Sexuality…what’s in a label?

13 Nov

The conversation of sexuality is s hot button topic, at least where I come from. I grew up in the Protestant church where intimate sexual experiences were sacred and intended for a marriage between a man and a woman. When I was a teenager and beginning to feel the tingling sensations between my legs when a cute boy walked by, I bought in, practiced self-restraint, made vows to stay a virgin until that ring was on my finger. Of course, I never dated in high school. I said it was because I didn’t know what real love was and didn’t want to run the gambit of failed relationships before my heart could handle it, but lets be honest, I was the shy, awkward girl who no one wanted to date anyway.

College was a different story. I went to a smallish Christian school north of Boston. Freshman year I became the bright, bubbly, outspoken, and at times obnoxious girl I never had been but always knew I could be. My vow of celibacy, however, remained intact, even after I met Mr. Wrong towards the end of my first semester. Mr. Wrong, despite many shortcomings in our relationship, taught me the meaning of love. My heart felt alive and I wanted to sing from the mountaintops and all that jazz. We toyed with the boundaries of intimacy and pushed against the lines we said we wouldn’t cross. Seven months later on the fourth of July, my desire for a closer bond with my companion ousted my vows of purity and we had perfectly boring and awkward sex. [On a side note, I’m convinced two virgins doing this together for the first time is both extremely smart and extremely dumb. Smart in that both of you feel the same amount of awkward. Dumb in that neither of you know what the hell you are doing.]

Since this sexual awakening, I have been through the whole realm of emotions around it. While I was with him, I was convinced I was going to marry him, which made the act, if not justified, excusable. We felt a closer connection and so what if we went a little ahead of schedule. After the break up, the shame I had been taught to feel kicked in. I beat myself up about it for a couple months, until I kicked myself in the hiney and decided it was time to stop moping. I started rebelling against all of it, starting with my guy friends. I don’t know why, but sleeping with guys I had no romantic feelings for, but knew I could trust was a stepping stone I was ok with jumping on, literally. Liquor helped, but that is a whole other story.

I was numb from the relationship still at this point and men were toys. I felt some guilt, but the more it happened, the less I felt. It was a coping strategy and an unhealthy on at that. My male friends didn’t mind so much, but it became a game to them too. It wasn’t until my first one night stand that I started to see how out of control I was getting. I wish I could say that was my wake up call, but it wasn’t that easy. A few more mistakes later and then a morning after where I had to drive a guy home I had picked up in Cambridge [to this day I still do not remember his name and he is dubbed “Clay Aiken” because that is who my roomy swears he looked like] it finally hit me.

I always say I live my life without regrets, but by that point there were a couple things I wished I could take back. Sex had become a toy, a way to feel connected to someone without actually putting in any effort. It became meaningless and easily exchangeable for love. I was not and still am not at the point where I believe sex has to be a sacred act saved for the bonds of marriage, I’m not even positive I want to get married, but sex is also more than what I had turned it into and I wanted to get back some of that magic that made it so special on the fourth of July so long ago. I have come to understand sex in a way I was not raised to understand it, but there is some validation in the things I was taught. As a society we have minimized its importance and meaning, made it something to be thrown around and abused. Even now, I am still culpable in this, and continue to get drunk and horny and make bad choices. It’s a learning curve.

I have veered off my initial subject, however. I wanted you to understand my sexual journey, and that is all the pertinent information, but it did not end there. In the church, we were also taught that man and woman were made for one another. Sex was not only designated specifically for marriage, but specifically for man and woman to experience with one another, and one another alone. In my sexual awakening, as I like to call it, despite how cheesy it sounds, I not only pushed the boundaries of sex outside of love, but sex outside of the designated genders as well. A drunken kiss at a bar with a girl led to full on same-sex make out sessions. My first sexual encounter with a girl was with my roommate and her boyfriend, maybe it felt better having a buffer. Since then, it hasn’t been an issue. I have the unique ability to not really feel shame about my actions these days. I am a pro at just going with the flow. And sometimes the flow leads me into a woman’s pants.

Straight, gay, bi-sexual, bi-curious…labels, for what? Sexual preference? “Hi, my name is ‘Lesbian’, what’s yours?” Does it matter? What if some of us are just sexual? I envision myself, if I ever get there, married to a man in a brownstone apartment in Boston, but right now, I like to have sex, and sometimes I like to have sex with girls. I don’t feel the need to shout this from the mountaintops. “Coming out” has never crossed my mind because I don’t feel there is anywhere for me to come out of. Sex is sex…but I could legitimately date a girl and feel the same way. My parents may never know, but they don’t even know that I smoke, or when I’m dating a new guy. There are things they would not understand about my life because they are of a different generation, a different school of thought, and our relationship does not suffer because there are things I choose not to fight about. I choose not to have a label. I don’t need the bonds of camaraderie that come with sharing in a community of a certain sexual preference. I don’t feel the need to push my values on any other person by the automatic straight/gay debate that is necessary for some people. I am who I am, and I am happy with who that is. I do not feel oppressed or forced into any mold. My friends accept me for who I am and don’t care what gender I bring home from the bar. The ones who do judge me are not my friends and I feel no need to associate with them.

So what is in a label? Why do we feel the need to tack on extras to our name and validate our choices? Are we that uncomfortable just being who we are?

PS I liked this post a lot on a similar subject

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