When did sex become something to tick off a scorecard?
I don’t know when the transition from “you’ve had sex?!” to “so, did you have sex yet?” began. I think somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18. That’s when you’re meant to be done with the ‘awkward’ phase. The phase where your mum drops you and your date off at the movies, and you watch whatever shitty Marvel film has just come out. You awkwardly reach out to hold hands, and both your palms are weirdly sweaty. Then you go and have clumsy sex in your childhood bedroom, and it’s both your first times and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know. I never got that far.
You’re meant to be knowledgeable about these things after you turn 18. Sex is simple! There’s nothing attached to it. You don’t overthink it. Casual hookups abound! You don’t have to be good at it, or have a lot of it, but you should’ve done it at least once, right? Everyone expects you to have all the secrets of life figured out by the time you hit 19.
When a friend sent me the Instagram post asking for contributors for the Sex Issue of Craccum, I was pretty taken aback. He thought I’d be interested in writing something. My first thought was, “Really? Writing about the sex I don’t have?” The sex I don’t have is my story. It’s a story about crippling insecurities and uncertain desires, and not knowing if you like boys, or girls, or both, or neither.
No, I’m not waiting for marriage. I’m not religious, I don’t have strict parents. I’m just a 20-year-old virgin who has no idea how the schematics work. I know bits and pieces, of course. The actual act is straightforward. The before and after are what confuses me.
The Before: Do you need to wax strip every piece of hair on your body off? Makeup? What do you wear? Do you go comfy or sexy? Does it matter? Won’t it come off anyway? Do I get to keep my glasses on?
The After: Do you leave straight away? Do you compliment each other on your performances? Go for a high-five? Give quarterly reviews? I know you’re meant to pee after. How do you smoothly segue into that?
Hook-up culture makes it seem so easy. I get Tinder messages asking to link up all the time; like, right then, right now. No prep time whatsoever, like forgoing a home-cooked meal for instant ramen. Maybe it is easy! Emily, just bite the bullet and do it. Get it over and done with.
But, my insecurities dig their slimy fingers into my brain as they take hold of my hands and type out “oh hahaha, not for me sorry”.
A few months ago, I was hanging out with a few of my friends. The conversation shifts to the men in our lives (or lack thereof). Whenever I chime in, one of my friends gives me a look that verges on pity. “Emily,” she says finally, “the problem is that when you do find someone, you won’t have any experience.” “Well,” I counter desperately, “if they’re the right person, then it won’t matter.” And she chuckles as if I am a child, oblivious to the otherworldly ethereal realm of sex.
Thinking about that now, as I write this, I am still angry. Is my virginity the sum of my worth when I’m being scouted by potential partners? The make or break? The dirty, shameful little secret? Are you kidding me? It’s as if sex is some sacred rite of passage I have not yet completed. I’ve yet to cross the holy threshold into the land of casual flings, drunken sex, and dollar-store lube.
The day I cross into that land might seem groundbreaking at first, but I doubt it will really matter. I’ll still look the same, feel the same, and have the same goals. Just another little stepping-stone in the pathway of my life. It could be tomorrow, or next week, or never. It’s no one’s business but mine. And if that’s a problem for anyone, then they can fuck right off.