Suck it.

Dear M-,

I’m not “worth more than that”.

I’m not cheapened because I express my sexuality in a way that does not live up to your standards. Which is funny, because I express myself in the same way as you and your partner, just outside of a marriage. That makes me worthless?

This isn’t a question of sexual orientation, really, but rather one of sexual exploration. I have spent countless years of my life being convinced that I was only worth how pure I was on my wedding night. They told me that I would be the perfect blushing bride when that “one” man decided to love me enough to make me his bride. That blushing bride would be pure, virginal, and clean.

Those years had me convinced that I was only worth how each man viewed me. The countless groups, studies, and sermons had me convinced that any side-step from the purity track would have me thrown in Hell and worse – a trampled rose that no man would deem as “worthy” of his possession.

That was wrong.

That IS wrong.

This is why:

Human beings are not, nor should they ever be property. Human nature may be propagating horrendous, demeaning and dehumanizing acts such as the sex slave trade, and in a terrifying way, propaganda and doctrine are furthering similar principles. That means, that my identity as a female should not subject me to a lifestyle in which I’m immediately considered to be less than equal with my sexual partner.

When I choose to express my sexuality, I choose to do so under a construct that should not ever live up to the expectations of society or organized groups of homogenous beliefs.

I am a woman. That makes me wrong about 70% of the time according to a lot of the male populace, who believe that we’re irrational, emotionally unstable beings who make rash decisions based off our menstrual cycles.

I am a woman. That makes me wrong about 40% of the time according to the “anti-feminist” woman populace who believe that we’ve already achieved equal rights, equal pay, and equal standing with men. When I earn the right to express my honest opinions within my career field without being called a “bitch” because I’m merely outspoken, come talk to me.

So no, M-. I’m not “worth more” than giving head, having sex, or anything that lies on the sexual spectrum that both my partner and I enjoy, together, regardless of our “relationship status”. I’m worth every single second of it. Because my inherent value does not lie within the precious (dare I say “white, American, middle-class POST MODERN”) constructs of traditionalism and Christian purity. My value lies within myself, and living truthfully as best as humanly possible.

That’s why I like giving head. Suck one. But really.

I’m an IUD evangelist now, and you should too!

Uterus-eats-IUD

Welp. I did it. I took the leap. I made the jump. I did all of the metaphorical cliches that allude to diving or otherwise throwing one’s own body off of a high place in order to represent the gravity of the choice they’ve made. I got an IUD.

For the longest time I was avidly against changing my body’s natural rhythm and messing with my already imbalanced hormones to control my reproductive system, so I avoided birth control like the plague. It wasn’t until three months ago, when I started my first serious relationship that I discovered that condoms really don’t feel that good. (who would’ve thought?) I went to my obgyn to talk about the possibility of getting an IUD, since I had heard there were non-hormonal options, like ParaGard. She walked me through all the hormonal/non-hormonal possibilities, but said that she highly recommended an IUD that’s new to the market: Skyla. Skyla is being marketed specifically at nulliparous, younger women (that’s me!) because it’s smaller, emits less hormones than Mirena, (its “older sister”), and has an easier insertion process. I walked out of her office with some pamphlets, my first pack of back-up hormonal birth control pills, and a promise to order an IUD.

As with most of my big decisions, I scoured the internet for research and statistics. How effective is the IUD? What are the pros/cons? Did I want a hormonal option or a non-hormonal? More importantly, which one did I want?

I decided on Skyla because the insertion sounded easier, I liked the idea of the lesser amount of hormones, and I like to think of my uterus as being endearingly smaller than normal. Itching to not have to use the pill anymore, I placed the order for my IUD via my insurance, since the entire cost of the device was covered under my health plan. (Thanks, Obama!). Skyla arrived about a month later, and my gynecologist’s office called me to schedule an insertion appointment. Well, that appointment was yesterday, friends, and I can tell you – it’s one hell of a ride!

