

    I always wonder why people make such a big fuss out of the whole virgin vs. non-virgin thing because you honestly can’t tell the difference unless you scream it to the world. Even then, people might think you’re joking or lying. A stupid person is still stupid whether he/she is a virgin or not; same goes for a smart person.

    Also, so annoyed currently at my mother for going on and on about how important an intact hymen is. In case she’s forgotten, I’m pretty damn sure I broke it that one day when we both thought my period finally came but in reality, it was due to me scaling 2 chain link fences to cross a giant field. Especially since my period didn’t actually come until a good half year later. She’s even gone to the extreme of “Don’t wear tampons because you might break your hymen with one.” Which is fine and all since TSS is a fear of mine but seriously? Do most people outside of the Middle East or rural Asia even care anymore?

    Sorry for the rant. I’m annoyed with people.

    *Disclaimer: I’m Asian too. It’s not a racist preference or anything, just a matter of personal taste. I don’t think I could be in a relationship with someone I don’t find physically attractive and I just happen to find fellow Asians more attractive than people of other races. Just personal taste.

    1. VanillaAbsolute above linked to a video by Laci Green which shows that you can’t actually break your hymen, I think you might want to check it out. I also hadn’t known that until a few months ago when I watched that video for the first time and I found that so interesting and frustrating at the same time (because wth has no one ever told me?). So, your mother needs to relax. Also and more importantly, it’s not her fucking business, ffs. I can understand your annoyance!

    2. I hope you have someone safe to talk to! I’m sure your mom cares about you but wow, she does not sound like a safe person for important conversations likes So Birth Control, How Can It Help Me and How Can I Avoid The Darth Vader Partner?

      You might want to look at Scarleteen if you haven’t — I don’ t know how old you mean by “young adult” but I assume “between 15-25” — because they have lots of good resources.

      If you are really scared about the pregnancy issue, my short-form recommendation is to go on the pill, and then do pill + condom. It is not impossible to get pregnant that way, but if you are careful about taking your pills and use the condoms correctly, it is quite difficult.

      1. Equally, if you’re worried about your mother finding your pills, there’s a lot of good methods like the implant, IUDs and IUSs that you can use that would be a lot harder for a person to ‘accidentally’ stumble across. Use condoms whatever, and definitely chat with your gynae about which birth control you want to use.

  25. LW, I really hope you can talk to your boyfriend about this. If there it’s any part of you thinking, “well, I have to fix these Bad Feelings before I can talk to Boyfriend about it” or “I can’t talk to Boyfriend about it because that would be putting pressure on him” or “I can’t

    It’s totally cool to decide to wait with him

  26. LW, I really hope you can talk to your boyfriend about this. If there it’s any part of you thinking, “well, I have to fix these Bad Feelings before I can talk to Boyfriend about it” or “I can’t talk to Boyfriend about it because that would be putting pressure on him” or “I can’t tell Boyfriend that I want to have sex because he’ll think less of me”, that is a Bad Sign. Just something about the way you’ve described this sex thing as a problem and not mentioned much discussion about it worries me a bit.

    It’s totally cool to decide to wait with him if that’s a good choice for you. And making a choice to sacrifice something you want to be with your partner is also Ok. But if you feel like you can’t admit to wanting that thing, that’s something to watch out for.

    (so sorry about double post – I’m still learning to use the tablet I got for Christmas!)

    [Fixed. -mod]

  27. LW here! Thank you, Cliff and Awkward Army for all your support and advice. I have not yet read through all the comments, but I plan to. I had a bit more info in my original letter, but I cut it out to make the word count. Let me clarify a few things:

    -Boyfriend and I have talked about my feelings and his reasons for waiting. I didn’t include them here since they are his personal business and not mine to share. But we talk a lot and respect each other’s feelings. As soon as I saw my question had been posted I called him and was all, “AHHHH THE WRITER OF THE PERVOCRACY ANSWERED MY QUESTION!!” Then we read through Cliff’s response and talked about it.

    -We have definitely been having non-PIV sex. (That’s why I specified PIV sex to begin with. I switched to “sex” for shorthand.) BF bought me a vibrator for Valentine’s Day. I showed him Cliff’s “sex menu” from The Pervocracy and he thought it was awesome. Can you see why I love this guy? But at the same time, I started to become unhappy during non-PIV sex because I kept thinking about wanting PIV sex and feeling guilty for wanting it when he didn’t.

