Painful Standards About Sex

You could say I have daddy issues. In the way I can’t commit, in the way I run in the opposite direction when someone even mentions that marriage is on their radar, even if it’s in the distant future. I’d like to think it’s not as bad as it is. That my life choices in the past few years are in no way decided by the issues I have with my dad, but I know they are. Leaving Minnesota on a whim, breaking up with each boyfriend that wanted to marry me, and having casual hookups with men who never seem to live in the same city as me.

My family rarely talked about sex growing up. In fact, my parents never really had “the talk” with me. Everything I learned about sex was from my first boyfriend who I fell head over heels for when I was 16 years old. We were living in Costa Rica and he was a couple of years older than me and “experienced” in the relationship field. Everything he said, I believed. We had dates on the beach, milkshakes at our favorite restaurant, and he played the guitar while I sang every day after school. I was convinced he was the one. My friends and family didn’t love him and when they brought up concerns I brushed them off and ignored everything they said.

His family was dysfunctional just like mine and we kept each other sane while our lives fell apart. I stayed with him much longer than I should have, telling myself that because he was a TCK with a dysfunctional family he was the only one who would ever understand me. I continued to believe all the lies he told me about sex and relationships. If I was uncomfortable or didn’t want something he would dismiss my concerns and convince me that I was being unreasonable for feeling that way. That it’s not his fault for wanting to constantly touch — ‘he’s a guy’. That it’s my responsibility to accommodate his needs otherwise he won’t leave me alone. After one too many times of giving in and being uncomfortable or having it hurt, I said no. He questioned my sexuality because I didn’t want to have sex with him that night.  

We finally broke up from our toxic relationship. We had convinced each other that we needed one another despite it being completely unhealthy. I didn’t realize all the damage he had done psychologically: I still believed everything he said and was convinced that something was wrong with me because sex was painful. It took me years to realize that the pain from sex was psychological. It took two different doctors’ opinions saying that I was fine physically until one suggested that it was psychological. With a lot of reflection I started to analyze my relationship from four years ago. I saw just how toxic it was, and was able to dissect the lies he told me about sex and men. Between him and seeing how my dad treated my mom I did not have good examples of men and relationships and I know that my standards were lower than others’. My standards, I started to realize, were applauding men for doing the bare minimum. For being nice, for asking how I felt or for not yelling at me.

It took a few years to work through things and find out how to be comfortable in my own skin and to raise my standards. I learned that communication is so important with whoever you’re with. I’m learning to speak up for myself if I do feel uncomfortable. My friends and I talk about sex a lot and I think it’s important to be open about this topic to avoid situations like the one I was in at 16. Even just talking about what consent looks like, because I didn’t know. You would think that would be an easy thing to understand but the lines are blurred when you’re in a relationship with someone. So let’s talk about sex. It can be a good thing.

*Painful Standards About Sex* is Part 2 of a two part series. Read Part 1, This Friend with Benefits, here.