I was fifteen when I first had sex. It was with my first real boyfriend, and it hurt so much I cried. It was a splitting sensation — it hurt so badly that any sane person would never want to experience it again. However, it was me who didn’t want to wait, it was me who bought the condoms and it was me who re-initiated every time, only to assume a fetal position in pain after it was over.
My preoccupation with sex continues to baffle me — especially because I wasn’t a very sexual person. I never masturbated and, despite what my pen name suggests, I still haven’t ever watched porn. If I had to guess, I was having sex not because I liked it, but because I didn’t like it and wanted to. I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about, and understand it before any of my friends did. I wanted to be the frontrunner in a race against myself.
We kept fucking until it didn’t hurt me, but it was far from enjoyable for me. I’d lie on my back like a beached dolphin and wait for him to cum, cluelessly wondering why I wasn’t getting closer.
It took a few weeks, and a couple accidental thrusts against my clit, before I started liking sex. The sensation was about the same — the same feeling of being filled up, and then empty, then filled up again — but without the pain. What I really wanted wasn’t the physical feeling, but the mental. I desired to be desired, to make seductive eyes at my partner until he was on top of me, to tease him and torture him until I could see the sheer excitement in his eyes when I’d say softly, “Please fuck me.”
After my first boyfriend, there were other guys, of course — guys who’d walk me to class and get the heart emoji with me on Snapchat. Guys who’d come over and do all kinds of things with me, but not sex. Never sex. They’d tell me how’d they do it and how badly they wanted to, but I’d always call their bluff. No one wants their first time to be with their FWB.
Well, I was too young and naive to understand that. Instead, I took my perceived dry spell personally — all the while, becoming more and more sexually frustrated. On a random Saturday night, nine shots and my high school’s soccer goalie ended my dry period. He finished virtually as soon as he entered me. He was a virgin. 18 years old and desperate to pop his cherry before college. Of course, I didn’t know this. I was upset, feeling empty-handed and kept chasing.
When I got with my last boyfriend, I hadn’t been fucked like I so desired in almost two years. For the first time, I was having sex that satisfied me physically. He was different. Experienced. For him, sex wasn’t a big deal. He fucked around for sport, and I liked that. I liked that he didn’t put this extreme weight on it like everyone else — that we shared the idea that sex was the pursuit of a dopamine rush, like playing Mario Kart or gambling. If he didn’t care who or when or how, it meant I didn’t have to either.
Well, it became clear that our relationship was based solely on our physical, rather than emotional, compatibility. Cliche, I know. When I got to Cornell, I began to see less and less of a reason to stay with him when we couldn’t have sex. It was the only thing that brought us together in the first place.
A couple days after meeting my current boyfriend, Brian, I knew I wanted to fuck him. As vapid as that sounds, it’s all I really knew. That’s how I showed affection to the guys in my life. To me, sex was and remains integral to a relationship. I don’t even think you should enter a relationship without fucking first.
So Brian and I go out on a Friday night. I get inebriated, fast. Utterly sloppy. He noticed. He suggested we leave, and he walked me back to his dorm, arm-in-arm. As we walked through Collegetown, then Central, then through North, I noted his chipper attitude — almost patronizing me, as if he knew what was going to happen. I’d been in that situation many times before: some guy I just met taking me home, before I escaped to my own hall, passing out with a full face of makeup. Except, I didn’t plan to break off this time, and I was content with our implied agreement.
We entered his room and I began drunkenly untying my mud-caked Converse.
“Wait. Stop that. Stop taking your shoes off,” said Brian.
He looked at me sternly. “Look, I like you. I value you as a person, and I want to be in a relationship with you. But if we do anything tonight, I don’t think I would value you as much as I do.”
I was fucking confused. Partially because I had read him so wrongly. Mostly because I didn’t know that not fucking was an option. In my drunken state, we had walked right into an entire debate about the gravity of sex. I had never seen it as anything but an activity before. I had hated it, practiced it, improved at it, loved it, offered it, retracted it and turned it into a hobby. Now suddenly, my body was a temple? Because someone else told me it was? To me, sex is liberating and powerful, but for him, it degraded me. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat slightly insulted.
There is something to be said, however, about a guy who takes you home, sleeps with you throughout the night, ignores his most primal instinct and doesn’t fuck you out of respect. Sex certainly does have gravity. But if he’s on Earth, then I’m in space.
Riley Read is a student at Cornell University. Tongue Tied runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.