    -I kept the focus of the letter to “how can I get over my issues” because these are issues I want to get over eventually. I realize I have the right to end the relationship, and BF and I have talked about that possibility. But my hangups about sex and sexuality are still going to be around even if we break up, and I think working on understanding them will be helpful in the long run.

    -The “strain on the relationship” bit was a little melodramatic on my part. I know it is not my fault for wanting what I want (though it does help to hear it from other people), I just meant that working through the issues could help the relationship last in addition to making me feel better.

    Thanks again to everyone for your comments. I really appreciate it!

    1. LW, I hope this isn’t embarrassing to you.

      You’ve said that you really want PIV. You’ve said that you & BF are doing lots of other sexual things. But are you doing things that involve *penetration*? Because that gives you a very different kind of sensation from other activities, and your body may well be wanting that sensation. So if you are not currently using dildos or fingers, I suggest that you & BF add those to your repetoire. It still isn’t exactly the same as an actual penis but it can give you some wonderful sensations.

    2. I am really, really glad to hear all of this, LW. Especially the parts about talking to your boyfriend. Because although some things are still going to be dealbreakers, being able to have those conversations, and have them be genuinely two-sided, is a really really good thing.

    3. Oh LW he sounds really very lovely!
      Can I share something that helped me in a similar situation? I had a very icky abusive not nice in any way first time, and for a long time after that I was torn between “never doing that again, sex is horrible and traumatic” and kind if wanting to do it again to ‘cancel out’ the first time so I could rewrite my own history and get some control back n the whole situation. And while this isn’t your exact situation, and really do understand not trusting your own motives about sex -which you are right, will not magically change with a different partner.
      Not being with your boyfriend would mean you could experiment with piv sex and see if it does help you feel like you’ve cancelled out the shitty ex boyfriend experience, but it likely won’t and you wil still have these issues to work through.

      What worked fr me when I found a lovely new man who didn’t pressure me, but who I was still torn about Having piv sex in, was that we picked another experience, tha neither of us had experienced before, and did it together so we could be each others firsts for something. For us, we decided to have a really sexy under where on make out session on a secluded beach at sunset…like in a cheesy romance novel. We set the scene, planned it all out and had this amazing experience together that felt sort of special and ceremonial without crossing either of our boundaries, but which helped me feel like I was moving on in a sexual sense from my past and sort of cementing this new relationship in my mind as beng sexual.

      Maybe you and your lovely man could find a sensual act (that doesnt cross either of your boundaries) you can dedicate to each other that might help you get past feeling like that ex if yours has had the last say in your sexual experience?

      This won’t change whether or not you still want piv sex, and as other commenters have said, it’s ok to still want it. But maybe this will help you feel less like that ex has any claim n your sexual experience, and make you feel more like sex is now between you and your man so moving forward you can navigate this sexual journey without feeling like your history is nipping at your heels so much.

      And cliff, I have my version of your sex menu to my lover for Christmas, and I owe you a big ‘ol thank you for the inspiration! It’s been an entertaining few weeks lol

  28. Hey, LW! Cliff covered the first half, but I have a little more to add on the whole ~de-virginated~ experience.

    I had my sexual debut a year ago with my current partner. While I’d done plenty of wanking before hand, finally having real life actually-touching-someone-else’s-privates sex made me feel very different. Since I’ve had sex, I HAVE become more confident and a more sexual being. I DO feel more grown up and assured.

    But I don’t feel like that because of sex — I feel like that because the sex was with someone I grew to trust and love, and the sexing made me realize that I’m actually comfortable with my body. I’m okay with this person seeing me naked. I’d be okay with other people seeing me naked, because I have nothing to hide or be afraid of.

    Simply having sex did not make me realize these things. Simply having sex only makes you realize stuff such as “wow someone putting their tongue on my vagina is like the BEST EVER WOW” or “oh man I thought I was a bottom but turns out I am a total topper”. But having sex is a thing that can make you think, just as reading a book or seeing a film or doing some sort of retreat or whatever can make you think.

