Life is different when you can’t have sex. Not for religious reasons. Not even for pro-abstinence reasons. Just for a I-was-born-with-a-pain-condition-and-can’t-have-sex reason.
I thought my life was effectively over. I was 3 months away from starting college, and my hopes about hooking up and dating vanished. Even binge watching Jane the Virgin didn’t help, so I knew I hit rock bottom.
After a while, I felt comfortable confiding in close friends and family. I routinely asked if they thought someone would want to be with me, even if we couldn’t have sex. The most frequent response? “He’d have to really love you.”
Don’t get me wrong, my condition is a great way to vet out guys who would otherwise not care for me. But a part of me wants guys that don’t care about me and guys I don’t want to care about. I want to hook up — I mean really hook up — with a boy whose name I may not remember. I want to know that I can have casual relationships. I don’t want it to be automatically serious because someone has to already “really love” me.
So is this it? For everyone who chooses not to have sex, who doesn’t want to have sex, who physically cannot have sex, is this life for us? So much of me fights to say no. I’ve dated a boy who was able to look past all this, who I had a sex life with even if we weren’t technically having sex. We had our first date, our first kisses, basically all of our first anythings with each other. And just like we navigated our relationship, we also figured out what our version of sex would be, even if it wasn’t the traditional penis-in-vagina sex that most other people seem to think of it as.
I’ve also hooked up with boys who I had no intention of starting a relationship with, solely because they were fun. I’ve been able to casually date boys, some of who immediately needed to know if I wanted to have sex and others who were just trying to get to know me better. And in my own way, I’ve been figuring out how to do what I want.
As I’m becoming more comfortable sharing my experiences and reaching out for help, I’m also learning how others define sex and how important they think it is to a relationship. Here are some of my most memorable conversations:
With a male friend:
Me: “Do you think you could date a girl who can’t have sex?”
Friend: “That depends. Can I eat ass? If I can, sure. If not, then no.”
With a different male friend and his girlfriend:
Me: “What would you do if your girlfriend couldn’t have sex anymore?”
Friend: “It would be… very hard to manage.”
Me: “Really? Even if you could do everything else?”
Friend’s girlfriend: “Who even does anything else?”
With yet another male friend:
Me: “I have something to say. I can’t have sex. It’s too painful for me.”
Friend: “Oh wow.”
Me: “Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever date anyone again.”
Friend: “There’s so much more to a relationship than sex. It’ll be okay.”
With basically any of my female friends:
Me: “I can’t have sex. It’s been really hard.”
Them: “I’m so sorry. It’ll be okay! You’ll be okay.”
And lastly, with a friend who had been around for the entirety of my last relationship.
Friend: “So, did you two ever have sex?”
Me: “Um, I don’t know how to explain that. I guess from your perspective, we didn’t.”
Friend: “Wow, I can’t believe I went farther in one night than you two did in three years.”
But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Through all these conversations and more, I realized sex isn’t what we always make it out to be. For the majority of my life, I have been looking at sex one-dimensionally. It was always black and white, virgin or not a virgin, penetration or bust. But sex can be anything I want it to be. Sex is anything a partner (or partners) and I define it as, and it doesn’t have to impossible because of what genitalia we have or how well they’re functioning.
Because you know what really gets me off? Someone who actually responds to my texts in a reasonable amount of time. Someone who communicates their feelings. Someone who gives me answers to a problem set. Really, I’m not asking for much here.
So I’m here to have sex on Thursday. Or Wednesday. Or any day of the week any way I want to do it. And I can’t wait to finish Cornell off with a bang.
Sexless in Seattle is a student at Cornell University. The Virgin Diaries runs monthly.