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I'm 25: shouldn't I have been ready for sex?

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Carmen23 asks:

I am 25. I am a virgin. I went on this date with this guy. We were trying to have sex. He didn't put his penis inside of me. I was in pain. I panicked. I told him , I am not ready. I don't know him very well. I did not want to sleep with him. I was freaked out. He told me, you are 25. You should be ready. My friend told me to purchase a vibrator that will help me be more comfortable with sex. Do you think I need more foreplay? Is there something wrong with me? Is there a way I can make the experience better for me?

Heather Corinna replies:

I don't think there's anything wrong with you. But, boy howdy, does it sound like plenty was wrong with this situation.

You did not WANT to engage in sex with this person.

You were also clear that you didn't feel ready to have sex with this person once it was obvious to you that you felt that way.

The right response to that from him should've been something like, "Oh, okay, let's stop any of this, then. Do you still want to hang out some more tonight, or would you like me to go and give you some space? Are you okay? Is there anything I can get for you or do for you if you're not?"

NOT, "You are 25, you should be ready." UGH.

If anything, that response makes clear THAT guy probably isn't ready to be sexual with other people, because that's just not how we respond to another person in this situation when we're actually respecting and regarding them as a person. It's not like people come with some kind of timer that goes DING! at or by a certain age and then they're done when it comes to being ready for -- or interested in -- sex with any given person at any given time. You're a person, not a roast in the oven, for crying out loud.

I suspect that what will make any sexual experiences better for you are what tend to make them good for pretty much everyone.

For one, they need to be truly wanted. When we don't want to engage in any kind of sex, or we did, but then we don't anymore, it's never going to be any good for anyone. You can be sure that if this guy had stopped wanting sex with you, he'd probably have stopped and opted out of continuing with it, too.

We do also need to feel ready, on our own terms, not just if and when someone else wants us to be ready, or thinks we should be, because they want sex from us.

What feeling or being ready means to you may not be the same thing as what it means to other people, but certainly, feeling like you don't know someone well enough to be having sex with them is one of those things where no one is going to feel ready. While everyone may not have the same timetable with that, or the same timetable with one potential partner versus another, we're all going to have some measure of when we feel comfortable enough with someone -- or don't -- to be sexual with them.

Another one that's pretty universal when it comes to what makes sexual experiences good, or comfortable for people is not sleeping with people who are being total jerks. I don't really know who is ready to be sexual with people who don't treat them like human beings in the most basic ways, but if and when we are ready for that, we probably have some big issues to work out, issues we're not likely helped by trying to work out through sex with people who don't treat us with basic care and kindness.

Clearly, this guy wouldn't qualify. This guy, from the sounds of things, wasn't treating you with basic respect and care. It sounds pretty clearly like what he was invested in was having sex, not in the person he wanted to have sex with. To be healthy, sound sexual partners for anyone, we've got to be invested in, and mindful about, both.

You asked if you needed more foreplay or, what I just call other kinds of sex. (After all, things like making out, oral sex or manual sex, when we're all engaging in them to explore and express our sexual feelings or desires, are kinds of sex just like intercourse is a kind of sex.) For sure, before intercourse, many, if not most, people who are receptive partners will tend to want or even need other kinds of sex first before intercourse feels good, or to get more aroused. While I don't think that would have made this situation much better, because any kind of sex with someone saying what this guy said to you sounds like it'd be a drag, on the whole, that certainly tends to work much better for most people than rushing into sex with any kind of entry. Too, what tends to work best for most people, especially people brand new to any kind of sex with a partner, is gradually exploring sexual activities together, over time, and spending a lot of time with kinds of sex other than intercourse first. As in, not minutes or hours, but weeks or months. Not all on the day of a first date, but as you more gradually get to know someone.

I want to make sure that you know that there's no one age where everyone is "ready" to have sex with someone else. Not 25, not 18, not 70. We're all much too different for that, and the range of situations and partnerships where we can or do engage in sex are all way too different for that. And, even if we're ready, for example, to have sex, of any kind, with one person we're with when we're 19, that doesn't mean that we're going to be ready to have sex with someone different, or even that same person, when we're 30.

Readiness for sex with someone isn't a one-time thing, something where once we're ready once, we're ever-ready. Readiness for sex with someone is situational, and something we establish every single time we do or might engage in sex with another person, and where we won't always have the same feelings or answer. It's also not just based on us: it's also about the other person, who they are, how we feel about them and with them, what we do or don't want with them at a given time, a whole big and unique picture, every single time we might engage in any kind of sex.

