I went on a date a few nights ago with a great guy. He’s funny, charming, kind, gentlemanly, and has seen The Hobbit three times since it arrived in theatres. He took me to a jazz club and agreed to a Parks and Recreation marathon because I told him what a beacon of amazingness it is. It was a great date that led to a great kiss that led to some great making out. As things started to go further, he stopped and said, “I have a really awkward and embarrassing thing to tell you before this goes any further.” I braced myself for the “That birthmark on your leg is EFFED UP,” speech, but instead he said, “I’ve only been with one other person.”
I knew it was too good to be true. Stupid and closed-minded as it seems, I never really expected to be going on a date with a close-to-virgin at this point in my life. In my circles, we laugh about the loss of our virginities, compete in increasingly raunchy games of “never have I ever,” and tease about one-night-stands disrupted by cats. I lost my virginity when I was 17, and since then, I’ve had a healthy sex life of which I’m very proud. This new guy, B, had a different kind of healthy sex life. Now, here he was, laying on top of me, telling me sheepishly that he had only been with one other girl, and hoping I didn’t kick him off.
“How did you get so good at this?” Good one, Sarah.
“Well, I was engaged. I mean, I was with one girl for awhile. But I’m telling you this because I’m not sure I’m ready for this to go farther right now.”
“That’s okay. No, that’s totally okay.”
And that was it. Well, I guess it wasn’t exactly it. We continued our marathon making out, and then B went home. The next few nights went that way. We reached a certain point, then stopped. It felt pretty good. It felt nice not jumping into bed with someone, and it was nice to have someone want to get to know me emotionally before sleeping with me. In a culture dominated by sex for fun, I hadn’t realized that to some people, it’s still a sacred thing, only to be shared with people that you love. I always knew that sex could be an expression of love for another person, but perhaps I was so numb to the idea of love that I forgot.
My ex and I used to passionately make love, but toward the end of our relationship, sex was a need to be met. Sex was something we did because we were supposed to, not because we wanted to express that level of caring for each other. As B and I moved forward in our relationship to eventually have sex, I remembered what it felt like to make sex an expression rather than an act, something desired rather than something to which a couple is obligated. And it felt good. It still feels good to be with someone that respects the physicality of our relationship as an instrumental piece of our love, or like, or whatever it is that we have.
But where does this leave me in the future? I mean, let’s be honest, the probability does not really lie in our favor to stay together and be in love for the rest of our lives. So what can I take away from this for the next relationship, if there will be a next relationship? Or what can I keep for the relationship with B if it does work out? I could say the cliché things like, “Respect your body, or no one else will,” but that seems a little too reductionist. It’s important to respect your body, but having sex, even without love, can be an expression of the respect one has for the amazing things the human body can do. I respect my body—I eat healthy, I am safe sexually, and I marvel at the way my body moves and changes. This revelation is nothing that has to do with respect for body, but perhaps it is something that has to do with respect for the mind. But I think I respect my mind, too. I love to read and learn and converse—I always want to improve my mental capacities and exercise the ones I have. So that’s not it, or at least not completely.
Maybe it has to do with the ability to accept that B can respect my body and mind the way that I can. Maybe it has to do with the joy and surprise that he believes in the power of my body to express deep emotion and wants to do that with me. Maybe it’s just the thought that he, through having sex with me, can actually get into my head and be a part of my mind. And maybe it’s altogether amazing that he believes that my body and mind are beautiful places that deserve not just to be tramped through and left, but explored and lingered in. And that’s probably more exciting than any sex I’ve ever had.
Written by Sarah Garner
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