“I like your lips. And your eyes and your arms around me. I feel like we connect.”
This is what he whispered in my ear as we kissed in my parked car outside his apartment. He held my face away from his and looked into my eyes. An hour before we had met at a bar. It was our second date. He greeted me when I walked in with a friendly hug but immediately averted eye contact. “Want a drink?”
I could tell he had already been drinking. He was more talkative than the first time we met, where I spoke almost the entire time, enjoying the way he laughed at my half-hearted attempts at jokes to ease the tension. Tonight, he was more open, his words coming out less forced. I tried to make more of an effort to smile, ask questions, widen my eyes at his stories.
I was here because I needed money.
But I was also here because I wanted to know why they were here. The answer turned out to be a lot more complicated than I thought. To have one reason for why people use sugaring sites would be to create a single story, a generalization. What I found instead was that sugaring is only one part, or rather one consequence of the complex socio-economic and political capitalist web we all find ourselves within.
Of course in an ideal world, intimacy wouldn’t be transactional. It wouldn’t be a question asked and a wad of cash exchanged from one closed palm to an outstretched one. Ideally, it would be motivated by that magnetic pull we cannot see but believe to exist because we feel it to. Relationships are not, as the founder of the website SeekingArrangement claims, superficial arrangements that we engage in to get what we want. Although services are indeed exchanged in personal relationships, there is not always an unspoken “arrangement” that we are conscious of in the giving; rather, these exchanges come from something far more emotional and instinctive than calculated.
But here human contact, physical or verbal, is a service provided. It is an arrangement written out in contract. And they are here because the alternative – to never touch or be touched – seems. worse.
Last week I met a man at a Starbucks. We sat at a table outside that he said looked discreet. Almost immediately, he told me that he experienced mood swings that his therapist attributed to loneliness. I was surprised by his candor; he had at first seemed so confident and self-assured, but now a new layer appeared in his body, exposing his nervousness, eyes flicking back and forth. “Why are you so calm?” He asked me.
He told me he had never done this before. I told him I had. He confessed that he hadn’t been with a woman in two years. “But I don’t want a relationship,” he told me, “just intimacy.”
He reported in a business-like manner that he would pay me each time we were intimate, a word that suddenly struck me as odd in our current context. In this moment a discomfort, or maybe even a sadness was beginning to form in the pit of my stomach, perhaps inspired by the absurdity of our current situation: an older man and a 22-year-old woman sitting across from one another at a Starbucks discussing the price of intimacy. I was lost for words, attempting to conceptualize an intimacy that exists isolated from a relationship: an intimacy that is performed. I wanted to tell him that this was delusional, that dissociating intimacy from a relationship was forgetting that every time you authentically express intimacy, a relationship of some kind is formed. If intimacy is a service provided, is it intimacy at all? But I didn’t tell him any of that.
At a hotel room, close to work, we met for an hour. I gave him my mind and my body and he gave me five hundred dollars in cash; to him it was a traditional relationship stripped to its bare bones, without any superfluous time spent or energy expended. Only the minimal requirements, an experience that offered a cathartic mental and physical release, then abruptly ended.
By most who engage in it, it is not considered sex work. I don’t know if it is or not, and I don’t think it makes a difference either way. There’s nothing wrong with sex work for people who are fulfilled by doing it. But the fact remains that he was not only paying for sex, because he could do that a lot more cheaply and easily. What he paid me for is the creation and maintenance of a specific illusion, namely, the illusion of intimacy. He pays to be able to control how much time we spend together, when and where we spend our time, and the nature of the time spent. He pays to curate the experience of intimacy he wants.
As I made my way back to my car from the hotel room, a voice in my head was saying something isn’t right, and this voice stayed with me as I drove away clutching the cash close to my body. Something wasn’t right and this something wasn’t simply the fact that I was selling my body for sex. I expected to feel uncomfortable from that and in some ways don’t have too much of a problem with the idea of having sex for money. What wasn’t right to me was something more personal, more political, and ultimately more surprising than my distaste for the transactional sex.
We grow up convinced that our personal value is determined by how much money we make, because money is the dominant societal indicator of value. I know this is true because of the inferiority I feel at making less money than most of my friends and family, like I am somehow worth less as a person. The men, on the other hand, come here because they have enough money to pay for anything they want, including “intimacy.”
However, at its core, our capitalist economic and political system continues to exist because of the hidden consequences of our economic system. These consequences remain on the far periphery of our minds as long as no one says a word. Think environmental destruction alongside economic growth, or a minimum wage that is far too low in most places to ensure a quality standard of living.
It is an avoidance of truth, an avoidance practiced so habitually in our daily lives that it comes easily. As long as the price paid is swept under the rug, we will continue to avert our eyes and look at what is put in front of us. We will continue to seek out the illusion no matter the cost because the alternative, to question and demand and live differently is far too daunting.
