Sexing While Awkward: A Letter to my Teenage Self

Originally published on The Sex Letters Project blog.

Dear past self,

A magazine cannot tell you if you’re ready to have sex. The number of fingers your boyfriend can fit inside you cannot tell you if you’re ready to have sex (and, frankly, he’s kidding himself if he thinks you need to fit three). You will not bleed when you lose your virginity. You will not need the towel folded oh-so-romantically beneath your body. It won’t even hurt that much. You’ll be 22. By the time you lose your virginity, you will understand that you need to be wet for sex to work. By the time you lose your virginity, you will even understand how to get yourself there. Being a late bloomer will have its advantages, I promise.

When your first boyfriend tells you that he’s given you your first orgasm, he will be wrong. Your first orgasm will come when you’re 18, with a guy who will soon become your ill-advised boyfriend of three years. Your ill-advised boyfriend doesn’t believe in sex until marriage. Your ill-advised boyfriend believes in casually getting blowjobs from friends and encouraging you to have a threesome with him when he finds out you’re bi. He will probably skew your views of sex and your own sexuality in ways that will take years to sort out. You’re going to date him anyway. I’m sorry.

I know that, right now, people only ask you out as a joke. It sucks. You write a lot of angry poetry about it. Someday, this attention will come for real. I don’t know when you’ll stop expecting it all to crash down; I’ll let you know when I find out.

You will hate your body. You will pick at the skin between your ribs and display it in your internal museum of flaws. You will be consistently surprised at any feedback that goes against your self-image. I don’t know when this will stop, either. You’ll be afraid of your own body, of its capacity for failure, for weakness, for pleasure. You’ll get stronger. You’ll get strong.

Virginity is not real. Or, it is only as real as you want it to be. Sexual intercourse doesn’t change you as a person any more than any other type of relationship. Which is to say, some sex will leave you completely unaffected, while some will shift your very core. But it won’t be the act of sexual intercourse that affects change. It will be the intimacy you allow yourself to experience, and the security in your own body that you eventually revel in.

You will have sex with boys. You will have sex with girls, too. Enjoy it all. Have sex with people who make you laugh. Let laughter be your aphrodisiac. Laugh during sex, because sex can be really fucking weird, and so can you. The right people will still want to have sex with you, not despite this, but because of it. Don’t have sex with people you can’t laugh with. Don’t have sex with people who don’t get your weirdness. Sex is not the enemy, nor is it the end-goal. Sex is a celebration, and should feel like one.

Remember, above all else, that you are not your parents. You are capable of strong, healthy relationships. You are capable of good communication, good understanding, and good sex. You are stranger than you think, and stronger than you know. Not only will you let your freak flag fly, you’ll have hand-bedazzled the whole damn thing.

And, kid, it will work for you.

Love always,
Gabrielle, 27

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