Adolescence is deeply confusing that way: some things will just not be explained to you, like what losing your virginity is really like. There is one thing I take away from the handful of "sex talks" I got from my mom that grew and matured with my concepts of love and sex over the years. My mom didn’t talk about birth control or STDs during these talks — “you’ll learn about that in school,” she said, and she was right (my older sister’s experiences probably clued her into syphilis and herpes slideshows I’d be shown). But what she did say was that it was my job to protect my heart.
Sex was not bad, she told me, but it could be dangerous emotionally. Though I honestly didn't understand (or even remember) most of what I was told that fateful night about sex, I did internalize the message that 1) sex was a big deal and something to be respected, 2) I had to protect my heart from sex, and that 3) my heart was something worth protecting.
(Note: can we talk about how awesome my mom is for a second? In a world where sex talks for girls mostly focus on their bodies — teaching them that they're both dangerous rape bait/pregnancy land mines and valuable merchandise — my mom’s focus on my happiness and emotional safety were and are something I still cherish and credit with any good sexual choices I ever made. Thanks, Mom!)
But that’s the story of what I was told about sex. What I wasn’t told… well, wow. There's a lot.
1. It Might Not Hurt
The blood and guts and horror and pain are vastly overrepresented for girls — probably because the people warning us about this stuff are expecting us to have sex in our early teens — and don't want us to. I fully believe if you’re definitely ready for sex (and/or a little older), it can completely feel great, even the first time. (I was literally never, ever told this was a possibility).
2. Sometimes Men Get Mushy And Gushy Over Sex, Too
Whispered I-Love-Yous can and do happen. I mean things still might be weird the next day, but I was taught to expect callous manliness before-during-and-after the big event, so.
3. Sex Can Also Cause Men To Act Weird
Or ignore you. Or panic and dump you. It’s like they know y’all got closer and it was a big deal and they feel invisible pressure to marry you so they act out. It can happen, whether you dated for a long time before the deed or it just happened with someone new, so, prepare yourself.
4. It's Not Guaranteed To Be Elegant And Pleasurable
TV and movies taught us that sex was “the ultimate pleasurable act,” to borrow a quote from my friend Tim, who I consulted about this topic. "We go in thinking it should overwhelm us and immediately wipe out all other feelings, physical and emotional, with currents of inexplicable bliss. It doesn't. If you had gas before you started passionately making love to someone, guess what, you’ll be passionately making love to someone while holding in a fart." #reallife
Like technically, yeah, their body and your body.... it's a mucus membrane mixer. But don't expect sex to be your magic bullet to a full on, close, stable relationship. If it were, you'd see a lot less people crying in bars. That said...
6. You Will Learn Things About The Other Person That You Did Not Know Before
You're gonna find out what their junk smells like! What their "having sex" face looks like! Whether they are considerate or inconsiderate when it comes to orgasm distribution! Oh sh*t, this is the Reading Rainbow of getting to know one another! Sex is a pretty unique experience, and sharing it with someone means knowing them in a new and different way. It's a big deal. It can even make you fall in love. But even so...
7. You Should Only Have Sex If What You Want From The Interaction Is Sex
This is not as obvious as you might think when you're in the moment. People pleasing, love-seeking lizard brain impulses can take over and drive your decisions about sexual activity. Don't let them. Only have sex if you want sex — not just love, acceptance, or intimacy. (These things are all fine to want, but this isn't really the best or most reliable way to get them).
8. Sometimes Sex Does Turn Into Love
No one tells you this because they don't want you to expect sex to magically transform your crush who ignores you until into a doting, love sick puppy. But, sex does have transformative powers. Sometimes that person you've been getting Chipotle and Coronas with on Sundays when you're bored becomes Your Person. It can happen. Because of *~*boning*~*.
9. Sometimes Sex Just ... Does Not Work
Chemistry is a real thing. When it's missing... yikes. Don't blame yourself, it happens to the best of us.
10. Sometimes Sex Causes A Lot Of Feelings, And It Can Be Terrifying
Few things on earth feel as bad as being super attached to your sex person at the exact moment they're doing that that weird, cold reaction thing (UGH). Take comfort in knowing that at least some of your feelings may be chemical, and that the torture is temporary. (Though believe that you have my complete empathy). Wait it out, do other stuff you used to enjoy before your sexual debut, and skip to the last item.
11. It's OK To Laugh
Again, pop culture tells us sex — especially first-time sex)— is a deadly serious, intensely pleasurable act. (No room for having fun when we're screaming and clawing at each other, right?). But, especially if you're already comfortable with your partner, first time (and every time after that) sex can be fun, and even silly. Go with it.
12. It's Your Experience To Have Or Not Have, When And How You Want It
I'll let Ryan Gosling do the preaching. Go 'head, Ryan. On that note...
13. You Can Ask For What You Want, And Say No To What You Don't Want
I know you want your first time to be a beautiful magically experience where the only communication happens with your eyes and some tasteful moaning, but trust me... you're gonna want to speak up early and often if things are not going down in a way you're happy with.
14. You Need To Be Prepared To Love Yourself No Matter How This Thing Shakes Out
Sometimes you have sex with someone and they look at you like this.
Other times, they're gonna act like this, and it's not your fault.
Whichever way things go, you've got to let your inner-Beyoncé take the wheel and love your damn self. (Yet another reason to be sure you're having sex because you want to have sex, and not because you want someone to feel a certain way about you. One is guaranteed, the other is out of your hands).
As my mom would say, you've got to protect your heart with this whole complicated sex thing. But here's another thing no one tells you: even if you don't successfully protect yourself and you get hurt, you'll be OK. It might take a while, but you'll live, learn, and definitely love again.
Now go out and have (emotionally AND physically) safe, fulfilling, fun sex!
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