Nobody ever tells you that there is more than one way to have sex. Growing up, we learn about sex from a variety of resources. My experience began with my cousin literally trapping me in a closet and making me listen to her explicitly state what part of a man goes in where in a woman while I covered my ears and pretended I didn’t believe or understand what she was saying. Then my parents gave me a book when I was around ten years old, explaining that when a man and a woman love each other very much, and are ready to have a baby, there is something nice they could do. Middle school health classes were my next educators on the subject. I was told about anatomy, and again told what goes where. High school health class was essentially the same story, plus some basic demonstrations of condom-on-banana and other various objects to drive home the point that birth control is really important and easy. Our educators wanted to make sure we have sex the right way. I think it’s safe to say this is the experience most people have with sex, until they actually do it.
Besides knowing “what goes where” and that if I didn’t use protection I would supposedly get pregnant and die (Thanks, Mean Girls), all I knew was that sex was a process that should continue until the man ejaculated. With this small amount of information, I considered myself an expert before I had even had my first kiss. I knew all there was to know about sex, because I knew everything I had been taught. I knew what real sex was. So what happens when, as a teenage girl, you realize you want to have sex with women?
Fantasizing and dreaming can only get you so far. My years of basic sex 101 hadn’t prepared me for this revelation. I didn’t know how to do it with a girl. I didn’t even know if it would “count” as sex if I did it with a girl. It would have been nice if my education in school had been more inclusive. Luckily, the internet is a great resource and the information is all out there, though hidden. Unfortunately, we are trained not to trust anything we read online. And it’s not like reputable websites are publishing lesbian sex manuals. Although I did find some information, I didn’t know what to trust or what was considered normal.
Fast forward to my first semester of college and my first experience with a girl. I confessed I had no idea what I was doing. She admitted the same. It was awkward, we fumbled, and, embarrassingly enough, I even fell off the bed once or twice. I was embarrassed and apologetic. Eventually, I began to figure it out and enjoy it.
Virginity is an unimportant social construct. Every first is important to people in different ways, and nothing a person does before their first anything should diminish that first’s personal significance. In high school, I had sex with guys. I lost my virginity then, but I lost it again with the girl I met my first semester of college. It was a first, it was significant, and I should have known that it was normal. It counted.
So, now you’ve had sex with a girl. Your friends ask you how girls have sex, ask you what girls can do, and ask if it counts as real sex. They may even still consider you a virgin. Because they didn’t learn anything about sex between two girls in school either. These questions hurt. I was so excited after my first experience that the next day I wrote in my old group chat with my high school friends to tell them I had finally had sex with a girl. I had to have uncomfortable conversations explaining what I did and answering those dreaded questions. The conversation left me feeling insecure because I wasn’t sure if what I had done was the same way other girls had sex with each other. I couldn’t give my friends straight answers.
When my friends have sex with guys, nobody writes in our group chat asking how they do it, because we all already know what goes where. Nobody ever teaches us that there is more than one way to have sex. Maybe sex education will become more inclusive, but for now we’re usually only taught about heterosexual sex from our parents and definitely from our schools. We don’t know if our sex is normal or right. If we are ambitious enough, we will figure it out ourselves through a process of trial and error that can be embarrassing, confusing and anxiety inducing. The answer is that there isn’t a right way to have sex. I don’t care what books about the birds and the bees or uncomfortable videos in middle school teach us. If what you’re doing feels good for both you and your partner, it is sex, and you are doing it right.
Eleanor Hickok is a student at Cornell. Comments may be sent to email@example.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.