And I was willing to play along. Inflating their ego and returning home with cash made it worth it — almost. But what was swept under the rug? What line was crossed? Was it seeing that the monetary and transactional values that characterize our capitalist system had seeped into the practice of intimacy, one of the last things that I truly believed defies the power of capitalism? Definitely. Because of their wealth, these men can attempt to manipulate intimacy into something under their control. But it was also more than that.
After he pressed the cash into my hand at the hotel room, I felt a rush. I felt a rush because having money made me feel powerful. But when I left the taste of him was in my mouth, the smell of him on my clothes. It’s hard to explain what that feels like. It’s hard to explain how intimacy with someone I don’t feel intimate with makes me feel, or if I can even begin to describe what intimacy is here.
I acknowledge that I am in a place of privilege. Although sleeping with men for money would make my life a lot more comfortable at this point in my life, I am not in a desperate situation. Not yet, at least. But sugaring is not empowering for me anymore because it requires me to avoid the truth that I am engaging in a system I cannot ethically support. Sugaring, in encouraging the creation of transactional relationships, also encourages a practice of “intimacy” that ultimately benefits men. Other forms of sex work don’t necessarily aim to construct such a controlled illusion of intimacy; they are straightforward about the service and the reward.
But here I do not know what I am supposed to offer, and I do not know if it will ever be enough, even after I am stripped of my clothes and my sense of autonomy in the face of being literally paid to perform intimacy for them. I resent playing a part in a system that supports men in the belief that they can pay for emotional and physical intimacy, and use their money to buy control over every aspect of a personal relationship. I even more strongly resent that I gain any source of validation from this part that I play.
Sugaring gives power to exactly the system, namely capitalism, that fails to value my moral code, my mental and physical health, my gender, and the marginalized identities of other humans living in this world. It supports a capitalistic way of viewing relationships, and one that benefits the men that engage in it far more than the women.
I want to be asking myself how I can radically challenge the structures of capitalism rather than trying to benefit from it, and by doing so, also support the people who benefit the most from it.
Photo by Daniela Guevara.
I don’t even know what song was playing. If you read my previous article you know that that was kind of a big deal for me.
He didn’t love me and I didn’t love him so for the sake of protecting my feelings I lowered all expectations. It was naïve of me to expect the fictional fireworks, but I’d be lying if I denied part of me wanted that. We had hooked up before and I had shut down his advances because I was nervous, scared even.
I keep on wondering what made this time different. Maybe it was because of the hug he gave me when he walked into my room. Maybe it was the jokes that he cracked while I laid my head on his chest. Or maybe it was the promises he made of all of the Pinterest worthy things we would do after.
Regardless, it happened.
There wasn’t any dedicated foreplay, whispers of sweet nothings, or really any indication that he felt anything for me, but I wanted him so badly in that moment that it didn’t matter. Initially, the sex felt great until my mind convinced me otherwise. He’s using you, circled around in my head — but I ignored it and tried to re-focus on the way that he held my hand. We went for a few rounds and he finished each time and each time the voice in my head grew louder. I silenced it, distracting myself with the way he traced lines over my skin and played with my hair.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am clueless on a Cher Horowitz level when it comes to intimacy, so I took these as signs that he had to care about me. That even though virginity is a construct, he acknowledged what I had “given” to him. At least, I chose to believe this as I lay awake, my mind too chaotic to sleep as he snored beside me, his arm wrapped around my body. I forced myself to believe this until even the morning when I realized he had left without saying goodbye.
I finally started to stop believing it when he Snapchatted me a random picture that had nothing to do with our night. When I saw her stumbling to his room with another girl the day later, I realized how childish I had actually been.
I grew up Catholic, therefore the guilt of premarital sex hung above my head. I allowed the shame I was taught in church to steal away my appetite and interrupt my sleep.
Things got a little better when the dam of emotions broke and I finally gave a tearful confession to my less religious mother who assured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. That what I did with him was natural. I was an adult, after all. Something I sometimes forget.
For the sake of complete transparency, I will admit that I am not sure if I regret it or not. I turn it over and over in my head and I can’t decipher the emotions that come along with the thoughts. I do wish that I would’ve taken more time to get to know who he genuinely was so that I could have spared myself the feelings of disappointment.
And though this retelling of events was a total bummer, it’s true what they say… you never forget your first anything.
Photo courtesy of the STAA Collective.
I have a friend who is the most sexually adventurous person I’ve ever met. From threesomes to sex parties, she’s practically done it all. I absolutely love her because for it. Like, to death. If there were posters of her out there, I’d buy one, put it in a little frame, and hang her over my bed like the Virgin Mary.
