Sometimes I'll read a blog post that's really open and honest and that addresses a topic that's awkward or uncomfortable that I'd be too timid to write about, and I'll think, "I wish I wasn't too timid to be that open and honest and address topics that are awkward or uncomfortable."
And recently I decided that, uh, nothing is stopping me from doing that. Besides, Liz is basically my whole readership and there's very little I could write about that she doesn't already know.
One such "awkward and uncomfortable" topic that's been swirling around my head for a hot minute? Sex. The reason? I follow a lot of pages aimed at millennials; sex-positive article appears in my newsfeed at least once a day. I also follow a lot of Catholic pages; an article about abstaining until marriage appears in my newsfeed at least once a day. I usually find something misguiding or problematic in both kinds of posts. Two days ago, and this was really the driving factor in deciding to write this post, I read an article that said, "You have to have sex with a lot of people while you're young. You'll get invaluable experience and really learn about your body."
Let me tell you what. You have to have sex with exactly as many or as few people as you want. You do not have to have sex with a lot of people to learn about your body. (Conversely, you do not have to have sex with no people to stay a good and responsible person.)
The article I mentioned probably contained the most straightforward language, but the sentiment it expressed is often found in sex positive articles, and I think it's problematic. And those Catholic articles I've read? They've got good stuff in them just like the sex-positive posts. ...But often, they're aimed at women and only women. Why are only female bodies temples that ought to be protected? Why is virginity a gift to give to your husband? WHY CAN'T WIVES BE GIFTED VIRGINITY, HUH? In all fairness, there are quite a few Catholic bloggers I follow who aren't sexist - self described "hipster Catholics" who dole out Christian sex ethics to both men and women, and who aren't all about that shaming game. I can dig that.
Now obviously, one person can only have one perspective, and sex is a personal matter. I can only offer my thoughts on this (though if you want to write a post about your thoughts and experiences, do let me know - I'm all for guest posts [subtle hints to Dana and Liz re: Books to Read With Friends posts] and I'd be happy to share it here).
Personally, I am in the latter camp - sex with one person and just one person is where it's at. I have nothing against people who have had multiple partners or who don't wait for marriage. I'm saying it's what I want. I remember my friend and I sitting at a red light while we were in high school. We were talking about sex and I believe it was our senior year, so we were both about to go to college, which obviously - hotbed of immorality. ;) Somehow our conversation turned to numbers. How many people will you let yourself sleep with? (Yes, I know it's an arbitrary bs thing, but we were 17 so whatever.) I said something along the lines of, "I really only want to sleep with my husband, but I usually fall short of my goals, so I'll give myself 3." And my friend said, "30." Approximately twenty seconds later she sighed and let out, "Dammit, I've limited myself to so few!" And we laughed and moved on to better conversation.
Funnily enough, my reasoning has nothing to do with religion. I've always been Catholic but I didn't start practicing until I was around 22 (I still am a total novice, too). Before religion was an active part of my life, I decided I didn't want to have many sexual partners. Now that I actually know the Church's teaching on sex, yes, I mostly agree with it. But my original thought process has nothing to do with God or creation, it just has to do with... romance.
I know, I know.
But here's the thing. I really, really like the idea of my husband being the closest person to me. There's an emotional closeness between life partners that is different from the closeness between friends. I imagine my husband will be the person I am emotionally closest to throughout my life. I'd like it if he were the person I am physically closest to as well. For me, the idea of one person - the person who I'll build a life with - being the only person I've ever reached maximum emotional and physical closeness with is perfect. I know the phrase "making love" solicits eye rolls and fake gagging, but having sex is being physically closest to the person I'm emotionally closest to, and I think that's terribly romantic.
Of course, there's no guarantee I'll get married, in which case I will have wasted a perfectly good vagina. But let's not think of such calamitous things.
I know sex with one person FOREVA is not for everyone. I get that. But people make it as though it's insane or oppressive to only have sex with one person. That's your choice. There are as many ways to be sex-positive as there are people, and this is just my way. I have friends who have had multiple partners - some have loved it, some have regretted it. I have friends who waited until they were a certain age or until they thought they were in love - some loved it, some regretted it. It's different for everyone.