    Sex isn’t this magical, life changing thing. You don’t irrevocably change just because somebody mashed their genitals against your genitals. It’s just an activity, an experience. Sometimes you do it with peeps you care about, sometimes you do it with peeps you forget in a year.

    Some people reach the same conclusions I have (“I look good naked! I am a loveable, attractive woman!”) in totally, non-sexual ways. Some people have sex and don’t think about the stuff I did. This is all okay. There isn’t one model that defines a human being’s experience, and there certainly isn’t a model to define the steps a woman must take to womanhood, regardless of what the patriarchy has been drilling into us since day one. You will find your path. You will take the road you forge on your own, because there is no rulebook to being human.

    In other news, who else thinks the concept of bases is really gross and homophobic? According to the base model, I’m, like, STILL A VIRGIN~ since I haven’t allowed any penises have entry to my sacred temple of Venus. ;(

  29. I just wanted to say that I love it when LW’s come back with updates and clarifications!!

    My relationship with my Greatest Guy Ever started off with me just wanting casual fornication -> then us falling in love and having emotionally entrenched boink a doink with all it’s good bits -> then my having a horrendous amount of guilt (associated from religious views) but continuing to nookie -> to my not giving a damn about us covorting -> back to stifling my guilt and doing it to please him (out of a sense of wanting him to be happy) but not wanting to whoopee – > to finally not doing jack because the guilt was too much for me and I couldn’t reconcile myself to that. He was up and down with me for all of 4 years and we talked about it honestly and openly and learned a million things about each other in the process. We’re more than okay now (we did a religious ceremony where we are married spritually, but don’t physically live together because that’s an impossibility at the moment) and we ravage each other whenever we get the chance!

    I guess what I’m saying is, it could be cyclical process and it’s not necessarily an evolution from null to all as other’s on this great blog have noted.

  30. LW, I just want it said (because it needs to be said as often as possible by as many people as possible) that you should not be ashamed of wanting sex. You want what you want and you are awesome for knowing what that is. No guilt or shame necessary. And that’s that.

    My own experiences are a little bit like yours. My first sexual encounter was very painful and disappointing, and the guy was decidedly Not Nice. It took a while to put that behind me, and when I felt I was ready for PIV, I was worried I wanted it for the wrong reasons too. The way I remember it, thinking about it now, I guess I had gotten it into my head that full-on PIV sex with a Great Guy would somehow nullify the bad times with the first guy. Needless to say, it didn’t. Nothing changed at all. And not to be a downer, but for some people (I’m one of them) making PIV feel good takes some effort and experience. I always enjoyed being close and intimate with my partners, the emotional side of it, but enjoying the actual physical aspect took some practice. Not that the practice wasn’t fun, mind, but you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment either.

    I’m not trying to talk you into or out of anything, obviously, just sharing my personal experience. Maybe there’s something useful in there for you. If there’s anything I could change if I could start again, just for myself, I would make damn sure that First Guy was in no way involved. First Guy should not have been on my mind in any way when the decision was made. He should not have been a factor at all.

    Obviously everyone has a different experience, but there are some constants, and I guess the reply and the comments hit on all of them, so I guess all I can really add is good luck, and keep wanting what you want.

  31. Oh my word, the whole cute and innocent thing. I’m usually described as adorable, so when I make a sex joke, everyone in my school knows about it by the end of the day.

  32. Piping in on all the virginity stuff: As someone with a huge scarlet V, I’d like to share my perspective.

    I’ve been living in queer-friendly, sex-positive spaces since I was 16, and my family & friends are also, for the most part, open on sex & their bodies. Which has helped me to widen my definition of sex & virginity to much more then what is currently is seen as. But all this sex-positivity also has had it’s drawbacks for me: To me, to be someone who’s had sex once (aka losing my virginity), isn’t the real goal, but to be someone who is experienced enough to have casual sex without feeling insecure. Because I feel like I have to catch up with everyone else. Which isn’t that healthy either, I guess. Also, I’d like to have my first experiences with a partner I’m in love with, which means waiting. (Though I’m not sure if this is just my not wanting to have a series of awkward sexual encounters with strangers to be at the beginning of my sexytimes journey, or just me being prudish.) So from that angle, I kind of get how your partner’s feeling. (Though in his case, he wants to put a ring on it, just to be extra ectra sure, apparently.)

