Firsts.

9 Jul

As I mentioned in a comment somewhere, I’m the newest sister wife, Patty B.  And this here is my first post.  If you’d like some introduction, do visit the new Information drop-down menu up above where you’ll find a bit of info about each of us sister wives.

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First an acknowledgement and a request: I know that the experiences I’m discussing here go against standard Mormon teachings about appropriate sexual practices.  I’m sharing it for two reasons: 1. I think that there are a significant number of us who engage in “inappropriate” sexual practices; I’d rather acknowledge that it happens and discuss it than ignore it; and 2. talking about these experiences will help me get to my real point.  Please read the post before commenting about my sinfulness.  And I would prefer if you would try to focus on the point I’m making and the question I’m asking in your comments.  Thanks and now for the actual post.

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My very first sexual feelings happened while climbing poles on playgrounds, in friends’ backyards.  I was very young.  Maybe 7 or 8.  It felt very good.

My very first sexual encounter happened when I was about 11.  My childhood best friend, a girl about six months older than me, introduced me to masturbation.  Though I had no vocabulary for understanding what we were doing, it was essentially mutual masturbation.  We touched each other’s vulvas, labia, and clits and we touched our own.  We used one of those wand “back massagers” as a vibrator.  There was definite sexual pleasure involved.  It felt very good. At the time, I was only semi-aware that what we were doing was something that shouldn’t be openly done or acknowledged, because we did it behind closed doors.  But I didn’t know I was supposed to think of it as a “sin.”  I didn’t understand that for at least four or five years after that.  By then, I was accustomed to masturbating and, while I backed off that practice after discovering the church considered it a sin, I never did feel quite as much guilt about it as I think some people do.

My first kiss didn’t happen until after I graduated from high school.  My first actual dating relationship that lasted any length of time and involved physical affection with a man didn’t happen until after I turned 25.  And that was also the relationship in which I had my first heterosexual encounters, which ranged from making out to petting to sleeping together (sleeping, not sex; I hate “sleeping together” as a euphemism for sex) to oral sex.  It was a relationship that evolved over time and, contrary to what I had been led to believe, pushing the boundary a little didn’t lead to automatically jumping straight to intercourse.  I discovered that the slippery slope from necking straight to intercourse wasn’t quite so slippery.

My first relationship that I thought might lead to marriage didn’t happen for almost another decade.  That was a sexual relationship, too, but it developed even more gradually.  It took a month of two or three dates each week to get to our first kiss and four months to get to saying “I love you” and six months to get to intercourse.  Along the way, we explored our physical relationship.  And it was very good.  The other day, Amelia used the term “sexual gradualism” and that’s a perfect description for what I had with that boyfriend.  Our physical relationship developed gradually, in parallel with our emotional relationship.  And it was a very good relationship, both physically and emotionally.

So why am I sharing my firsts?  Not as a confessional. And not because I think anyone else should engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage.  Let me repeat that: I am NOT promoting premarital sexual relationships.  Engaging in premarital sexual relationships was something I chose for myself based on my own personal beliefs and circumstances.  Whether you think I was wrong to do so is not really at issue here.  What is, is the question of firsts.

As a 30-something Mormon woman, I have had many friends go through their sexual firsts.  I’ve heard about a lot of those firsts.  And I have to say that some of them weren’t so pretty physically.  Pain, premature ejaculation, clumsiness, little pleasure, not being aroused enough leading to an absence of natural lubrication.  Some of them are a little funny.  Like one woman being surprised at how big an erect penis is (she thought it would be smaller than a tampon applicator–Surprise!).  One couple was interrupted by a family member who had snuck in their hotel room to “decorate” it and then got stuck hiding when the bride and groom got there sooner than expected; he meant to sneak out before the couple got down to business but the couple got down to business right away which led to him popping out from somewhere on a startled bride and groom so he didn’t inadvertently witness the whole night.  And then there are the ones that were psychologically or emotionally difficult.  I know way too many people who felt guilty about having sex, even though they were married.  And others who wanted to take their time over the course of at least a few days before going all the way, but felt obligated to go all the way for their partner.  I know still others who experienced such serious cognitive dissonance about the sudden shift of sex from the “bad/sin” category to the “good” category that it resulted in weeping, physical discomfort or actual pain, or emotional/psychological trauma.