She lives out my fantasies. She’s done everything I’ve ever wanted to do and done it well. Some months ago, my mom and I were having a heated debate about her. We were talking about my “wild friend” when my mom, honest to God, said that people who had threesomes or orgies were “mentally deranged.”
At that moment, all I could think was: Thank God I’m not 12 years old anymore, because this would have fucked me up for the rest of my life.
Obviously I didn’t grow up in a sex positive family. The first time I said the word “masturbation” in front of my mom, she looked at me like I’d told her I was selling my soul to the devil. And for whatever sadistic reason, the universe or God or whoever, made me a really sexual person. It would eat away at me when I was younger. My heart sank like a ship whenever I touched myself — like I’d done the worst possible thing on Earth.
The only people who talked openly about sex when I was younger were boys. My girlfriends only mentioned it between giggles, quickly followed by “I’m kidding!” I remember nights where after an orgasm, I would type on the Google search bar: “Am I a sex addict?” because I couldn’t imagine that anyone else thought about sex as much as I did. I felt alone.
When we were 13, my friends would fantasize about their future boyfriends who’d hold their hands and kiss them on the mouths tenderly like they were made of paper. All I could think about were a bunch of different hands on me, and making out with two people at once against walls and doors and beds. I wanted the tender and soft experience of a boyfriend, but I also wanted him to be comfortable with me making out with other people at parties because one person didn’t feel like enough.
When my friends started losing their virginities, they learned a new catchphrase to validate the act: “But, I’m not, like, a slut.” Whenever they said that, I would think, all I want to be is a slut. What’s wrong with that?
They seemed to think that sex was only okay if you did it with the same person. I, on the other hand, wanted to do it with a bunch of people — sometimes, all at once.
It wasn’t until we turned 16, sitting among the debris of a party, drunk out of our minds, that we mentioned masturbation for the first time aloud. One of them asked us if we masturbated and we all said, “No, eww! Do girls even do that?”
The next day, hungover on the bus ride home, all I could do was hate myself because I truly thought that I was sick for even thinking of touching myself. That Monday, during lunch, I decided to come clean and tell them that I did masturbate — every day, in fact.
They didn’t shun me like I thought they would; those who also masturbated simply admitted to it, while the others asked us questions about it. It was really nice.
Talking about masturbation with my friends in high school made me feel comfortable to start talking about all the other things I wanted to do. I told them about the threesomes I fantasized about, as well as the wild sex parties and being tied up and spanked and whatever else it was I had been made to feel guilty for wanting.
And it felt freeing because women’s desires are always used against them. So much so that we’re called brave for doing anything outside of the “norm” — for not wearing makeup in public, for expecting and demanding pleasure from sex, for saying no. Things that we shouldn’t even have to advocate for. And we’re constantly being punished for this supposed bravery. Words like “slut” get thrown around whenever we express a love for something we’re supposed to pretend we don’t want. People don’t understand how heavy a word like “slut” can be. So heavy, we carry it around everywhere, and not uncommonly, for lifetimes. We even carry it home, to our beds, where the only ones who can judge us and our touch are ourselves.
The reason why we keep fighting so hard against slut-shaming, why I keep arguing with my mom about it, is because I don’t want to have to be brave anymore. I want to masturbate, or have threesomes, or have multiple sexual partners without feeling like I’ve fought and won a war every time. I simply want to be.
I’m proud to say that I’m a sexual person. It’s something I really love about myself now. It made losing my virginity so much less stressful because I didn’t care about impressing the guy; all I was after was the experience. It gave me the push to sleep with a girl for a year and a half without feeling confused or guilty about my sexuality. In a world that constantly insists this is a quality that should evoke nothing trouble and shame in women, I have discovered nothing but liberation and opportunity from it. I can’t wait for younger generations to have more sexually liberated parents like my adventurous friend, and now, myself.
Growing up in a sex positive family is my idea of the new American Dream.After all, isn’t a happier, healthier future generation the goal?
I didn’t know sex wasn’t supposed to hurt as much as the first time every time you had it until two years after the fact. Up until my revelation that sex could and should be enjoyable for women, I was satisfied in my dissatisfaction with sex.
For a while, whenever I would retrospectively wonder why I had put up with so much bad sex, I’d end up blaming myself. I felt responsible for my own complacency with sup-par dick. I explicitly told the men I’d slept with — time and time again — that the sex was great, that I enjoyed myself, that orgasm was completely authentic. And yes, it is so wonderful that we came at the same time. And so on and so forth.
What a liar!
Why, if the sex sucked, was I sucking dick? Even then in my teenage naivete, I felt a distrust and disliking towards straight men. Yet, I fell into some sort of reversal when naked and attempting to reach some sort of climax — an effort often thwarted by my partners’ inability to locate anything with a nerve ending.
