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I am in my late 20s and I haven’t had sex with anyone since I graduated university several years ago. I just couldn’t keep having bad random sex and the drama that comes with it while I was moving across the country, supporting my family, and trying to figure out post grad life. I feel like this is so against the norm that it has been received by my friends as akin to being a virgin, which is frustrating and inaccurate. Now that I’ve got my shit together, I’ve found a girl I like and I don’t know how to explain my history to her without sounding like I don’t like sex (not true) or that I am inexperienced and no fun. I’ve tried just not having the conversation, and that never seems to go well. How do I own up to this as if it’s the most normal thing for me to have done?
First off, congrats on finding a girl you like! That is sometimes very hard to do, to find someone you both like and want to have sex with. Huzzah! Four for you!
Now to the meat of your question. I’m about to tell you to do something very, very difficult. I’m about to tell you to ignore A METRIC TON of conditioning that we’re all subjected to every damn day of our lives. It will be hard! But the nice part about the advice you’re going to get today is the sweet, sweet knowledge that nothing is wrong with your life, body or experiences. Nothing is wrong! You are normal!
In August of 2015, a book was released titled The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills. Here is an article about it and her on Mother Jones that I highly recommend you read to get a good gist of what the book is about (and here’s Carolyn writing about it on Autostraddle!). To sum it up, here’s a highlight:
But for Hills, a New York-based magazine writer, the way people talk about sex is plenty mystifying. While working as an opinion columnist in her native Australia nearly a decade ago, Hills began to notice how the media seemed obsessed with the idea that young people only wanted no-strings-attached sex—and lots of it. “What was being said about young people and sex very much did not fit my own life,” says Hills. “And I felt a sense of insecurity around that.”
So what is the Sex Myth? For Hills, it’s the misconception that people need to be good in bed in order to be “adequate human beings.” “We internalize this idea of sex as something that is constantly available and that everyone is doing, and if you’re not doing it, there’s something wrong with you,” she explains. The book intertwines anecdotes, scientific research, and occasional moments of self-reflection to make the argument that people too often allow their sexuality to be defined by factors outside themselves.
There’s an entire book about how no one feels like their sex life is 100% normal. Everyone is convinced they are doing it wrong. People who have a lot of sex think they have too much, and people who don’t have a lot of sex, or haven’t for a period of time for a myriad of reasons (like you!) think they’re not doing it enough. People who like some kinds of sex think they’re weird; people who don’t like some kinds of sex think they’re weird. I feel very strongly that, since no one is 100% normal, everyone is normal. So, listen carefully: not having sex while undergoing stressful times in your life — not having sex for any reason, actually — is, in fact, the most normal thing for you to have done. Nothing is wrong with what you are doing, and any friends who react differently need to embrace the whole “you do you” motto. You are normal. Nothing about your sex life is weird — at least, nothing you have divulged to me in this letter ;0).
Now, do you still feel the need to have a conversation about your sex life with the girl you like? You don’t need to, but you should be having a pre-sex convo with the new lady anyhow, to talk about what you’re comfortable with, STI history, etc. If the fact that you haven’t had sex in a while is still freaking you out a bit or making you nervous, then yeah, you should go ahead and mention it while you have this conversation! Because mentioning it and getting it out in the open might make you less nervous, and thus make the sex more enjoyable. And don’t approach it like it’s weird; certainly don’t apologize. Here are some ways in which you can bring it up — give these sentences a try while you’re alone to see which one works for you:
- Just so you know, I haven’t had sex in a while and it’s making me a little nervous. So if I seem jumpy, it’s not at all a reflection of how much I’m enjoying myself! I’ll tell you what I need in the moment. [And then please actually do that!]
- Over the past few years, I haven’t really had the opportunity to have sex because my life has been a little stressful, so I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS.
If you no longer want to disclose this, but want to ask for more guidance than normal because you’re getting back into the swing of things, try: Because I’ve never had sex with you before, I might need more verbal and physical guidance than I normally would if I already knew what you like, so don’t be afraid to tell me what’s up! (And then actually be receptive to what she says!)
Normally, I would say “now go forth and jam.” But in this case, I will say “go forth and fuck!” And go forth with the knowledge that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. GOOD LUCK!