While my firsts were none of them perfect, they were all of them generally good–and some were, quite frankly, amazing.  I didn’t experience much physical pain, which is partially attributable to my physical make-up and that of my partner; but it’s also attributable to the fact that I was physically ready for sex because my partner and I knew our own and each other’s bodies, the fact that I knew what to expect, the fact that I knew I could feel and enjoy sexual pleasure.  I didn’t experience feelings of guilt or reservation, I think largely because I made very conscious decisions about where and when I would have these experiences as their own thing, rather than as the automatic follow up to another decision.   And, most importantly, I had a long history of understanding myself as a sexual creature.  Somehow, in spite of really problematic church rhetoric surrounding sex, I had a very positive understanding of my own sexuality and the ways it could help me develop more emotional intimacy with my partner.

That is what I’m really getting at here.  I don’t think one needs to have premarital sex to get to the space I was in for my firsts.  I do think that one needs to have a positive conception of one’s own sexuality, understand some basics about sex, and be open to sexual experience without imposing too many strong preconceptions (I know it’s impossible to avoid them altogether) on the experience.  So here’s my question: How can we do this within a Mormon framework?  I think sexual gradualism in a relationship is a very good way to do it and I don’t think that sexual gradualism has to happen outside of marriage–I think it can happen after marriage.  I’d love to hear others’ ideas.  And if you’d like to share your own first sexual experiences, please feel free.

Another request: Please remember that other people’s experiences are their own and very real; please refrain from judgment or criticism.  I include my own experiences in that request.

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17 Responses to “Firsts.”

  1. chincheo July 9, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    Excellent post, thanks!

  2. Eliza R July 9, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    i love this. will have to say more later, but just have to say “Brava” sister.

  3. Lucinda M. July 9, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Great job, Sister Patty.

  4. Lucy W July 9, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Excellent, Sister Patty.

    A thought: Isn’t this what our teen years are supposed to be about? Experimenting (not too far!) when we (generally) don’t have that much at stake except our adolescent hearts?

  5. Sylvia L July 9, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I remember being 16 and making a promise with my best friends that we would not give away our kisses. I would not kiss anyone until I loved them, and if that meant that I wouldn’t kiss anyone until I was engaged, then that felt morally (and superiorly) right in my heart.

    OY VEY!

    Thus, I had two friends who have only ever kissed their husbands. No one else. They’ll never kiss anyone else in their entire lives (if all works out as planned). I should say that they are both extremely happy with their choices and they have amazing husbands. I admire both of their marriages greatly.

    Back to me.

    That means that I didn’t kiss guys I could have. That means, after several years, I had no idea how to ask for or show that I wanted to be kissed. And, on top of that, I was so afraid that I’d be bad at kissing because I had waited so long, that even when I gave up the notion of kissing only for deep and abiding love, that I still kept men at a distance because of fear that I wouldn’t know what I was doing and thus, I’d have to tell him it was my first kiss ( at 21, and then 22, and then 25…) and the older I got, the more horrified I also got at trying to get rid of my virgin lips. Well, eventually I did. And it was awesome. And I now like kissing guys all the time (and may I say I’m REALLY glad I didn’t marry the first guy I kissed because, compared to other men I have kissed, he was so horrifically bad! But, my comfort is that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, I suppose).

    I am all in favor of sexual gradualism. If I ever get around to having kids, I want to teach them that. I practice it all the time. I have had more than one sexual partner, and that doesn’t mean that I suddenly like one night stands or can’t control myself. I’ve taken my time in each of my relationships before actually coming together in sex. There is so much to learn about each other before that event. So much fun to be had kissing and petting and many many other things (post on those other things to come!).

    Thanks Sister Patty! I value your experiences and support you in all you do!

  6. Patty B July 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Sister Lucy, yes–I think that the teen years are supposed to be, at least in part, about experimenting. In some ways, wouldn’t it be much better to have those bad first sexual experiences with some pimply teenage boy that doesn’t ultimately mean all that much to us? Of course, that flies in the face of chastity as the church teaches it. But I do think, as Sister Sylvia’s comment illustrates, we take things just way too far. Our teenagers could at least date and kiss and hold hands and hug (I had one friend in college who was completely torn up by guilt over hugging boys) without castigating themselves for “giving it away” too early.

