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Being the “Inexperienced One” in College — And Why That’s Absolutely Okay

Growing up, a first kiss is like some commodity everyone is waiting to get their hands on. Who was it? How did it happen? Was it magic? The thing is, this commodification of experience then sets unnecessary pressure on the youth. Girls, for instance, aren’t quite grown up until we’ve AT LEAST locked lips with Matt from math class for five-seconds — and I don’t mean to be gross, but was there TONGUE?

Fast forward: we’re seventeen and sex is the new commodity. School gossip shifts from “I think they’re dating” to “I think they’re banging” and with that comes a whole new force of pressure. Guys needed sex to be men; for girls, sex meant becoming an adult. With our lives in a perpetual state of fast-forward, expectation hits hard and fast and if you aren’t doing it, your friend probably is — or that gal in homeroom is busy making you all look bad.

A few years more and you’re in college or university and the whole game changes. Sex isn’t just a commodity or piece of hot gossip, it’s a culture and a norm. You go to a party, you go to a bar, you go to a club — inevitably someone’s talking about going home with somebody. So what happens when you’re the only one who hasn’t done it before? I’m going to out myself here: I entered university with a completely unchecked social/sexual bucket list. I a) was a virgin, b) had never been in a relationship and c) had never had a first kiss. Cut to now and I’m 21, I’m in my last year and I’ve checked none of that off.

And I’m completely fine with that.

See, there’s a discourse surrounding sexuality and sexual experience that very much ostracizes those without it. I read so many articles on college being this blank slate where I could reinvent myself. Out with the old me, in with the new and improved me, right? No, wrong! College may be a blank slate, but that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent yourself or pretend that you’ve done things you haven’t. And, man, it sucked ass to be the only one in the room that couldn’t join the sex talk or wasn’t pumped about that hot guy watching who’s clearly DTF. It took a long time for me to stop feeling broken or less worthy because I wasn’t ready to suck face with some stranger at a bar.

The truth is, we are not defined by our sexual experience. But I spent a lot of time thinking I was.

My Experience

In first year, it was agonizing. As someone usually pretty sure of myself and who takes pride in being openly, unabashedly me, I hated the insecurity that came with my inexperience. Even more, I hated that as open as I was about everything else, I was afraid to be open about my sexuality. It was O-Week, only a few nights in, when my roommates and I were bonding and girl-talking that the question about sex inevitably came up. I decided to start experimenting, not with the sexual, but with people’s reactions. So I told them no — no sex, no first kiss, no boyfriend — and held my breath for a reaction. They took it in stride — a little unsure, but not so off-put as I expected. Mostly surprise. I could handle surprise.

It was a problem when others found out — and that part was all on me. Halloween 2016 and a not-so-innocent game of Never-Have-I-Ever had me confessing (sober, might I add, like a dumbass) to a group of semi-friends and strangers that I’d never had sex — and man, I don’t think I’ll ever experience a silence so awkward as what followed. I was eventually “saved” by a friend who quietly confessed: “don’t worry, I haven’t either.” The game pretty much died out after that and I retreated further into myself. If my virginity had that kind of reaction, what would they say if they knew about the no first kiss thing? And worse, the “don’t worry” — much as I appreciated it — felt more like reassurance: “There’s a problem with your virginity but, don’t worry, it’s not JUST you.”

Frankly, that’s fucking bullshit.

Over the past four years, I have been ostracized during sex talk, presumed to know nothing about physical intimacy, associated with some concept of purity I don’t subscribe to, relegated to group margins on a night out, abandoned by friends for hookups, tiptoed around when talking about relationships and repeatedly told that “it’s not a big deal, just get drunk and make-out / hook-up with someone” since, apparently, that would just solve all my problems. But the thing is, when I stopped letting myself feel weird about myself, is when I stopped giving a shit.

Some Lessons

1. Not everyone is going to be a dick.

Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of people who’ve made a big deal about me not having kissed or had sex with someone, but at the end of the day, they won’t matter. Those I consider my friends don’t make me into a spectacle or parade me around like the bachelorette looking for a little action. My best friends still connect with me on their experiences and value my input even if I haven’t done it myself. And yeah, a note to anyone who thinks someone’s lack of experience means they have less to say: give us two-seconds and I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself. We know a hell of a lot than you think we do.

2. Handle it however you want.

If you don’t care if the world knows, then shout it from the mountains! If you want to keep it on the DL: that’s fine too. Maybe your inexperience is a choice — NEVER convince yourself you need to change your mind for anything but your personal preference. Never got the opportunity in high school, but are ready and ~wanting~? POWER TO YOU. Anyone who gets weird about the whole experience thing isn’t worth hooking up with anyway. For me, I never had the time to put into a relationship or a guy and I never saw the need to make that time. I was — and am — completely and utterly content with just me. And that’s great too.

3. Your inexperience does NOT make you undesirable and you don’t need to find a random hookup to “fit in.”

Please, please, PLEASE don’t let anyone convince you ever that there’s something wrong with being inexperienced. Experienced, inexperienced — there should not be a defining line of worth between the two. Don’t change yourself or what you want for some convoluted society-driven MYTH about self-value. You’ll probably regret it in the end. And besides, you being whoever and whatever you are is far, far better than anyone you could fashion yourself into.

So, yes, world! I’m way past your weird concept of “prime timing” to check of my socially imposed “Bucket List of Intimacy.” But you can take your pressure and your degradation and shove it, because only we get to decide if we’re enough. And yes, my loves, we all are.