Sex + Love

Going Slow in the Fast Lane

You might not think it possible to be a virgin and a slut, but I did.

Illustration by Emma D.

I began to fancy myself something of a slut when I was in the sixth grade, the same year that I got my first boyfriend. He was in the eighth grade, two years older than me, and we never did more than kiss. Still, I felt sexy, with my crimped hair and my navy-blue uniform, and the idea of being seen as “loose” by girls whose first kisses were still years away felt like a compliment rather than a judgment or a slur. They were still playing with their American Girl dolls, and any reputation I had was a sign that I was moving in the right direction. I didn’t want to be a kid anymore. I wanted to be a sex goddess, a siren, a girlfriend. And slut seemed like a pretty cool word.

Those were the days when your crush’s best friend would talk to your best friend to negotiate the terms of a possible love affair. The playground would be abuzz with your impending romance before you’d done anything more than wave hello in the hallway. There would be a telephone call or two in which you discussed the plot points of your favorite television show and exactly what was required from your French homework, and then you would officially be going out. On our first date, we saw Beauty and the Beast. It was kind of easy to feel dangerous back then.

Once I knew that kissing was possible, how could I stop? It became my favorite hobby by a landslide, and I practiced it often at summer camp. The flirting was easy—all I had to do was steal a boy’s baseball hat and wear it around, or sit on his lap, or tease him. The kissing was a little bit harder—I had to narrow down my targets and keep an open mind. My flings were goofy and random: one boy was a couple of years younger than me, and half a foot shorter, and the other was my closest male friend at camp, whom I thought I was in love with. I kissed him for the first time on a van ride while he pretended to be asleep. Later that summer, we shared a sleeping bag on a canoe trip and I tried to do other, more advanced things while he again pretended to be unconscious. (I would look back on this episode with undiluted horror if he hadn’t asked me to be his prom date a few years later.)

When I was in high school, the great fallacy of the group date emerged. My friends and I told our parents, “It’s not like that anymore, everyone just hangs out,” because it was easier than telling them the truth, which was, “I really want someone to be my boyfriend, but I don’t know how to make that happen, so I’m just going to make out with some people and see what shakes out.” Ninth grade started out well—I kissed the cutest boy in school at a friend’s house a few weeks into the year and, the sweet guy that he was, he became my boyfriend automatically. There was hand-holding in the hallway, the most public declaration of coupledom, but I was undone by the public nature of it all, and called it off after a month. It was too much—I felt like we were hurtling quickly down a road that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on.

Instead, I became a promiscuous pair of lips, a make-out bandit. I kissed boys I adored and boys I barely knew. The kissing was great, and wasn’t as scary as the idea of a Serious Relationship. Some of my friends were in the same boat, but most were pickier than I was, and more likely to devote themselves to a single romantic object. Sometimes, the older I got, there would be more than kissing, but often it was just that, and maybe a couple of errant boob-grabs. I had no idea what to do with a penis, and the brave boys who stuck their hands down my pants had no idea what they were doing, either. During this time, several of my friends had truly epic romances—mutual devirginizations, promise rings, keys to each other’s houses. In theory, I wanted those things, but I didn’t really know how to get them.

I figured I had to still show boys I was interested. There were a number of occasions where I hooked up with more than one person in a single night; my record was four, and after I kissed that fourth, truly beautiful boy, he immediately threw up over the back of the sofa we’d been sitting on. A few of my friends were older girls and infinitely more grown-up. They’d all had sex, and whereas I once felt so advanced compared to everybody else, I now felt like the sweet pet. I saw how easily I could start sleeping with everyone who paid any attention to me by simply saying yes instead of no, just out of my desperate desire to be liked. I stayed a virgin until I was in college, in part because it seemed like a line that would only be hard to cross once, and I was wary of how I would react emotionally once I did.

I wish I could say that it all got easier when I went to college, and that my romantic partners were all mature adults, but that wasn’t the case. The boy I eventually lost my virginity to never really liked me, and I’m pretty sure he only dated me because he was lonely in the city during the summer. After that, I floated from one short-term relationship to another, and I didn’t really have a serious boyfriend until my senior year of college, when a boy I had a crush on behaved in exactly the same way as my first high school boyfriend had—by holding my hand without fear or shame in front of my friends the day after our first night together. He was smart and adorable and wrote songs about me, and it was as if the idea that we wouldn’t be boyfriend/girlfriend had never occurred to either of us. If this makes me sound very passive, it’s because I was. I could only be bold about the first part—the flirting and the kissing. Once I reached that point, I had absolutely no idea what to do, and I just followed the other person’s lead. Though I started out my life as a sexual creature by having ambitions of being a sex goddess, whatever that meant, I still wasn’t sure how to really take charge of my own experiences. I’d been lapped so many times by that point—people had engagement rings, for god’s sake.