    The other thing I dislike about sex-positive spaces: Most people take all the “have sex loads and the more kinky it is, the better” part of this philosophy and totally ignore the “not having sex is fine too, liking vanilla is fine too etc” part. Which reminds me loads of fucked-up patriarchal bs. Which means being surrounded by people who have shaken off their shame about sex, but still view it as a competition or a indication of one’s maturity or coolness. Also, it means being surrounded by people even more experienced than the average person my age. Yay, great. But in general, I am really thankful to feminism for telling me it’s fine the way it is.

    Sorry, started ranting a bit there. But really haven’t had any space to talk about this.

    1. Tangent to that, it makes me *really sad* how many people think “feminism” is all about “every must have all the sex all the time!” I don’t know where these ideas came from, but they need to go away. 😦

      1. I completely agree with this. My guess is that this attitude comes as a reaction to the idea that sex is a horrible thing that you should do with one person only and you should feel ashamed every time you do it or think about it.

        My one rule for sex, at least for myself, is that it should be fun. That’s also the only advice for sex that I feel comfortable giving. If you (and the person/people you’re doing it with) are having fun, you’re probably doing it right. If not, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong (for you). So if you think it’s fun to have sex with everyone you know all the time, then yeah, you should totally do that and feel no shame in it. And if you really enjoy not having sex, or not having a particular kind of sex, or only having one particular kind of sex, or whatever, then you should do that without any shame or pressure to change. And if you have no idea what you enjoy, then it’s up to you to decide how you want to go about figuring that out, or if you even want to figure that out.

    2. All of the above. The message I got, from well-meaning people who only wanted me to be in charge of my own sexuality, was basically “the more the better”. Take some chances. One-night-stands are always awesome. The more the merrier. Sex is always great. If it’s not, have more until it gets better.

      I thought I was a freak for about a decade after I lost my virginity. It felt like every woman in my life was having amazing triple orgasm kinky sex with supercool strangers every night, while shy vanilla let’s-turn-the-lights-off me was doing sex WRONG. It lead to a lot of unfortunate situations. I did things in the name of being “sexually liberated” that made me very, very unhappy. It wasn’t until I discovered real feminism for myself that I realized I could be my low-libido monogamous vanilla self and still honestly call myself feminist.

      Sex-positive environments are absolutely great to grow up in. I just wish someone had told me that it’s still dangerous out there for girls, that you have to keep your safety and comfort level in mind as well, and that great sex doesn’t automatically have to equal kinky sex with strangers.

      Now I’m rambling too. Sorry. It just doesn’t come up all that often, and it’s something I’m sort of scared to bring up myself. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m not okay with sex-positive spaces. But there’s definitely ways to do it wrong.

      1. Yeah, I was an asexual person growing up in an environment like that and it… really, really wasn’t fun.

    3. Asexual person chiming in here. There are some… unfortunate attitudes! shall we say, at work in a lot of sex-positive spaces. To the point where I am rarely comfortable in them and have quit using the term for myself.


      (Though I’m not sure if this is just my not wanting to have a series of awkward sexual encounters with strangers to be at the beginning of my sexytimes journey, or just me being prudish.)

      This kind of makes me sad, because I think there’s nothing really *wrong* with being prudish, you know? I mean, there is if it means you start judging other people for their sexual attitudes, but oftentimes “prudish” just seems to mean “I feel uncomfortable with X sexual thing or talking about Y sexual thing” and that’s just… everyone gets to have their boundaries! Everyone gets to say “I’d rather not do this, thanks!” It seems to me as if the whole “you’re just being a prude!” thing gets used to shame people into doing things they don’t want and aren’t comfortable with. I definitely had a lot of issues when I was younger, thinking that the fact that I didn’t want to have sex meant that I was a prude or repressed and I had to get past that, when really it was just that I didn’t want to have sex full stop.

      (And even if there *are* toxic attitudes underlying that, you have plenty of time to unpack them while you are off not having sex that you don’t want!)

    4. As a sex-positive person who has been active in sex-positive spaces, I am so sorry that this has happened to you! It is so not the intent (at least of any space I know of).

