I am 15 years old and I have only made out once. I do not know the person I made out with, and I don’t exactly remember what it was like. I want to make out with more people, but I am afraid I will not be good at it, I also don’t want to embarrass myself with the person I do make out with. Another thing is, what if the person I do make out with tries to do more with me than I am ready? What should I do and how do you recommend getting over these fears of mine? Thank you!
Heather Corinna replies:
Intimacy is often awkward. And that isn’t a bad thing.
In some ways, I’d even say it’s always awkward, in the sense that it’s never really something that’s exactly easy, especially when we’re just starting to get intimate with someone, rather than when we have been for a long time. Getting and being close to each other physically and emotionally always has its challenges and ways where we make ourselves vulnerable: if it didn’t offer those things, few people would be very interested in sex or other kinds of intimacy in the first place. Getting and being close to each other is a constant process of learning — about the other person and about ourselves — and growth, and learning and growing, especially around things or places that are deep and personal? Awkward. When we learn to walk, we fall over a lot, we’re shaky in our legs, we’re uncertain in our balance. Same goes for learning to be intimate.
The places we usually truly and deeply connect with other people are also most often our more imperfect places, or in our awkward moments. This is why you might hear professional performers say they have this amazing, intimate relationship with their fans, but if you ask them who their most intimate relationships are with, they’re not going to say it’s with their fans. They’re going to tell you it’s with the people who also know them when every step is not rehearsed, the spotlights and makeup are not on, they don’t have staff managing their every move and word, and they’re not having to put so much thought into what they do, but can instead just get comfortable and be who they are, even if they say dumb things out loud sometimes or fall on their faces walking across a room.
One of the benefits of intimacy when it’s right for us is that it can afford us the very fantastic opportunity to be awkward — to be human — and have that be totally okay. Making out with someone isn’t the same thing as say, giving a public speech on television or interviewing for a job: the stakes are a LOT less high and the environment should be a lot more forgiving. I know sometimes it can feel like the stakes are just as high, especially when we’re new to it, when we imagine worst-case scenarios, or when we really, really, really want someone to like us who we like, but the stakes with this stuff really shouldn’t be or feel that high. And in real-deal life, when we’re being intimate with people who care about us, not the super-scary stuff we imagine where our whole world ends from one clumsy kiss, the stakes really aren’t that high. We can fumble and it really will not be a huge deal unless we make it one.
My pitch around worries about sex and intimacy being awkward is for people to try and make peace with awkwardness, rather than trying to avoid it. I suggest that for a couple different reasons. For one, it is largely unavoidable, and I like to avoid getting people invested in fruitless efforts. But experiencing, getting through, accepting and, even more, embracing awkwardness can offer us some potentially positive things. For instance, we can learn to be a little less fearless and afraid of life and living as a whole: we can be more open to taking positive risks that get us and others the good stuff. It can help us get closer with people we want to be close to and have the people who know us know the real us, which is much more valuable to us and them than having them know a persona or only know us when we are trying to be perfect.
When you’re in a time of life like adolescence where it can feel like awkward and unsure is pretty much your EVERY freaking moment, I get that all might seem a bit too rosy. This can be something a lot easier to recognize in hindsight then when you’re in it, and embrace when you feel a little more sure of yourself. At the same time, I still think it’s within reach for you now.
Think about some of the biggest laughs you ever had with friends or family. Or about how you felt with a best friend when they were willing to share something with you they felt embarrassed about they didn’t with anyone else in the world. Or, if it’s happened, when someone told you one of the things they found most beautiful about you was something you actually feel insecure about. Awkward, but awesome, right? That’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff that’s most unique about us and all the millions of moments that make up our lives. So, I don’t know about you, but I’m always cheering for Team Awkward. (And I say this to you as someone who HAS had very awkward and embarrassing moments even when doing things like large-scale public speaking, so if it makes you feel any better, know even that is something most of us can get through and eventually feel okay about.)
I also think that one of the ways we can know that someone we’re choosing to get intimate with — whether we’re talking about making out or way more than making out — is a good choice for us is when we feel pretty okay about potentially fumbling, or things being awkward or embarrassing. In other words, even if and when we still feel a little uncomfortable, we feel safe, we feel like we can trust the other person not to humiliate us or be a jerk, we feel like we’re vulnerable, but that’s something we’re open to and think the other person is likely to handle well. If we don’t feel like that, chances are good that a big part of why is that we know in our heads, hearts or guts, that that person isn’t or might not be someone to be intimate with. These feelings of discomfort or fear when they happen can be great helpers in choosing who to get close to and who to keep your distance from.