My personal experience of waiting? Eh.
For one, my friends. They're simultaneously the most supportive and the most annoying about my decision. They all tell me it's great that I know what I want, yada yada, but.. they can unknowingly be patronizing as well. I've been told I'm adorable for waiting. I don't get mad at reactions like that, but I do get a little internal eye rolling going on. Many have also suggested that I'll change my mind once I'm in a relationship. Maybe, but maybe not. Probably not, actually. I haven't been in any serious relationships, but that doesn't mean I haven't been in situations where I've wanted to have sex. Hello, college. I've come close to having sex. I think there's an assumption among my sexually active friends that if you haven't had sex, you don't get tempted. It can be frustrating when my friends act as though I'm just totally oblivious to sexual desire. It is not easy waiting to have sex. I imagine it'll be ten times more difficult when I'm in a serious relationship.
Probably the most anxiety-inducing part about having sex with only one person is the thought of how guys will respond to that. I know that it's possible I'll really like a guy, maybe even see a future with him, but that things won't work out because he wants to have sex. I have two guy friends that know I don't have sex (and, um, I guess more now that I've posted this) and they don't think it's bad or weird, but they're also not romantically interested in me, so.. it's different. I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes wonder if I'm getting to a point where the men my age are not going to be interested in waiting until marriage. We'll see, I guess.
Another really crappy thing is that society at large acts as though not having sex means you're not an adult. I had a friend literally tell me I wasn't really an adult because I haven't had sex. Mother effer, I've been through more in my life than most 40 year olds I know. I am definitely an adult. I am mature, I am responsible (mostly), I am 24 years old, and I certainly have adult bills. I'd like it if this friend tried telling some 60 year old nun or priest s/he wasn't an adult.
I do get a lot of questions from my sexually active friends. Probably the most frequently asked question is if I'm going to teach my kids that they should only have sex within marriage. Which... I'm like years and years away from dealing with that, but can I give it a tentative yes? I haven't planned it out, and obviously my future hypothetical kids will also have a father and this would fall under the umbrella of things parents decide together. I guess my best answer is that I'd teach my kids that I believe sex is best when it's with someone you love (which happens to be what most of my friends have told me). I'd want them to be sex-positive and to know that I'm going to love them whether they wait for marriage or not. I don't know! I get that my friends are curios, but this is a weird question to think about since it's not even close to being a real situation for me yet.
The second thing almost all of my friends have asked is if I'd marry someone who has had sex. While of course I've already laid out my feelings on the romance of one person, the answer is yes, I would marry someone who has had sex. I don't think I'd be comfortable dating someone who has a completely opposite idea of sex from my own idea, though. I have friends who think sex is just some great fun thing to do for pleasure, and nothing more. That's fine! But I'm not going to marry or build a life with my friends, so there are certain differences that truly don't matter. It's a little different, I think, with a husband (or serious boyfriend). I don't need him to have never had sex, but I would prefer that we value sex similarly - both seeing it as something that's important. Does that make sense?
As not fun as it is to try and wait, there are a few "add on bonuses" as I call them. Little advantages to only ever having sex within marriage. None of these things would make me decide to wait, but they're silver linings, I guess. Like, I don't have to worry about antibiotics screwing up my birth control! Also, unless future husband has something, I don't have to worry about catching things. I also have horrible luck - so you know how bc is deemed 99.9% effective? I wouldn't put it past myself to be the .1% that gets pregnant. I'm glad I don't have to worry about that (not that I don't want kids, but you know, I wouldn't be able to handle a baby right now). I have endometriosis so my period is irregular. If I was having sex I would always think I might be pregnant. It would be scare after scare and it wouldn't be good for my blood pressure.
It aggravates me that society simultaneously acts as though people who wait to have sex until marriage are the pinnacle of morality (we're not, and I'm perfectly capable of being an asshole sometimes) while also mocking us for waiting. Neither of those things are right. When it comes down to it, people should do what they think is best for them. This is best for me. Even if I have to endure the occasional friend balking at me when I say a guy is sexy or, God forbid, I say I want to look sexy. Even with that.