Throughout much of my late teens, I was preoccupied with sex. Why wouldn’t I be? Sex was everywhere. On TV, in films and video games, everyone was getting off with each other and having a thoroughly good time. But I wasn’t. I was struggling to make eye contact, my voice had barely broken, and I never felt comfortable in my skin. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a failure.
When we’d go out drinking, my friends would regale each other with stories of their sexual exploits – of being caught by the girl’s dad or a new technique they’d tried. I was resentful and frustrated and coped by lying about my sex life. As you can imagine, I felt pathetic. Not only could I not get a girlfriend, but I now had a whole fictional world to keep track of.
Eventually, I distanced myself from these friends. I knew that bottling up all these emotions probably wasn’t healthy and I hung out with people who were a couple of years older instead. With them, I felt a little more comfortable with who I was. They had been through the insecurities and poor choices. They had accepted it them as part of who they were, and so could I. Yes, I was a virgin. So what?
When I got to university (which I had been led to believe was a sexual playground) I felt sure my sexual revolution was about to happen. And, sex did happen and it was great. But when I woke up in the morning, the world hadn’t changed in any way. I was still me, a bit of a geek, equally lovable and annoying. But what had changed was that I finally stopped caring what others thought of me during blokey chats about sex.
When you’re a young man, sex feels like something that helps qualify you for manhood. Something you have to do, like learning to drive or buying a round at the pub. But I’ve learned it’s a meaningless barrier to enter a club that is nowhere near as important as you think it is.
You, dear reader, may be a young guy who’s awkward about your body, about who you are, and may feel pressured to have sex to prove something about your manhood. The truth is the sex you have, or don’t have, doesn’t define you in any way–unless you allow it to.