I’ve always been careful with guys, and that’s why I decided to abstain. But when I clocked 21, I met this great guy who made me lose control and almost crossed the line. I broke up with him five months later. I realised he never liked me, because when we started dating he was always trying to get me in a sexual situation. It worsened when I told him I was a virgin to the point he was literally trying to force himself on me. At that point, I knew that wasn’t a relationship for me, so I broke up with him. For me I would have slept with him if he gave me space, let me trust him and had respected me. I am 23 now and still not in a relationship because I gave that relationship my all. I loved him. I did things I wasn’t comfortable with because that was my first relationship and I expected much from it. Now I find it hard to believe any man, and my mind keeps telling me all men just want to take advantage of me. Please what do I do? I am not saying I want to remain as a virgin and inexperienced all my life. How do I learn to trust again?
Firstly, I want to tell you how sorry I am you had such a rapey douchebag for a boyfriend. It’s unfortunate you invested so heavily in that relationship.
It’s time to draw a line in the sand, stop extrapolating and assuming all men are the same, and use the dating process effectively to find someone decent. Let’s look at how.
Avoid global thinking
Don’t generalise and lump all men together. Recognise this was ONE man. Yes, there will be others like him. This is a product of gender stereotypes and socialised sexual roles (which we will talk about in a moment).
Just as there are women who have been victimised by selfish mercenary men, there are plenty of entitled and demanding women, and plenty of thoughtful and considerate men. It’s about using good judgement when you date to identify the difference.
Dating as a screening process
When dating, many people focus on finding someone who sparks excitement and sexual chemistry, or whose company they enjoy. More importantly, you need to use the dating process to find someone who shares your values, and who is a decent person.
A decent person takes responsibility for themselves and their actions, considers your needs and is able to assert (not demand) their own.
Don’t buy in to gender stereotypes and sexual roles
These exist, they are very real, and they reward rapey douchebag males and punish overtly sexual females. Don’t buy in to them, and don’t accept others buying into them.
Allow yourself to be sexual, to explore your sexuality, without guilt, shame or judgement. This will help you learn your boundaries, where your true comfort levels lie, rather than defining them based on social expectations.
Once you have set your boundaries and expectations, stick to them. Respect yourself, respect others, and expect respect from them. Anyone who falls short, who doesn’t take responsibility for themselves, who doesn’t consider your needs or respectfully assert their own is not worth your time or your energy, and is certainly not someone you should feel safe enough to be intimate with, whether it’s your first time or your first hundredth.
Which brings us to the next point…
Don’t fetishize virginity
Another gender role (stereotype) places male promiscuity but female virginity on a pedestal. This actually places enormous burden on men to pursue sex and women to guard against those pursuits — essentially a whole lot of unnecessary pain for a bunch of out-dated patriarchal BS.
Sure, it can feel like a huge step to have intercourse for the first time, but part of that is the weight of social expectation. So, let’s put ‘losing your virginity’ into perspective.
Having sex for the first time is just one of many first experiences you will have across your lifetime – your first day at school, your first kiss, your first date, your first car, your first job, and so on.
As with any first experience you will most likely feel nervous, maybe even frightened, and want to share it with someone who can hold you through that process, who will help you feel safe and comfortable – someone you trust. That’s what the dating (screening) process is for, so use it.
Learning to trust again
As I wrote to Mistress Isabel in ‘How can I trust after a betrayal?’ learning to trust again is about ‘changing your habit of thought from expecting the worst to hoping for the best.’
So start by drawing that line in the sand. Use dating as a screening process and look for more than chemistry. Don’t buy in to gender stereotypes and sexual roles, and don’t put up with anyone else who does. Lastly, keep your first-time experiences in perspective.
Dating involves a whole lot of trial and error, but each trial isn’t a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn. The more you learn the more you will fine-tune your ability to separate decent human beings from douchebags.
Be cautious but hopeful, and let me know how you get on.