The insertion was probably the least painful part of the whole process. The residual cramping is not my best friend, and my uterus has never been crankier at me. Sorry, lil guy. Like a good little IUD patient, I took my 800mg of ibuprofen half an hour before the appointment, made sure I had eaten a good lunch, and attempted to get a lot of sleep the night before. When I got to the office, they took my urine sample, set me up in a room and made me strip from the waist down. I signed a consent form, took off my pants, and placed my feet in the stirrups, ready for anything. My gynecologist came in, asked me how I was doing, and began to explain the procedure to me. Kindly asking whether I’d like to know what she was doing or if I’d rather remain delightfully ignorant, I consented to her giving me a play-by-play. I wanted to know how this little plastic thing was going to make it inside my uterus. I’m somewhat sadistically fascinated by these things, so she grabbed the forceps and got going.

The beginning of the process feels somewhat like a PAP smear, not at all painful, I felt little to no discomfort. She spread some antiseptic on my cervix, then said I was going to feel a little pinch, so she asked me to cough. At this point, she had grabbed the tenaculum and grabbed the lip of my cervix, began pulling it down in order to align the uterine placement for insertion. Again, I didn’t feel anything (I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones). She stuck a measuring rod in, then explained she was going to dilate the cervix. The cervical dilation was probably the most painful part of the experience (maybe a 5 on the pain scale) – and it was a nice little taste of what childbirth feels like, I imagine. It just felt like a really concentrated period cramp with a lot of pressure. Then she inserted the Skyla IUD, an “Ow” and 15 seconds later, my cute little “T” was in place and ready to start fighting off sperm! She trimmed my strings and set me up for an ultrasound, and just like that I was the proud host of an IUD!

I left the appointment cramping pretty heavily, with some spotting in the afternoon. I had been spotting all day, however, prior to the insertion because HBC made me get a 3-5 day period every two weeks. The spotting meant that my cervix was already in a lower, slightly more open position, which explains the general lack of insertion pain. I spent the afternoon eating ice cream with my boyfriend, and we eventually settled in for the night with a bottle of wine and an episode or two of Sherlock.

I didn’t sleep well, the cramping kept waking me up, and I had a horrible stomach ache all night. (Though that might be the wine’s fault, and not little Lupe’s. That’s what I named her – Guadalupe. My IUD. Seemed fitting.) This morning I’ve had intermittent cramps that range on a pain scale from 1-3 out of 10. Although, I’m starting to believe in light of my nearly painless Brazilian wax I got last week that I might have a high tolerance for pain. Yay future child-bearing me!

I’m super thrilled about my newest little buddy. My uterus is not so much. However, in a few weeks, I’m sure my body will be as excited as I am about hassle-free birth control for the next three years of my life!

Virginity Diaries: Julie

Naturally, the next post in this installment should go to Julie. I apologize for the delay in post updates. I’m still figuring out how I want to format this blog. I’ve concluded that I want it to be part personal-narrative, part story-line driven, and also just a huge personal reflection. So a lot of it will include decisions, and hindsight analysis. I beg you, my lovely readers, some pardon for that.

Julie’s story is specific. And intricate. She lost her virginity to the man she married. They started dating at 15, high school lovers who quickly married after they both turned 18. They had a kid and settled down (and in that proprietary order) and moved to another state. Like they became real adults with jobs and a baby. So when I moved to New York the same year they moved to Kentucky, Julie and I were both uprooted from our home, familiarity and comfort and replanted in drastically different cultures. New York is fast, liberal and very, very culturally diverse. Kentucky is dry, conservative and, well, Kentucky. We talked constantly – sometimes twice daily – and she shared her feelings about motherhood and her new place as a wife and mom.

See, Julie was my first introduction into anything remotely “sexual”. We were 15 and I was exploring my first curious notions of whatever occurs when the lights were out,  or in between the sheets, or any of those other cliche phrases that implied sexual relations. I was hopelessly infatuated with my then boyfriend, his shaggy hair and his oddly striking similarity to the boy in Avril Lavigne’s “sk8er boi”.  He was the first person to put his hand down my pants. I thought it was slightly thrilling and also stripping me of my morals at the time. I took him to church and tried to get him to believe what I believed at the time. He was perhaps one of the most important men in my life, as he would be the only man I would open up to emotionally. But he wouldn’t take my virginity (and not for lack of me drunkenly trying three years after our break up, mid our sophomore year of college). No, he was only a brick in the foundation of my developing sexual identity. Julie was the encouragement behind all of it. She told me about shaving, and instructed me on how to give a proper blow job. (That one I wouldn’t need for another few years, but the information was carefully cataloged and stored at the back of my mind.)

