I once thumbed through a Playboy from the 60s just to see portraits of fully-dressed women running through a meadow. The magazine was unrecognizable from it's modern version, and in the scheme of the history of the world, it wasn't really that old. There's a lot to be said for how far media has come when it comes to writing about sex and sexuality. Yet, conversations about sex often leave out those of us who have never had sex, those of us who don't want to, or those of us who identify as asexual.
Perhaps it's hard to talk about "never having sex," because it can be difficult to pin down exactly what sex is or what "counts" as having sex. Lovers in long-distance relationships may engage in the sexy stuff in their own way. Queer couples' sex lives often don't line up with historical definitions of doin' it. And contrary to popular belief, not all sex is penetrative. Does that still "count"?
In a time when seemingly everyone and their mother is talking or reading about sex, it's natural to feel like everyone is having it. Which, by the way, is totally not the case. In an effort to widen the conversation around not having sex, I spoke with seven women who haven't had sex for the first time, about the things that they are sick of hearing, and misconceptions they are tired of correcting.
"Thats so cute!"
—Ye Fang, 23
Associating not having sex with "cuteness" can be really patronizing and belittling.
'You’re missing out on the best years of your life.' As if your 20s are only meant for sleeping around with lots of people.
Your 20s are for lots of things, like cheap take-out and poor quality bath towels.
I'm tired of hearing how important losing your virginity is.
First-times can be a big deal, but they don't have to be. If having sex for the first time doesn't feel like a monumental event, it's not. You get to make your own rules. You get to pick what's important!
No one thinks about how it's also radical and liberating to choose to opt out. Choosing not to can be a rebellion against how society and history always hyper-sexualize us.
Not having sex is as much as a choice as having sex. You don't need to have slept with anyone to be a sexually liberated person.
I hate hearing I'm going to rush into marriage with someone I may not even love, or that I won't know if I really love them.
Though some people do have religious or cultural reasons for choosing not having to have sex, not all people that haven't had sex are religious or are waiting for marriage.
So does this mean you're pro-life and against birth control?
It can be painful to conflate not having had sex with more conservative ideas about sex and sexuality. You can be a feminist and a socially progressive person without having sex — you can even be on birth control.
When it comes to having sex, different things feel right for different people at different times. Establishing limits or rules based on what your friends say or what movies show, can add a lot of pressure to finding what works for you. If you're someone who still hasn't had sex for the first time, remember you are not alone. If you are someone who has had sex, it's important to be mindful of your words when speaking to someone who hasn't. There is no one way to find (or make) love, and the more compassion we can show people who have different levels of sexual experience, the more we can learn and make everyone feel celebrated.
*Names have been changed