When my husband and I got together, I was 22 and fresh out of college. The idea of a serious relationship was still a little big and scary, but I think as I got older, I started to understand that no one ever has a complete handle on what’s going on, and I didn’t have to, either. We would often run into boys I’d gone to high school or college with, either at parties or on the street, and it became a running joke that when we had parted ways, my future husband would ask me if I’d made out with them. The answer was often yes, and it always made him laugh. Not to get too cheeseball here, but that is a really important quality in any kind of long-term partner. The other person should never make you feel guilty about your life before you were together.

In retrospect, all my manic dalliances seem both sad and sweet. If I’d had a serious boyfriend in high school, then I might have felt more pressure to have sex earlier, which I personally wasn’t ready for, even though I wanted everyone to think I was. Maybe flitting about from one person to the next was a way of protecting myself. I wish that I’d felt surer about what I wanted, or didn’t want, but maybe that’s expecting too much. I’m sure that some of the boys I kissed were as hopeful that each kiss would lead to something real, and as scared about what that would entail, as I was. But sometimes you think you’re fast, only to find out that you’re kind of slow, and that that’s OK too. ♦

38 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax January 29th, 2013 3:10 PM

    I would love to be able to identify with this article, but the most action I have ever got, boy-wise, is when I walked into one on the stairs and he accidentally (but I like to think on purpose) grazed my hand. It was a brief fling, to say the least.

    http://rosieandthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/

    • goma January 29th, 2013 4:09 PM

      So true, that’s me. But I have always been friends with boys, so I am much more comfortable around them then my other friends.

    • Ms.O January 29th, 2013 4:28 PM

      My feelings about this article exactly. If that is my experience in the future (it won’t be), then I won’t feel alone (but it doesn’t matter cuz that will never be my experience).

    • Kathryn January 29th, 2013 5:35 PM

      Haha, the most action I have ever got was cuddling on a school bus.

    • meghanj January 30th, 2013 9:11 AM

      i never kissed a single human being in high school and then i got to university and things turned around! don’t worry! (is what i would tell my high school self)

    • Ella W January 30th, 2013 12:19 PM

      I’m the same! Except without the hand grazing part. I literally have had no action boy wise ever. But I’m alive, and my thoughts are it’ll all come to life when I go to uni. Well I hope. :)

      http://gorillalegs.blogspot.co.uk/

  • meghanj January 29th, 2013 3:21 PM

    thank you rookie for telling me that I am o-k and things are o-k because I think this article so completely describes my life and THINGS WILL BE OK and pretty much thank you!!!!

  • positif January 29th, 2013 3:48 PM

    God, that sounds SO familiar. But the hard part, at least for me, is the guilt. I don’t feel bad because I make out with someone every time I’m at a party. If there are people who call me a slut because of that then I don’t care. But when a guy I made out with the next day ask my friend for my number and ask her if he got a chance with me that just sucks. Because no matter how fun he is and how fun it would be to be with him I just panic and freeze. I don’t know what to do, I’m scared of doing anything so I just do nothing. And I feel like a total asshole for ignoring him and not even giving him and the idea of us being together a chance.

    Not knowing what you want sucks and I just wait for a day I finally figure that out.

    • barbroxursox January 29th, 2013 5:24 PM

      I feel the same way! I’ve never had a serious relationship with a guy because I just don’t know what to do or what to say to make the relationship go further. I freeze up and expect the guy to do everything. I too don’t know what I want, and that can also get in the way of relationships.

      http://lizard-on-a-window-pane.tumblr.com

    • farawayfaerie January 30th, 2013 2:28 PM

      I know what you mean, and I’ve kissed guys who have then thought there would be something serious afterwards, and it’s always difficult, especially if they already liked you and you didn’t know! But you just have to remind yourself that you don’t owe them anything, and that you’re allowed to still be figuring it out.

