The older I get, and the more I experience in my adult life, the more I realize how little I really know myself. I thought that I had an excellent conception of the person I was. I knew myself- my wants, needs, and dreams. But the things I wanted yesterday are not the things I want today. I feel as though I am constantly changing. From one day to the next, I am trying to make sense of the experiences I have and the things I feel. I try to put my feelings into a box, and say for certain where I want my life to go and who I want to be. But all I find is uncertainty.

Growing up, I always wanted to be in a relationship. I thought I would never be happy until I was in love. I wanted to meet someone, fall in love, lose my virginity in the perfect romantic setting, live happily ever after. So I kept to that plan for my life. I treated my virginity as a prized possession, something that would be the greatest gift I would ever give. I was still driven by attraction and a desire for physical intimacy, so it’s not as though I was celibate. But I still held back from fully relinquishing myself sexually to another man because I felt as though it was something that I would give away and never get back. A friend of mine described to me losing her virginity as “not the Seventeen magazine moment that I thought it would be, but rather, one like any other.” I was surprised by this, and it stuck with me in the back of my mind. How would it be for me? Would it be perfect? Awkward? Exciting?

It turned out to be all of those things. Looking back, I am absolutely satisfied with how I lost my virginity. I decided to sleep with my boyfriend, someone who I cared deeply about, and still do. And when it happened, everything felt right. It was awkward, and it was funny, and it was nice, and it was painful, and it was not the Seventeen magazine moment that I thought it would be. But I was okay with that. Because I finally felt like I was at a point in my life where I was okay with the person that I was. I like myself, I like my body, and I feel attractive and confident with who I am. None of those things have ever been true for me. This is why I am glad that I waited until I did, because when I had sex for the first time, it was because I wanted to do it with someone I cared about, not because I felt badly about myself and wanted to feel validated.

Soon after losing my virginity, I realized that sex was something that I very much wanted to keep doing. It was exciting, and complicated, and frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile. I began to figure out who I was a sexual human being. The things I liked, the things I didn’t like, how to communicate effectively, how to make sure my needs and the other person’s needs were being met. Sex was an adventure, and I was ready for it.

When my relationship ended, sex was something that stuck with me. It was something I still desired, even though I was not in a committed relationship anymore. But I didn’t know what to do. I had grown up thinking that sex was something I would do with someone I loved, and while I cared deeply about the person I had sex with, we had not fallen in love. But what was my criteria for sex? Where did I draw the line? What did I need in order to feel comfortable having sex with someone? Did we need to be in love, be dating, be exclusive? I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions. But something had changed within me. I was no longer the person I was before I lost my virginity. Whether or not virginity is real or simply an artificial concept we carry in our minds, having sex for the first time changed me. It was like a door had been opened that I didn’t know existed, and I was free to make whatever decision I wanted.

I think that I had attached an unfair moral stigma to sex, as though if I were to have sex with someone I wasn’t in love with, that would make me a bad person. Like having sex would be something I would regret for the rest of my life, and I would never be able to go back to the person I was before. In some ways it was true- I can’t go back to the way I was before. But I realized that sex is not as complicated as I made it out to be. It’s like anything else. It’s not good or bad, it simply is. And as long as I’m being safe, and taking care of myself and my needs, then sex is whatever I and the person I sleep with want it to be.

Hook up apps were something I would use occasionally when I was drinking, and feeling like I needed validation. But I no longer needed validation. I simply wanted to explore my sexuality, and I figured the best way to do so would be to use something specifically designed for it. I downloaded an app, and I started on my journey. I felt a lot of judgement at the things I was seeing- how open these men were about themselves and what they wanted sexually. I could never be that crass! But then I checked myself- why was I judging? Who was I to judge? Were we not all there for the same reason? Why is there anything wrong with a person being honest about their wants and needs in a safe forum to do so? Perhaps my judgement came from my frustration at my lack of ability to express myself in the same level of honesty.

I spoke to a few people, and it was going fine, and then one man asked to meet me. He was very attractive, and I was both thrilled and terrified at the thought of having sex with him. How would I do that? Could I do that? Was that possible? To just have sex with someone you were attracted to that, before an hour ago, was just a stranger? I had only had sex with one person. Would I regret having sex with this person? But then I realized, it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t know until I did it.

Say I did go to meet this person. And we did have sex. And afterwards, I felt unhappy. What then? Would my life be over? Of course not. It would just be me trying something, and then realizing I didn’t like it, and not doing it again. I was attaching a morality to this act that did not actually exist.

So I met him. I went to his place, and I brought protection, and I had sex with the second person that I had ever slept with. And it was fantastic. It was easy, and it was fun, and I was incredibly attracted to this man, and afterwards I felt great. It was like jumping into a cold pool, and I was now acclimated to the feeling. I felt powerful. I could do anything I wanted! As long as I was being safe, I had the power to shape my sexual life however I chose.

What had happened to the person that I thought I was? The lonely homosexual virgin, enticed and terrified of sex. I was someone who put it on an unhealthy pedestal, revering and loathing it. Now who was I? That’s a question I still don’t know the answer to. But I finally feel as though I’m on the path to finding out. Before I felt like my options were limited, and the inability to express myself sexually was something I didn’t realize had been frustrating me as much as it had. But now that box that I put myself in is gone. My future feels open and limitless. I feel like it’s okay for me to make mistakes, to put myself out there and be vulnerable.

Maybe one day I’ll change my mind. At some point, I might realize that this is not what I want. I might want to be in a committed relationship, and save sex for the person that I’m in love with. And that’s okay. Because that will always be an option. But, as I’m finally realizing, it is not the only option. Right now, I don’t want to be in a committed relationship, and I don’t want to only be having sex with one person. And that doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human.

-Theodore Dandy

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