post

Like a Virgin

Dear Yana,

I’m a 19-year-old girl who has never had sex. I want to sleep with my boyfriend, 23. He’s had sex before, but doesn’t know I’m a virgin. I don’t really want him to know I’m a virgin, but I know I’ll probably have to tell him. The only reason I haven’t told him is because everyone kind of assumes I’m not a virgin since everyone says I’m pretty. We’ve done other things, but never gone all the way. I’m excited about having sex for the first time, but I’m worried about it being painful. Do you have any advice for how to make it more pleasurable? Are there any lubes or positions that would work best?

— Looking to Lose It

Before you unlock the chastity belt, let’s untie some of these knots you’ve got your virginity all twisted in!

Virginity holds a lot of differing, complex cultural values that, historically, have little to do with enjoying sex. The “value” associated with women’s virginity has been created mostly by people and systems not run by women — men, religion, family, and pop media — to control the bodies of (typically) young women. To some people, Virginity with a capital “V” is a real Big and Very Specific Deal.

But here’s another way to consider your virginity: It’s just some made up bullshit. This isn’t to say that First Times can’t be special and celebrated! But the common conception of what it is to lose your Virginity-Proper needs to be expanded.

Now, for many people, “losing your virginity” is defined as the first experience of vaginal penetration with a penis. If I only slept with women for my entire life, would that make me a forever-virgin? I don’t think so.

I scoff, but this restrictive P-in-V concept of virginity is real and its loopholes are made from people twisting themselves to fit into its tiny, identity-erasing boxes. For example, teens who take virginity pledges as part of conservative abstinence-only education programs are more likely to have anal sex in order to avoid having “real” sex before marriage, according to Sloan Caldwell, 2015, Let’s Talk About Sex: The Failure of Abstinence-Only Policies in America’s Public Schools). Anal is a sexual experience that requires way more skill and comprehensive sex education than an abstinence-only program will ever provide.

This misguided conceptualization of virginity can also look like someone’s physical “prettiness” being equated with their “virginity,” a word that holds synonyms like “chastity,” “honor,” “purity,” and “innocence.”

Well, LtoL, you can still be honorable and pretty and not be a P-in-V virgin…continue reading…

post

How Do I Leave My Husband?

Hi Yana,

I’ve been with my husband for a decade. We married young and, in a lot of ways, he’s a great guy and right for me. But I still want to leave.

I did leave once a few years ago and he put me on a major guilt trip until I came home. Things have been better, but I’m still not happy. I feel completely obligated to him because he has no friends and I’m his whole world. I know me leaving would devastate him, but I also know I can’t stay and put his happiness above my own. For some reason I feel completely blocked to actually toughen up and tell him it’s over. There’s some barrier in my way, and I think it’s obligation.

— Dismayed to Stay

The hardest part of leaving a marriage is deciding to do it. And this you’ve already done. So, now what?

As a graduate student studying and practicing couples therapy, I would be remiss as to not recommend marriage counseling. Despite some popular opinions, couples counselors aren’t there to convince you to stay in your unhappy marriage or shame you for leaving it.

In reality, couples therapists are there to help couples make informed decisions about how to work on their relationships, give couples the tools and practice to do that work, help each partner make an informed decision about whether to stay or go, and even help navigate the transition of ending the relationship.

You don’t even have to have the same goal (Stay? Go? Separate? Divorce?) as your partner to benefit from work with an informed third party. In fact, couples counseling might help untangle this guilt/obligation cycle to the benefit of both you and your husband.

But I’m not your therapist, today, Dismayed, I’m just your local sex columnist. So, what say I? Consider what has your staying done to help your husband. It sounds like he still has no friends, no independent joys, and here you are still feeling unhappy.

This isn’t to say that your husband is a mean loser — you yourself describe him as a “great guy.” But you need to ask yourself: what has this obligation done for him, what has it done for you.

The tricky thing about anxiety, guilt, and obligation is that they hold illusions of grandeur. Obligation, for example, tells you “You’re definitely the only thing holding your spouse together. And if you don’t, you will be the sole person to blame for his eventual collapse.”