    Sister Sylvia’s experience is not, I think, all that uncommon. I was fortunate to have a YW president who told us to kiss all the boys, starting at the beginning of the alphabet with Allan and working through to the end of the alphabet at Zach. That advice always made me laugh. And, looking back, I see that it also helped us understand that the dating we did as teenagers was about having fun with lots of people and figuring out what kinds of boys we liked dating and what kinds of things we liked to do on dates, rather than about building long term super serious relationships. I know the church’s recent emphasis on group dating and not dating one person serially while teenagers is meant to accomplish the same outcome; I just happen to think that acknowledging that there’s nothing wrong with teenagers kissing each other and holding hands and cuddling could lead to healthier sexual relationships in the long run. One unfortunate consequence of abstinence only approaches to chastity is that they can overburden sex with expectations and disappointment and insecurity, making it harder for it to be an effective way to develop intimacy with a marriage partner.

    That’s really the crux of what I’d like to get at in this conversation. How do we avoid overburdening sex with expectation, disappointment, insecurity, etc.? Is it possible to teach abstaining from sex before marriage without taking it to such an extreme that we also make it hard for people to build healthy sexual relationships?

    (Please understand that i’m not suggesting all Mormons have unhealthy sexual relationships; I just see a lot of connections between how we teach about chastity, practices adopted by Mormons like those Sylvia describes, etc. and some unhealthy sexual relationships.)

  7. Fanny A July 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    I have had more than one sexual partner, and that doesn’t mean that I suddenly like one night stands or can’t control myself. I’ve taken my time in each of my relationships before actually coming together in sex.

    This is really so true. I’ve had more than one sexual partner, and in no way does it mean that any man I date or find attractive is landing in my bed. Not by a longshot. I am incredibly selective whom I have chosen to share with and it takes a long time. We seem to have this idea that you either marry as a virgin, or you become a slut. That polarity is not reality.

    And now, as a divorced woman, I am relegated to a kind of odd second-virginity phase within the church as well. It’s very weird. Should I meet a man I might be interested in (don’t get me started on LDS dating as a divorced-thirty-something) there will be a substantial amount of discussion and experimenting before any talk of marriage. No way will I marry again without knowing if we’re a good fit.

  8. Sylvia L July 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I agree Fanny! I can’t imagine marrying someone now that I don’t know I’m a good fit with sexually. It seems utterly out of my cognitive abilities. It’s just too important to leave to chance and maybes.

    This is where all this gets so tricky if you want to stay active in the church. And it makes me a little sad that it’s so tricky.

  9. Randi July 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    When I was 18, I knew a Brazilian woman who joined the church and moved to America. Her son was doing a study abroad in Brazil and I got to go with her to Brazil for 2 weeks while she was visiting him. And her POV was just so fascinating to me as a “good girl” who had barely even been kissed and felt guilty about wanting to masturbate and all that.

    When she was talking to her son and me, she was like, “Go! Flirt with everybody! Go kiss everybody! You’re young, now’s the time! It will be so fun!” There was this Brazilian boy who barely spoke English–and she was all, “Go take him back to the apartment. I trust you, go have some fun.” And we didn’t go too far–I barely let him touch me while we made out–but it was great. And it was fun.

    (I’m certainly not trying to make any generalizations about all Brazilians or anything like that at all, but I’ve never seen an American LDS mom act like that.) (Also the fact that I was 18, legally an adult, probably made it easier.)

    I guess I just wish there was more emphasis on individual self control. Yes, people will slip up and “go too far.” But especially for young people, if instead of being like, “OMG THE HORMONES WILL TAKE OVER IF SHOULDER IS SEEN,” there was just more emphasis on, “Okay, you want to kiss. You will probably want to do more and experiment. So…experiment some. Remember you can stop at any time, no matter how far you’ve gone. You need to respect if your partner says they want to stop, no matter how far you’ve gone. And I trust you will,” I think sexual gradualism would be a more accepted thing and trying to figure out how sex works after marriage would be easier.

    Possibly that is very naive, coming from someone who is not a mother and has left her teenage years long behind.

  10. Fanny A July 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Nope, Randi, not naive- that’s what I intend to tell my boys.

  11. Randi July 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks! After all, isn’t the saying, “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”?

