"We've been dating for a few months and never had sex. Is something wrong with me?"
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Dear Miss Information,
I’m a college student and I’m afraid of being ‘intimate’ with my boyfriend. I struggled a lot in high school thinking that I would never find anybody who could like me in a romantic way because of the very limited amount of gay men in my hometown (saying it here sounds silly, but it was a very personal fear). Sometimes it was numbing and desperately painful, it was comforting, and by the time I got to college I was fine with solitude.
However, I met this older (as in a Junior) guy early on and we instantly “found something” (that’s what he referred to it as one late drunken night). The rush of feelings was incredible after a high school career of never experiencing those things. Nobody ever told me what it felt like to be around somebody in ‘that way’.
We’ve been dating for a couple months now and he really would like to have sex with me. I’ve never had sex before and I don’t really have a sexual history. I’ve always been the prude of my friends, but it actually feels like a mild fear of sex. I don’t like thinking about being naked in front of him, him being on top of me (or vice-versa), anybody inside of anybody…most anything at all.
I really like kissing and making out, but as soon as he wants to go any further or things get remotely more intense, I feel myself panicking, and sometimes it escalates to me having an episode. I know he doesn’t mind and he’s comforting when things like that happen, but I don’t want him to be held back. I told him he could have sex with other people, but he assured me he doesn’t want to. I'm afraid of losing him, I guess–it sounds stupid saying it, but I really am. What do I do?
I have great news, Sexophobe: your concern does not make you weird. In fact, I’d guess that most women and gay men know exactly what you mean. And why not? It’s intimidating to think of incorporating another body part into your own body. To get 8th Grade Science Fair about it: shoving a carrot into a space the size of a nickel? No wonder that seems intimidating.
But there’s more good news. Your fear is completely normal, and completely surmountable. Start here: who said sex has to be penetrative? Hand jobs, blow jobs, high-tech vibrators and Fleshlights—these things are no less “sex.” Build comfort with your BF with more “external” strategies, and you can baby-step your way to trying new things. And if you never get there? No big. Just because you’re a gay man doesn’t mean you are contractually obligated to like anal sex. There are plenty of other roads to an orgasm. If it’s not your cup of tea, any partner you’re with should respect that.
It’s common for the less-experienced party to feel like they’re holding back their more-experienced partner, but try your best to drop your tone of apology. Your boyfriend clearly likes you, and likes you enough to wait until you’re comfortable. That’s a big deal! Rather than apologizing and encouraging him to find other guys, talk to him. Tell him that you’re nervous, and that you feel guilty that maybe his needs aren’t being met. It sounds like you’ve got a supportive, good guy on your hands—he will probably be more than happy to work with you on making sex fun, not intimidating.
This is your big takeaway, Sexophobe: you’re not alone. You’re not alone in your fear, and you’re not alone in its solution. Let your boyfriend in and see if he can’t help you inch toward getting more comfortable. Of course, if a panicked voice is still screaming in your head—and what, exactly, are these “episodes”?—finding a good therapist can work wonders. Sexual hang-ups can happen to the best of us, so don’t be afraid to ask for help in moving through them.