I've been reading a lot of people my age push back against "hookup culture," and I get it–millennials have basically been labeled the generation of not valuing things (an unfair assessment). Love and sex are near the top of the list of things we allegedly don't value, and that's a stigma we could all do without.
But I've been pushing back against the pushback against millennials. We value plenty. And one of the things I value is my own right to make my own informed decisions about my own body.
For along time, my sexuality didn't feel like my own. I was told from a very young age that the only proper thing to do was to "save myself" for marriage. Then I started realizing that my friends weren't doing that…and they were having a lot of fun. I wanted to have fun. Suddenly "saving myself" seemed childish, and sex was a conversation I just mostly felt left out of.
Still, sex didn't feel like a thing I actually wanted. Largely because it didn't feel like a choice I was making, but rather a thing that was being inflicted on me.
Female friends called me stuck-up, a prude, or "so innocent, it's cute" (in the most mocking tone) for daring to still be a virgin at 16.
Male friends decided to take liberties they had no right to, from vulgar comments that felt invasive, to hands in places they didn't have permission to be.
Sexuality was not a choice, in my eyes, but an expectation. I came to realize that it always had been, in one way or another, whether an expectation to abstain for the sake of others' morals, or an expectation to indulge for the sake of others' amusement.
It wasn't until a year or so after I graduated high school that I ever even acknowledged my sexuality as a thing that could be my own. Something I could control, and enjoy (or not) however I chose.
And when I did, I became what some might call a slut.
I fooled around with guys who should have been off-limits–some of which I genuinely feel bad for being with, but others were just a good time waiting to happen. I had flings. I had friends-with-benefits type relationships. None of them went too far, because I still wanted to stay mostly within my own comfort zone. But they all happened, and I didn't really regret them.
It was like stepping outside my own skin for a while each time. Like I was living another, more exciting life than mine. Like I was slipping into a fantasy I could live out, indulging in a world I controlled all on my own.
It felt powerful.
Suddenly my sexuality was neither an expectation or an infliction; it was something I could wield. I learned more about myself in my two years of sexual gallivanting than I had in ages. I learned about independence, agency, my morals, my understanding of and relationship with sex, and of course, my own body. And it was one of the first times I felt like my own person.
Of course, I "settled down" eventually. After a couple years of exploration, I met the man I would marry (ironically, initially for what most would call a fling). Someone who respects my history, and respects my autonomy as a sexual person. I learned still more about myself through him, and continue to do so.
And if I had a chance to do it all again? Labels like "slut" be damned, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
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