The Problem Is Not Your Performance, It's Your Boyfriend

Meme28
asks:
My boyfriend REALLY wants to have sex with me. We're both 17. I don't want to because I'm afraid to be naked around him. I have given him oral sex. But he hasn't done anything but kiss me. Though, last night he caught me in the shower and asked if he could come in and I reluctantly agreed. We had sex, but after he told me that because I was a virgin I failed my first time. He also told me that my breasts are to small and my performance was terrible. He later told me he was sorry, and we had sex again. But he told me after that time I was horrible overall. I don't know if I'm that bad. I'm really nervous when he touches my breasts or vagina. Could this be affecting my performance? Any answers would help.
Sam W replies:

As you have probably guessed from the title, I have some thoughts about what the source of the issue is, and boy howdy is it not you.

Let's look at an abridged version of events from an outside perspective, because when you're in a relationship, with all the feelings that involves, it can be hard to pull patterns out and analyze them.

This dude knew you were not comfortable with sex, but pressured you into it anyway. Then he insulted you and your body, which I'm also guessing he knew you were insecure about. Then he apologizes and is contrite for just long enough that you'll have sex again, at which point he reverts back to his previous behavior and insults you. Again. Meaning that he was not actually as sorry as he says he was.

No wonder you're nervous when this guy touches you. My shoulders were around my ears just reading what you wrote.

If we give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt, we can assume he's really bad at communication and absolutely clueless when it comes to reading other people's feelings. Sex and bodies are a sensitive subject for many people, so talking about them requires a certain degree of gentleness. There are ways to tell a partner "hey, I don't like when you do this during sex" or "this thing doesn't really do it for me. Can we try something else?" Those ways of communicating focus on and acknowledge how sex is a learning process, and something that you have to explore and experiment with in order to find out what works best between you and a specific partner. Those conversations are not productive if they boil down to, "ugh, you're so bad at this because you've just started doing it. Stop sucking so much." That's not helpful feedback or two people communicating in a useful way, that's being a jerk.

And really, at 17, no one is a sexual dynamo. Not you, not him, not me from the past, not that cute guy in math class. At that age, you haven't had a huge amount of time to explore sex, either with yourself or a partner. You've had very little chance, if any, to practice being sexual. Heck, that's half the fun of being young. You get to try out all these different things and figure out what works for you. If your boyfriend is expecting you to somehow be an automatic sexual superstar (and what does that even mean, given how varied sex is?), he needs to learn to manage his expectations. Seriously, "failed your first time?" He's not a judge at the Sex Olympics, and you're not a competitor who has to prove yourself. Sex is about people enjoying each other and figuring out how to have an experience that's fun for everyone. Not one person pressuring the other into it and then leaning back and going "impress me."

Add to this the fact that he's coercing you into having sex with him, which is absolutely not okay, and I'm getting a manipulative vibe from your boyfriend. He knows you're insecure, and instead of backing off and respecting your boundaries, he pushes them. A good partner will make an effort to help you feel more secure in your body and honor the fact that you're not ready to have sex. I would bet that he's hoping that your insecurity and desire to prove that you can be good at sex, or your desire to please him by getting better at it, will result in you further ignoring your nerves and boundaries and having more sex with him. He's going to make you keep trying to "make up" for your "failed" first time. If he keeps you feeling like you need to live up to his expectations, he keeps getting what he wants without having to respect your desires.

Speaking of those desires, you have every right to a) not want to be sexual just yet (or ever) and b) not want to share your body with someone. Especially someone who seems to both view your body as something they're owed and something that should automatically match their standards. When someone chooses to share their body with us, most people will understand that bodies are varied and won't line up with the "perfect" body we have in our heads. But we understand that those quirks and "imperfections" are what make that body itself and not things that need to be apologized for.

You don't have to love your body right now, or have your feelings for it all sorted out, in order for someone else to treat it well. We all have different ways of relating to our bodies. For some of us they're temples, for others they're gardens, battlefields, amusement parks. But no matter how you feel about your body, you deserve a partner who treats it and you with respect.

Because when you're with a partner who respects you and cares about you, their comments about your body, either out loud or in their own heads, are along the lines of "wow, this rad person is letting me touch their boobs! Which are also rad!" or "I'm so glad I get to touch this butt. This is a fine butt." In a happy, healthy sexual relationship there's an excitement and an appreciation that goes along with getting to touch and be close to someone who you like and who likes you.

If you grant someone access to your body and they react with criticism and disdain? Then they've forfeited their chance to get close to you again. Your boyfriend has shown that he doesn't respect the boundaries you set around your body, and doesn't respect the totally rad body that those boundaries are defending. And what that ultimately means is that he doesn't respect the amazing person who inhabits that body. So it's time to take that body, that person, that you, somewhere else.

I'm sure he must have some good qualities that are making you hesitant to leave. And if you want to make one last try to get him to change his behavior, then that's something you get to do. Make it clear to him (and if it's already been made clear, it gets reiterated once and only once) what's off the table and what isn't in terms of sex, based upon what makes you feel okay and what makes you feel nervous. If he sulks, or whines, or tries to argue you out of it, point out that your boundaries are non-negotiable, and if he can't honor them, then it's time for you two to break up. If he agrees and then actually does what he says he will (and not just for a week or two), then the relationship may have a future.

He might agree to your boundaries easily, but then you'll find that he starts pushing like he has in the past. If he pushes, you leave the interaction. Put your clothes back on (if they're off), get in your car/on your bike/call a ride. Get out and away from where he can continue to pressure you. Tell him you're breaking up from a safe distance. Then go do something nice for yourself, be that a long hike, ice cream, a video game, whatever you like. Asserting and defending your boundaries can be hard work, so you get to reward yourself for it.

Breaking up is unlikely to be fun, because break-ups seldom are. But ending a relationship where you're pressured, insecure, and criticized is going to be much better for you in both the short term and the long term than staying in one just to avoid breaking up.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine a person who has many, or maybe all, of the traits you like about your boyfriend. But this person respects the boundaries you have around sex, and lets you set the pace as you need to. And when you do feel comfortable letting them get close, letting them touch you, being naked around them, they tell you that they think you're beautiful, you're sexy, that they feel lucky that you shared this part of yourself with them. They're excited to explore sex with you, rather than expecting you to magically be able to please them perfectly without any practice.

That person is out there, and if you leave the unpleasant relationship you're in now, you'll find them much sooner.

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