I knew the theory. Men didn't want to go out with girls who were easy. But he didn't want to go out with me anyway. When he came back from holiday and said,
'I did it! Lost it. With this French girl called Delphine. So sophisticated. A real woman. We must have kissed for hours every day. She got bad stubble rash. And not only on her face, if you know what I mean.'
I didn't know what he meant. But I thought,
'You bastard. Mine was for you. It was yours... why didn't you want it? Now I'm going to have to lose it on the first opportunity I get because I need to be a real woman. Then maybe you'll want me.'
He was 15. As was I. Truth to be told, he didn't have much stubble. I was crazy about him but had no idea how to communicate it. Loving, wanting...it was all the same. If we had sex wouldn't it mean something for him? If he wanted me wouldn't I be happy? Because I was so unhappy. Insecure. Unpopular. With no idea who I was.
I'd practised kissing twice. Once with a friend from school, and once with a boy who happened to be the son of my mother's friend. But that didn't stop me from exploiting the next opportunity I had on my holiday, cliched like Shirley Valentine, on the beach with a waiter who was only too eager. He was - as my mate on holiday said - 'Fwoar' (that's what we used to say back then). The best looking guy there. I should have been happy, but I was anything but. As he pushed my legs up, I thought
'Surely it's not like this? Rolling on my back like a puppy?'
After few humps in positions which hurt my untrained legs not used to opening for anything more than a pair of white cotton panties, I thought
'I'm doing it. I think.'
The rest of my holiday was spent in jaded, bitter, satisfaction. I'd done it. I knew about life. I was a real woman. When I got back, I told my friend about my experience hoping that I would become magically attractive in his eyes. Needless to say, over the next year we had unsatisfactory sex a few times because he considered me easy and available. During those times, I experienced a severe desperate anguish. He was mine for 30 minutes. Not even. And then he laughed, shrugged and said
'Thanks. See you around.'
In Just Seventeen magazine, the advice was always the same -
- 'Wait for someone special.'
- 'He won't respect you if you give it up.'
- 'Don't let him pressure you.'
You had to wait to give it up if you wanted your relationship to last. But why? There were no answers to that. And so I entered the time of my life where we played the game... 'Finding-the-fine-line-between-giving-enough-up-so-your-boyfriend-still-stays-with-you-but-not-so-much-that-he-leaves-you'. Not that I was very good at it. You see, I believed them when they would say 'I'll still love you in the morning'... because that's what I wanted.
And here we are, over twenty years later. But here's the thing that bothers me about it all. Not the haste or the bad choices. I was a teenager like so many others. It was the fact that at 15 I had no idea what to expect. From any of it. Relationships, Sex, Male and Female dynamics. My most important education was left to the agony aunt columns in teenage magazines.
As our society creates a system where we all need to work 60+ years to support the cost of what we all consume (and which lets countless more starve), so our restricted education, has suppressed what we need to know in life, and prioritised only what we need to know to get a job. Not what we need to know to make us happy. Just what we need to know to cut off our gut instincts, pursue a career to earn money and understand the biology behind making a baby without any emotional sexuality or connection.
We need more.
A recognition of how we develop; because we are already sexual beings even as small children... exploring our bodies, role playing with each other, masturbating and finally to partnered sex (hopefully when we're more emotionally ready than I was, even if at the same age).
A recognition that our desires don't suddenly switch on when they are allowed. A recognition that relationships, all relationships, are the most important things in our lives because it's how we build our sense of Self
A recognition that emotional education is just as, if not more important than, mind education.
A recognition that fallacies like 'if he loves you he'll wait' simply don't apply to immature minds. Relationship rules given by adults who've forgotten what it's like to be young and who apply the standards they've learned as adults to those who can't take that advice.
It's more than sex education. It's relationship education.
One of the biggest challenges I will face as a parent is the recognition and support of my children as human beings who want to connect to one another whilst trying to protect them. I don't know yet how I will do it. But I know how I won't do it. And it won't be left to magazines.
The Vagina Voyage
I've been on quite a journey to try and love my vagina. Many of the people I grew up with are appalled. Others I've got to know, love me for trying to love myself. And I think that's quite a beautiful thing.