Do I expect you to be excited at the prospect of things feeling awkward or you maybe feeling embarrassed or uncertain sometimes? Nope. But my hope is you can get to a point where you feel pretty okay about it happening now and then, because it’s going to.
(The second half of the answer lives here.)
How do I know if my relationship is purely based on lust? I am unsure about the difference between “love” and “lust”. I really really adore my boyfriend, but I wouldn’t call it love yet. We’ve been together almost a couple of months now and I already trust him a lot, he is such a gentleman to me and I even feel ready to have sex with him. But I wouldn’t say I was in love yet. How do I know? Thanks :)
Sam W replies:
The good news is, you’re definitely not the first person to ask this question. People have been trying to parse out what, exactly, constitutes love for most of human history. And who can blame them? Loving someone, and feeling loved in return is, in it’s best form, a really wonderful emotion. And most of us don’t want to miss out on experiencing it. So we look for a formula, an equation, some ultimate, objective definition that will tell us that what we are feeling is capital L Love. But love is more complicated than we’d like it to be, and that’s what makes your question tricky to answer.
Can you guess where I’m going with this? Greece. Greece is where I’m going with this. Because the Greeks, instead of focusing on the idea of one, true version of love, acknowledged that there were many different kinds of love. Now, I am willing to bet that you kind of knew this already. For most of us, the love we feel for a parent, or a close friend, feels somehow distinct from the love we associate with romantic relationships. The Greeks recognized this diversity of loves. For instance, they had a type of love called eros (or eratos in modern Greek). This love can refer to erotic desire and passion or it can simply mean a deep or intimate connection. One thing to notice about this definition is that doesn’t put sexual desire in a separate category from love. And that ties really importantly to your question about whether or not what you’re feeling is “purely” lust.
Lust is often thought of as a less complex emotion than love, because we see it as being “only” about sex. That it’s purely a physical desire, based on how attracted we are to someones body. But, even sexual attraction is variable and personal, and the equation for lust isn’t always as simple as “I think person x is super sexy, ergo I wish to climb them like a tree.” I would argue that, for many people, sexual desire is not purely physical, and that it also has an emotional component.
For instance, I have known many guys whose physical traits made them lust-worthy (by my standards), but who I never actively felt lust for because I found them to be jerks. I couldn’t uncouple the personality from the body. Some people can, others have an even harder time doing so than I do. There can be instances where you care about someone a lot and are comfortable and happy having sex with them but it doesn’t feel like love to you. And you can have a reverse scenario where someone has all the traits you look for and love in a person (brains, a sense of humor, charming smile, etc) but you’re just not feeling any spark of desire. Attraction is weird like that.
Read the rest of the answer here.
"I am 18 and my most recent ex is 19. I’ve never had intercourse, but had oral with 8 different girls. My recent ex-girlfriend had sex only 1 time with her ex-boyfriend, her only serious boyfriend before me. I left her this week because she has had sex. Actually, I’ve left all these girls because they weren’t virgins. I just want to find someone with equal life/sexual experience. In her eyes, I’m not Mr. Perfect either and have a lot of experience, too. Oral sex is still a significant sexual act in her opinion. She also considers the score even between us. I understand oral sex is serious enough to be a deal breaker.
She is the most compatible person I’ve ever been with. Also, she has treated me the best of any other girl. She wanted to marry me in the next few years. Do I have too much sexual experience to complain that my girlfriend is not a virgin? Would you call the score between our past sexual life experiences nearly equal? Am I wrong for leaving? What would you think if you found out your boyfriend/girlfriend had oral sex with 8 other people before you? I’m dying for your honest opinion on the above questions! Thanks a million times! I appreciate the help!”
Sam W replies:
I’m going to answer your first question last.
What would I, personally, do if I found out my partner had engaged in oral sex (or any other kind of sex) a certain number of times? I’d figure their sexual past is theirs to judge as they please and would hope they thought the same way about my past.
