Best-Of Advice

On sex and healing

Dear Coquette,

So, I’m 22 years old and I finally lost my virginity last weekend. I’m not dating the guy, but we have been seeing each other for a few months. I was raised to believe your virginity is a gift that should be saved until marriage, and my parents even gave me a purity ring, but over the past few years my own religious views have evolved and changed and I don’t identify with Christianity anymore.

That being said, I still carry a really messed-up view of sexuality. Somewhere along the way, I began associating sex with something dirty and shameful. My first kiss was with a stranger and we were both drunk. The only time I’ve given a BJ and the first time I was fingered were both against my will. I was never raped, but when I was scheduled for my first gyno appointment, I broke down crying so hard she decided not to examine me.

Clearly, I have issues, but back to last weekend. Despite my own messed up view of myself, I am very anti-slut shaming and I admire women who are confident with their sexuality. I think part of the reason I had put off losing my virginity so long was because I was afraid of feeling dirty, regretting it, and the like, but I feel like it was a healing thing. It was consensual, the guy asked several times if I wanted to, and despite the fact that it hurt like hell, I enjoyed it. I feel like it was a really cathartic experience, if that makes sense.

I’m not asking for any particular advice (unless you have some to give), but I don’t feel ready to talk to someone about this on a personal level and I feel that reading your columns (all of them, not just the ones about sex) has really helped me on my road to feeling good about sexuality. Thanks for the free therapy!

This breaks my heart, and we need to be clear about a couple things up front. If someone forces you to perform oral sex against your will, that is rape. If someone penetrates you against your will — even with a finger — that is rape.

I understand why you feel the need think otherwise, but telling yourself that you were never raped is a certain kind of denial that is at the heart of what you call your “issues.”

I’m not saying you should start considering yourself a victim. You shouldn’t. I just want you to recognize and accept that what you experienced really was sexual trauma. That’s okay, though, because you’re right about the healing.

Part of the reason losing your virginity was so cathartic is because it was willful and deliberate. You had control over the situation and your own sexuality. That’s a powerful experience after having carried around so much guilt and shame about your early sexual encounters.

You’re not done healing, though. You still have a lot of complicated emotions to process, and it’s not made any easier by an upbringing filled with purity rings and religious sexual repression. That’s also okay, though, because you’re on the right path.

You’re starting to realize that the “really messed up” view of sexuality you’ve been carrying around isn’t actually yours. You’re letting go of the unhealthy aspects of your past by taking control of not only your own sexuality, but of your own sexual values.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Continue healing, and continue strengthening your own personal set of values. You’ll get there.


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