Today an interviewer asked me to share something I, as a sex educator, wish I had known when I was in high school or undergrad. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop, so I’m sure I gave her much more than she can include in her article. I thought I might like to share the whole list with you, and I hope you will consider sharing your own list in response!
If I could write a letter to my young adult self, I would include things like this:
– There is no such thing as “wasting” your sexuality or “losing” a part of your sexual self or your identity as a sexual person. Life includes an ongoing process of claiming, reclaiming, exploring, learning, growing, and processing all aspects of our sexualities. Experiences, events, and people can impact that process but they can’t take it away from you.
– Everyone has a right to pleasure and joy, as well as the responsibility to pursue it in ways that don’t inflict negativity on others. And that means that we each have the right to expect others not to hurt us as part of their own pursuits.
– There are a lot of rules and stereotypes about gender out there, but just because they are popular doesn’t make them true. And it also doesn’t make them true just because there are some examples out there that seem to support those rules and stereotypes. We can each define gender for ourselves, and should respect others’ definitions of how they wish to live their own genders.
– It feels easy and natural to say “girls are like this” or “boys should be like that.” It’s so important to resist those kinds of beliefs, as they hurt and limit all genders.
– One of the most powerful and controversial acts of protest we can engage in is simply to be happy with ourselves just the way we are, and to support each other in that effort.
– Virginity can’t be lost because it doesn’t even exist. Try thinking of it all as a natural, normal process of human sexual development that includes many different experiences with ourselves and with partners over time.
– Good sex takes practice, both alone and with others.
– Don’t expect your partner to read your mind and magically provide the kind of pleasure you want. And also, don’t suffer silently if it isn’t working for you! Seek out partners who want to support you in feeling good (and who you want to support that way) and make it an enjoyable team effort with lots of communication.
– If anyone involved is not ready or able to openly and honestly discuss their needs, joys, and limits around sex then you’re not ready for each other yet. And, by the way, this is a conversation that can continue throughout your time together!
– Very few people will be a good fit for a longterm relationship with you, and that’s ok. Enjoy yourselves and grow during the time you have together, then part ways as positively as possible when the natural end of the relationship happens. Try to leave each other better than you found each other, if at all possible. Don’t cling to a relationship that met its natural end already.
– Don’t worry about what culture tells you is sexy and attractive. People have very diverse tastes and you’ll meet plenty of people who lust you just the way you are! You weren’t put on this earth to conform, anyway.
PS. I thought about adding something about queerness, but I don’t think I was ready to hear what I needed most back then. And that’s ok!