Should I tell a potential partner?
How to do it is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions to [email protected]. Don’t worry, we won’t be using names.
Each Friday, Stoya and Rich will answer another question in chat form. This week, a question of sex without sex.
Dear how to do,
I’m an almost 30-year-old straight woman who has never had sex. No P-in-V, no oral, not even big hugs. I kissed two guys, neither of whom were great experiences. (My first kiss was five years ago, and it went from zero to a tongue down my throat.) Due to some mess in life, I haven’t gone out much either. All of this to say that I am super inexperienced in all aspects of relationships. Now that I’m in a more stable place to live, I try to date myself, but my inexperience continues to trip me up. I’m not even comfortable going out with a guy on the second date, but on the last few dates I’ve been these guys have taken the plunge and I just froze. I’m getting too much in my head wondering if I’m horrible for kissing, and everyone logging in on the second date, and oh my gosh now i have to tell him i’m a virgin and he me will judge? On the second date I don’t even know if I want to having sex with the guy again. It usually takes a while for me to develop an attraction to someone. So he thinks that I don’t like him or that I’m frigid, and I think it’s not fair to chain him up and break up.
A lot of the advice I see is to be upfront about who you are and what you are looking for, but every time I date someone from a dating app, no one wants to take it slower. So, I don’t know if I should aspire and do things that make me uncomfortable, or if I should reveal my lack of history in advance and hope they don’t think I’m crazy or don’t laugh at me. What should I do?
Rich: This one is really tough.
Stoya: I don’t even know where to start.
Rich: Obviously we cannot and will not make a sexual diagnosis, but I wonder how much time she spent wondering whether or not she is asexual. It really seems that the very prospect of any sort of physical intimacy is intimidating to her.
Stoya: I’m not so sure because of the part about potential mates who thinks she’s frigid, which implies she has desires. But I may be reading the sentence wrong now that I look at it a second time. She also mentions the “disorder of life” as an obstacle.
Rich: Yeah, it’s hard for me to guess how much she really wants to experience sex from how much she think she should want to experience it, which leads to a lot of anxiety when she measures up to what she thinks she should be. I think it’s telling that she hasn’t had sex yet because maybe, in fact, she doesn’t want it at all. Costs! There is no right way to live and sex is not compulsory.
Stoya: I’ve done some reading on asexuality for a different issue recently, and there are people who identify as asexual who also go out, cuddle up and possibly kiss.
Rich: It’s amazing how sexuality never stops on the spectrum.
Stoya: It really is.
Rich: Between each shade is an infinite number of shades.
Stoya: I want to go directly to the part about sucking her up and doing things that make her uncomfortable. Do not do that. Stick to your limits.
Rich: Totally. Doing something that makes you uncomfortable will probably only make you feel worse. And why? A sustained situation (i.e. relationship) of discomfort. I understand that she feels like she might have to bend to get back to the status quo, but she better take this at her own pace.
Stoya: I think she might want to be candid about her sex story to save herself time for dinner with someone who might reject her because of it.
Rich: And time, after all, is the most precious resource we have. It’s the one thing we all miss. As painful as it may be, it is worth preserving.
Stoya: The more I think about it, the more your asexual assumption seems to fit.
Rich: Just a hunch! I don’t want to say that and thwart his exploration. But I want to stress that it doesn’t matter if that is what it is. Regarding the fear of being judged: Sharing time with someone, even briefly, means you run the risk of them judging or laughing at you. This is true of all social situations, but especially intimate. I don’t think there is a way around vulnerability other than to shut yourself up and deny yourself your desires. At the end of the day, neither is a guarantee of comfort, but you miss every shot that you don’t take.
Stoya: So there is one uncomfortable thing to swallow and do: be vulnerable. Which is really the hardest part sometimes.
Rich: Especially with virtual strangers!
Stoya: I wonder if she has any friends that she can practice talking about this with.
Rich: Yeah, this is definitely something that I think would probably be easier to talk about with practice? Right now, it’s like a taboo shrouded in taboo. There are a number of seal breaking to be made. I have found that a lot of sexual anxiety erodes with experience. Sure, sometimes that anxiety inhibits the experience, but if you want to get anywhere your resolution has to be more vicious than the cycle.
And while it’s true that you don’t meet a lot of 30 year old virgins, I think a lot of guys wouldn’t mind that at all? Personally, I love a project and I wouldn’t be put off showing a guy in his 30s the ropes. It sounds hot.
Stoya: Yes, I can absolutely imagine some men being nervous and others too impatient, but I also think it’s quite possible to find someone nice and experienced who wants to show you around. So many people develop new parts of their sexuality in their 30s.
Rich: Of course I did! I think there is some fear on her part that by revealing her idiosyncrasies up front, she will limit her dating pool. But she is a special case where the pool does not need to be infinite for itself. This limitation is therefore a good thing. Yeah, it might take a while to find the right guy, but if she’s dating these guys who want to stick their tongues down her throat on sight, she’s wasting her time with the wrong guys anyway.
Stoya: I don’t really know how dating apps work.
Stoya: But maybe this is the right place to be frank. I guess there’s a place to say things like, “I want to take things slow. Really slow. Like kissing after a few slow dates.
Rich: Yes, most if not all have such space in their profile models.
Stoya: It might be worth being so blunt this early.
Rich: Franchising is the only method that has ever worked for me. Granted, I have no choice but to be blunt (terrible liar, every thumbs up when trying to beat around the bush), so frankness is the only method I’ve ever used. But still: it’s effective! It’s like this quote from Madonna: “A lot of people are afraid to say whatever they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.
Regarding the other anxiety she has (“I get too much myself into my head wondering if I’m horrible for kissing, and are everyone checking in on the second date”), I think like everything there is just a growing process in yourself. You’re not good at kissing if you like it.
Stoya: Avoid chewing on their chin unless instructed to do so, keep your tongue out of their nose, and you will be fine.
Rich: I really do a lot with my tongue, and some guys like it and some say “Too much”, and really, whatever! OKAY! Maybe I can edit in a way that I still find true to my expression, maybe we just shouldn’t be kissing then?
Stoya: Law! It might seem counterintuitive since your mouth is a bit busy, but you can definitely provide verbal feedback during the kiss. So if something is too intense or doesn’t make you feel good, you can say it. And this applies to every step of the exploration.
Rich: Exactly. And there are also dating apps that cater to specific types like sapiosexuals or asexuals. So there are also these roads. I think most of the time this situation could use a change of attitude / perspective – yes this is all scary, but it’s also exciting. It is a journey towards pleasure or at least to know each other better than ever. Oh, the places you’ll go! Oh, the people you may or may not have sex with!