I noticed my yielding toward the will of gendered power structures I so actively hated outside of the bedroom. And that behavior was rewarded. Or, reinforced with what I’m sure the men I was sleeping with perceived to be positive affirmation. Later into my sexual life, I found the forms of communication used through sex which I had become accustomed were kinda fucked up. Both verbal and non-verbal, were oftentimes completely dependent and in response to whatever my partner was communicating.
That looked like:
Him: I want head.
Me: Okay I will give you head.
Him: You want to give me head, right?
Me: Yes, I want to give you head.
I actually hate giving head. I hated then and I hate it still, but I’d do it anyway. Me just doing the damn thing wasn’t ever sufficient though. I had to want to do it. At the least, I had to make it seem like I wanted to do it. If my enthusiasm was not where it needed to be, I’d be asking a rhetorical question, to which the answer was already scripted. It never felt as though I could say, “No, I don’t want to do this sexual thing because we did it before and you’re bad at it.” Often, I felt that to be the only truthful response. So I would lie.
Lying while laying. More focus applied to my moans than anything else. After a while, I decided that I hated sex and began to see it as a tool more than anything else. I rarely finished sex, because I rarely finished during sex. It became clear that once sex had started, to an extent, we’d done the deed regardless of if we came. Ta-da! Done.
I got very good at faking fatigue from over exertion, exhaustion from lust, electrolyte depletion from sweating — I could find any way to get out of a fuck. It is to this phase in my life which I attribute my theater prowess.
This happened so often and became so normalized that I wasn’t displeased or even deprived. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. I had never felt properly touched before, and therefore never longed for it nor suffered in its absence.
Actually, I thought I had the whole sex thing pretty down. Guys loved sleeping with me and frequently wanted to do so more than once. I usually declined, opting instead to find more bad dick elsewhere. Neither party seemed to be aware that the sex was good for one person, since we both actively expressed a singular, male viewpoint. I call this bedroom hegemony. It’s like regular hegemony in the way that we’re convinced the unequal distribution of power is normal when really, it’s not.
For example, I don’t particularly enjoy having a penis rammed down my throat. I don’t like having my head pushed in any direction. I like being choked, but you’re supposed to squeeze the sides of the throat, not the windpipe — that is how you kill someone. I don’t mind having my ass slapped, but I will be upset if I can’t sit down the next day. None of these are outlandishly deviant preferences. Though, I realized these were things I didn’t like because men kept doing them to me without asking.
I would say nothing. Actually, I would pad my silence with a bunch of well rehearsed “oohs” and “ahhs”, not that anyone was listening anyway. In my mind, since everyone was doing it, that was just sex, right?
It wasn’t until I started watching porn that I realized why all these men fuck like they’re trying to hammer a nail into a cement wall. The prevalence and seemingly formulaic incorporation of violence into mainstream porn fascinated me. The women, to whom I naturally paid the most attention, rarely looked pleased. When they did I instantly questioned if it was as performative as I myself had grown to be. Porn is graphic, you can see everything. What I was seeing looked painful. I then understood, men are being taught that violence is sexy. Yuck.
There is an overbearing theme of domination and objectification of women in porn. This isn’t necessarily a nuance, but when applied to the behavior I experienced in the bedroom, the themes transfer over. I see the unrealistic expectations and understandings of sex bleed from the internet into my actual bedroom. Sometimes that’s in the uncomfortably rough way men have handled my body. Often times, it’s in the overwhelmingly male focus and narrative of our sex. We’re done when he’s done. White flag means game over.
I notice the confidence in men who have bad sex. Clearly they don’t know they’re bad, and they’ve been bad for so long, they think they’re good. To which I say, we need to stop lying to men about their pipe game.
We’re doing ourselves a disservice, sure. But it’s easy to walk away from bad sex with a smile and never look back. I used to pull that all the time. Though, what we’re also doing is reinforcing male delusions of grandeur in the bedroom. Do not let the age old myth that he who fucks the hardest and fastest wins the race. He who comes first does not actually win. In the name of vaginas, anuses and orifices otherwise used in sexual activity, tell guys what they’re doing wrong. If not for yourself than for their next partner. Consider it as passing it forward.
Once I made the connections between my own displeasure and the looks of boredom on porn stars’ faces, I started speaking the hell up. “I don’t like this,” “touch me here,” “do not even think about it.” I wasn’t a dick about it, but if the service wasn’t up to par, I dismounted, packed my things up and took my butt home.
I had to explain to a lot of guys that no, that wasn’t how you did that. And they listened. If we needed to, we stopped. When I wanted to, I took the time to explain what I liked and how they could improve. It made my sex longer, better, and hotter. The active dismantling of male dominance in my bedroom made me love my bedroom a lot more. Made me love sex a lot more. Made a lot of guys into the men they are today.
