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kriba123 asks:

Hey, I'm 15 and my boyfriend is 18. We've been dating for around 5 months now and I'm really afraid I'm going to lose him. He has been trying to finger me lately and right before I reach my climax I chicken out and tell him to stop. I think it's just because I'm really self conscious and scared of what he'll think of me. I also don't want him to see me naked cause I'm very shy and just scared about what he'll think. I've told him this time and time again but he keeps giving me lectures that I need to grow up. I'm really afraid he's going to dump me! I really care about him and I just need help on what to do. How can I be less self conscious about myself?

Heather Corinna replies:

A partner addressing your worries or nervousness about any kind of sex by telling you you need to "grow up," needs to grow up WAY more than you do. In a word, if that's how he responds to this, I'm less worried about him dumping you, and more concerned about you sticking around with the likes of him.

To be clear: I'd kick this guy to the curb and wait for a partner who is both going to treat you with more sensitivity, and whose personality is more in line with yours so that they can understand you better.

When you're with someone like this, it's going to be doubly hard to feel more comfortable being sexual with them and being naked around them: the way he seems to be behaving just isn't conducive to you (or anyone else) developing a feeling of safety and comfort around him. So, the first thing you can do to get more comfortable is to choose a partner next time who is really invested in finding out what they can do to help you become comfortable over time, rather than being a patronizing jerk. Chances are very good that when you're with someone who isn't behaving this way, that in and of itself will make a huge difference. I'm betting that a lot of why you're feeling the way you are is that your instincts are trying to tell you that someone like this is NOT someone really safe or right for you.

(Last time, I promise: I'm telling you to get rid of this guy. He's not part of the solution: he's part of the problem.)

With a new partner, you can also take the time for both of you to more gradually become sexual. Everyone has different timetables in terms of their comfort, and it also tends to differ with any given partnership. But if you're only moving forward in a way that you feel pretty comfortable with, and where no one is exerting any pressure on you, that'll help, because that gives you the time to see, with every step forward, if you are really emotionally safe around that person or not. As well, in a dynamic where you have a partner who is showing as much of themselves as you are -- physically and emotionally -- and who is doing all they can to be sure you're comfy as you go, you'll feel differently. You won't likely even be worried with someone like that that they'll dump you because you aren't acting the way they want you to sexually: when we really care for someone, and really respect them, it isn't conditional, and we feel that lack of conditions.

You might also want to choose a partner a little closer to your age next time. While his older age clearly hasn't resulted in greater emotional maturity, it does sound like his expectations about the pacing of sex with a partner are more realistic for a woman of 18 than one of 15. Partners closer to your age may be more likely to be in a more similar space with you when it comes to sex, and more understanding of your need for a more gradual pace.

Just by yourself, you can explore your own sexuality through masturbation so that you'll know what your sexual response cycle is like, what an orgasm feels like for you, and have a better idea of what to expect when you respond with a partner. You might also consider getting involved in something to improve your body image, like a sport or new exercise: it can help to serve as a reminder that our bodies aren't advertisements or just around for other people's approval or disapproval. Really feeling how your body works and appreciating it on that level as well is often a potent body image booster.

As far as becoming less self-conscious goes, sometimes it's helpful to purposefully stretch your legs a bit when it comes to your comfort zone. You might try getting involved in something which involves some public speaking for instance: that way, you can work on being a little less shy, and also find out that even when we inevitably flub something in front of people, the world doesn't end. How about taking a community dance class, or learning a new skill with a group of other people so that all of you learning while making mistakes isn't so much of a big deal?

And if you really, truly, feel like this guy has many redeeming qualities and this is the only arena where he's being a creep, then what you'll need to do is get past that shyness and feeling like he has power over you and tell him that his lectures end NOW, and you're not going to listen to any more of that stuff. You will need to ask him to grow up himself and to treat you with respect and sensitivity, and remember that partnered sex is about BOTH people involved, and in finding what works for both personalities and both comfort zones: it's not about trying to push a partner into where you're comfortable. You will also need to find a way to repair the dynamic of this relationship and how you think about it so that you aren't living in fear of him leaving you because you aren't doing what he wants, and so, instead, it's about if you both can make it work or not, and both feel happy and understood together. If he responds well to that -- and flatly, responding well would include being earnestly apologetic for making you feel this way and immediately working to respond to this very differently -- then you might have some hope of making a healthy relationship here, sexually and otherwise.

If he doesn't respond well to that or you just can't bring yourself to even have that conversation...well, you know what I'd suggest you do.

Here is some extra information to help you out:

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