A 27-year-old friend of mine just lost her virginity.
She told me that before she lost it, when people found out she had still been a virgin at her age they were shocked and wanted to know why. Then when she explained her reasons and they realized her answers weren’t that provocative, their eyes glazed over and they lost interest pretty quickly. She was a late-in-life-virgin because she was a late bloomer to begin with, someone not ready or comfortable enough with herself to have sex until after college. Unfortunately by that time she felt so far left behind she couldn’t catch up. Until a few weeks ago, that is.
Six months earlier, she’d met someone, and they clicked—the only problem was that he lives and works in Tokyo. They decided (without ever having done it mind you!) to be long distance with both of them taking turns visiting each other every three months. Finally when it was her turn to visit him (and right in time for the holidays) they had sex for the first time.
“It was a Christmas miracle!” She said to me after the fact, laughing over phone. Then her voice got more serious, “But, when, um… When does it start to feel good?” It was my turn to laugh. I told her I was still waiting.
Just kidding. Everyone knows I love sex. I love the whole thing: the flirting, the first kiss, the foreplay, the climax, the pillow-talk—really the whole kit and caboodle. If I didn’t love sex so much, I wouldn’t write about it every week. However, though I might not want to admit it, I understand exactly what my friend was asking.
She went on to say, “Remember when you told me about that guy you were seeing who couldn’t perform, and when he did, he couldn’t come, or he would come before you even got the condom on? And, you said to me, ‘All I want is to make him feel good?’ Like, you felt if you could just show him what a great night of sex was, then you could stop worrying about everything else in the relationship, right? Well, that’s the way I felt the whole time I was in Tokyo. I wanted him to feel like he wasn’t with a virgin who didn’t know anything. I wanted to make sure he was having the time of his life. But, now all I can think about is I don’t really know if I had a good time or not.”
She was right. Even though I feel like I’m a strong feminist who knows what I like and how to articulate that to the many partners I’ve had—there are times when I’ve forgotten that sex is a two way street, with both people needing to give and receive. The guy I dated, the one my friend was speaking of, caused me a lot of stress; he was so uncomfortable with his own body that I put all my efforts into trying and maintaining anything that would work for him. I spoke to a sex therapist, and I even bought expensive crotchless panties. But, I put my own needs on the back burner. The one time we did have full-on penetrative sex, I didn’t have an orgasm. That was one of the handful of times (in my whole life ) I didn’t come. I remembered getting off of him and rolling onto my back. At first I felt elated and relieved that we had finally accomplished having sex, but then I got this horrible sinking feeling when I realized I hadn’t enjoyed any of it.
The guy I lost my virginity to was the worst boyfriend ever. Let me clarify, he wasn’t a malicious person or anything, but only years later, after we broke up, did I figure out he must have been deeply troubled about sex. When we were together, he was the most uncommunicative person I’ve ever been with. I spent hours trying in vain to guess what he was thinking and what he liked. It wasn’t until the second person I had sex with that I realized sex could be something relatively easy. Also, the second guy was the first person to introduce me to anything kinky. It was still pretty mild stuff, but I was shocked and intrigued to learn that sex could be so totally different from person to person. I had been changing myself to fit into what I thought my first lover wanted, and then by the simple virtue of sleeping with another person I realized I didn’t have to morph into something I wasn’t. I could just look for the person that fit me best.
I guess I still have to remind myself of this, especially as it was only recently I wasn’t having orgasms with a man who was possibly impotent. Part of what I love most about sex is the giving, so its hard for me to see that I haven’t received anything on the other side. Its also hard for me to walk away from things that aren’t working, as I like to think “we can fix this—all we need to do is be open!” Maybe that’s the sex educator in me, or maybe its just the coward who doesn’t like to be alone. There’s a fine line between understanding that someone isn’t perfect and realizing the relationship is not worth pursuing.
Either way, I need to come to terms with something when its broken—or when it never worked in the first place. It doesn’t mean that one of us is irreparable; it’s just that as a pair we were never going to take over the world.
I have a neighbor who always talks in outdated metaphors and normally they annoy the hell out of me. However, when I told him about this particular dilemma he said, “Sex is like bridge: you have a good partner or you do it alone.” What more do I need to know?