Threesome almost feels like a bad word at this point. At worst, the experience can be disorganized and over-performative, but at best — when you’ve perfected the art of communicatively taking turns — it truly is the more the merrier.
I find that one of the most unappealing aspect of threesomes is that it’s an infamous facet of straight boy dreams, but I want to advocate for the group setting. Here are a few of my personal tips that may help enhance your ménage à trois!
Who to ask.
Some enjoy the novelty of a stranger, while others find comfort in the familiarity of a friend or acquaintance. Inviting a stranger into the mix can be ideal for those who want to avoid potentially shifting the nature of their current intimate relationships.
However, friends can be preferable for those who seek familiarity. Before you and and your partner bring others into bed, ask yourselves: what would best enrich my experience?
Initiate the conversation.
Introducing your desires may take your partner(s) by surprise, which is fair enough! Endeavoring into new sexual territory requires a lot of trust. Be open to answering all of their questions — before, during, and after. Your partner(s) may experience internal conflicts and express insecurities about their performance in bed, hold space for their concerns. Communicate why you’d think a threesome may be fun for you both and how it’s an interest not borne from boredom in your shared sex life.
Remember that it is a conversation, be as open-minded as you would want in return.
Vocalize fears and concerns beforehand.
Be open about your own and your partner(s)’ expectations. Discuss specifically what you are and are not comfortable with. Is something about the deed making you nervous? Are you concerned with the aftermath?
Talking about your desires and fears beforehand will also ensure that every participant is prepared. If you all aren’t familiar with each others sexual wants, be honest about what gets you going. Don’t worry about ruining the spontaneity, life has its way of slipping surprises in no matter what.
Set your boundaries.
Decide what is off-limits. If kissing isn’t in the cards — be vocal about it! No anal? Perfectly fine. Similarly, advocate for what you do want to try. Threesomes also don’t have to be treated as a singular occasion. Sex in general requires a lot of practice to familiarize yourself with others bodily preferences. No decisions have to be made immediately, but extend the idea of giving each other the chance to practice.
Be prepared with condoms and lube.
What’s a bigger buzzkill than scrambling for that one condom you are SO sure you have under your bed somewhere? Nothing is hotter than being prepared. Also, don’t forget the toys! Throwing in a gadget or two may ensure that no one feels left out.
Don’t use porn as a guide.
Sexual navigation is more complicated than pornography can prepare you for. You and your partner likely don’t behave like pornstars in bed, so why reference it? Although, it can be a hot tool to utilize during the real life thing, if you’re into that.
There is no singular or right way to have a threesome!
It’s OK to change your mind.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. If your partners give you a hard time about it then it just validates your decision even more.
Have fun and roll with the punches (metaphorically)!
Sex is messy. We, ourselves, are subject to being messy. Be confident in yourself and follow your gut. Nothing that you do for the first or hundredth time has to go off without a hitch. Don’t be overcritical of your own performance.
It’s all right if everything doesn’t go “back to normal” afterwards.
Don’t feel pressured to achieve normalcy. Maybe it’s better if your relationships with your partner(s) take a different shape rather than squeezing into socially acceptable and formal boxes. You’re in charge of the relationships you want and the sex you want.
Be safe, be confident, and be kind!
Jacob does not talk about sex. He’s good at it, though, so I encourage him to talk about it with me. But he’s always had a much more reserved relationship with sex, although he openly loves his penis. I, unbothered by his modesty, spoke about sex — my sex, our sex, sexual health, sex in politics, sex in the news, sex on planes — freely and oftentimes loudly and at inappropriate times. Jacob would never dissuade me from screaming from the rooftops about intimacy. Rather, my boyfriend had a tendency to broach the subject in the liminal spaces of our lives.
Brushing our teeth. Tuesday evening. 10PM. “Baby, why do you prefer having a threeway with two girls and not two guys if you consider yourself to be straight?”
Waiting at the gas pump. Sunday before family brunch. 8AM. “Angel, do you think it would feel good if I used the vibrator on the little space between my balls and my asshole?”
CTA Red Line, Jarvis stop. Heading to get Ethopian food. 5:13PM. “What were you saying about using food in sex when you were on the phone with Phoebe last night? Frozen grapes sound fun.”
Aside from these rare, random occurrences, Jacob was otherwise silent — which I mistook for vanilla. And after this particular rendezvous, I must argue his sexual appetite is much more fluid than I’d previously given him credit for. By which I mean, I was not expecting it when he asked me to stick my finger up his butt.
Now, in my defense, I hadn’t ever had anyone ask for a finger up there. And I’d been around. So when Jacob, my 6 foot 2 inches ex-football player, “manly-man” boyfriend asked me if I’d ever touched someone’s ass before, my immediate response was almost: have you?
