I've Stopped Apologising To Men About How I Like To Have Sex

Men I was being intimate with wanted me to perform a certain way – without ever really asking me what I wanted. This is what happened when I decided that had to change, writes Juno March.
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I don’t know about you, but I always thought that losing my virginity would make me ‘different’ somehow. That I would talk with a lower voice or my walk would change or I’d get a ‘glow’ so that everyone would know I was a ‘woman’ now.

So you can imagine my surprise when it did happen – at the tender age of fifteen when my first love clumsily lay on top of me while his parents went out to the pub – that nothing really changed. No fun new walk. No glow. Just a little pain and a feeling of doubt.

Of course, my friends begged to hear the details of the whole encounter, so I did them a disservice and lied about the whole experience. I didn’t tell them how awkward it was or that he’d headbutted me (twice) during the fifteen seconds it lasted (not that I was really bothered about that, it was his first time too after all). Instead, I grinned and basked in my new ‘womanhood’ and retold the story again and again that made the sex sound like I’d wanted it to be.

The relationship fizzled after that and once I’d gotten over the adolescent heartbreak I decided to have another go. Met a great guy at seventeen and we tried it out – and again, there was nothing really in it for me. I just lay there feeling mentally uncomfortable and like something wasn’t right.

“When an ex slapped me across the face one night without permission and without warning, I knew something had to change...”

This carried on for a couple of years through various relationships where I felt like a guest star in every intimate moment, enjoying pleasing my partner but never really feeling ‘pleased’ myself.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling, but it wasn’t good either. It felt like my part was a huge act – although I would nod and laugh with my girlfriends as we discussed our sordid encounters and discuss our orgasms – something I was sure I hadn’t experienced but would go along with like I was well accustomed. I felt strange to have never experienced the feeling and I was embarrassed every time I suffered another failed attempt.

I realised when I got to university that a pattern was emerging. The men I was choosing to be intimate with wanted me to be a certain way, dress a certain way, perform a certain way – all without ever really asking me what I wanted to include in our romantic encounters. I didn’t feel safe enough to argue, I just wanted to keep trying even if it wasn’t something I necessarily enjoyed.

So when an ex slapped me across the face one night without permission and without warning, I knew something had to change. This slap didn’t feel arousing – it felt resentful, angry and wrong. He didn’t apologise and left my face stinging and red with tears.

I realised I had never allowed myself the chance to voice my opinion on sex, I also partnered with men who weren’t happy to try out what I wanted even if I had tried to ask for something different.

It’s not that they were all bad men, by any means. We just didn’t have that open conversation that partners should have.

I’m not alone in this. According to a survey conducted by Savanta ComRes for BBC Radio 5 live, one in three women are being gagged, spat on or choked during sex without their consent. That’s a lot of people who are not having their feelings taken into consideration, and a lot of people neglecting their partner’s desires.

“Sex became not just a mandatory pastime but an interesting discussion. We would spend time sharing our likes and dislikes, voicing our deepest desires, and trying them out for size...”

I spent some time alone after this, focusing on myself. I learned what I liked and what I didn’t and I encouraged myself to speak up if something bothered me, not just in sexual environments. My confidence was sky high, and when I began dating this time around I was focused, I was clear and communicative about my intentions. And although some men didn’t respond well to it, one stood out.

We began our courtship in a modern way (read: Tinder) and, as the conversation continued, I decided to try out my newfound confidence on him. Happily, he took my directness well and responded in kind – and I knew for the first time maybe ever, I was being heard by someone I wanted to be intimate with. Although it was a pretty exciting feeling, deep inside I was pretty wary; this was the first relationship I’d entered where things were discussed and suggestions were welcome – and though it filled me with happiness, past experiences had definitely left a scar on my brain and my heart.

From then on, sex became not just a mandatory pastime but an interesting discussion. We would spend time sharing our likes and dislikes, voicing our deepest desires, and trying them out for size. Mentally it felt amazing to be in such a safe space with a partner, and physically... well, let’s say I can now nod along truthfully when chatting with my friends.

What I’ve learned from this, people, is to please talk to your partners. Try to be honest and open about your preferences and be confident enough to say when something isn’t making you feel good. And be sure to listen to your partners too, as they may be hiding a desire because they’re not sure how to approach the subject. Sex is for both of you, so make sure you’re heard and valued by the people you decide to embark into intimacy with.

Juno March is a freelance journalist, writing under a pseudonym