We spend our entire teenage years thinking about it—the first time.
We watch movies that romanticize it. He takes you to a hotel, he buys you roses, and you’re both dressed to the nines. You have an amazing evening out, and then after professing your love to each other, you’re swept away by your passion, exploring each other and solidifying your love in a physical way.
But the reality of this moment is not so picturesque. No one talks about the awkwardness leading up to it. Trying to decide when, where, why, if. Do you really love them? Now that you’ve been dating six months, is it just an expectation at this point? If you want to wait until marriage, do you panic that there’s no way they’ll stay around and wait that long? Whatever the reason, the first time is typically awkwardly bumbling around where neither party really knows what they’re doing, and the experience is usually not anything close to pleasurable.
No one tells you about what happens after, either. If it was terrible, can you stop? Can you tell them you don’t want to anymore? Can you revoke permission? There’s almost an unspoken pressure that once you’ve “given it up” it becomes an expectation. I fell into that trap. After deciding to “take the next step” after the arbitrary six months had passed, I realized it wasn’t really something I was ready for. However, I was never asked again whether or not I wanted to. Instead, I became property, and it became something I owed on a schedule or at will—really whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. And it wasn’t something that was a mutual expression of love, it was something that was done at my expense, for his pleasure.
I remember one day where it had been going for hours, and I vocally and physically expressed that I was in pain and couldn’t go on anymore, only to be told that I needed to let him finish. My body has still not recovered from the trauma I experienced throughout that relationship, and it took me a very long time to truly understand the psychological and physical abuse that occurred.
As I’m rewatching 7th Heaven, thinking about my son and what he’ll have to face when he grows up, I pray for a society where consent is sexy—where at all times, sex is an expression of love and a mutually agreed upon act every time. Instead of shaming movies for creating unrealistic expectations, we need to shape reality to where intimate relationships are idyllic. We need to keep the conversation going. We need to educate our partners, our peers and our children. We need to be unafraid to talk about what goes on behind closed doors, because I guarantee my story is one in a million.
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