Instead, I asked him what he wanted me to do. Partially out of curiosity but mostly out of ignorance. If he wanted me to touch him, he was going to have to show me exactly what he meant. He got nervous upon being asked to explain. After a lot of “uhs” and “umms” I finally got a rhythm down, gently pressing the tip of my pointer finger against his hole, pushing slightly further in when he motioned for me to. He would nod with what he liked, and adjust my hand when he didn’t like what my finger was doing. His dick was in my face, so I started giving him head at the same time (Something I actually know how to do!) .
The whole thing lasted about eight minutes before we got to the good stuff (can anyone say, intercourse!). Afterwards, once we had rehydrated and gotten our morning coffee, I asked Jacob what compelled him to ask for such an act. To which he responded that I should relax and be more open. Again, I was stunned.
“You were nervous,” I told him. “The way you asked made it seem like it took effort.”
“It did take effort,” he shrugged. “You know — imma dude. That type of shit…” he trailed off.
“Baby, I don’t know!” Jacob grabbed me by my waist and pulled me into him. Normally, I was the one who pushed for experimentation in the bedroom.
I introduced him to the vibrator and the handcuffs. Whipped cream and frozen grapes were also all me. Our only collective effort had been roleplay, which I attributed to all the ridiculous storylines in shitty mainstream porn. So, having him tell me to broaden my horizons was an unexpected shock to the system.
He laughed when I said nothing. “I know you always like for us to try new things with your body, I figured we could do the same with mine.”
Incrédulous, I asked if I had done a good job.
He answered in the affirmative. But told me to be more sure of myself. “I want you to touch me,” he said. “That always feels good to me.”
Mentally taking notes, I asked if he’d ever had anyone do that before.
Affirmative again. What? I thought. This man had been holding out on me. “Jacob!” I slapped his arm. “Why are you just now telling me?”
“Because it’s embarrassing!”
“I literally write about sex for a living!”
“Being a man makes it hard to ask!”
“But it does.”
“What made you ask if you were so nervous?”
“You literally write about sex for a living.”
I burst into a fit of giggles, “You just don’t want me to think you’re gay!”
He pinched my sides, making me laugh again. “You know I’m not gay.” He pinched me again. “And so what if I am? I still like fucking you.”
And, he was right. On several fronts. Firstly, I did know his preferences. Secondly, so what? A quick Google search will reveal how the prostate is, in many ways, the male “G” spot, rendering stimulation not only natural — but encouraged. I laughed to myself. I should know better than to relegate male assplay solely to the sex lives of gay men, I couldn’t avoid my automatic bias towards butt-stuff.
He paused as I re-situated myself on the bed across from him. “You’re always talking about sex,” he said slowly. “You’re explicit, but you’re precise. It’s almost clinical.”
I swatted at him. He dodged me, “Hey! It’s not a criticism. I’m just saying, you tell me what you like.”
“I do,” I agreed.
“And you’re so direct that it’s impossible for me to misunderstand you.”
“That’s why our sex is good,” I said.
“That is why our sex is good,” Jacob agreed. “But it could be better.”
“For you,” I stated.
“Exactly,” he agreed again, grabbing my feet and pulling me towards him. “But for that to happen I have to communicate.”
“I fucking love communication,” I lamented into his shoulder, biting him gently, for emphasis.
“So yeah,” he said, pulling me up and pushing me towards the bathroom. “I had to tell you that I like fingers up my ass.”
“And I know you’ve lacked interest in reciprocation” he said, turning on the shower for me. “But let me know if you change your mind. Pretty sure I have a butt plug somewhere around here.”
Still partially catatonic from the narrative switch between Jacob and myself, I hardly had time to process his first comment before he left me with more.
“Maybe once we get married I’ll let you peg me,” Jacob said, pulling closed the glass shower door, then leaving me to marinate in my shock in private.
So… yeah. That’s what happened. That’s how my finger ended up in my boyfriend’s butt. And, uh, it’s most definitely going to happen again. I hope my mom never reads this.
Confessions of a Teenage Virgin is a digital diary by an anonymous 19-year-old girl living in the American Midwest.
Hi. I am 19 and I have never had sex.
Notice that I am not using the word “virgin”, as that very phrase connotes goodness and purity. It leaves very little space to interpret what it means to be the opposite of a “virgin.” In the eyes of society, especially in my town, the opposite of a virgin is a “slut.” In other words, someone who has sex and embraces it. The lack of fluidity and dialogue between point A and point B is stark.
Sex was never talked about in my school, at home, or even in my friend group. I grew up in a conservative household in a notch of the Bible Belt in America. I attended a Christian high school, where my increased interest in women’s rights deemed me “too aggressive.” I was never taught about sex or anything pertaining to the subject. Where I’m from, the mention of it is likely to cause shifting glances between parents, flushed cheeks, or a sudden change of topic.