At the time, Julie was partying every weekend. She lived a crazy, reckless lifestyle until she met her boyfriend (now husband) and met God, and drastically turned her life around. They attended church together, grew together, and became immediately serious. The whole thing scared me, to be honest, a 16-year old headstrong young woman who was slightly too demanding to be demure. Her husband turned out to be the sweetest man she had ever met. It became immediately apparent their seriousness wasn’t foolish, and wasn’t “high school relationship” status. They took a purity vow together. And from her 16th birthday onward, Julie and her boyfriend would fail in every regard of that purity vow, yet grow tremendously from it.

I’m reminded of that thought catalog post that’s been floating around my social circles this week. The one about the girl who waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wished she hadn’t? It’s highly relevant, and a conversation that’s floating about numerous Christian and secular circles a lot recently. A lovely, and theologically sound counter to the teachings this poor woman was misled to believe can be found here, by a woman named Phylicia Delta. I include it since it’s the best Christian response I’ve found on the internet. A lot of them happened to be huffy “that’s not true!” responses, instead of responses that directly address the author’s individual experience.

Julie did have sex before her wedding night. And she regretted it immensely. She told me at her bachelorette party. There were no details, just two shame-filled sentences. I pitied, yet understood, the guilt that she felt. I wondered whether it was enjoyable at all, and I was so desperately trying to figure out why she hadn’t told me sooner. It had been months since IT happened. The big “IT”. That night, I realized how delusional I had been. I thought if anyone could make it, it would have been Julie. But even she had failed my expectations of her. Granted, those expectations shouldn’t have been placed in the first place. She’s human, she’s fallible, like me. And like everyone. But I also remember feeling a distinct sense of betrayal and envy. I was envious because she had experienced IT, and betrayed because she didn’t tell me. And the innocent best friend in me wanted her to give the juicy details! (Did it hurt? What was it like? Did it feel good? Is it weird? You saw him NAKED.) None were forthcoming. Nor were sex details after her wedding.

I understand and appreciate it now. I wasn’t able to comprehend Julie’s reasons for not disclosing that information on the brink of her wedding, both of us just 17, shy of being “actual adults”. Now I understand her reasons. My ego survived, and I discovered the beautiful, private act of sex on my own – and with a wonderful man – 4 years later. But until then, there were quintessential people to be met and reckoned with.

And among them were, most definitely, all four of my sisters.

Virginity Diaries: Rose

I can’t give all the credit to Chris for aiding me in my path to sexual discovery and openness, though he deserves a large portion of it. No, I have to thank the sex fanatic, and now dearest friend, that I lived with my sophomore year. Rose.

 

Rose lost her virginity to her high school boyfriend when she was a freshman. And boy, she spilled details. ALL the details. All the time. He lived upstate, and she would visit him every weekend. The best part was her consistent concern about how old he was.

 

“I’m going to jail,” she’d say. “Oh my god, I swear I’m going to jail.”

She was a freshman in college.

He was 15.

 

But she would come rushing back to the city, spilling everything about their juicy hookups, and disclosing all of the gossip she had tucked away in her mind.

 

What I found when I came to school was that there were two types of non-virgins: ones that were in serious, long lasting relationships who seemed to never talk about their sex life; and then there was Rose, whose discovery about sex opened up the world to her, and she suddenly stopped talking about everything else.

 

I really have to thank Rose someday, because if it weren’t for her, I would have never known some of the things about sex that became really useful upon mine very own losing of the virginity. What baffled me about Rose, though, was her distinctly sharp change in beliefs. She was raised as a reformed Jew, and didn’t think sex before marriage was wrong by any means, but she herself had decided to save herself for marriage. I distinctly remember walking home with her one night, and she was talking about the blow job she had just given to this composition major. She was appalled that he had pushed her head down to go deeper (a term I had never heard before this conversation. I mean I was really naïve), and she was convinced she would never agree to see him again.

I heard my mother’s voice in the back of my head saying, “You know what kids are doing nowadays, Michele? They’re having oral sex. ORAL. Do you know what that means??”