Think about it like this: we're born ready to eat, right? Of course, we're not ready for solid foods until a given time, because we need teeth for that. But even once we are, that still doesn't mean that we all want or like the same kinds of foods, that the same kinds of foods all sit the same with all of us, nor that we're all always hungry just because we're "ready" to eat. Sex with someone -- and even just with ourselves, alone -- is a lot like that. The process of puberty (which often lasts into the 20s), makes our bodies "ready" for sex in the most rudimentary ways. But just like having teeth to eat solid foods doesn't mean we're always hungry, or always want a given food at a given time, having gone through puberty doesn't make us always ready for sex.

Sometimes "ready" as a framework can also trip us up if we forget that just being "ready," in a general way, doesn't mean that every sexual situation or partner will be right for us. Being ready in a general way, doesn't mean we want to pursue every possible sexual opportunity, either. Most people, if not all people, have at least some basis of selection, if not a pretty involved, specific basis, when it comes to if they engage in sex with someone else, when, and with whom. I feel very safe saying absolutely none of us is "ready" for sex with absolutely anyone at any time.

Really, it looks to me like you made a good decision here telling this guy to back off and opting out. Good call, you. He just doesn't sound like someone anyone is likely to have a positive sexual experience with. If you didn't want to be engaging in sex with him, if you didn't feel ready, feeling freaked out makes sense. After all, we will tend to feel that way when any situation in life is wrong for us. I don't see any reason to second-guess your feelings and reactions here: they seem like they were dead-on to me.

I'd suggest that in thinking about sexual interactions in the future, you take some time to try and identify what you want and to first explore and consider your sexuality yourself. You can't know all of that for sure, in the abstract, obviously, but you really can figure out quite a lot all by yourself, just by consulting your heart, your head, and some sex and sexuality information.

Masturbation certainly can be part of that process, and most often is for most people before they ever engage in sex with a partner, but how you choose to explore that is up to you. If you want to experiment with a vibrator, by all means, do, but that certainly isn't required if that doesn't appeal to you. A vibrator also isn't some magical tool that can make someone feel ready for sex with anyone else at any time. It's just a tool you can use to explore pleasure on your own or, later on, if and when you find a partner, with a partner. Masturbation can also help you figure out what you do and don't like on your own, give you a place to explore sexual feelings and fantasies, and give you a place to become more comfortable with your own body and sexuality, but no matter how we do it, all by itself it's not going to make us comfortable with every possible sexual situation. That's okay, since there's no one for whom every possible sexual situation is a right one for them.

But our sexuality, and whatever sexual activities we choose to engage in, isn't just about the physical. Nor is it just about what we do or don't find pleasurable, or about feeling more comfortable engaging in sex. It's a much bigger picture than that.

I think it might also be helpful to also have a big think about what you want and need in a possible sexual partner. Not what they want from you, but what you're looking for, want and need from and with them.

For instance, with this guy, you clearly felt you didn't know him well enough. How long do you feel like you need to get to know someone first, per what feels like it'd be best for you? What does an ideal getting-to-know-them scenario look like in your mind? What might the two of you do in time you spend together? What things would you like to first talk about and know about them? Does it mean meeting some of their friends first? Family? Them meeting yours?

How about talking about the fact that you aren't very sexually experienced? Why not find out through talking to someone how they might approach that before becoming sexual, and make it a criteria to only consider moving forward into any kind of sex with someone who isn't a total tool about it, or better still, who sounds like, in those conversations, they'll work with that fantastically, with the kind of pace that you feel best about, and whatever sensitivity you want and need?

Might any kind of sex that feels right for you, that isn't scary, and doesn't make you feel panicked, involve some kind of commitment? Some people, or some people sometimes, are comfortable with sex outside an ongoing or committed relationship. Other people, or other people sometimes, aren't. Think about you and what you know about who you are: what sounds like what you're most comfortable with now and in the near future?

These aren't all of the issues and questions to think about, but based on what you've posted here, I think they might be good starting points.

I'm going to give you a few links to click and read through which I think will help you more to consider what you do and don't want right now, and feel ready for, in the most general way, but which can also help you evaluate specific potentially sexual situations or partners to help you figure out what's right for you.

I think if you take some time to do that -- and no matter what this guy said, or your friend says -- there really is no rush, you get however much time you want and need before being sexual with someone else, at any age -- and try and lead with what you think and feel is right for you, with what seems most in alignment with what you want and need, you'll more easily avoid hellacious sexual situations like this one, and be more likely to find and co-create sexual experiences, interactions or relationships that are positive and that do feel good, physically and emotionally.

The piece about consent I've included can give you an idea of how partners should be addressing you when it comes to communicating about sex and consent (hint: sop not like this guy did). The last link on that list is to give you some helps it sounds like you might need in slowing things down with a potential partner who wants to speed up much faster than your pace.

written 02 Jan 2013 . updated 10 Jan 2013

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