  12. Patty B. July 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Randi, I don’t think you’re naive at all. I’m 100% with you on taking the approach of teaching correct principles and letting church members govern themselves. In my mind, that means that they set the basic guideline–sex is best kept within marriage–and then let people make their own decisions about sexual behavior. I know this poses some problems because the natural chain for teaching appropriate sexual behavior is through the family and not everyone has a solid family situation where they can get that guidance. But it would be entirely possible to find other ways to deal with that than to have the church set out detailed guidelines about behavior.

    Also, I love your story about your experience in Brazil. I couldn’t agree more about shifting the focus away from stressing what sexual behavior outside marriage counts as a “sin” and instead emphasizing personal responsibility and choice. I really think a lot of the church’s rhetoric portrays sex as something that just happens. It’s the slippery slope thing and it shows up all over the place in the church–the idea that a married man and a married woman (not married to each other) should not be alone together for any reason at all implies that sex will happen like some uncontrollable conflagration, or at the very least that people will think sex happened; the teaching girls that they have to set limits because boys’ sex drives are so wildly uncontrollable that if girls don’t do so, sex will just happen; the mindset Sylvia references that leads us to conclude that anyone having sex outside marriage must be completely craven and interested in sleeping around any chance she gets; etc. We’d be so much better off if we took our own beliefs seriously–you know, that crazy belief in the central importance of choice and accountability–and taught people to make wise decisions about their sexual activity and trusted them to do so. I’m sure some people would get hurt, but would it be any more people getting hurt in that system than get hurt in the current system? And I think taking the kind of approach you’re suggesting would create much healthier attitudes towards sex in the long run.

  13. Aprillium July 10, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    It’s interesting. Up until I was 14 my parents were inactive, in fact I pressured my dad into baptising me at 8 years old because a ward member pressured me to.

    But putting that aside, I learned certain things felt good when I was really young. Like, 3-4 years old. I masturbated up until my parents became active in the church… mainly because I only knew it was supposed to be a private thing and I didn’t know it was supposed to be a “sin”.

    Once our family became active I tossed that aside, along with the rest of my sexuality… because the church taught me that I wasn’t supposed to be sexual in any way. I figured I could just “turn it on” again when I got married.

    Ya, that didn’t work out so well. After almost 10 years of marriage I still have issues and feel as if somehow I’m not a “good girl” when I’m sexual… even though logically I know that is wrong. I’m working on it, and thank goodness I married a good man that has a lot of patience… because I still feel as though I am probably a prude compared to the rest of the couples in the world.

    What interesting is that my mom was very open about sex etc, growing up. I just think that our becoming active came just at the wrong age for me. Any earlier and maybe I would have been able to categorize things better and not take everything so literally, any later and I would have (maybe) been able to put it in context of what I knew my reality was.

  14. UtahMark July 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    My first sexual experience happened at a sleep over at a friend’s house when I was 12. My friend had recently discovered a stack of Playboys, so we sat in his room looking at them. At one point he unzipped his jeans and started touching himself, so I did the same. A little bit later I experienced the most amazing physical sensation of my life up to that point. I was shocked by how good it felt, amazed that anything could feel so good. From that day forward I enjoyed masturbating almost every day until I was 14 and was taught it was wrong. Despite that early experience I grew up to be a normal, healthy, worthy adult with a great marriage and sex life. We sometimes make too big a deal about teenagers’ explorations.

  15. Patty B. July 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    UtahMark, thanks for sharing your experience. I think you’re absolutely right that we make too big a deal about teenage explorations. I do understand that parents, and the church, want to prevent children from hurting themselves. And I understand the attraction of using extremes in order to try to achieve that outcome, in this case the extreme of making all sexual contact constitute sin. But the desire to dictate behavior is not a godly desire; it’s driven as much by fear as by love, if not more so, and it fails to help people understand how to navigate the difficulties of our world.

    Aprillium, thank you for sharing your experience, too. I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with good girl syndrome. It’s not an easy thing to overcome. And I know a lot of Mormon women who do deal with it. It’s a very real, and very unfortunate, side effect of the church’s approach to sex that people, both women and men, develop strong cognitive dissonances between their conception of themselves as “good” and their sexuality.