I can now say, as an almost adult who grew up in such an environment, I am left with a seemingly infinite amount of questions and confusion surround physical intimacy.
It is not that I have not been curious or inquisitive about sex, but rather, I am too ashamed to ask or talk about it. If I was in a sexual situation with a guy I would not know how to give a blowjob, handjob, or even much about condoms. I would be going in blind (metaphorically speaking, of course) and naive.
I wish I could say that this is the story of how, despite these obstacles, I have successfully managed to undergo a transformative sexual awakening and have gotten my shit together. Unfortunately, this is not that kind of story.
In reality, this is the story of a 19-year-old who is just beginning to learn what sex means emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I write this in hopes of reaching those who really have no idea what sex education is, and to relate to those who need and desire the journey. This is a journey to bring together people who are just like… well, me.
I don’t want to think that sex is wrong. But that is certainly how it was always portrayed to me. I was never offered a class on safe sex. The closest I got was a class on abstinence.
As a young woman about to enter her twenties, I have had to educate myself through the use of websites, peer advice, and word of mouth. Premarital sex, for example, was never presented to me as an option, but rather, as a shameful and perverted deviation from the norm. As a result, I began to judge others who had premarital or casual sex.
By simply saying “don’t do it,” our “teachers” ensure anything but safety. People will continue to have sex, whether they know how to engage in the act safely or not. Yes, others will refrain, but this certainly does not mean it is always of their own volition. The dismissive nature of abstinence education only works to build a wall between educator and student, between parent and child. We as a society need to acknowledge the naturalness of sex.
We also need to provide teeenagers with a safe environment to ask questions, be curious, and explore their sexual nature without the shame that has been tied to sex for far too many centuries.
Talking to my parents about sex was never an option for me.
It was no coincidence that related topics, such as boys, crushes, or even attraction led me to feel equally as ashamed. Yet, perhaps even worse than the shame I have felt surrounding these crucial human experiences is the fear and loneliness I now feel, left to navigate this complex world of intimacy by myself.
I want to research safe sex practices, the art of oral sex, and to embrace the sensuality of my own body and what pleases me. I am done being ashamed of my body, my sexual cravings, and my fear of not knowing what to do in the bedroom.
Honestly, I am scared — terrified even — to explore sex because of the possibility of disappointing a partner, having an unwanted pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases. But as a young woman who is struggling and fighting to feel confident with sex, I want my peers to know that they’re not the only ones who feel overwhelmed and nervous, and that the best way to feel more comfortable is by asking questions and starting the conversation.
So, hi. I’m a 19-year-old virgin. Let’s talk.
Like many people on the cusp of being a millennial and Gen Z, I love documenting things. In my journal, on my Instagram story, pasted into a real live photo album — if it happened, I like to have a record of it. I keep a budget, a to-do list, and a detailed Outlook calendar for both work and personal commitments.
I also keep a list of everyone I’ve had sex with.
This isn’t a shitty little entry in the Notes section of my phone, either. It’s a gen-u-ine piece of paper dating back to my freshman year of high school. You can track my handwriting down the page as it shifts through the years, growing narrower, less loopy.
To be precise, the list actually includes everyone I’ve ever hooked up with. We all define that differently; my threshold, for our purposes, is at least a kiss on the lips. My list kicks off with my very first kiss, circa age 13. First name and last name wherever possible, though some entries are just first names, and some are a little more nebulous (“Sahara East guy”). There are names crossed out and adjusted for people who’ve changed theirs, or whose I initially misspelled; there are arrows clarifying timelines.
Those I’ve slept with have a star next to their names. As I write this, the stars number 42. I don’t think I’ve missed anyone.
Occasionally I mention this list casually, in passing. Who among us, perhaps during a game of Truth or Dare or 20 Questions, hasn’t been asked about, say, our best or worst or wackiest encounter, and responded, after a few moments of sincere thought, “Honestly, I’d have to look at my list”?
In this way, I’ve come to realize that not many others keep such a list. (“You have a fucking LIST?”) But I’d like to make a brief argument in favor of The List. It’s never too late to start one!
If you’ve ever looked back at digital documentation of any period of time in your life — whether via TimeHop or Facebook memories, re-watching your archived stories, or scrolling through your own tweets — it’s probably struck you just how much we forget. Moments that might have seemed so special and singular at the time — even just a year or two ago — would’ve been lost to memory if you hadn’t taken that Boomerang. And how many similar moments were lost, just because you didn’t take that Boomerang?