My face flushed because of my mother’s embarrassment at the ludicrousness of giving oral sex, and because my own confusion on the subject seemed to scream inexperience.

That conversation happened in November.

In January, Rose was no longer virginal.

 

Rose’s story is much more intricately tied, and will of course be interspersed through the diary for supportive  and illustrative purposes, but when she lost her virginity, she felt “empowered”, not puppy-dog sick like other people I had heard from. Her boyfriend made her feel amazing and incredible all the time, she liked having sex with him. It was a win-win situation.

 

The mini-epiphanies on my journey came in small doses. The first one happened with Rose. It started with the conversations we would have about having sex. And the first one dealt with the question of “losing” something. Why would we say that we’ve “lost” our virginity, if it wasn’t something that was missed when it was gone? Everyone was having sex, and it seemed like nobody cared about the mystical V-word disappearing forever.

 

“Lost” made the event sound one of two things. Either tragic and fatal, like you had “lost” your grandfather; or trivial and confused, like in the way you “lost” your hamster in 6th grade. I wanted to think that the event of becoming a non-virgin it would fall somewhere in the middle of those two things. Important, but not destructive. So I started questioning. I asked Rose what she thought about “losing” it to someone – and she kinda shrugged and then just started talking about how long it had been since she had had sex.

 

So I took the phrase elsewhere. Back to my best friend from Idaho, Julie.

The Virginity Diaries

The “V” word. Virginity. It frightened me for years.

On the path to losing it (because that’s what I was told I had to do- lose it – as if it were an object I could accidentally misplace or something), I encountered a myriad of opinions and feelings on the topic. I debated it with people from different religions, philosophies and upbringings for years. You could say I actually believed almost every single side of the virginity debate, and quite passionately too, from start to finish on the journey to becoming a non-virgin. I traveled from the abstinence side to losing my virginity in a non-committal, completely casual hookup. But the process took years – and there were many influential variables along the way that influenced my decision to go from virgin to non-virgin. See, the thing is, I don’t find that there is really an adequate term to describe someone who isn’t a virgin anymore. Like non-virgin functions to describe people who have had sex, but it’s not as succinct as virgin is to people who haven’t. So, I guess like the rest of the world, I’ll be stuck labeling people who haven’t had sex as “virgins” and those that have just as “people”, since it’s kind of a trivial thing that shouldn’t define the value, worth or identity of another human being. With that in mind, I’ll proceed with my very own virginity diary.

I was raised a good little Christian girl in the heart of rural America. I went to church in buckled Mary Jane’s and dresses every single Sunday. We went out to brunch after church, and I set up play dates with my Sunday school friends, and I lived merrily in a warm, supportive church community for 18 blissfully unaware, naïve years. I believed passionately and whole-heartedly in the inerrancy of Christianity, and not in some blinded idealistic American philosophy that God was going to bless me with a perfect, large house with a white picket fence and kids and a cherry on top if I just served him. My faith was real, studied, theologically sound and proven, even. Maybe a little misled, but I will never deny it was real. I believed that my belief in Jesus as God guided my opinions, my decisions, and my entire life until I moved out of the house (and even beyond). And Christianity played a foundational role in my understanding of virginity; what it was, what it meant to me, and how it fit into a neat little box on the shelf labeled “not until marriage”.

I left home to move to New York, with idealistic dreams of big city life. Broadway shows, late nights, rooftop bars, and coffee dates a la Sex and the City. And New York became just that to me – the land of possibility and potential – and with its glamour, came a wall of opposing opinions. One of the first people I met upon arriving in New York was Chris. Chris was openly homosexual, an avid agnostic, and a self-identified realist. We became fast friends. At the time, I was trying to prove to him that I wasn’t a stereotypical Christian. I may not have approved of homosexuality, but damn it, I was going to love him like a Christian was supposed to. And my friendship with Chris planted a giant wedge between my religion and my philosophies, one that would only continue to split the two in different directions. Our numerous conversations opened the “not until marriage” box and scattered it across the room. These conversations involved everything from biology to spirituality to gruesome details about upbringings and everything in between. And neat little conservative me began to change. Suddenly, my compartmentalized past was jumbled. An earth quake went off in my mind and I couldn’t sort what was absolute from what wasn’t. And it was the beautiful beginning into deepening my understanding of tolerance and acceptance.

