Illustration by Hattie

Illustration by Hattie

I was in sixth grade when I started to want to have sex, but I waited until I was 14. If two years doesn’t sound like much of a wait to you…I guess you’re right! But man alive, at the time it felt like watching water boil, except the only things heating up in this scenario were my days-of-the-week underwear whenever I so much as thought about sex (HEYO). Even though my hormones and my every waking thought had long been doing their best to beckon me straight into the bone zone, I didn’t allow myself to be SEDUCED by TEMPTATION for what I thought (and still think) was a good long time. I held out not out of fear or a desire to remain “pure,” but just because for some reason I believed that 13 was simply too young to start having sex.

Eight years later, I am baffled by my devotion to this arbitrary cutoff: what had given me the idea that 14 was the age when you magically gain the power to make decisions/have orgasms? No idea, you guys. But this waiting period would turn out to be my first and last concession to any of the ideas of feminine chastity and sexual propriety that surrounded me, and that surround all of us, all the time, in a patriarchal society. I never internalized any of those messages; I didn’t feel like I “lost” my “innocence” after I had sex for the first time, and I have never been ashamed of anything I’ve done since—and I’m not just talking about sex but also other things that the Youth are cautioned against: drugs, alcohol, the mental joy/anguish that comes from eating fast food more than once in a single day.

I was lucky to have been raised by parents who had never really been into telling their kids scary stories about how sex would wreck our lives, then kill us, and then wreck our ghost-lives forevermore. I’ve always thought, as I suspect many people do, How could something as wonderful as doin’ it be bad? And furthermore, as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody, how could anything I did for my own pleasure actually hurt anybody else, and if it wasn’t affecting them, personally, how was it anybody else’s business? Well, darlings, the answer is: it’s not, despite what the buttholier people of the world will try to tell you.

When I finally turned 14, I flung open the doors to the hotter and heavier aspects of life and entered with guns blazing. A month after my birthday, my high school boyfriend, Adam, and I devirginized each other. It was pretty much a perfect John Hughes-esque dream as far as first times go: We had been together for five months. We loved and respected each other very much–he was truly my best friend. And the momentous occasion was meticulously planned and prepared for. We waited for midterms week, when we were let out of school around noon after taking tests all morning, and his mom wouldn’t be home from work for several hours, which gave us plenty of time. We also worked together on a mix CD (titled, I shit you not, The Love-O-Matic) that would score our next, more corporeal collaboration, each picking songs that we found meaningful. I remember that the first track was Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (which, yeah, they were definitely about to—good pick, Adam). I still grin a little when I think of the two of us giddily wondering which song would accompany the actual moment in which it happened, which was…oh my god, it was “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice, which I now find totally schmaltzy to listen to, if hilariously fitting titlewise if you love gross jokes as much as I do. And of course in the weeks leading up to the EVENT we did lots of nervous internet research about how to properly prepare—which meant we bought roughly 10 million condoms, all of which we may have used that afternoon, and also ceremoniously placed a towel over the sheets on which we rolled around in case I bled (I didn’t—while our sleuthing was very thorough, we still didn’t find out that the idea of a “hymen breaking” is kind of a myth). All in all, it was a wonderful, loving, sweet experience, and after it was over, I wondered why I had waited so long.

Now, if this were a pop song or an episode of Degrassi, this is the point in the story where I’d have to face the terrible, existence-ruining consequences of being a teenage sex maniac. Maybe I’d get pregnant the first time I had sex, or catch an STI, or be humiliated by an online sex video, or at the very least see some vicious bathroom-wall Sharpie action about what a “skank” I was. Well, even though I know these things can and do happen to some people if they have sex in high school, and that sex can have these and other consequences no matter how old you are, I never experienced them personally. And even if this weren’t the case, I think I would have realized that none of those possible outcomes are as truly awful and apocalyptic as some people might try to have you believe. First of all: if you use a reliable form of birth control and/or a barrier (like a condom or a dental dam) to protect you, you’re probably not gonna get pregnant or catch an STI. But also: many if not most of us are lucky enough to live in places, and in a time, when most STIs and unwanted pregnancies can be managed. If you don’t buy in to the notion that some eventuality can ruin your life, then guess what? It won’t.

Having sex for the first time did change me, though—for the better. I didn’t “lose” anything—I gained access to a new and lovely part of existence that totally lived up to my ~great sexpectations~ (OOF, oh my god, I am actually so sorry right now). The worst thing that happened was that when I called my best friend, Sonja, to tell her all the creamy details of my first time, I didn’t realize that her religiously conservative mom was eavesdropping on another phone in their house, and that as soon as we hung up she would call my mom to share her findings. (Relying on landlines was actually the living worst, you guys, because it led to stuff like your mother’s hearing all about how you stared at your boyfriend’s childhood-bedroom fish curtains while you were coming.) Thankfully, I didn’t get in trouble—again, I credit good parenting. My mom was angrier at Sonja’s mom for invading my privacy than she was at me. She wasn’t mad at me at all, in fact—she trusted me to be smart and safe about my sexual life, and she was right to, because I was.