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fear of intimacy

V-Card Diaries: Lexie "He told me how many girls’ virginities he had taken as if that was supposed to make me feel better. It did not."

Writing from: Washington

Age: Early 20s

How I define virginity: To me losing your virginity does not mean it is going to change your life

Growing up I was always told sex was to be something that happened once you were married. Even in sex education, the idea of waiting until you were married was drilled into my head. There was no actual education about sex, no one told me what to do, what happens during sex or how I might feel, once it was all over.

What I did learn was how to fear sex. I was scared of sex because I did not actually know what to expect when it happened. I was scared that if I did end up having sex with a guy he would not like me because I did not know what I was doing. So I kept my distance from guys and never let any of them get too close until one night at a party.

I lost my “virginity” when I was 19 years old. Instead of my first time being with someone I loved and cared about, it was with a complete stranger. We met at a college party; he was visiting my school for the weekend. We instantly clicked, talking to him was not like talking to other guys, it was easy and the conversation just flowed. I ended up leaving the party with him and his friends to go to a different party at the apartment building he was staying at that weekend. I knew leaving the party that I was going to have sex with him, not because he had said anything about it but because something just felt right.

When we got to the party, we quickly decided to leave and go to the place where he was staying and that is when it all went to hell. I was a 19-year-old girl who had never actually kissed a boy before and I was about to let myself have sex; to say I was freaking out is an understatement. He went in for a kiss and I started having a panic attack and started to pace around the room.

I told him I was a virgin and that I had never done anything with a boy before. He then told me how many girls’ virginities he had taken as if that was supposed to make me feel better, it did not, but I still decided to have sex with him. I honestly just wanted to get it over with at that point. It was bad; it hurt much more than I thought it would, like a knife being stabbed into my vagina. I had no idea what I was doing so I just kept apologizing for everything.

The sex finally stopped when someone walked in on us. It was painful and I bled, a lot. It was not what I expected losing my virginity to be like at all. But I was even less prepared for how I would emotionally feel after. It has been over a year and I cannot move on from the guy who took my “virginity.”  

If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Find The V-Card Diaries here on most Wednesdays.

V-Card Diaries: Emily Dickingson "Is there anyone that could love me for me enough that my extreme involuntary virgin status wouldn't turn him off?"

Writing from: Cleveland, Ohio

Age: Late 30s

How I define virginity: My definition seems to align w/society's definition: not having engaged in sexual intercourse of the baby-making variety.

But really, MY definition of virginity for myself is MUCH broader and encompasses many more issues. I read an article in Psychology Today that was a review of research on involuntary sexual virgins, and I very closely identified with what the research describes: adults who are virgins not of their own choosing.

The research studies showed that for involuntary virgins, there were often signs of this fate far back in childhood. Here, the author of the article highlights some of the "tells" of eventual involuntary adult virgins: children who are isolated, have a hard time making friends, are made fun of by their peers, children who feel strongly socially awkward and therefore prefer to play alone.

All of these descriptors applied to me. As such, I never was asked to a school dance, or asked to dance, or asked out on a date. I've never been on a date. I have never been kissed. Forget rounding the bases, I've never even been invited to the game. I have zip-zero-nada experience with anything related to love or romance or flirting or dating or sex.

I am very lonely, and I crave companionship. I yearn for a sexual partner, but only if we are in love with each other. Sex with strangers just for the sex frightens me; I'm scared of all the ways it would go wrong because of my lack of knowledge or experience. On the other hand, sex with someone I love and who loves me is also scary because of all the pressure that would be put on both of us. Is there anyone that could love me for me? Love me enough that my extreme involuntary virgin status wouldn't turn him off?

If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Find The V-Card Diaries here on most Wednesdays.

Ask Trixie: I've never had consensual sex and was only taught abstinence. So, what should I know?

I've only been raped before so I consider myself a virgin since I've never had consensual sex or a consensual first kiss. only taught abstinence and about STDs so what should I know? –locandload

Hi locandload -

I am so incredibly sorry that you were raped. I’m also sad what’s passed for sex ed has only been about abstinence and STDs. I don’t know very much about your own story, but knowing what I know about abstinence programs I feel like the things you learned about sex were mostly based on fear and shame. I hope I can offer some help.