  • Badlands January 29th, 2013 4:23 PM

    I was like this towards the end of highschool- Although I was not a virgin. I WAS a big ol’ tease though and would only let boys makeout with me.

    It got me into A LOT of trouble too. Remember not to make out with your friend’s boyfriends or your ex-boyfriend’s friends, oops! But seriously, consider how your kissing actions will effect those around you.

    • lizzyheinie January 29th, 2013 6:51 PM

      “But seriously, consider how your kissing actions will effect those around you.”

      Truth, ladies. I’m in the middle of consequences from this right now and it really sucks :( Don’t repeat my mistakes!

      Or do. And if you already have, please come over and cry and eat cookie dough with me

      • farawayfaerie January 30th, 2013 2:29 PM

        :’( om nom nom cookie dough

  • anyone January 29th, 2013 5:06 PM

    That’s the complete opposite to my teen-years (well, now I’m 20 and it is still the complete opposite)… BUT OMG WHAT IF I WILL MEET MY FUTURE HUSBAND IN 2 YEARS.

    ok, that is what I wanted to share with you Rookies.

  • Abby January 29th, 2013 5:20 PM

    Guys I need to talk about this…. I kind of have the opposite problem. I’ve never kissed anyone and I’m obviously sexually inexperienced… people think I’m prudish and innocent, and I hate that. It’s not like I don’t WANT to kiss someone or have sex… I really do. It’s just that I’ve never been with anyone and so I haven’t had the opportunity to do anything. And (at least in my head), I’m kinda freaky when it comes to sex. I think about it a lot and I’d be really open to trying new things and I even write erotic literature, but no one sees that I’m open to it, and it bugs me.

    • I.ila January 29th, 2013 5:34 PM

      Hey, look back in the archives, pretty sure there’s a rookie article about that.
      Note: if you feel sad/insecure/confused, there’s probably a rookie article somewhere to help

    • Flyer January 29th, 2013 9:31 PM

      Hey Abby, this is probably the “Just Wondering” Rookie advice column that’s most relevant to your problem: http://rookiemag.com/2011/12/just-wondering-3/

      I’m pretty sure that you will have opportunities, many opportunities, to try new things and seem less inexperienced/naive to others, so you should just keep your creative mind open and try to feel others’ judgment less strongly– in fact, they’re probably not judging you (or thinking pointedly that you are inexperienced) at all. Enjoy the anticipation!

    • Emma S. January 30th, 2013 2:18 AM

      You guys are so on top of this! I was going to point out some Rookie stuff on this too. I completely understand how you feel. It’s such a weird period, full of rocky transitions and brain/body disconnect. Please know that the opportunity WILL arise, and you will get to be as freaky as you want to be!

      • Abby January 30th, 2013 12:17 PM

        Thanks guys… Rookie, its readers, and its writers are the best!!

  • AmyL January 29th, 2013 5:26 PM

    People always bother me asking if I’ve ever kissed anyone (the answer is no, never) and I’m actually totally cool with that answer.

    intergalactic-dragons.blogspot.com

  • Katze January 29th, 2013 5:35 PM

    Thank you so much for this article, I can totally relate to that. I used to make out a lot with people, too. However, I need a really long time until I sleep with someone. Once I tried to have something like a one night stand, but I realized that that’s just not me.
    I think it’s really important to stay true to yourself and don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, no matter what!

  • AwesomeFrances January 29th, 2013 5:54 PM

    Oh man, you were the same as me in high school! I was a massive kissing slut (my record for one night was 6 different people) but I rarely went further. After pursuing so many people, I’ve been with my current boyfriend – really my only serious boyfriend – for the past 8 years. I’ve kissed so many people but only slept with one. And that’s ok.

    I like this article and all the comments because, beyond enthusiastic consent, there are no rules to sex. There’s no standard or quota.

  • constanze January 29th, 2013 6:38 PM

    AMEN ! <3

  • Nina_8 January 29th, 2013 7:38 PM

    i loved this article, except maybe that line about the husband laughing about the guys she’d kiss. my current boyfriend (who i really love and he’s like seriously the best) is realy really sensitive and gets upset about things in my past. can anyone relate to this? does this mean our relationship is Doomed or are people just different and things will get better in time? Let me know INTERNET!!!

