There are some lessons that, it seems, one has to learn for oneself. In general, I tend to be a cautious person, and I am sensitive to the voices of others, especially those I consider older and wiser than myself. Even if I disagree with these voices, whether they be individual people sharing their personal lessons learned, or oral tradition within a culture, I try to honor the wisdom and struggle behind them.
And yet, the past few years, I have been in a season of needing to live out some lessons myself. Some lessons in particular that I have needed to explore were related to sex. Growing up, I bought the conservative Christian message about sex, hook, line, and sinker. And after being betrayed by that message, it seems I had to learn for myself what was going on.
I was the ripe old age of 25 years when I had sex for the first time. (Almost in danger of becoming an old maid!!) Due to my partner being somewhat less than skilled or compassionate, let's just say I didn't have the best experience. For years I didn't have a good experience. It became a chore during marriage, a source of resentment, irritation, shame, and self-doubt. I was told I was "frigid," which I never quite believed, but I didn't know what to think, and didn't know how to ask for help. After the divorce, my mind freshly liberated from the shackles of legalism, and my body and heart freshly liberated from the shackles of an abusive marriage, I set out to learn what the rules of sex were. OK, well, I didn't actually consciously choose that goal, as I was mostly worried about raw survival, my children, and figuring out what the next step should be. But it was an important tangent that kind of happened along the way.
I definitely wouldn't say I'm a professional sexologist, by any means. The topic is still a somewhat sensitive point in my psyche. But here are some life lessons I have picked up so far.
1) It flat out isn't true that all men are sex-maniacs with a one-track mind, as I'd been taught. I may have verbally acknowledged this before, but I often tended to operate from the ingrained assumption anyway. But now, after some important experiences, I am beginning really to know it more deeply. Men are just as complex as women are. In several of my dating relationships, I was the one who initiated sex. In the past few years, there have been a few men I wanted and tried to seduce with my body, but they weren't interested and--shockingly-- didn't respond. (And they didn't act like martyrs either--they weren't religious, even, for me to be able to blame it on that. They were, clearly, just not "clicking" with me at the personal level, and not willing to get involved physically in something that they weren't involved emotionally with.) And I'm currently dating a guy who is more than willing to wait, while I sort out all my health issues, before we start having sex, because he just straight up likes who I am. These guys are all aware of me as a person who is more than the sum of just a few of my body parts. The interaction with these guys, who want a real relationship with a real person, has touched my heart. I realize I'm lucky, and some women (and men) have had some pretty terrible experiences, but I don't think the one-track-minded male is as common as some would make it out to be.
2) "Virginity" isn't a thing. I was taught growing up that one's virginity is a precious gift, and it should be saved for the one you'll spend the rest of your life with. But now, this sounds completely ridiculous. I understand the cultural history of this kind of language, but now that we are in the 21st century, this is really language we should toss in the trash! Virginity isn't a "thing" at all, so you can't lose it. It's just a label that we use to indicate someone who hasn't done a particular thing. It just means "zero experience." You can't "give away" zero-experience in sex, any more than you can "give away" zero-experience with using a computer or swimming. In no other realm of life do we give zero-experience with something a judgemental label and treat it as a commodity. In what other realm of life is zero-experience with something even considered a good thing? (OK, unless we're talking about, say, crime... fair enough.) You wouldn't go looking for a mechanic who's "virgin" in the field of car repair. Yet so many people (especially in the religious world) are still saying that they insist on marrying only a virgin. What retards. I'll be plain. Sex with someone who doesn't know what they're doing is kind of annoying. Well, unless that's your thing, for whatever reason. But if you like to get lost in the pleasure, then a newbie (or someone who's only experienced at being awkward, selfish, and unknowledgeable) is a real kill-joy.
3) "Sexuality" isn't a thing. This might sound rather weird, but it's a conclusion I've come to. People use terms like "exploring your sexuality," and "what you do with your sexuality," and to me, these terms don't make sense. You can do things with your sex organs, or you can explore why certain people or kinds of people tend to excite or attract you, but what, exactly, is "sexuality," as a personal thing, anyway? Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic here, but in my book, it's important to distinguish between what we often mean by the term "sexuality" and the specific acts, feelings, thoughts, desires, and attitudes related to sex. And I don't believe that "sexuality" is really even a useful term. Many would disagree with me, but I feel it's terribly imprecise, and usually somewhat prescriptive. Using the term also has the effect sometimes of inventing a causal agent in an individual's life, kind of like the devil, "hormones," or anything else people like to blame things on. People talk about desires they have or choices they make as if they were affected by, springing from, their sexuality, rather than the other way around--their "sexuality" (if it exists, which I think it doesn't) should be defined by the desires they have or the choices they've made. I don't think "sexuality" exists, because there's no single wellspring from which all sexual desires, choices, impulses, attitudes, and anything else, spring. There's no section of our brain dedicated to "sexuality," as there is for, say vision or emotions. All of the things that affect sex can be impacted by all kinds of factors, from biological, to psychological, to situational. I suppose I don't mind occasionally using the word "sexuality" as a label to tie together all these things in a loose, descriptive way, but I typically hear the word being used prescriptively, and it bugs me.
More lessons to come, someday! :)