It was the summer before my freshman year, and I was all ready to leave for college. Summer reading, check. Dorm décor, check. Facebook stalking my future classmates, check. Sex? Well…not so much.
The schoolwork, essays, and icebreaker activities I could handle. The one thing I didn’t feel prepared for, though, was all the sex that I thought college girls were supposed to have.
Before starting college, I had only had one serious boyfriend, and the extent of our sexual relationship was a string of awkward, barely PG-13 make out sessions. I’m not sure if it was because I was eager to actually live out my ideals of female sexual empowerment or just because I erroneously believed that all college students were way more sexually experienced than me (both, probably), but this was a source of deep insecurity and frustration.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m in bed with a boy.
“You know, I, um, I’ve never…you should probably know that this is very new for me.”
He got the message. We took it slow. And I felt completely insecure.
The truth is, sex really isn’t that big of a deal, and college sex is no exception. It’s important, yes, and it means different things to different people, but whether or not you’ve had sex is simply not a big deal. In our society, though, that’s sometimes a hard message to hold on to.
The dominant cultural narratives surrounding sex place so much importance on virginity (which, by the way, is something that doesn’t exist) and the loss of it, especially for girls. Sex and self worth are so erroneously conflated, and young people are given so many conflicting messages about sex—it’s good, it’s bad, everyone is having it, no one should have it, and so on—that it’s very difficult to form a clear, let alone healthy, conception of sex.
It’s hard to make sense of all of the different messages in the mainstream media about what love, sex, and growing up is supposed to be like. It’s all presented in a very linear, prescribed way, and that can make it hard to recognize the validity of your own unique experience. In real life, things happen differently.
Now, back to my story.
Fast-forward a couple more months, and I’m downtown with my boyfriend. We had just gotten back from a month-long winter break apart filled to the brim with angst and mental preparation, and I finally felt ready. I told him I needed to go to Target to get hair ties. Really, I just needed condoms. After so much hesitation in the hair aisle and painstakingly precise bobby pin examination (if you need a good bobby pin recommendation, trust me, I’m your girl), I gave him a suggestive look and walked over to the condom aisle. He, of course, followed.
“Well,” he said looking over at me. “We should probably get some of these just in case?”
“Yes!” I nearly shouted as I spun around to kiss him.
That night, we had sex. But here’s the thing: It felt normal. Inconsequential, even. Finally, I thought. I had done it. Much to my surprise (not really), nothing changed. I was not automatically a new person. I did not suddenly gain access to an exclusive club. And all that insecurity? It was for nothing.
The point of all of this is really just that however much experience you have, however ready you feel, it’s all okay. Own your experiences, respect your desires, follow your heart, and always do what feels right to yourself. If I could go back and tell myself one thing it would be to not worry about anything other than being safe and true to myself. Lots of people have sex before college. Lots of people don’t. But that doesn’t even matter anyways. Our experiences don’t have to resemble anything other than what we want them to, no matter what anyone says.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.