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I thought I'd wait until marriage, but I've changed my mind.

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Anonymous asks:

I am 21 years old and am a virgin. I am currently single, but I had a boyfriend in high school and part of college and we never actually had sex, but did everything leading up to it. A part of me always felt like I wasn't ready to be having sex with him even though I was attracted to him. Maybe it was because I was so young then. I always thought I would wait until marriage to have sex, but I also always thought I would be getting married quite early in my life (around 22 or 23). Now I have realized that I have no desire to get married that early, but I don't want to wait until I am in my upper 20's to experience sex. I recently met a guy who I get along with quite well. We are able to communicate very easily and I also find him attractive. He is from another country and is quite experienced sexually, and we have talked about this before and about how I am a virgin. I have been having thoughts about losing my virginity to him if something were to happen between us. Right now we are friends, and not in any sort of relationship, but that doesn't bother me. I am not wanting a boyfriend right now. My question is whether losing my virginity to him (if the opportunity arose) would be a bad idea? I feel as though I could trust him with that part of myself and I feel like I would be okay with us remaining friends afterward. I have not mentioned any of this to him, as 1) I am not sure how to go about it and 2) I don't know if he is even thinking anything like this. Any thoughts, help would be appreciated!

Heather Corinna replies:

The very first thing I'd say to you is that I hope you know and accept that it's always anyone's prerogative to change their mind or their stance when it comes to any aspect of sex and sexuality. Sounds like you do, but just in case you don't, please know that it's okay.

It's also okay to realize that one set of ideas you had once isn't as applicable or realistic now and it may have been or seemed then. As with anything, with sexuality, what things are when they're an idea often alters when that idea becomes more tangible and actual. And that's the case both on a personal front, as well as from a cultural one.

Romance and sex have been linked up culturally for a very long time. Some of that is for sound reasons: a lot of people's romances come with sexual feelings, many people are very aroused by romance, many people make their most committed relationships romantic ones, and sex, by all means, has the capacity to express romantic love. Some of those reasons aren't so great: like making romantic relationships seem like the only or most important or meaningful relationships across the board, like heterosexism and sexism, like making sexual rules that are applied to women -- e.g., if sex isn't about romantic love, you're not being a "good" girl -- that aren't applied to men, and so forth.

But you know, we can't, as people or a culture, fairly dictate what kinds of relationships and most comfortable or most meaningful for all people -- or even for any one person, all the time: that's only something that any of us can determine for ourselves on a relationship-by-relationship basis. We also really can't say that sex is only okay, positive or healthy in one kind of relationship, because that simply doesn't hold water for everyone across the board.

The best we CAN do is try and figure out what each of us as individuals needs for sex to be beneficial, satisfying, safe and healthy for us. For some people, that is only within the context of a certain kind of relationship, but even then, WHO the person is they're in that relationship with and what the dynamics of that relationship is like is a pretty critical issue.

You're saying that right now, you're feeling like you are interested in pursuing sexual partnership. You're also saying that you've been spending time with someone for whom you have sexual feelings, trust and a friendship, who you're considering having a sexual partnership with. All of that sounds just fine by me, and sounds like you're feeling just fine about it. is it a bad idea? Only if it seems like a bad idea to you. if you feel like it's really important for you to only have sexual partnership in a context that isn't this, then it's probably not the best choice. But if this context/relationship/person is feeling right as rain to you, and you've got a pretty realistic handle on your expectations, there's no reason to second-guess yourself.

But before you get further than that, if this does seem like what you want, the next step really is to talk to him about it. Obviously, it's pretty vital he feels the same way. It's also often a pretty good sign that a sexual relationship is more likely to be positive and beneficial if the people involved in it can communicate well about sex and their feelings. So, if you strongly want to pursue this and do really feel ready, I'd say the next step is to bring this to the table. You might simply start by saying that you're feeling sexual feelings for him, as well as really liking your friendship; that you don't want to have a boyfriend right now, but you're wondering how he's feeling about you in this regard.

It is pretty important for you to be on the same page. Sexual friendships can be great, but not-so-great if any one person wants a kind of relationship the other doesn't. So, talking about how you each feel and what you each want -- and also being able to leave room given that sex with a person can change our feelings, something even harder to predict when sex is brand-new to a person -- is pretty critical. I know it's emotionally risky, but if you're feeling like you want to take it here, someone's got to pipe up eventually, and talking frankly tends to work a lot better than hinting around. :)

So, that's where I'd suggest you start, and see what his responses are. I'd do yourself a favor and be emotionally prepared in case he doesn't feel the same way as you do, too. Sure, you don't want a boyfriend or a romance, but sexual rejection can be a bit tough sometimes and often awkward between friends. So, if you just know that possibility/reality exists of him NOT returning your interest, it'll be a good deal easier to both deal with it if it happens, and to let him know that you're okay with that, too, without it screwing up what sounds like a god friendship.

Lastly, I'd also just remind you that if you do both decide to enter into a sexual relationship -- and you probably know this -- there aren't guarantees that it won't change your friendship, no matter how the sex goes. Sex really does change things between people, in any number of ways, so when we have a good friendship or other kind of relationship going on, it is good to make sure that we're okay with the wild card sex can toss into the ring. For instance, what if this question or sex between you wound up terminating the friendship or making it feel kind of weird? Are you okay with taking that risk or not? Just something smart to consider, and also to talk about. Since it seems you two communicate well already, you've got a bonus in your pocket when it comes to be able to talk about all of these things more easily than you might otherwise.

I'm going to go ahead and also toss you a couple extra links, including a link to my new book (don't mean to be the sex educator's version of the Tupperware lady: it's just a great primer for anyone starting their sexual life, and doesn't assume that happens in one kind of relationship). I think they'll be helpful for you when you're thinking about all of this, and helpful things to bring to the table when you two talk about this option.

written 16 Sep 2007 . updated 13 Jan 2009

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