      But intent is not fucking magic, and y’all still got hurt. That is awful, and I am sorry.


      It’s hard. Because a lot of sex-positive spaces are still, in a lot of ways, reactionary, and so you get a lot of people who were taught sex-negative things, who really suffered from that. And you get a lot of very young women who aren’t even sure they’ve been through the sex-negative wringer, but like they’ve never had fun having sex and think it’s their duty to their partner.

      So it’s a really important space to have, and varies from place to place depending on who’s around at that time and, really, who’s come running lately. I don’t think any of you are saying it’s not important, at all — I’m just trying to characterize how I think these spaces got started.

      Even now, sex-positive feminism gets beat up in some parts of mainstream feminism, especially if you’re like “hey, kink is okay too!”. Can I even tell you how many times I’ve read the essay “On Coming To Terms With My Feminism And Submissive Desires”? And every time there’s a bunch of “are you sure you’re feminist?” comments.

      So: Reactionary. Defensive. That makes it hard to understand the difference between “Sex, meh” and “Sex, negative” when someone starts talking about how they don’t really feel it all that much.

      Explanation is also not fucking magic! It’s a characterization that may help you (or others) and I consider how to approach this in our sex-positive spaces.


      I don’t believe that sex-positive ever meant “Everyone should have all the sex! Yay!”, and I don’t think other sex-positive feminists really meant that either, so we have to change.

      Here’s my suggestion, for the sex-positive folks reading this who are moved by “shit, we have fucked up when dealing with asexual women!”:

      Talk more about agency and respect for that agency. Talk about what happens when you don’t have enthusiastic consent for sex — you can have good talks and awesome cuddles, or you can have ice cream, or whatever. You can do wonderful nonsexy things together.

      We also need to make space for talking about negotiating for sex even when we’re not enthusiastically participating. That’s, like, advanced level shit that I don’t want to sell to Cosmo, you know? But I think we can talk about it more in feminist spaces and ways people can do it in a free and loving manner instead of a soul-sucking and rapey manner.

      1. Thank you! 🙂

        Something that I do want to point out:

        To me the “yay sex! sex is great and everyone should have it!” stuff that you get in certain sex-positive spaces is… reactionary, yes, but in a way that simplifies the attitudes they’re protesting against. What gets lost is that we’re not immune to backlash from so-called “sex-negative”* attitudes either, that these do actually often involve compulsory sexual behaviour under certain circumstances and thus have a negative effect on asexual/ace-spectrum/low-libido/etc. people too. (Case in point: “no sex before marriage” generally goes hand-in-hand with the assumption that you will definitely be having sex during it.) People often assume that being asexual means that e.g. conservative Christians have no problems with you, but it isn’t so: see for example Minerva talking about her experiences being asexual and devout Roman Catholic.

        So it’s – I understand why these spaces exist and why they’re reactionary in the way they are, but the way this plays out for a lot of ace spectrum etc. people is that there’s no room for us in mainstream conceptions of sexuality and there’s no room for us in the spaces created to fight against problems in mainstream conceptions of sexuality and… it gets pretty tiring, you know?

        * I have to admit I’m not a fan of “sex-negative” (or correspondingly, “sex-positive”) on semantic grounds: it makes it sound as if the only problem with those attitudes are that they are against people having sex, which is a common misconception as said above, but it’s really more complicated than that.

        1. I think part of the definition is usually that sex negative is also pleasure negative, like sex pos areas are definitely concerned with women who have compulsory miserable sex. It is recognized as an element of the general idea of how sex negativity works against women.

          I mean, sex positivity is also about good sex, you know? And not having a lifetime of bad sex you don’t want.

          So in principle there is definitely space for you at the table, even with some of the things I understand sex positive feminism to be fighting against, today.

          I am very glad you are speaking out here, in a place where I read. Even aside from how ace people are totally people and deserve to be heard, I have been learning a lot from reading the perspectives and experiences of asexual people.

          Do you have phrases you like better than sex positive or negative? I could probably write a terrible metaphor based on the periodic table…..

          1. Isn’t the problem people being sex-normative? As in, “we have decided that THIS is the normal and correct way to feel/act about sex, and if that’s not you feel/act about it there’s something wrong with you”?

