This is a statement I am willing to put a lot of money on: For most women, the first time they have sex is terrible.
I should clarify that this post will not be addressing cases in which the first time is rape. It will only address consensual sex. This is not to say that I don’t think the rape cases are important. As an assault survivor, I will say from my experience that men’s entitlement knows no bounds, not just because of the frequency at which sexual assault happens to women and goes unreported (and happens to and by other genders as well), but also because of the number of times a woman’s first time is a sexual assault, and she is not made aware of this until later in life, frequently much, much later. In this manner, from our first sexual encounters, many of us are conditioned to believe that assault is what a man does if he loves us. We are conditioned to believe that it is normal for our bodies to be brutalized and violated, and that that is how we should expect to be treated as women. It shakes my faith in humanity, truly.
But even for the consensual first encounters, the first time a woman has sex is probably terrible! The reason why I am so certain is because of the many encounters I have had that have been god-awful. The few that are pleasant seem to happen randomly, though there are threads of commonality in those encounters. How could I get so many different results even though I felt that I did the same thing each time? I think I have figured out the factors that brought about the god-awful and the pleasant, what was missing in the former and what was coincidental, but present in the latter.
I recently read these two excellent posts about being able to talk about your sexual desires and dating people with whom you are actually compatible. Forgive me for the next nerdy things I’m going to say. It is very telling of my (rather privileged) background in higher education.
This got me thinking about (brace yourselves) the ways in which we construct meaning in intimate relationships. I’m serious, it did.
This thread of thought has been seriously complicated for me to unravel, so bear with me. Now, as far as I know, all meaning is constructed. Nothing we do has any meaning until we put it into the context of past experience and accumulated knowledge. Bumping into some attractive person has no meaning without the construction of who is considered attractive (to you), and comprehending that you are attracted to this person (as dictated by knowledge). This is true for all interactions having to do with intimacy. Nothing is intimate without putting interactions into the context of what we have learned is an intimate gesture and comprehending that gestures are intimate.
In this way, sex has meaning when we give it meaning, and by giving it meaning, we take ownership of the act. By taking ownership, we give ourselves agency.
Why should you give a fuck? Because if you change the acts or interactions that you are giving meaning to, by changing the way you take agency, by changing the meaning itself, we are able to give ourselves more satisfying, pleasurable, fulfilling relationships.
Okay, enough theoretical shit. Time for the part where I tell you how this applies to real life.
I want a person who intentionally puts off having sex until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what sex is to us.
Something happened recently that put my health at risk very suddenly. I had to reframe many of my priorities, and the topmost was intimate relationships. I came to the realization that I actually DO know what I want in a relationship, though it is intensely difficult to name. It feels like the kind of empty promise one makes to themselves at the beginning of a new year. My mother always says cliches are cliche for a reason. I think I now understand at least one: meaningless sex does not work for everyone.
Now, for some people it does, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, it just doesn’t. In fact, meaningless anything just doesn’t work for me, but that’s a post for another day.
On to the realization: I want a person who intentionally puts off having sex until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what sex is to us. That sounds way more complicated than what it actually is. Basically, I want a person who is interested in understanding what I want out of sex. I also want to have time to get to know what this person wants out of sex. If these things happen to match, we will probably have a very enjoyable experience. If they do not match, which will be the more probable case knowing the depth of human diversity, then we must BOTH be okay with the pieces that do not match up, or we need to be able to change the nature of our relationship so that one or more of us does not get hurt. And this is a process, not a single conversation that we have one time. Things change. What we like may change. What we dislike may change. Again, products of our experience. The conversation must be ongoing.
And the thing about this formula (ew, I came up with a formula for my personal life. I am a nerd) is something that applies to more than just sex. In fact, for me it’s basically a template for a bunch of things at this point.
I want a person who intentionally puts off X until that point that both of us have constructed a shared meaning of what X is to us.
Possibilities for X:
- a relationship
- moving in with each other
- physical contact
- anything else two people can do together
Now, if you think about it, I’m actually not that smart. It took me almost 24 years to figure out the most basic principle of existing with other people: you have to work shit out together. I seriously wish someone could have told me this a decade ago! I have had so many terrible sex encounters because of a lack of knowing how to name things. This is not to say that all of my sexual encounters have been bad. Some were of the pleasant, steamy variety. But right now, the bad outweighs the good, and life is not meant to be lived that way.
Still, ever optimistic and now armed with my shiny new knowledge, I will forge onward! Or rather, I now have the ability to be more (and VERY) intentional about what kind of people I allow in my life.