Get Real! I Want to Wait to Have Sex…Can I?

Heather Corinna

What I hear you saying is that you've yet to be in a situation or relationship where sex has really felt like the right thing for you, or like something you wanted and took part in on your own terms.

Miss Anonymous asks:

I
am worried about sex, and I don’t think its normal at my age (24) but I
don’t know what to do about it. I was raised in a really strict family
and so I didn’t lose my virginity til I was 21 which was really way
later than everyone else, even my younger sister. I wasn’t really ready
but I was sort of curious and I did it to please my boyfriend and lots
of other reasons. We dated for about a year and I had sex with two more
guys after I split up with him but mainly from feeling like I should to
fit in. I haven’t had a serious boyfriend in ages now, and I’m afraid
to have another relationship cos I think it will surely involve sex. I
know in theory you can say no, but hey, what guy is going to stick
around with me when he can get it from any other girl on the street? It
doesn’t seem realistic. When I think about sex I just get scared, cos I
feel like I don’t know at all what to do, and its not like I was even
an adventurous teenager so I can’t give head or anything either. I
really don’t know how to do anything except kiss. But I’m sure most
guys are expecting way more than that! I don’t want to become a slut
just to learn but I can’t claim to be a virgin any more so I don’t know
what to do. In my ideal world I’d like to be with a guy for at least a
year before sleeping together, maybe wait til marriage, but I am scared
to even admit that’s what I want cos I know its not normal. Please
help! I’m worried that being so messed up about this will mean no
decent guy will want to be with me.

Heather replies:

A lot of people are worried, anxious or nervous about sex, whether they are 15, 24 or 44. It’s not just you, really.

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Given how many people in the world have conflicting feelings about
sex and sexuality, I’d disagree that the concerns you’re having are not
normal at your age or any other. You say a couple times that you know
how you feel isn’t normal. Looks like it’s time to question what you
feel you know, because from my side of the fence, in working with a
wide range of people around sexuality for a long time now, I would
disagree with you. I have seen and heard what you are voicing before,
far more than once, and don’t think there is anything abnormal about
it. The range of wants and needs, personal ethics and values, and
comfort and discomfort with sex and sexuality is vast among all of us.

How we each feel about sex is influenced by an awful lot of
different things. Some of our feelings come from childhood and our teen
years, and how sex and sexuality was treated in our families, in terms
of what was said to us as well as what wasn’t said: we get a lot of
messages about sexuality from our upbringing which are covert or
subtle, but influential all the same. We also get loads of messages
about sex from our peers, our communities and our culture. You use the
word "slut," which tells me that somewhere you picked up the (very
common) idea that some kinds of sex, frequency of sex, or number of
sexual partners is a bad thing, and that the way someone has sex, or
the motivations someone has to have sex, say something about a person’s
value. Ideas like that are going to impact how you think about sex and
yourself in relationship to your sexuality.

We also have feelings about sex and sexuality based on what our
sexual experiences — by ourselves and/or with partners — have been,
and what our sexual relationships have been like. I hear you voicing
that your sexual relationships, and your sexual experiences within
them, have not been particularly positive. You voice feeling like you
have only had sexual partnership out of feelings of obligation or a
need to fit in or keep someone around: those are not positives.

By all means, as time goes by, as any of us have more experiences
with sex or more sexual partners, we will learn some things about sex,
and will tend to become more comfortable with sexual partnership, when
we do feel like we know what we’re doing, and also when we don’t.

However, every single time we have a new partner, in so many ways,
it’s everyone’s first time. In other words, if we’re doing it right and
really treating every partner as a whole person, a unique person, we’re
all learning sex anew with that new partner, and we’re all at least
somewhat clueless. Everyone does not like all the same things, or finds
that one way of doing an activity is how that activity feels best for
them. Too, our sexual dynamics tend to differ from relationship to
relationship, so something we didn’t like with one partner may be
something we love with another; something that felt good this way with
that partner may not feel so great with this one. So, when you’re with
a new partner, you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what to do,
even if your partner (or you) thinks they do. What they, or
you, know, is what has worked for partners before. You or they will
learn what you two, uniquely, like, just over time through
experimenting together.

By all means, the awkwardness, the unfamiliarity, of new sexual
partnership can be daunting — for either or both partners — but how
daunting it is or is not tends to have a lot to do with who we are
with, how we feel about them and how they feel about us, what our
dynamics are in that relationship, and if we’re entering into sexual
partnership when it really does feel both right and like something we
want, not just because someone else wants it or because it seems like
something we "should" be doing based on someone else’s standards. It
can also feel all the more daunting if we have the idea that sex isn’t
always about experimenting, trying things out, fumbling plenty of
times, relearning every time, but is about somehow being an expert with
sexual activities, about doing things "right," in some kind of static
way that magically works for everyone, despite the fact that we’re all
so different.

What I hear you saying is that you’ve yet to be in a situation or
relationship where sex has really felt like the right thing for you, or
like something you wanted and took part in on your own terms. You’re
hardly the only young woman at your age who feels that way at this
point in your life: I’ve even heard women twenty years, forty years,
older than you voice feeling that way before.

