Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sex Thing

In my last post, I explained my relationship with the First Boy (as he will be known as from now on), talking mostly about my emotional experience, and only briefly alluding to the reasons we broke up, referring to it as "the sex thing". I've thought about it, and I really wanted to explain that "thing" more.

The reason we broke up was that he wanted to have sex and I didn't. 

It was the first time in my life that my beliefs were truly tested. It was the first time I really had to give something up to preserve my self respect. And it was very, very hard.

When I say "my beliefs", I'm not talking about my religious beliefs. I am an atheist; I have absolutely no problem with premarital sex. And I'm not exactly talking about my morals either--it's not like I think sex is morally wrong or something. What I mean is that sex was wrong for me at that moment, with that guy. 

It was wrong because I wasn't emotionally ready

I was so painfully inexperienced at the most basic things like holding hands or kissing. Sex was ten steps ahead of where I was; it wasn't in the realm of possibility for me at that moment.

It was wrong because I didn't feel comfortable. In some ways, I knew that guy better than anyone else. But in a lot of other ways, I didn't know him at all. Because even as deep as you can bond with someone like that in a month, that deep knowledge does not make up for the benefit of knowing long. It takes so many months, so many questions and answers and conversations and hurt feelings and fights and reconciliations and trials and errors before you can know anyone. So I didn't really know him and he didn't really know me; I didn't feel comfortable with him yet.

It was wrong because I hadn't had enough time to think about it. Whenever I have sex, I don't want it to be a rash decision. I want to be able to take the time and consider the consequences. Because even if I am ready within the relationship, I have to consider all the versions of myself that exist outside of the relationship. Katherine, the daughter. Katherine, the best friend. Katherine, the student. Katherine, the teacher. Katherine, from the past. Katherine, from the present. Katherine, in the future. Because I have to be all those versions, and so I have to make sure all those versions can live with a decision that big.

It's not that I believe sex is such a BIG DEAL. I don't think it's life changing. I just think there's a good chance it might change how I look at myself. And maybe that's a good thing. But it's not a good thing for me yet.

Moreover, it was wrong because I wasn't physically ready.

He had had sex before; I had read Judy Blume and Meg Cabot. I knew that, before anything happened, there needed to be STD tests and condoms and birth control and about ten thousand and one other things I wasn't ready to face. I've heard a good rule about this type of thing:

If you're not mature enough to go through the steps to prepare for sex, you're probably not mature enough for sex. 

This experience showed me that's probably a good rule of thumb. I have a few other "tests" to consider before I actually do have sex. Most of them are silly; in the end, I'll probably ignore most, if not all of them. But they things make sense to me, so I thought they might help you too:

1) Don't sleep with him unless you know his mother's maiden name (that one's stolen from Catch and Release, in case anyone recognizes it)

2) Don't sleep with him unless you've told him about your writing (that one's mine. But it doesn't have to be writing of course--that's just something that's important to me that I don't talk to anyone about. An important secret of mine; it's something I'm very insecure about, and if I'm going to let myself be that physically vulnerable with a guy, I want to be sure he can handle my emotional vulnerability too)

3) Don't sleep with him unless you would be okay having a kid with him. Not that you'd want to marry him or procreate with him, but that, if it were to happen, you would be okay with this guy being your kid's father (that's from Stephanie Perkins, via Anna and the French Kiss. I think it's quite smart).

In the end, I considered all these wrongs, and I said no. And he broke up with me because of it. And I don't hate him for it. He's twenty and he expects sex from a relationship. He was honest and up front about it. I can't really fault him for that.

But I was also honest and up front. I told him I had no experience. I told him I was uncomfortable, and I warned him it would be a good, long while before I would be comfortable. I don't completely understand how he could think I would go from a first kiss to a first time in less than a month. But maybe that's a girl thing; maybe it just takes longer for us to adjust. Or maybe it just takes me longer.

And that was it. And it was hard. Because I lost the excitement and the possibility and the expectation and everything else I had dreamed about for so long. Because I was lost the title of "girlfriend" which I treasured so much and held so briefly. Because I suddenly had a tonne of spare time and no way to fill it. Because, so many months later, I'm still alone.

So that was "the sex thing".


  1. I think you're being very smart about this. I've been reading through your blog, and I like so many of the same things that you like. I was smart and shy and a closet romantic (the closet part's me, not you). And I just think that Adam Scott is adorable.

    Anyway, I messed this one up. I was sick of being inexperienced at 19 and went for it. It was terrible for many of the reasons it sounds like you're waiting. I didn't sleep with anyone again until I found the guy I eventually married (although I definitely wasn't waiting for marriage), but the first few times were awkward, partially b/c of my bad first experience. Anyway, I love that you're really thinking through the ramifications. I have to recommend: when you do meet that someone and get through all these steps and finally decide to go for it, go get birth control right away. I'm paranoid and the 98% pregnancy prevention just doesn't cut it. Plus, condoms can come off: just FYI.

  2. Thank you!

    Shy, smart, romantic and loves Adam Scott? Wow, are you sure we're not the same person?

    I completely understand what you mean about "being sick of being inexperienced". I feel the same way right now. I'm trying to be patient, but it's hard

    Thanks for the advice. I really appreciated your comment.


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