About two weeks ago, I was catching up with some friends from home and we got to talking about our love lives. I won’t bore you with the details, but the first conversation I had was with a friend who was telling me about the boy from her new “situation-ship”. She had known him for a while and the two finally went on a first date. When the date was over, they returned back to this house where they proceeded to hook up. While they were hooking up, my friend stopped to say that she wasn’t ready to have sex. Her date instantly became distant and cold. When I spoke to her two days after their date, she felt unsure as to whether or not she regretted saying no to having sex. By choosing to not have sex, even though that was clearly his expectation for the night, she felt that she had messed up her chance to be with him.
And just a few days later, I talked to another friend about her current “situation-ship.” The boy she was seeing had recently gotten out of a serious, long-term relationship that began in high school. After going on dates for about a month, they were now trying to move beyond goodnight kisses. Once they did, they found it challenging being more intimate. The more they kept trying to have sex, the more it just did not work. She felt like she was doing something wrong, and he felt like he was letting her down. When I asked her whether it was important that they have sex, she responded that it was not; she felt like having sex was something they ought to do. We got to talking about how many times we’ve said yes to having sex because it was expected, not because it was something that we decided we actually wanted. Just how many times have we adjusted our expectations to fit the other person’s?
The advice I gave my friend was to take sex off the table. We both expressed that it felt like once we had lost our virginity, we had inadvertantly broken the seal and suddenly sex was expected almost every time we hooked up with someone. We lamented the days when there was a seemingly linear progression of intimacy: the first kiss, then going a little farther than kissing … and, well, you get the picture. My friend’s partner probably felt an immense amount of pressure. She was the first person he’d had sex with since his long-term girlfriend; not only did he want to make her happy, but he also did not want things to end because of their intimacy problems. Being with him was more important to her than having sex right away, and taking sex off the table meant they they could get more comfortable with the idea of building emotional intimacy — and from there, sexual intimiacy.
Ultimately, you’re allowed to have whatever relationship with sex that you want. There is a lot of pressure to form a relationship with sex that is casual and devoid of intimiacy in hook-up culture. As I approach my last semester of college, the ongoing importance of sex and role of sex in my life is frequently on my mind. Where I have landed is that until I can decipher what my expectations are and how I want to communicate them, my relationship with sex is being defined by the people I have sex with. For that reason, taking sex off the table might not be such a bad thing. For my friend with the intimacy dilema, taking sex off the table was an opportunity to build a relationship without the pressure and expectations that came with introducing sex before they were both ready. For my friend with the post-hook-up frozone problem, taking sex off the table meant that she didn’t go farther than she wanted to for the sake of meeting his expectations.
Whether it is because you want to evaluate your own relationship with sex, build your emotional connection with someone or stay true to what you want, considering taking sex off the table is the only diet that I will be supporting in 2020.