I consider myself a good girl. I’m not a big drinker, I get good grades, and I’m close to my parents. I call my grandparents on all the appropriate holidays and I’ve never been grounded. I’m a good girl and I’m not attracted to bad boys.
I’m a good girl from a Catholic family and I had sex with my boyfriend when I was 18. My parents still don’t know.
Sex talk in my family was never taboo; it was approached through offhand comments, a mixture of gossip and holier-than-thou disapproval. “Can you believe that sophomore girl did IT on prom night? She’ll be pregnant by the time she graduates—if she ever does!” My mom even jokes about it at the dinner table because none of her kids would even think about sex before marriage. Like beach houses and travel soccer, sex to my family was something other people did, something we weren’t interested in.
So that’s the mindset I had when my boyfriend and I started dating. We held hands, hugged when he picked me up and dropped me off at my doorstep, but it took five weeks for us to have our first kiss: my very first. We were a couple that took things slow.
On one of our earliest dates, we were watching a movie with another couple who were far too concerned with the inside of each other’s shirts to notice that Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone’s relationship had—oh so humorously—gone public. My boyfriend asked if I wanted to go for a walk, I did, and we left. Outside I mustered up the courage to tell him that I wouldn’t be comfortable if he expected me to do what our friends were doing. Turns out, he didn’t.
Fast forward a year and a half. We’re still together and over the months we’ve reached certain physical milestones that most couples reach within the first year—everything, that is, except IT.
I was sitting in my college dorm room on an uneventful Friday night when I decided I was ready. The next time I’d see my boyfriend was Valentine’s Day and although I didn’t want my relationship to play out like some overrated teen love story, I decided that sex on the most clichéd day of the entire year was the right thing to do. But I’m a planner and spontaneity was out of the question; a few things had to be done first.
Although I was far from completely innocent at this point in our relationship, I was still naïve. It wasn’t until my roommate casually brought up shaving that I realized, yes, you could shave down there as well. A quick trip to CVS and several lengthy minutes in the razor aisle facilitated my transformation from an 18-year-old virgin to an almost-20-year-old woman. That, and a strategically planned “Love songs playlist” on my iTunes account.
Being away at school it was easy to forget my parents as I made this decision, but the knowledge that the outcome of this night would stay with me forever, well into the summer when I’d spend three months at home surrounded by family, remained in the back of my mind. Despite that, my boyfriend and I weren’t two bars into Dave Matthew’s “Crash,” when we were completely naked: bare bodies, legs touching, my hand on his neck and his on my back. I probably uttered “I’m ready” or something the girls say in the movies. And then it happened.
For the first few months that we continued to have sex, I was absolutely paranoid that my mom would find out. She would find the spare condom I hid in the small pocket in the back of my purse or she’d notice “something different about me” (a glow?). I worried that she could read it on my face and would eventually guilt me into confessing. Or worse, I’d go in for a routine physical examination and my secret would spill out with my urine into the nurse’s small plastic cup (this was before I got on the pill, something I claimed was for acne and unbearable periods).
I did feel guilty at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was my decision and mine alone, something that not even my parents had a right to dictate. This promise was one I’d made with someone I loved and trusted and just like going off to college and gaining independence, having sex was a part of young adulthood I felt comfortable enough to embrace along with the other liberties of living away from home. I was in a wonderful relationship and wanted to celebrate that. Love is good, commitment is good, so why couldn’t sex be a good thing too?
Nearly a year later, I am in the same relationship and I’ve stopped keeping track of how many times my boyfriend and I have had sex (yes, I did used to keep track), but that doesn’t mean it’s any less special to me. I’m with someone I love, but I know not everyone can say the same about their past or current sexual escapades. Some of my friends lost their virginity years before I did, others have yet to let a guy do more than hold their hands on a date and, to me, that’s fine.
I don’t condone sleeping with someone new every other night, but I also firmly believe that, as young adults, girls like myself have the right to make these personal decisions on their own. Having sex within the bounds of a long-term dedicated relationship is the only thing I’m comfortable with doing myself, but I understand that other women are content with having casual sex and if they’re confident that that’s what they want, why question it?
I wholeheartedly believe that if done responsibly, sex in contexts far different than my own is perfectly acceptable—it’s like the decision to remove one’s makeup before going to sleep; some people do it and some people don’t, but those who get lazy may have to deal with some unpleasant consequences. Above all, sex is a choice. I recognize that not everyone puts as much consideration into choices like this as I do, but made critically, the decision to have sex can be a good one just like any other independent decision a woman makes about her body.
What I’ve discovered since becoming sexually active is not a sense of rebellion from my parents and their values, but a sense of maturity that I’ve had to adjust to. Yes, I’ve made careless mistakes and have on more than one occasion experienced the unnecessary panic attack over a late period. In these cases I do my best to adhere to the values I’ve been instilled with while recognizing my independence from my parents and their assistance. When I’m keeping a secret like this from my parents, I can’t expect them to solve my problems when things (seem to) go wrong; I have to learn to rely on myself and so far I haven’t let myself down.
When all is said and done I still consider myself a good girl. Sure I’ve made mistakes here and there, but I take my birth control pill religiously, use condoms, and never use sex to solve an argument my boyfriend and I may have had (the books all say that’s wrong, right?). I’m confident in my decision to take my relationship to the next level because I’ve done so in a way I was comfortable with and I’ve learned to take responsibility for my actions and their risks. Although my lost virginity is the first big secret I’ve ever kept from my parents, it’s manageable and so far neither my relationship with them or with my boyfriend has suffered from it. Whether “good” means giving myself to someone I love and accompanying passionate sex with the ultimate playlist or simply taking the proper precautions before sliding under the sheets, it’s a nice way to be and I’d prefer to stay that way.