You have the power to break this misconception by telling Obligation to get over itself…continue reading…

post

I Told My Boyfriend I’d Try Monogamy, But …

Hi Yana,

I’m in a relationship with someone who I really love and we’ve been together for three-ish months. Before we started dating he knew I wasn’t a huge fan of monogamy, but I agreed I would try and now I’m feeling trapped. He’s so important to me and I don’t want to lose him. I guess I don’t know how to talk to him about it because I want to be in an open relationship, but I’m worried he will get super mad. Help!

Oh No, I’m Monogo

Hi Oh No!,

When a monogamous person hears the telltale phrase “We should see other people,” they’re more likely to hear “I’m breaking up with you” and not “… AND keep seeing each other in an open and mutually satisfying relationship!”

Because monogamy has long been the preferred Western relationship style — what with the institution of marriage and fairytales — the monogamous mindset is a strong one that many of us take for granted. This means that when you tell your boyfriend that you want to be non-monogamous, rather than coming across as a valid, natural, or viable option, this might instead sound like a direct threat to your relationship.

A common response to emotional pain or threat is anger, especially when interpreted through male socialization. So yes, it’s possible that he may express anger when what he really feels is pain and fear. Unless this expression of anger is dangerous or abusive to you or him, it doesn’t need to be a reason to avoid stating your non-monogamous desires.

You say you don’t want to lose him, but if you decide not to tell him what is true for you, you will. Maybe not now, but certainly later.

My advice is to be both firm in what you do and do not want out of your relationship with him and also prepared with some options for him to look into for himself such as resources about polyamory from monogamous people (morethantwo.com has a whole section devoted to the complexity of navigating polyamorous/monogamous couplings). Give him the space to feel the big feelings and move through them rather than stuff them down (again, unless they are dangerous or abusive to you or himself).

Before you talk with him, sit down with yourself and determine what it is you envision for your relationship with him moving forward…continue reading…

post

The V-Spot: The Fast and the Curious

Hi Yana,

Sometimes, when I’m in the mood to masturbate, I enjoy watching porn. The problem is when I do, it literally takes me no time to orgasm. Yesterday, I was feeling in the mood to enjoy myself. So, I started browsing some videos.

I barely started touching myself and felt the urge to orgasm in a matter of seconds. I stopped and tried to calm myself down, but it was too late. My body responded even without the stimulation

I’m a female in a heterosexual relationship. I don’t experience the crazy quick orgasm when we are intimate. Usually, there is an enjoyable build up to it. When I have this experience solo, it’s when I watch lesbian/solo female videos (which, I’ve always enjoyed).

So this raises a couple of questions:

Do you know why this might happen? Is it something in my brain chemistry due to the visual stimuli, that sets me off so quickly?

Is there a way to “fix” it? Sometimes, I really just want to experience and enjoy my body. Part of me feels like there is something wrong with me when it happens, and the other part of me hates the fact that I can’t enjoy the build up to the big O.

Sometimes I feel like this isn’t a “normal” occurrence. In your experience, have you ever helped or chatted with another female who experienced this?

— Quickie-on-the-Draw

Sex educator Barbara Carrellas can orgasm just from breathing. No touching. No porn. Just her, her breath, and her brain (watch her do it on barbaracarrellas.com). People get off from the feeling of fishnets, from the thought of their sweetie doin’ it with the milkman, from watching manicures smash into globs of silly putty (thanks, internet!). The erotic world is diverse. Weird. Kinky. Boring, even. It’s an amazing conglomerate of getting off how and where we can with whoever pushes our buttons and likes doing it (remember, always keep it consensual!).

The most normal thing about you, Quickie, is your underlying fear that your eroticism isn’t normal. If this fear weren’t so pervasive, I’d be out of a job (and happy for it!). But here we are — constantly worrying that the pre-packaged version of sexuality (hasn’t it expired yet?) should suit us just fine and if not then we’re to blame for being broken, perverted, or unfixable.

You know what kind of porn you like (and yes, it’s normal for folks to watch porn that doesn’t “match up” with their real life). You give yourself permission to watch it and enjoy it! You know how to get off both on your own and with your partner! All great things!

My casual collection of experiential knowledge shows that folks with vaginas orgasm anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes after the start of first visual and/or physical stimuli. An orgasm is essentially mental/physical stimulation build-up leading to pleasurable, automatic pelvic muscle contractions…continue reading…