            I’m not very well informed on the subject, but I get the impression sex-positivism is meant to counter shaming attitudes about liking sex, and sex-negativism refers to people with those shaming attitudes. But that sometimes to asexuals sex-positive folks come across as sex-proselytizing, and as if in order to show you are not one of those “mean” or “pitiful” sex-negative people one may feel pressured to be more gung-ho about sex (or, as I think someone else suggested, to embrace more kink) than one is really comfortable with. When one can actually not be into sex in a more apathetic, ho-hum, don’t-see-what-the-fuss-is-about way than a shamed and negative way.

          2. I like the term alphakitty suggested, “sex-normative”, because it’s exactly that – low-libido people like me just get caught between a rock and a hard place with mainstream culture telling us all kinds of contradictory things, but generally that women should be sexually available and virgins are to be laughed at (see any teen movie, ever), and then you have sex positive spaces where the message is Have All The Sex. Mostly people know very well, that in theory, not having sexis fine, too, it just gets lost somewhere along the way. But I like the thought that we just have to work on not creating new norms.

            Until then I will cheer myself up with the fact that the Theory Is On My Side 🙂

      2. Eh, it mostly happened to me because I was a teenager and very prone to black-and-white thinking. For me, the whole thing broke down across the gender lines back then. You know. Sex for men = fun/shame-free/orgasms/no work required/high five and sex for women = hard work/secrecy/pain/coercion and that was just the way it was in my head.

        A lot of things had to go spectacularly wrong before I could make them right and change that thinking, and being in sex-positive environments was just one step on that journey. Ultimately it was my responsibility to internalize some messages and be critical of others, but lack of experience + epic confusion meant that it was just too tall an order at the time.

        Keep in mind, it was the earliest days of the internet. Looking for advice on sexuality back then was… yeah, pretty much a bad idea. Sex-positive, safe online spaces have come a long, long way since the dial-up days.

        The being said, I would love to see some more blogs and forums and feminist-friendly advice columns especially for teenagers. They’re the future, after all, and if anyone could do with some honesty and facts and thoughts about sexuality, it’s them. I know it would have been a lifesaver for me. Half of the advice I see for teenagers is “Eh, you’re sixteen, don’t sweat it.” I think we can do better than that.

        Or maybe there’s this whole teen subculture on feminism and related subjects and I just haven’t discovered it yet. Does anyone have any links?

        1. Scarleteen, http://scarleteen.com, has fantastic sex education and feminist-friendly advice columns for teenagers. In-depth articles on exploring nearly every possible feeling or aspect of sexuality you can think of.

  33. Not necessarily in response to this post, but something I thought you would like. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best science fiction writers of the last twenty years, and one of her characters comes from a planet called Beta where sex is a lot more open and has far less stigma to it. A Betan nursery song to teach children about sex, called the Good Sex song, is mentioned once. Thanks to the wonders of fanfic, someone wrote it.

    The Good Sex Song by lferion

    Touching is good
    When you want to be touched
    But never when someone says No.
    Touching yourself
    How you like to be touched
    Is wonderful speedy or slow
    Touching another
    Who wants to be touched
    Is one way to make friendships grow

    Say what you mean, and mean what you say
    When hugging or kissing or wanting to play
    Listen and watch, ask if you may,
    Say thank you and please, and even hooray!
    When good things feel good; it’s really okay.
    And when someone says “Stop” you stop, right away.

    It’s okay to want, but never to take
    It’s okay to ask, but never to fake
    It’s okay to say no, or ask again later
    It’s okay to say yes, or play masturbator
    It’s okay to not know, but never to tease
    And it’s always okay to say ‘can we talk, please’

    It’s okay to like girls, and fine to like boys
    It’s okay to like both, or neither, or toys
    It’s okay to like herms, or all the above
    At once or in sequence: it’s all about love
    Now sex can be funny, and sex should be fun
    And sex should feel good, for ev-er-y one!

    The text of the Good Sex song is available here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/388867
    (You can skip the first paragraph, the non-lyrics part; that was a fragment of story written in response to another fanfic story.)

    (If you want the sheet music for the melody, it’s here: http://musescore.org/sites/musescore.org/files/The_Good_Sex_Song.pdf)

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