Chapter 17 : Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am
April 7, 1999

Sex and Love. Love and Sex. Death and Taxes. Peanut Butter and Jelly.

These are the things we pair together, the concepts we link together in our minds, a unifying force among all people. Ok, so some people may not be subjected to taxes. Replace that with 'something certain to be a major pain in your ass from the day you are born.'

The {fray}'s latest is a fanciful tale about the loss of virginity. And in {fray} interactive, participatory fashion, readers have contributed to a growing inkwell telling us all when they lost their own virginity, if they had at all.

I'm touched and moved. People want to wait for the right person, someone they love. Or they had sex, but it was OK for them to do it at 15 because they were in love. They were devastated because they realized later that they did not care for the person they slept with. Or they broke up with the person because they realized they did not have a future together.

Like I said, I'm touched and moved. Touched like viewing the innocence of a child without prejudice. Moved like being caught in 6 foot seas an hour after eating bad clams.

For all that sex and love have in common and compliment one another, they are not the same thing. Nor does one necessitate the existence of the other. Nutter Butters are a guilty pleasure of mine. But they just wouldn't be the same with jelly.

In 1988, I went away to college and promptly lost my virginity to an oversexed 18 year old that picked me up at a fraternity party. Our first night together, she howled 'Max, Max! Get Out!' at the top of her lungs. Not at me, but at my one roommate to leave the room, as we fucked like bunnies in my other roommate's bed.

Being a social misfit in high school, to getting laid the first week of college did wonders for my self-esteem. But my lack of experience introduced a new problem. Because we had sex, I felt I owed something to this girl. We should date, go out, be a couple. I should care about her, and I should try to make this work. Whatever 'this' was. Regardless of the fact that she had just picked me up at a party because she thought I was cute and she was horny. Regardless of the fact that we didn't have much else in common other than wanting to get naked whenever presented the opportunity.

Plus, the sex was great.

But it wasn't love. It wasn't anything. It was just sex. It wasn't a relationship. If I had realized that, I probably could have had more fun, but I became scared and conflicted and broke up with her after two or three weeks. She wasn't phased.

Not more than a few weeks later, I had not learned. Sex once again turned into an obligation to try. I owed it another girl to give it a go at a relationship. So much so, I had to convince her that she should date me in the first place. I believed I owed this girl so much that I stopped a budding relationship in its tracks, tainting that friendship with Jan irrevocably.

But Rose's coke problem apparently was more important to her than I was, and I didn't care to try and fight. It took me six months to figure that one out.

But I had finally realized that sex is sex. That there are limits to the amount you should care about someone, and those limits should be based upon your heart, not simple actions. When you love someone, those limits seem to stretch on forever, even though a line may still exist.

Sex is something you can share with someone you love, and it is a magical and beautiful thing. But sex in and of itself is pleasure, for pleasure's sake. It doesn't exist simply for those in love. The importance placed upon sex, as an act, is almost laughable.

But also, unlike love, sex comes with responsibilities and consequences other than a broken heart.

Placing importance on sex is a short-cut to explaining the consequences and responsibilities that potentially come out of it. It is left shrouded in a mystery by religions and society in general for no good purpose, and the shame has been taught and preached into every one of us for millennia. Consequences are used as further fodder to scare our youth into abstaining instead of as a compliment to an encompassing understanding of sex.

Placing this kind of importance on sex has backfired. It has become a sign for young males teens that they have become a 'man,' and even as a 'coming of age' for women. It has become a tool of power, to be withheld or forced to satisfy the wielder's own aims.

There are generations of women (and some men) who feel guilty and can't enjoy sex because they have been taught to be afraid of it, ashamed of it. Its importance has transcended and overshadowed love, because even if you are in love, we are still force-fed that you should not have sex until you are married.

It has been played up and over, and only recently has it begun to take hold that sex, in an of itself is not bad. The Bible even states that sex is meant to be enjoyable and fun, although this little vignette is usually ignored until pre-cana, at which point the individuals have already been brow-beaten into being ashamed of the act.

Even today, sex is the domain of shady peep shows, low budget videotapes, and one of the only profitable ventures you could undertake on the Web. Sex that has been mainstreamed is still shrouded in Cosmopolitan articles about the '10 Secrets on How to Please Your Man' articles, advertisements aimed at parents to educate their kids about only the consequences and not how to behave responsibly, and as a ratings draw on the unfortunate souls that populate Jerry Springer.

Sex is something that should be taken seriously. But only in the context of understanding what it entails, what it means, and evaluating if you and the person (or persons!) you are going to engage in it with are on the same page. It can be a deep form of communication and joining, or it can be a fun, mutually pleasurable romp in the hay. Or both, if you're lucky. But it doesn't hold any significance in and off itself. Its importance only hinges upon the context in which you engage it.

It doesn't make you man. It doesn't make you a slut. It doesn't make you more mature. It is simply an act. You 'become' a 'man' or 'woman' because of the way you handle responsibilities. You're a slut if you ignore or are ignorant of the consequences. You are mature if you make decisions yourself, after taking the time to understand what you are doing and doing that something for the right reasons.

In the end, is sex all that and more?

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