Your question ‘what should I know’ is so big, I can’t really do it justice in this post. Because there’s so much to know! A great start would be checking out Scarleteen, which I (and many people) think is the best sex ed site in the world. Scarleteen has really great (and very kind) info, and here are just some of the links to their topics: bodiesgendersexual identityrelationshipssex & sexualitysexual healthpregnancy & parenting and abuse & assault

Scarleteen also has Direct Services, including one-on-one answers to your questions, as well as message boards and more. I hope it’s a good start to finding all the info and support you need. 

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here . Find Ask Trixie here on most Mondays.

V-Card Diaries: Flowah Bomb "My story is more of a series of questions because I feel lost"

My definition of virginity:  

Something you hold on to and don't want to let got but if and when you hold in to it for too long you don't know how to let go

Here's my story:

My story is more of a series of questions because I feel lost. I considered myself a virgin since I never had vaginal intercourse, but what about oral sex and does masturbation count? Does that count on the virgin not to do list?

I am 24 going on 25 and I have come close to losing my virginity once but I stopped it because I felt it was not my time yet, like a fruit not ready to be picked just yet, so I stopped the events. Now I feel as thought I did lose my virginity that night. As he has a part of me that I can never get back.

Most people do tie their identities with their virginity and I, unfortunately am one of them. I don't know how to be with someone and my fear is that I won't ever get it. I fear I won't know how to define myself if I lose my virginity. Everyone around me has "lost it" but I am terrified of losing it and wanting it back. Thank you for your time.

Hopefully I will get some answer to these questions and all the others I have one way or another.


Note from Therese: We talk a lot about how to (and if to) define virginity on this blog. If anyone has any thoughts or answers for Flowah Bomb, please leave them in the comments below. 

If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

 

 

 

Only Connect...

The other day I was re-reading our V-Card Diaries stories, and I was reminded that people who have never had sex are sometimes dealing with personal issues that go beyond the lack of physical experience. So I was struck by this excerpt from Vivian Gornick's New York Times essay on British author E. M. Forster, author of Howards End, as well as A Room With A View, A Passage to India, and Maurice:

Forster was 31 years old when “Howards End” appeared, at which time he was a closeted homosexual and a virgin who knew nothing of how erotic relations worked — with any combination of partners. His ignorance weighed on him, and in his imagination sex achieved a mythical power that became symbolic of all in human existence that one could feel but not express, imagine but not realize. His fearfulness was such that until now he had known neither passion nor love; what he did know was yearning. This yearning energized his work but also limited it. In time he lost his virginity, but sex alone did not provide experience. Anxiety — that frozen sea within — still made it impossible for him to dive deep into the kind of desire that leads to self-knowledge; and without self-knowledge all remains murk and isolation.

Ask Trixie: "I'm terrified to have sex because I suck at everything"

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I'm a virgin. Which kinda sucks [to me]. It's not that i don't like being a virgin, I'm just fucking terrified to have sex. That and I've never had a boyfriend. I'm bit old fashioned. I'd like to make sure I know the person before I let them stick anything inside me, you know?? Any tips? because i suck at everything. Please and thanks. – Anonymous

Hi Anonymous - After reading your letter, I'm pretty sure you don’t suck at everything! You’ve been giving this decision to have sex a whole lot of thought. And the first and most important part of becoming sexual is to know your own body, what you want and don’t want, and how you’re going to make yourself happy. 

So, it sounds like you kind of know what to do: Take your time and find someone you trust, you can talk to, and you feel comfortable with. This might take a while, but keep in mind it’s not a race to the finish line. It’s a long process and intercourse is just one part of it. Go slow. Definitely try some something else first that might feel less intense or intimate. And when you're comfortable with that, try the next thing. (A lot of women say that manual or oral sex is more fun than intercourse, anyway.)

Another reason to take things slow and find someone you can talk to is the fear that penetration is going to hurt. For some people, it does, but often it's because they're not relaxed or lubricated enough. I wrote about that here.