I would want us to discuss our sexual histories, but my primary concerns in that would be if there are possible STI risks to be aware of, any activities that need to be avoided or managed in specific ways due to past abuse or assault, and I’d also just want to do that kind of sharing because that tends to be part of intimacy with a partner. So, I’m obviously not going to advocate complete disinterest in your partner’s sexual history. However, I’d suggest any of us think about what interest we have in it is, and how much we’re making something that isn’t about us — another person’s past life — about us.
But my (or anyone else’s) reactions to a partner’s past can’t tell you what’s right for you here. Your beliefs are what count here, beliefs that you are, by all means, entitled to hold. However, it sounds like you may be holding some of those beliefs partly because you have some unhelpful and even inaccurate frameworks around sex bouncing around in your head.
The biggest reason that a “scoring” model of sexual experience is unhelpful is because sex doesn’t actually work that way. There isn’t a committee off in a room somewhere deciding that penile/vaginal intercourse is worth 10 experience points, oral sex is only worth 1, and therefore your ex had a higher score than you. Sex acts do not have absolute values which, by extension, means that people cannot and do not have a universal sexual score that they can soundly compare to the scores of others.
The issues of the scoring model apply to the idea of virginity as well. Despite what many of us are led to believe, virginity is not a concrete, measurable item that is lost when you do a certain act. Instead, it’s a social concept with a flexible and highly variable definition based on an individual’s own values, experiences and ideas (sometimes including their ideas about experiences they, themselves, have not even had). While you are defining your ex as being not a virgin because of her experiences, there are plenty of people who would perceive you as not being a virgin, either. After all, you have both chosen to engage in sex — oral sex is a kind of sex, just like intercourse is a kind of sex — and again, there’s no committee to decide these things, which means it’s up to us, individually, to navigate and define them.
What this boils down to is that people get to decide for themselves what sequence of sexual activities they’re comfortable with and what those activities do mean or have meant to them, uniquely. There are folks for whom intercourse, for example, is something they will do with any sexual partner, but oral sex is reserved for people with whom they have a certain type of connection. This progression can change depending on the partner they have at that moment, or changes in a whole range of circumstances.
Put another way, if there is a sound way of valuing or weighting different sexual activities, it’s a value each person puts on each activity, for themselves, and about themselves, not a commonly held ranking list that everyone knows, understands, and agrees with, or that it’s really fair for others to put on someone else.
Read the rest from Sam here at Scarleteen.
I have been in a long distance relationship for about 7 months. We were never official, but all the feelings were there between the two of us. Neither of us wanted it to end but we did so anyways, because of money and distance.
Now I regret it, and he’s just doing what he thinks is right, not what he wants. We have so much in common and we both agreed when we are with each other it makes it all worth it. HELP! What do I do? How do I move on? He wants me to be the one he runs to, and he wants to be the one I run to. He also still wants to fly me out there and still see me. And we both say the two of us never kissing is hard to deal with. I’m at a loss.
Sam W replies:
Ah — long distance relationships!
It seems more and more as if, at some point in life, experiencing long-distance with a romantic or sexual partner (or friend, or family member: any kind of person we care about and can be in a relationship with) is inevitable. In fact, our volunteer Joey wrote an article about their experience with LDRs, which you might find helpful and reassuring. I’ll include it at the end of my response. I mention it at the offset just in so you aren’t feeling as though you’re the first person to have misgivings about making choices in an LDR.
Questions about what to do in long-distance relationships are not uncommon and, luckily, not impossible to answer either.
Let’s look at your situation. It seems like there were two factors that went into the ending of this relationship: logistical worries about money and distance, and feelings about what “should” happen in an LDR.
I’d first suggest that, outside of your feelings for this guy, that you spend some time asking yourself some questions about what you want from this relationship (and from relationships in general).
Are there things you need in a partnership that aren’t possible given the LDR? For instance, you say the thought of never kissing him again is not a pleasant one. If you were to become a couple again, what would be the ideal number of times you would be able to see and kiss each other per month? Per year? Is that ideal possible given budget and distance? If it isn’t, are there other aspects of the relationship that you feel compensate for the lack of physical contact?
Read the rest from Sam at Scarleteen here!
