Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Draw the Line at Innocent Makeouts?
For the most part, I’m pretty content with my life. I’m a junior in college; I have a tight knit group of friends; I love my major (English); and I have a very rewarding job working with children. So, why am I writing to you? Well... *whispers shamefully* I’ve never been kissed!
When I was in grade school, my NBK status was the least of my worries. My dad had lost his job and ended up in rehab. My grandparents, who practically raised me, passed away. And, to top it all off, my godfather was killed by a drunk driver. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had repelled prospective guys with all that emotional baggage.
But it’s been a few years, and I’m more than ready to explore the most innocent forms of intimacy–specifically, making out. And although this isn’t inherently a problem, I’m intimidated by the guys at my school, who have a reputation of wanting more than what I’m willing to give (sex). Furthermore, I’ve heard stories of guys getting violent with girls who refuse to put out… slapping them, calling them names, and even raping them. Or, conversely, there are those seemingly “nice guys” who take advantage of inexperienced girls like me in order to get lucky.
What should I do? Is there any way for me to satisfy my innocent desires without getting hurt?
For starters, you can stop seeing men as a monolith of rapists-in-waiting, and yourself as a helpless victim with no control, no intuition, and no ability to tell a decent person from a predator. I realize you've seen more than your share of the world's ugliness, Sparkler, and I know it's unsettling to hear stories of guys getting nasty or violent with girls who don't want to have sex. But hey, you've probably also heard stories of people being abducted in mall parking lots, or being assaulted by birthday party clowns, or going out for a nice afternoon bike ride only to end up witnessing a guy high on bath salts eating somebody else's face—and yet, you don't think that those incidents are representative of humanity at large, do you?
Because despite the occasional errant news story, the vast majority of bike rides gratefully do not end in spectatorship at a random face-mauling. And though sexual predators get a lot of press, the vast majority of guys actually aren't interested in having sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with them. So if you don't want to go further than a little light making out, then... well, don't. If you're clear about wanting to take things slow, if you're a confident advocate for your desires, and if you communicate openly and respectfully about where your boundaries lie, then you'll attract people who do the same—and if you reach an impasse with a guy who wants more from a relationship than you do, then you'll just go your separate ways.
That said, there's something about the tone of your letter—and your use of the word "innocent," twice, to describe your attitude toward the physical act of love—that has me worried about your ability to do those things. Don't get me wrong: you can absolutely seek a relationship on your own terms, at your own pace, and without having sex until or unless you feel like that's something you want.
But what you can't do, no matter how much you want to, is have relationships like a naive 14 year-old girl when you're a woman in your twenties.
Which means, among other things, that you can't be afraid of guys your own age just because their idea of a relationship might not be so PG-rated. As a grownup, you have to be prepared for the possibility that someone you're dating might want to do the HND with you. You'll need to be ready to talk about sex, to be up-front about your yeses and nos, and to listen when your partner expresses his desires without freaking out that those desires aren't as "innocent" as yours. And you'll need to realize that there is no guaranteed way to satisfy your desire for intimacy without getting hurt, because intimacy and vulnerability necessarily go hand-in-hand. Open your heart to another person, and it may end up getting mishandled. It's part of the deal.
And if that happens, you can handle it. Bouncing back from emotional pain is what human beings are built to do. What's important is that when you take the step toward dating, you do it confidently, and not with the cringing caution of a person who's already expecting the worst. Be brave, be direct, and be ready to pursue the things you want openly and unapologetically. Do that, and you won't be sorry—even if, at some point, it hurts.
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