There tend to be two ways that young women are taught to think about sex. I’d argue that neither is correct. They are:
1. Don’t. Protect your virtue. I mean… it’s your decision. Obviously. But *shrug* do you REALLY want to be known as *that* girl? Do you want people to talk? I mean, I’m just saying, but it’s not very ladylike. You can have your fun but, you know, be careful. Men only want one thing anyway.
2. Free love! You live in the age of women’s empowerment, honey! Don’t let anyone try to slut shame you! Do you! Need some condoms?
I wish someone had told me about the middle ground. I wish someone had ever had a sex-positive conversation with me that leaned less on the act or the societal expectations and more on the energy sex requires.
Stop, get your mind out of the gutter.
I don’t mean physical energy. Step your workout game up. I mean your spirit.
I’m a straight, cis-woman, so I can only speak about this from my very white bread place of experience. But in that experience, I’ve learned this.
Obviously, the physical act of sex means the man is giving, so to speak. (Yes, that’s what she said, I know.) But it is a rare occurrence when, even in a traditional, monogamous, long-term relationship, the man is energetically giving too. I think there’s a reason some of the more old-school language around sex between a man and a woman is, “I took her.” It’s possessive.
Because of that, there’s a level of spiritual energy exchanged in sex that is worth acknowledging. This isn’t on a protect-your-virtue level. It’s on a protect-your-peace one.
I lost my virginity at 17. This isn’t necessarily important to the rest of this, but it does set the stage for where my experience with this aspect of human relationships starts, so there you go. I left high school without ever having had a relationship, emotional or physical, and I thank everything for that because relationships are confusing enough as is. I was not at all equipped to navigate them while navigating the shit show that was my life back then.
Three solid relationships occupied some of my time in college and most of my mid-20s.
Throughout the rest of my time in college and the unoccupied-by-a-steady-partner parts of my adulthood, I’ve been good for playing the field a bit, but all the time with the understanding between involved parties that nothing was ever exclusive. That the openness was fair game. It worked in college, when people were unattached and, in our late teens and early 20s, still enough focused on figuring out who we were that we didn’t have much space for others anyway.
Becoming single again, I thought I could jump back into that space and have it be fun. It’s not. It’s draining and exceedingly more complex. Despite everyone’s best intentions to be unattached, I think humans grow to feel for each other in much deeper ways after each of us has been hurt, which is what life deals you as you age. Even unattached relationships are deeper. People who try to remain aloof are usually doing it from a place of pain, so it’s not genuine. And for some reason or another, I don’t seem to have ever been the type for surface relationships. Something about me has people tell me their whole life, and how can I not care about that?
But then there’s this odd tap-dance around caring for someone because they’re a fellow human who deserves that, but having something *just* be physical. But that’s the key thing – even when you don’t know someone that well on an intellectual or emotional level – which, let’s be adults here, happens – there absolutely is that energy exchange.
And that’s where the energy drain happens. It’s not because there’s shame attached. It’s just sex. But it’s because this energy that I could be pouring into myself is all of a sudden handed to someone else.
In talks with a friend, after I was sharing just how drained I was feeling, he made the point that there’s been this disconnect in the age of sexual enlightenment. That, for as much talk as there is of sexual freedom and the fact that slut-shaming should never be a thing, there isn’t equal talk that sex is an energetically powerful thing that deserves being protected. That, while there is no ethical problem with women sleeping with whomever they wish, whenever and as much as they wish provided all parties are safe, that women aren’t necessarily having conversations about what that really means energetically.
So here’s the conversation – it’s tiring. It doesn’t much matter if there aren’t deeper feelings involved, it is tiring to give so much of yourself to anyone who doesn’t consider it of utmost importance to pour energy back into you. Sleeping with anyone who doesn’t consider your mental and emotional well-being their top priority moves you away from the stereotype of freeing sex. It’s supposed to be liberating. But it becomes its own unique version of imprisonment when this act that’s supposed to be so freeing ends up leaving you empty.
I think the greater point is this – there will be people in your life who drain your spirit, drain your energy. It’s not worth making space for anyone who’s not actively sending energy your way. And when it comes to sex, where our judgment sometimes gets clouded, that still holds true.
So yes, get yours, do you, and all manner of innuendo. But protect your own energy first, and don’t be afraid to make the decisions you need to make for yourself around sex, something where so many people will try to voice their opinions over yours.