Come as you are

Introducing The Spectrum's brand new sex column

Disclaimer: The author’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity.

Like many religious teens, I learned about sex through sin.

I started masturbating at 14, my 11th year of Catholic education. The first time I tried it, I brought myself to orgasm in under two minutes, but stopped myself because I thought I was going to pee.

The sex education I had was warped. I remember middle-aged Mr. H., standing in front of my seventh grade class in his sweater vest and telling me and 20 other hormonal 12-year-olds that all sex acts before marriage would land us in hell.

So at 14, I was a sinner.

I wanted to stop. I drew a picture of a hot air balloon, scribbling the single word “DON’T” in giant letters across it. I set the doodle as the wallpaper on my second-generation iPod Touch to deter me from letting my itchy fingers travel south ever again.

It didn’t work.

My guilt drove me to confess to my parents, calling the filthy act “the ‘M’ word.” I could barely see their horrified faces through my Catholic teen tears. They told me not to worry about it, but not to tell them about it either.

That was the first time someone told me what I was doing was OK, but the shame just wouldn’t leave.

This isn’t a dig at religion. It’s not Jesus’ fault my educators tried to scare me out of listening to my body. Misinformation made me feel guilty rather than empowered by what I felt.

I struggled with this back-and-forth of raging hormones and post-orgasm panic for about a year. I tried to tell myself I didn’t like what I was doing, but that was a lie.

The best day of my life came when I found out I don’t have to feel guilty about my sexuality.

At 15, I met the internet.

YouTube videos made me realize I wasn’t alone. Articles about anatomy and safe sex showed me I was human, not horrible.

I even learned that, despite their denial, most of my friends were probably masturbating, too.

I became the self-proclaimed sexpert in my group of friends, although I was the only one who had never had it.

When I finally started having sex years later, I did feel awkward and weird, but I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I liked it.

After a few months in the missionary position, I had sex in a public bathroom. We were squeezed into a tiny stall -- he sat on the toilet, and I tried to straddle him without taking my pants off.

Every couple of thrusts we stopped, our mouths slightly agape and our eyes pointed upward, listening for intruders that would never come.

He did cum, though. After about four thrusts, his nerves got the best of him. Three minutes after we entered the bathroom, we were exiting -- and two of those minutes were spent getting situated.

This is one of my favorite sex memories, even if it only lasted about 30 seconds.

I definitely didn’t get off. Normally, I wouldn’t like that. But in place of sexual satisfaction, I got something else: the thrill of doing something I never thought I’d do.

Sex is weird. And awkward. And messy. And, sometimes, disappointing. But even when it’s all of these things combined, it can be so much fun.

That’s exactly what this column is for. I know many of you can relate to my story of guilt and confusion. I know most of you think about sex more than you want to admit. I do. It’s part of our lives as college students and that’s why it deserves a column in this newspaper.

Sex should feel good. It should empower you and make you feel alive. I hope my words can touch on some of the topics you are wondering about, make you less ashamed to talk your fears or concerns; maybe, help make sex feel good for you, too.

This column is about pursuing questions. Yours. Mine. The world’s. So, please, feel free to email us and ask.

I’m no longer that repressed Catholic girl, but I still think about her.

I’ve been in the same heterosexual, monogamous relationship for the past two years, but I’m proud to be shy, bi and ready to cry. That’s another story for another time.

I know a lot more than I did two years ago, but there’s still much to explore. Like you, I’m still figuring myself out. I’m also ready to talk about and share that journey with you.

Our world is filled with questions. Many of them have to do with sex. In a recent U.K. survey, 50 percent of men were unable to find the vagina on an anatomical diagram. In a similar survey from last year, 44 percent of women couldn’t do it either.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 20 million new cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis occur every year in the U.S. That’s not counting herpes and HPV. Only 62 percent of college students use condoms regularly.

One out of four women is a victim of sexual assault during undergrad. The Trump administration has just loosened the rules on prosecuting sexual assault on campus.


Let’s find out.

I’ll be working with other writers at The Spectrum to find answers to questions like these and any you might have. This is my column, but it’s yours too.

And it also belongs to that guilty 14-year-old kid who really just needed someone to talk to.