    • periwinkle_dreams January 29th, 2013 8:37 PM

      Hmm…it really depends on the person. I found out over a year into my last relationship that my then-boyfriend had gone pretty far with another girl before we started dating. It really bothered me when he first told me, but mostly just because I’m saving sex for marriage, and he wasn’t (still isn’t). So, even though I knew why I was waiting and it felt right to me, hearing that he’d been with this other girl still made me feel inferior/inadequate because she was able to fulfill his sexual desires and I wasn’t. If you two haven’t done sexual stuff as a couple yet but you have in the past, this could be the cause of your bf’s insecurity (not that that means you must go have sex now, obvs – up to you). Anyways: I think when he really cares about you, trusts you, and feels secure in the relationship, he won’t care so much about your past relationships. Give him some time and see how it goes. I don’t think you’re doomed :)

  • periwinkle_dreams January 29th, 2013 8:40 PM

    This article made my brain remind me of this 30 Rock clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWfiZb4V1bk
    So, I thought I’d share, cause Tina Fey is the best :)

  • llamalina January 29th, 2013 8:59 PM

    “..it became a running joke that when we had parted ways, my future husband would ask me if I’d made out with them.”

    that’s hilarious. when i was in elementary school, i fancied myself a bit of a slut as well- it’s so true that a bad reputation is better than none at all. and now i’m stuck making out with boys i don’t like and falling out of love faster than falling in it. i feel like rookie articles have been hitting home constantly lately. i hope that my story ends as well as yours, your husband sounds amazing.

  • raggedyanarchy January 29th, 2013 11:21 PM

    When I was little–like, Kindergarten little, guys–I had a string of boyfriends and broken hearts behind me. I’m pretty sure I “dated” at least every kid in my class once. I thought I was more advanced, more mature, cooler than every other girl in my class.
    Ten years later, I get really excited when I meet eyes with a cute guy from across the hall. Like, I just entered first grade with this shyness and insecurity that came out of NOWHERE. And that shyness and insecurity hasn’t left, either.
    Pretty sure I won’t get a boyfriend till college. Or get a kiss. Tragic.
    It’s not like I don’t WANT a boyfriend and sex and stuff, it’s just that those situations never come up, and my shy self won’t make them happen either. And when they do come up, I turn into a shy first grader who spills her grape juice because she’s trembling so bad all over again.

  • Isobel-cat January 30th, 2013 9:17 AM

    oh my god this describes my school years sooo much! I would go to parties and somehow manage to go around kissing almost every boy there, but the thought of doing anything more than kissing was truly terrifying. I don’t really regret it though, kissing is awesome!

  • Jolala January 30th, 2013 10:44 AM

    ♡yesyesyes♡

  • FossilisedUnicorn January 30th, 2013 12:04 PM

    In a way I think it’s easier if you feel like most boys are kiss-worthy… Because my brain just totally never developed the part where you get attracted to people and you want to kiss them. Which is why I’ve still never kissed while I’m 21. Even though I want to know what the whole dating boy thing is like, and it seems fun to me. But it could take forever to find someone who won’t make me cringe when I think of kissing them, or god forbid their penises

  • BiggestFan January 30th, 2013 1:30 PM

    .Maybe we get that feeling that we are so much cooler and mature if we have an older boyfriend in sixth grade,because that get us more attention.Somehow,we just like reputation,any kind of it.
    http://youngandunique.blogspot.com/

  • Mary the freak January 30th, 2013 2:22 PM

    HELL YEAH! BOOM!

    AMEN. <3

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • farawayfaerie January 30th, 2013 2:37 PM

    I love this article and I totally relate because kissing is FUN and sex is scarrrry (or at least to someone who’s never done it).

    Also, can’t we all just remove the word ‘slut’ from our vocabulary? pleeeeeez

  • christinachristina January 30th, 2013 3:15 PM

    This is so me in high school. I made out with EVERYONE, and as soon as things would progress down the pants, or towards a relationship, I’d stop talking to them. I wasn’t very nice about it, and was also surrounded by friends in serious relationships. But in college, I dated someone for three years, and have been with my current boyfriend for two years. My make-out bandit days are very far behind me. Thanks for this article.

  • dana21 February 1st, 2013 5:59 PM

    LOVE this article and I can totally relate! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Antionette February 5th, 2013 12:40 AM

    This article is the most relatable thing that has ever been on Rookie, except I have yet to get out of the constant boy makeout/super short relationships phase. Someday…