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Sex + Relationships

Turning Sexual Anxiety into Sexual Empowerment

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Sex is something that has always made me anxious—and I’m not talking about the usual butterflies in your stomach when you’re being intimate with a new person. I’m talking about the extreme fear of getting pregnant, and suddenly my future, my career, the dollar signs of my loans and endless diaper costs flood my mind. It doesn’t help me much that I am constantly shamed for having desire. I grew up in evangelical purity culture at a public school that at best taught me how to put a condom on a banana and a pop culture that literally says, “Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!” Of course, Mean Girls was poking fun at abstinence-only education, but you get the point.

My first time was less than perfect. I had a pregnancy scare, emphasis on the scare, even though it was “impossible”—they used a condom and the pull out method and I wasn’t even fertile. But still, I was 17 and terrified. I had never ONCE been late. One week went by. Two weeks. By then, my mom could tell something was up. She helped me buy a test with sympathy and compassion. How could this happen to me? I thought. I was a Straight A student, a leader, a role model in my church. What would people think about me? What would they say? Those two weeks were the loneliest I have ever felt.

When I started being intimate with a new partner, I carried that anxiety with me even though I never knew it. I remember the exact feeling when the condom broke. We were home on break during my freshman year of college. I was not new to anxiety, but when the “oh shit” moment happened, I had the worst panic attack I have ever had in my entire life. I looked like a trainwreck: naked, hyperventilating, gagging, and bawling hysterically. My partner felt terrible. He wrapped me up in his arms and held me until I calmed down. Even though he was right there, I relived that powerlessness all over again. I felt everything and could explain nothing.

I needed control. I needed to feel safe, like my uterus wasn’t a time bomb that could blow up the life that I had worked so hard to build. I think this is why so many people with uteruses take birth control methods into their own hands, especially when parents, school systems or the government try to deny sex education or access (of course, this is aside from reasons like alleviating menstruation symptoms or the effects of other health issues). When I started dating my current partner, I right away decided that I needed something better as a form of protection than just condoms and luck. So I researched my butt off and decided to get an intrauterine device (or IUD). 

I don’t remember to take vitamins more than once a week, so there was no way the pill would work for me. I hate needles so the shot and implant were out of the question. Vaginal ring seemed like an okay second option, but it wasn’t as effective. The doctor warned me about IUD insertions being painful. Well, for my level of anxiety and 6 years of protection, I decided that the short lived pain and cramping was worth it. For months I feared what would happen when I walked through those doors. If there would be protesters like in the movies. If I would be accused of being selfish or even “a murderer” for wanting nothing more than to take care of my mental health. 

I got my IUD five days ago now. And for the first time, at that appointment, I thought about sex and didn’t feel like it was hushed or shameful. Tears welled up in my eyes as a nurse asked me which device I wanted. I had a choice that was all my own—I had control. And though I was alone in the office, I didn’t feel lonely. Even as the procedure began, the two doctors were startled by how calm and relaxed I was. And until they brought it up, I hadn’t felt pain. I just felt free.

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