    I also really appreciate you pointing to the idea of “turning on” one’s sexuality. As you point out, sexuality doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, it’s the approach implicitly required by the church’s teachings about sexuality. It’s part of why I’m interested in having the conversation about how we can help people develop more positive understandings of their own sexuality and how to explore it appropriately with those they date and marry.

  16. Mouse July 11, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    I’m one of those special unicorns Sylvia mentioned who have never kissed anyone but their husbands. In practice this sucked, as I went through my teenage years mopey and depressed that no one liked me so I obviously must be hideous. I wasn’t hideous, I was just a grumpy depressed teenager who was so prickly that no one could get close to me. I also did not (and still don’t) understand how to “casually date” I am just not wired up that way.
    It was probably a pretty good thing though, since it turns out that most of the mopiness and grumpiness were the result of an insane thwarted sex drive and I probably would have jumped into bed with the first guy who kissed me well*. It also didn’t last that long, as I got married quite young.

    So, all of my firsts were with my husband, but we didn’t really care which side of the marriage line everything fell… as far as we were concerned this was it, we were together together, and I suppose nearly a decade later this has held true. I felt a little bit of guilt over this at one point, I even went to my bishop and he told me I was a-okay, but getting a good bishop is luck of the draw. A different bishop could have lambasted me and who knows what sort of damage that would have caused.

    Anyway – firsts.

    I first became aware of sexual feelings through reading. I did not understand what was going on, but boy did reading certain passages make me feel tingly and funny. I didn’t discover purposeful masturbation until quite late – easily 15, and then mostly in the shower or bathtub. I have always had a difficult time reaching orgasm though, even by myself.

    My first kiss was amazing. I had just met my husband and I didn’t realize how quickly it is possible to go completely crazy for someone. I can still remember the butterflies I felt when I realized that he wanted to kiss me, I wasn’t quite decided if I was ready for it or not but chose to go for it, and never looked back.

    Everything else was great, our relationship developed naturally and I never felt pressured or unready for anything. I never experienced any real pain, we hadn’t rushed and I was as ready as you can be, the worst I can say about the first penetrative sex we had was that it was a little clumsy, but that was soon sorted out. All of my memories of that period are wonderful, months of discovering each other and absolutely torrid kissing sessions.

    I can’t imagine leaving everything to the wedding night – the amount of pressure that must put on people makes me cringe. It is such a societal expectation as well – you must have sex on your wedding night, and it must be fantastic. I’ve known people who were so exhausted it was all they could do to get undressed and pass out, and others who were so terrified that they couldn’t have sex until they’d been married for a year or so.

    *I guess I did!

  17. VirginAskingQuestions August 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Firsts…
    I’m mostly going to talk about my first kiss, because that’s the only First I’ve had. I was 21 and also super worried about not doing it right, and what if I did it wrong and he could tell… etc. And he was 21 (RECENTLY RM) and it was our first official date, and we went and wandered about temple square – probably because he was an RM and because it was free. Anywho, at the end of the date we hugged goodbye and it was the BEST HUG EVER. and then he looked at me and said “Can I kiss you?” and I said yes and he leaned in and kissed me and I thought, “ew it’s wet!” and then that kiss ended and we looked at each other and i thought, I’m gonna try this again – and THAT kiss was GREAT. However, he’s the only boy I’ve ever kissed and it’s been YEARS. So NOW I’m worried I’ll have forgotten how, and THEN I feel like Elna Baker (The New York Regional Mormon SIngle’s Halloween Dance should be required reading for all YSAs and for any of the marrieds that have been called to work with YSAs) – anywho… I feel like Elna Baker because I’ve never actually FRENCH KISSED and so now there’s worrying about that.

    Basically, I worry a lot about stuff that doesn’t even matter, because I’m currently not dating anyone anyway! 😀

    ANYWHO… I have a question. I’m not terrified of sex, like Mouse mentioned that some people might be – but sometimes, I feel… I don’t know exactly how to put this. When I get married, before we have sex – I want to hit all the bases, as it were. And kind of take a little time to explore – something that sometimes it feels like EVERY TEENAGER in America gets to do, which I did not. Work with gradual concept. So, here’s my question – Did anyone do that? I’ve read somewhere else on the blog about people who … kinda started BEFORE they were married, but I don’t recall if it continued AFTER they were married or not. And I’m not talking years here or anything, but days, maybe weeks. Do people think that’s odd or strange?

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