So take a deep breath and relax. I think you’re totally on the right track!

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

Ask Trixie: "I'm scared to lose my virginity because I'm scared I will get pregnant."

I'm scared to lose my virginity because I'm scared I will get pregnant the first time I ever do it because that's the kind of luck I have – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous – I’m really glad you asked this question. Sex can be amazing, but being ready for any kind of sex is more than just making physical and emotional connections. It also means you and your partner are taking responsibility for using the right contraception and STI prevention–which I know can sometimes be confusing and awkward.

I have TOTALLY been there myself, and I’m really ashamed to say that the first time I had intercourse I used no birth control at all. So stupid and scary, and I was very lucky to not get pregnant or get an STI*. I did NOT make that mistake again. I immediately scheduled my first gynecologist appointment and decided to go on the pill (and never got pregnant). That was the right choice for me at the time, but everyone's situation is different.

One little thought: Having any kind of sex for the first time can sometimes be scary, or make us nervous. Think about whether fear of pregnancy is masking some other deeper concerns about being intimate. I'll leave that there for you to ponder and get on to the birth control info.

First of all, the best way not to get pregnant is not to have intercourse (Jane The Virgin doesn’t count) but if you do want to have intercourse, birth control should never, ever be a matter of luck. It’s about educating yourself on the best BC option for you, and then using it exactly as directed. Despite what abstinence-until-marriage programs teach, contraception is safe and effective when used correctly (and a lot safer than going through a pregnancy). 

A great place to start is with this handy guide from our friends at Scarleteen. It walks you through questions about what’s most useful and healthy for YOU and gives lots of suggestions on what to use. Planned Parenthood also has a great guide as does Bedsider.

Once you have an idea of what works best for you, go see your health care provider. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Planned Parenthood office, they’ll be happy to help you, and it will be less expensive. Stay way clear of Crisis Pregnancy Centers which advertise the same services but then give you misinformation and shame instead of contraception.

One other thing to consider: If you’re having sex within a relationship and your birth control costs a bit of cash, it’s only fair that your partner helps pay for it. Just because you’re the one who can get pregnant, it doesn’t mean it’s not his responsibility as well. 

*Don’t forget Sexually Transmitted Infections, which can be an even bigger risk than pregnancy because you don’t have to have intercourse to get infected. Condoms are the only way to protect yourself against those so have your partner keep using them. Also, because no BC is absolutely 100% effective (although many come very close), condoms can be a great backup.

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

V-Card Diaries: Christine "My social anxiety kept me from forming intimate sexual relationships."

Today we're highlighting Christine in Wisconsin, who feels she'll be single for a long while and hopes to experience a fulfilling sexuality even without a partner. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. A little about myself:

I'm a 29-year-old female living in Wisconsin. I'm a librarian.

How I define virginity:

I don't like the word "virginity" or all that it entails. I think it's an outmoded term. I like what Betty Dodson has to say on the matter, that if you've experienced orgasm or any kind of sex (including masturbation), you are not a virgin. By this standard, I have not been a virgin for quite some time. I unfortunately also operate under more conventional definitions of virginity, which is not having experienced male-female vaginal penetration. I have not done that. And moreover, I consider myself a virgin because there are so many levels of sexual and romantic contact that I have not experienced.

Here's my story: 

I grew up in a home where my parents required all my emotional resources and there wasn’t much space for me to seek relationships outside the family. I developed social anxiety over the years and got used to not spending much time with peers. I’m finally free of this dynamic and it is taking time and considerable effort to redirect my energies to creating fulfilling relationships.

I am a very sexual person who enjoys masturbating frequently and sometimes uses books, porn, and toys. For about two years, I had extremely strong sexual desire that led me to engaging in online sex (chatting, phone sex, exchanging photos) several times a day. I will probably be single for a long while and my hope is to experience my sexuality as fulfilling and real even without a partner.

I’ve been on a total of four dates, none leading to a second date or a relationship. At the end of one date, I held hands with him and we kissed and it was very nice. That is the extent of my in-person sexual contact with a man.