You talk about what would be ideal for you as dating someone for at
least a year before you’re sexual together, or perhaps saving sex until
after a marriage. You get not only to have that ideal, you also get to
choose to live that ideal if that is what you want to do and what feels
best for you. Is that ideal going to work for every potential partner?
Nope, just like someone else’s ideal of having sex before then isn’t
working for you. But that’s okay: it tends to take anyone some
trial-and-error to find partnerships that fit them best, and the world
won’t end if, in dating, you like someone but you two aren’t a good fit
in that department.

There are other women who share your ideals and there are other men
who share them, too. I’d encourage you not to think of men as a group
of people who all think and act the same, because they’re not. While
some men would want sexual activity before then, others want what you
want. Men, like women, vary.

I also want to address some of your statements, and let you know
what I hear in them. You voice concerns about why a guy would stick
around without sex when he could "get it from any other girl on the
street." That seems to presume that other women besides you don’t have
their own sets of wants and needs which are just as important and valid
as yours, and that there are all these women hanging around just to put
out for some guy you won’t put out for. Absolutely, some women are not
only okay with more casual sex, or sex earlier in a relationship, but
want casual sex or sex earlier in a relationship. (And they’re not in
competition with you, for the record: their wants and needs are just
different from yours.) But there are also some who don’t want that, and
want other things, other scenarios. That statement also suggests that
sex is nothing more than this thing men get or don’t get, rather than
something any two (or more) people create together, experience
together, express themselves through together, and have as part of some
kind of relationship. It seems to suggest, too, that you think men, as
a whole, don’t see relationships as about more than sex, or see sex as
about more than just getting off. Do some men feel that way? Sure. Do
all men feel that way? Nope.

And you can say no, or not yet, or that you want to do this thing
now, but save that one for later, or that you want to do something, but
need more time first in more than just theory: you can, realistically,
say that in practice, too. If you haven’t ever done that, it may feel
unrealistic now, but I assure you that you can, and that doing that
does not mean every guy you say that to will simply go find someone who
will say yes immediately. To be clear, you have the right to only have sex when you want to and on whatever your own terms are: we all have that right.

Someone who is in a relationship with you which is about more than
sex alone, someone who cares for you and has respect for you, someone
who wants to be IN relationship with you, based on who you are as a
whole person, someone who has some maturity and heart can handle a no
to something they ideally may have wanted (if, in fact, that is what
they wanted). A person like that, who feels strongly for you, who
doesn’t want to date a doormat in the first place, is not just going to
run out on you because they can’t get laid when they want to. But in
order to find that out, you do have to go ahead and say no when no is
what you’re feeling and give them a chance to respond like adults.

For any of us, we are much more likely to find what we want with
partners when we are clear about what we want with partners. You say
you’re afraid to voice your wants and needs, and I’d encourage you to
try and get past that. You voiced them here, which is a good first
step, now it’s time to voice them to people you are dating or
interested in dating. Until you CAN say what you want to those people,
you are, indeed, going to be unlikely to find it and get it. Once you
can start clearly and confidently voicing your ideals and your wants,
the chances of you having your needs met in this way will increase
exponentially. It might be a good idea to think about how, exactly,
you’d even find the kinds of guys who share similar wants and needs as you — and they are out there — if you aren’t voicing them.

As well, it is up to you as much as anyone else if your
relationships do or do not involve sex, or sex at any given point. You
say you’re afraid to pursue relationships because they "will surely
involve sex." For sure, if you are entering what’s understood to be a
sexual relationship, then that, understandably, will probably involve
an expectation of sex. But you get to construct your relationships how
you like, which can absolutely include things like making clear before
or during initial dates that you’re not interested in a sexual
relationship right away. Might that mean some dates who DO want that
will opt out? yes, but since you don’t want that right now, that
shouldn’t be a problem: think of it as a screening process, where you
are screening out those who won’t be a good fit for your wants and
needs, and a screening IN process for those who may feel exactly the
same way as you. Again, if you don’t own and voice what you do and
don’t want, you can’t expect to find it.

No part of what you have written here feels "messed up" to me, save
that I do think you’d be benefited by adjusting some of the ideas
you’re expressing about what you feel all men are like, and what it
seems you presume the dynamics of sex and sexual relationships must be
like. I think it’d be a good idea to examine how you’re thinking about
yourself and others, to put some more stock in yourself and what you
want as valuable and absolutely normal, and to throw away any ideas you
have that there’s anything wrong with what you want, or that what you
want is unattainable, because it’s not.

I think if you can become more confident and assertive with your
values, your wants, your needs, you’re going to start discovering that
you start to meet more people who value and respect them — even if
theirs differ — start to find some of the ways you think about men,
women and sex evolve, and that you’re going to feel a whole lot less
worried and uncomfortable about all of this. And I think that if you
can put more value in yourself and your own values, no matter what they
are, you are going to be far more likely to find relationships of real
quality that feel good for you, all around, whether or not sex is a
part of them.

Here are some more links I think will help you out:

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