As I grappled with new friendships and new social settings, I met a number of influential people who helped to drastically change my opinion and philosophy on virginity. They became necessary for the shaping of my decisions and my future; which (spoiler alert) results in me losing my virginity. The stories are innumerable.

So as the muse, I invite you to come along. Read my story; send me yours. Let’s start a conversation. As the blog develops, I think I’ll find a more streamlined vision of what I want it to be. I’m hoping it sparks conversation.

Now let’s talk about sex.

The millennials’ obsession with commitment.

I need to preface this post by stating that I am a millennial.

There are multiple posts out there about the millennial generation. They range from positive to negative and cover a broad range of topics, about how special we think we are, how entitled we are, and even how wrong our parents were. Call us what you will, albeit it GYPSY, Yuppie or narcisisstic, we may in fact be all three, because there’s nothing we do better than… well, everything.

But what I’ve recently been drawn to, is merely an observation that I’ve made for which I’m seeking more conversation. I have no studies to back my theory, and I certainly don’t have the time to research it, I’m too busy becoming successful and saving the world. No, what seems to be trending in my generation today is a prevalent obsession with commitment.

What I mean to say is that the idea of commitment captivates our thoughts. Because when we’re not thinking about what our next successful career or thrilling adventure is going to be, we’re usually committing our lives to our multiple jobs, internships, and full course loads at schools that we can’t afford. Everyone I talk to now has at least one job, an internship, and is a full-time student. (And I can’t claim exemption, because I work three part-time jobs and take 18 credits.) My time is so precious, I rejoice when I have an hourly interval free for lunch and a coffee, because it certainly doesn’t happen every day.

Because a lot of us are students or fresh to the career world, the overwhelming majority of us view this stage of our life as a “necessary but inconvenient step” toward success. School is necessary, but only because it will get us where we need to go. And that part-time job is so we can afford to live the lavish-esque lifestyle we were expected to have handed down to us from society while they were praising our skills and talents. And that internship? Networking opportunities, of course. Because we simply have to make those connections now if we want to be successful. It’s like taking off one hat to put on another.

The implications of these roles? To put it simply, we’re overcommitted, but not to things that we consider really important, because as Mark Edmundson so poignantly claims in his essay, “Dwelling in Possibilities“, we, as a generation, are deathly afraid of closure. We find happiness when we can see all our possibilities in front of us, not necessarily when we achieve them. Because we were taught to dream, to aspire, and to be the best we could be.

We were told that the world was at our disposal. So it’s not surprising to find a lack of commitment when you consider our approach to personal relationships. We’re quick to over commit to the professional world, but we like our friendships like we like our coffee. Quick, accessible when we need it, and a way to boost ourselves. And this is largely in part to the fact that we live in a fast-paced, technology driven culture that has radically changed the way we communicate.

This practice has carried over quite seamlessly into our views and practices of romantic relationships. Most interaction is done electronically – online and through each and every smart phone social media app that exists. Sociologists theorize that this is the phenomenon that has led to a prominent hookup culture. One that prizes the idea of a quick, non-committal physical encounter that doesn’t require the time or effort that a committed relationship demands.  Take Tinder for example – the wildly popular dating app. Time magazine claims, “Tinder gamifies it all—dating and mating as a portable match game, with an unending succession of faces appearing on your screen, all dispatched with a swipe one way to pick the winners and a swipe the other to designate losers—and somewhere out there, your face is being swiped too.” In a way, we see dating as one big game. We’re afraid of committing to someone because that means closure, it means we have sealed off other possibilities, and we do, after all, dwell in possibilities.

While it may be technology, social trends, our upbringing, or a myriad of other reasons, it’s undeniable that the majority of all millennials are over committed, yet paradoxically remain deathly afraid of commitment. And it’s startling because I can’t explain it. I feel it, too. I am a product of this generation, and there’s very little I can do about it. And I too, am trapped between a career and a love interest that’s not a true “relationship” but also a bit more than a “one night stand”. I’m not certain how I’m supposed to feel, or how I’m supposed to act. But it’s deathly frightening. And in this I know I’m not alone.

From a millenial.

xoxo,

MC