The List documents little pieces of my history that are often among the most intimate, or at least the most interesting. It lets me see, all in one place, everything that’s happened sexually for me between Seth (last name redacted), at age 13, and Royal (last name unknown), at age 21. After all, we’re human! We forget things! Some nights are a blur! Some sex isn’t very memorable!
Sometimes the argument is made that we can’t forget anything these days, even things we’d like to or things we should, because of social media. I’m all for muting the one-night stand who now posts frequent boyfriend photos (though I haven’t muted her yet) and blocking the high school ex who keeps popping up (though I haven’t blocked him yet). I’m all for forgetting when it’s an act of self-preservation. But I’m also a firm believer in facing reality: You can unfollow me, but you can’t un-fuck me.
Of course, there are also less whimsical reasons to keep records. We’ve all seen a sitcom (or a real-life situation) where a character is trying to figure out who’s the baby daddy or notify past partners that they’ve tested positive for an STI. Or maybe it’s just that someone pops up in our LinkedIn requests and we can’t quite place if it’s that someone. In such scenarios, The List might serve some of us well — just to refer back to, to double-check.
But that’s not why The List was conceived — not really.
Why do we make any list, after all? We do it for our future selves. A grocery list for our future self as she wanders purposelessly through the frozen food aisle. A list of New Year’s resolutions so our future self can pull it out in July and realize she still hasn’t gone zero-waste. An Amazon wish-list so that if our future self ever reactivates their Seeking Arrangements account, they’re ready.
We need our brain space to store more important, day-to-day things — our work assignments and our doctor appointments and our next bikini wax. Details of past trysts tend to get cobwebby up there. The List keeps it all in one place, for us to pull out every now and then and reflect upon, like an old yearbook or letter. If you like, say, poring over your own social media accounts until you’re deep in 2008, you’ll love The List.
Go ahead — give it a try. Fill up a page. Or two.
I have a weird relationship with sex, in the sense that I don’t really have one at all.
A few traumatizing years of private catholic school, cheating parents, and premature exposure to some pretty terrifying porn gave me an aversion to sex that lasted well, until now.
When I was 16 years old I made a promise to myself and, I guess, the universe that I would lose my virginity to the hook of the Disclosure and Sam Smith song “Latch.” I’d had the whole thing planned out; the stuff of fanfiction dreams. The person would be taller than me, have a nice car, dress nicely, and the most important requirement of all: they’d be in love with me.
Six years go by and the song at the top of the charts isn’t “Latch” anymore. In fact, Disclosure announced their hiatus after I graduated high school and now here I am on a college campus… still a virgin.
Obviously people don’t know this until I tell them, but when I do, I’m naturally asked, “Why?”
When I was a teen I would answer with, “I don’t want to go to hell for premartial sex,” — but that wasn’t me speaking. It was the scary nuns that taught a bunch of kids nothing about sex ed and everything about the immaculate conception. The real answer was uncovered after a few intense therapy sessions coaxed it out of me.
After wondering why I squirmed and grew quiet when my friends spoke of their hookups, I was discovered that among issues of body image and self confidence struggles, I held a deep-seeded fear of intimacy. I couldn’t fathom the thought that sex wasn’t always the stuff of fairytales and One Direction fanfics. It required physical and emotional connection. I feared the thought of sharing my body with another person. I’d seen, of course, historically and firsthand the power that sex had over people and the power that it did not.
How you could ‘give’ away part of yourself to someone and not have it matter at all — or have it matter too much — I still can’t seem to grasp. I’m not afraid of the act, I’d gotten to the “do you want to…?” portion a handful of times, but I’ll always answer coyly or with a kiss to distract them.
I become paralyzed when I think of the influence they might gain over me after we have sex. I’d been the background character in enough people’s love stories to know about the term “dickmatized”, and I believed it truly existed. I’d waited this long, would finally losing my virginity to someone put me in a more vulnerable position?
“That is your anxiety talking,” my therapist would tell me. Was it? Or was it my brain picking apart my true personality?
Only recently have I grown curious about having a sexual relationship. How could I not? It was all around me. The media, group messages, private messages, finsta posts all raging about one thing: sex. Sometimes my curiosity is so severe that I think I might combust. Other times I write it off with a shrug and think to myself, What’s another 22 years?
I don’t mean it, of course, as I’m actively on dating apps and a little too quick to text back someone I’m interested in. However, I’m decidedly not in a rush to have sex for the first time, not anymore.
I’ll keep on telling my therapist about the person who kissed me three months ago and how I wish I’d thrown caution to the wind and just went for it. She’ll keep listening to and telling me why she thinks I didn’t go all the way. I’ll heed her advice as I always do, but stay content with the fact that I’m learning how to be ready. And soon, I’ll know when I am.
In the meantime, “Latch” is still an excellent song to loop.
Art and photos by Lucia Rosenast.