I've hesitated to talk about sexual reservation or experience in a personal sense for various reasons:
- I've not wanted to say I've never done this or that only to turn around the next week (year? decade?) and lose that claim. But let's be honest, I'm a slow mover; that's not a high risk.
- I've not wanted to attract the efforts of those who might try to defile me, and I've not wanted to deter the efforts of those I might want to try to defile me.
- I've not wanted to destroy any ultra-pure perceptions some may have of me by admitting I'm not completely inexperienced in expressing affection or passion in certain ways, but I've not wanted to speak of my experience as if I'm wise in the ways of the flesh, either.
- I've not wanted to make myself sound more or less experienced or repressed than I am because people have such different ideas about what it means to have "crossed boundaries" since everyone's boundaries are slightly different, and goodness knows there are some amusingly creative ways to push bounds without "crossing the line" (remember how Julia Roberts' character in Pretty Woman, a prostitute, never kissed on the lips?).
Ultimately, the details are nobody's business but mine and those with whom I have shared physical affection in whatever form, but for the purposes of this post, I'll give just a brief description of "what base I've been to".
SECOND BASE? MAYBE?
The extent of my romantic physical expression includes the following:
- cuddling (often with intertwined limbs 'cause it's just nicer that way),
- spooning (the watching-a-movie or sleeping kind, not the sex kind),
- what I call "active cuddling" (the somewhat handsy stuff that's not really making out but is certainly getting there, just without kissing or grinding), and
- very occasional (read "maybe two people") "making out" (by which I mean the kind of kissing and touching that is passionate but keeping the man-goods off-limits).
Let's just say nobody has needed to see the bishop. Among my gay friends, they're often surprised how little sexual experience I have and with how few people, especially for a guy at my age.
With that background, I'll say that for various reasons, I have personal hesitations around sex. I don't believe this is, contrary to some perceptions, a self-conflicted shame around sexuality or an inability to break from pointlessly puritanical upbringing. Puritanical I may be in some ways, but I see sexual intimacy as beautiful, affectionate, fun, pleasurable, passionate, bonding, etc. I see it as something too intimate and bonding (chemically, emotionally, physically, spiritually) to share within casual or recent attachments which have not reached a genuinely high level of true intimacy, connection, and dedication.
...BUT NOT THAT PRUDISH
It's not that I avoid sexuality at all costs. In fact, I've been a terrible tease in the past, testing my ability to elicit certain responses from people and then being the one to put on the brakes to maintain my boundaries but really enjoying the sexual tension of it all. I've backed off from that, I think, but I won't deny I've done it, and I'm probably lucky I kept my boundaries as well as I did.
PROVING SOMETHING BY WAITING...
No, this is less about repression and more about intimacy, as far as I can tell. Sometimes, I question not only my own motives for being friends or spending a lot of time together but the other person's. I question whether someone is genuinely interested in my personality, my thoughts, my goodness...in short, if they're interested in me and in bringing out the best in each other, being true friends and companions (along with the probably/hopefully very fun sexual benefits), or if they're primarily after something they find intoxicating or physically attractive about me. Mind you, I'm not claiming to have any sort of animal magnetism or irresistible charm. *scoff* Nor am I claiming true romance excludes that intoxicating love and passion. But I do wonder, when people seem interested in me, what it is they're interested in. I wonder if they would be so engaged in my ideas if they weren't curious about what's under the hood. I wonder if we'd feel close to each other if we didn't think there was that unspoken, enticing possibility of making fireworks one day soon. I wonder whether they will give up or put off the pleasure they may want now for a relationship with someone they love. Is it worth it to them? Is it worth it to me?
It's not merely a test. As I see it, it's not about making them "prove it" to me to satisfy some insecurity. It's about both of us showing what is most important and proving the relationship. I figure most people who are willing to hold out are actually interested in the relationship, not mainly in getting their jollies with someone they find attractive.
I suppose some people's way of doing this is to go ahead and have fun, and then if they're still interested once they've had all the fun, they know it's "real"? Perhaps I'm actually making it worse by holding out and maintaining that intense sexual tension and vague anticipation, which makes us feel more interested in each other than we are. But I also think a relationship can only take so much of that before one or both parties say it's not worth the wait and move on. And at least in that case, I'd be able to walk away knowing I didn't give myself over to someone who didn't fully value what I was offering, nor did I take advantage of someone else because they were what was available.
I've had a couple of friends tell me, "You just ascribe more to this stuff than I do. I can be sexual with someone without it meaning anything. It's just fun." Now, they also later made admissions they either don't think it ever truly means nothing for both people involved (unless they're both to the point where sex is like a handshake) or that physical intimacy just wasn't the same when it wasn't with someone they loved. But others have continued to insist sex is recreational as long as it's not hurting anyone (AKA neither party is cheating on or deceiving their partner). Maybe that's true, but I don't see it that way, and I refuse to numb my sensitivities in that respect for my own or anyone else's comfort, despite it seeming like a truly rational attitude in certain ways.
I have to question how much of that attitude is a conscious-saving disconnect. Sexuality is a heck of a lot of fun. And going without sexual expression is not easy. It's not. No, don't argue with me. I know this because I've done it. I'm doing it. Of course, now that it's been a long time since I actually made out with anyone, it's easier than right after I had. But I've also refrained when it would've been SO easy to move my hand somewhere, or remove an article or two of clothing. And it feels SO good to feel like you're "connecting" with someone, whether or not you think it's a "real" connection, or to experience the racing heartbeat and whatever chemicals are produced in anticipation of sex.
Since it's not easy to go without, a lot of people...well...don't. They "slip up" or they "have some fun" or they "fool around." And rather than let their conscience tell them they're doing something they shouldn't, or thinking about the emotional consequences of their actions on others, they just shrug and say it's all in good fun. But maybe not all. Since I can't get inside anyone's head, I'll just shrug and say I'm not that way, whatever way it is.
It's no secret among those closest to me that I am a bit of a prude this way. My frank way of talking sometimes throws people off because they make deductions about me based on my bluntness. I've laughed at more than one shocked expression when someone found out I've only really kissed a couple of people and have never done anything that led to anybody climaxing. I'm not sure if they're shocked because of my age, or the way I talk, or what, but it's funny to see people so flabbergasted.
Yet a prude I remain. I intend to refrain from sexuality until I'm in a relationship in which it is a genuine expression of sincere affection, emotional investment, and vulnerability. And sexuality of the kind I have not yet experienced is definitely for a committed, long-term relationship (marriage perhaps?). And if that means no kinky stuff until at least a year of committed, monogamous relationship, or until marriage, I kinda like that idea. Prove your dedication, baby, and then we'll have some major fun...if my body is still capable of it when such a time ever comes around...if it ever comes around. Wow...I could die an old man virgin. How very tragic.
...OK, so I don't see that as tragic. Despite occasionally lamenting my lost youthful years spent in sexless ignorance, I think I've experienced enough of passion to have an idea of what I'm missing out on, and while it's good stuff, I just think anyone who believes that living without sex is something tragic and awful doesn't live a very rich life, or doesn't know real intimacy independent of sexual relationships. But perhaps that's another post for another time.