I’m a 17 year old transmale and I’ve identified as male for about 2 years now. I am 100% confident that I am a boy, but I am also fine having breasts and a vagina. I don’t think of them as female. They’re just my parts! I like wearing things like dresses and skirts as well and I enjoy makeup, none of these things make me less of a boy in my eyes. However, I fear that people will not take my identity seriously because of this. Even in the LGBTQ community, I feel like people will say I’m not “really trans.” Dressing the way I want to really boosts my self-esteem (and I have struggled with horrible self esteem my whole life, so I really need it) but being called “girl” and “she” really hurts. I guess my question is, how do I deal with wanting to present a certain way but hating how it makes others perceive me? I will be going off to college in a few days as well, and I know that could be a time to show how I really want to be, but I’m scared of how people will react or treat me.
Molias replies: I’m going to make probably the biggest understatement of the year: gender is complicated.
As obvious a statement as that is, it’s still true, and I think it’s worth repeating.
I think one thing a lot of people - even many gender-savvy folks or fellow trans people - sometimes forget is that there are a lot of components to gender and that knowing someone’s gender identity doesn’t provide much information about what their gender expression or presentation will be. Plenty of people, whether cisgender or transgender, have gender identities and expressions that don’t fit neatly into a rigid and binary system of gender norms.
There’s not much you can do, ultimately, to control how others react to your gender presentation. Expressing your authentically-gendered self, whoever that is and however you present that at any given time, might mean that some people might question or disrespect your gender identity, but those reactions are outside of your control.
Trying to manage the way other people interpret your gender presentation is only possible to a very limited extent - I can’t tell you how many times in my past I’ve gone outside feeling really excited about my gender presentation, only to have the majority of people I encounter read something completely different in what they saw. People are diverse and complicated and they bring their own backgrounds and experiences to the table; you can’t know what gender cues any one person will pick up on.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here!
I’m 15 years old. The only sexual things I’ve done are kiss and give a handjob. I want to start masturbating but I’m very scared. I have an EXTREME fear of pain: I can’t even get shots without hysterics. Pain scares me more than the average person, and it’s getting in the way of my sexual pleasure.
I’ve never fingered myself and I don’t know how. I’ve looked at diagrams and at myself but I’m just not sure where my vagina opening is. I’ve never used a tampon, due to pain fears. When I tried fingering, I was very tight. I’ve read some answers here that said that a reason for vaginal discomfort when trying to insert objects could be that you’re anticipating pain. So, how do I finger myself? What do I do since I’m so tight? Will my fear of pain get in the way of masturbation and, in the future, sex? How can I calm myself down enough so I won’t be so scared and insertion will be easier? Please help me. I’m very scared. Thank you.
Robin Mandell replies:
Generally, fear serves a very important and useful function. It helps us recognize things to validly be afraid of and allows us to defend or put ourselves on guard against or around those things; to do what we need to to keep ourselves safe and sound.
Fear of pain is particularly adaptive. It often serves us well when it comes to taking care of ourselves, like eliciting caution when near a hot stove, or wariness when we’re up high on something; it helps us be more observant of our surroundings and protective of our bodies in ways we need to be. When fear starts to control our lives, though, it can become a hindrance rather than a help, as you know.
It can hold us back from trying new things, can affect our enjoyment of new and different experiences, can make us feel crappy, and can just generally be really limiting to the way we want to live our lives; it can wind up keeping us from really living our lives, period.
When we’re locked in any sort of fear pattern, it’s especially important to take care of our mental and physical selves since that can be the first thing that goes when we’re feeling stressed or worried. Self-care can teach our bodies and minds to feel more relaxed and chill, and to recover more quickly when we do experience stress or fear. It’s a lot easier to stay scared, rather than let irrational fear go, when we’re not taking good care of ourselves and honoring that when we’re having rough feelings, we need some care.
Sometimes fear is based on misinformation. Sometimes it’s based on bad previous experiences. Sometimes it’s based on what others have told us we should or shouldn’t do, or what we should or shouldn’t feel. Sometimes it seems to have no basis whatsoever, but is still very real. I don’t know if you have any sense of where these fears, or the extreme fear you have about any kind of physical discomfort or pain is coming from, but if not, it’ll probably help to try and get to the bottom of that.
Is your fear holding you back from other things you want to do? Has it interrupted your life in any big ways? It sounds like it may have. When fears do interrupt our lives like that, and that’s a pattern we find ourselves deeply stuck in, it can mean we need help to overcome them. Sometimes it means we have an anxiety disorder, which, like any physical medical condition, usually needs to be treated by a qualified professional for people to start experiencing some relief. Sometimes it means we don’t have something that is technically diagnosable but that we could still use help with from a pro…
Read the rest here