This is a post about contraception and sex and awkward, awkward conversations with mothers, so if you’re at all concerned that reading it might bring back repressed memories of The Talk, by all means, sit this one out.
I head off for university in two weeks (no, I will not shut up about it) and, as a first year, will be participating in Fresher’s Week. As a single girl, I will be on the lookout for guys. I am making no assumptions about what I will get up to during Freshers; for all I know the stress will be too much for me and I’ll be locked in my room watching Netflix every evening. Realistically, I’ll be partying in one way or another for most of the week and should probably prepare myself for any eventuality.
As I haven’t been in a relationship or, frankly, had much contact with guys since my last (and only) boyfriend back in 2012, I haven’t been using any form of contraception. Now I’m off to uni I’m most likely going to wind up in bed with someone at some point and I would prefer to be protected in as many ways as possible.
I am the kind of person who won’t do anything until I’ve thoroughly terrified myself, so I’ve been reading the NHS contraception pages, and the comments on these pages. Unfortunately, the comments make every single form of contraception sound like a horrific nightmare that will cause your ovaries to leap out of you and run away screaming. This is not particularly reassuring to someone who has severe anxiety about medication and side effects.
So, I turned to my mother. She and I normally avoid talking about anything remotely connected to sex, because we find it very awkward to discuss with each other, but I value her advice and she tends to be pretty helpful. What I discovered was that she is basically against any drug that is not strictly necessary. This isn’t surprising, as she was on the pill and hated every minute of it, and then had breast cancer and suffered some of the worst side-effects I’ve ever seen during treatment (oh hi there, medication-related anxiety). The short version is that she doesn’t mind what I decide to do with regards to contraception, which makes things a lot easier. On the other hand, she also thought I was a virgin and started telling me how sex was something I shouldn’t rush into and that it was a big step to take.
Was that ever awkward.
I, with my instinct for flat-out honesty and complete inability to sugar-coat, merely blurted “I’m…not a virgin” and buried my face in the cat. Things got a little tense after that, as she thought I was being too blasé about sex, which is really not something you want your mother thinking about you.
My mother and I have very different opinions and experiences. When she was my age, my mother had met my dad and knew that he was The One. I, on the other hand, have had one slightly disastrous relationship which has left me with no desire to actively seek out a boyfriend. She thinks that sex is something that should not be entered into lightly, whereas I have a fairly casual attitude towards the idea of sex without being in a relationship.
I would like to pause things here and point out that I am in no way ‘easy’. I am definitely not the sort of person to leap into bed with someone at the first opportunity, but nor am I opposed to the idea of the odd one night stand. I have discussed this at length with my friends, and the one in a committed long-term relationship thinks that I was an idiot for having sex with a guy I wasn’t fully committed to. The one who seems to pick the biggest commitment-phobes in the UK thinks that I was perfectly within my rights to do what ever I wanted with my virginity and, as losing it hasn’t upset me in any way, I can have sex with whomever I want, in whatever context.
Sex, whatever people might say, is still a fairly big deal. While I treat the idea of casual sex as nothing to get particularly worked up over, it still requires some careful thinking about. Not least, there’s the issue of contraception and other forms of protection. It’s also going to take quite a lot of confidence to get back on the horse (I am so, so sorry). I am anxious enough as it is, and I tend to get extremely self-conscious about my body, as I have quite a lot of scars. Also, there’s the fact that I haven’t slept with anybody since 2012 and my experiences never set the world on fire anyway, so there’s a definite possibility I will end up doing what I always do whenever anyone displays interest: run a mile rather than taking any risks and potentially winding up getting hurt, or worse, embarrassed.
PS The title quote is not strictly relevant, but it’s from Easy A, which is one of my favourite films and has so many excellent lines.