I know that I want to eventually get married and have children and that all of this requires sex and intimacy. I believe that I am capable of it but I just need to keep building my life and working towards these relationships. I feel deep shame about my lack of experience, but I also understand the reasons why and I am working to create a more engaged relational life.

Dear Young Men: Don't get hung up on the V-Word

Two great articles speaking directly to men about virginity and sexuality. We ladies cover this topic a lot on the blog, and I also enjoyed sharing similar ideas in an interview for an upcoming documentary on male virginity. Unfortunately, we ladies sometimes get a bit of pushback when we weigh in on this topic, but luckily, here's the same straight dope from a couple of actual dudes. So listen up and seriously, read the whole stories at the links. They are both super smart. From "Dear young men: The old stereotypes of what it is to be a 'man' are a load of rubbish" in The Independent

At about age 14, boys feel like they have to start bullshitting about their sexual exploits in order to survive. The pressure on these kids is just too great for them to speak frankly about it. Ignore what everyone says about their sex lives. They are lying, all of them, at least a little.

Forget the word “virgin” as a descriptor for both yourself and others. It’s an archaic, irrelevant word, meant to stigmatise and shame people. It oversells a person’s first sex act as some grand, transformational experience, which supposedly vindicates a young man and spoils a young woman. It’s an obsolete, religious, judgmental word. Let’s leave  it behind.

From "The Problem With Male Virginity" in Paging Dr. Nerdlove

Your value doesn’t come from who you have or haven’t slept with. It doesn’t come from where you fall on the bell-curve of starting sexual activity, whether you were precocious or a late bloomer. Your value as a person comes from how you act and how you make others feel. It’s about what you bring to the table as a whole person, not how many vaginas you’ve managed to talk your way into.

Don’t spend your time focused on getting laid for the first time, spend your time on becoming a better person. Cultivate an amazing life. Learn to connect with people, to build relationships. Don’t throw your hands in the air and just assume you’re uniquely cursed, work to fix things. Practice your social skills – getting good with women, getting good with people, is a skill that you can learn. Yes, you may have problems. You may have circumstances in your life that make things harder for you. But harder isn’t impossible, no matter how daunting it may seem.

h/t to our virginspotters @OliveMercies and @j_aallan !

V-Card Diaries: Naren "My 5 kisses were on stage in front of 500 people. I was 13, playing Liesl; the guy was 19, playing Rolf."

Today we're highlighting Naren from Canada, who is in a relationship with a really caring guy who respects her boundaries. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. About me:

I'm 19, and live somewhere different every 2-3 months. So far, it's always in Canada.

How I define virginity:

I'm not sure. I think it's different for every person. In regards to my own, it's definitely PIV sex, because this is what terrifies me the most. Not because of religious or other views; physical intimacy of any kind has always scared me, for no reason that I can discern.

My story:

My 5 kisses were on stage in front of 500 people. I was 13, playing Liesl; the guy was 19, playing Rolf. They meant nothing.

Throughout high school, people questioned my sexuality because of my short hair, lack of make-up, and "boy" clothes. I didn't know what my sexuality was. I still don't know how I identify. And I don't care. I suppose I'm close to demisexual or grey-A, but really, I'm just a person; sometimes I'm attracted to other people. We may do intimate stuff - or not. It doesn't matter, so long as everything is consensual, and both sides are open and caring.

Currently, I'm in my first relationship; we've been dating nearly 8 months. It's long distance, and we've only spent about 3 in-person weeks together. Neither of us had any experience to start. Mine was largely due to a huge fear of intimacy. It means the world to me how caring he is; he will never push for contact, and always asks where my boundaries are and then has absolute respect for them. He says he would enjoy going further than we do, but is happy to stay at whatever level I'm comfortable at.

I love him, and he loves me. Different kinds of sex might happen, but it doesn't define our relationship. Personally, I couldn't have it any other way, but our brand of chemistry is just one of an infinite number. People should do whatever's right for them; the important part is being in relationships that are sensitive to the needs of all sides.