When I was asked to contribute to travel sex life, the request was met with a mixture of trepidation and confusion. I struggled to understand exactly what a man in my position could contribute to a site based on sex and travel and whether I should be honest about the one aspect I could write about. Why? Well, because the furthest I’ve travelled from Britannia is Greece, which is hardly exotic and was undertaken when I was a 16 year-old little Englander, and secondly I’m basically a 26-year-old virgin.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done “stuff”, I’ve had girlfriends, but if ‘sex’ is boy meets girl, boy and girl have midnight organ fight, boy issues fluids (and girl feels nice too, if she’s lucky) then it’s not one of the life events, the rites of passage, that I feel I can honestly tick off yet. I don’t really know why that is, but I do know that my attitude to sex, and relationships in general are very different from those of the majority my peers. When I was at university, I was very uncomfortable about the kinds of things I’d seen ordinarily respected friends do in pursuit of sex and the comments with a large vein of disregard, which followed.
I was never one for alpha-male grinding in clubs, strip joints or any of that stuff, I wanted to avoid misogyny at all costs and rally against the assertion that pornography (among other media) perpetuates – that sex is something males ‘do’ to females. What I learned quickly is that ultimately, respect doesn’t do a lot for your chances of getting lucky.
The longer this involuntary celibacy went on, and as the conversations which I could only bluff my way through repeated, I was tempted into trying things with those few who showed an interest, often convincing myself that the positive prospect of building experience for when it matters, overruled the negative, selfish act. The societal pressure which exists and an expectation that somebody in their twenties should not be a virgin built that pressure and it begins to weigh you down. There’s a feeling that society is not allowing you to join their not so exclusive club, and online casino loneliness prevails. Ultimately it didn’t work, and with each failed attempt to get onto a level playing field with my age group, my confidence dropped and I would shy away from the situations where I could proactively find potential partners. I thought there was something wrong with me. Until last year.
The experience where I came closest to shedding v-plates, and one I’m more inclined to count as sex than any other, took place after a long day at the seaside. It occurred out of the blue, after years of friendship but I hadn’t seen this girl for over a year, a close friend had recently died and I attended his funeral in the morning, perhaps that emotional experience inspired me to take a chance and kiss her, but mostly it just felt natural. It felt right. It just worked.
Though, as I said, I didn’t finish, it confirmed what I had always believed about sex. The dual acceptance that I was unable to achieve that physical conclusion, told me that sex is about two people allowing themselves to be in a situation where there is a series of events which must happen for it to be perceived a success.
I think that learning that things may not go perfectly, and trusting the other to accept that is what sharing the experience is all about. The trust required to allow another in and see you at your most intimate, least inhibited to share and celebrate that, is much more important than the physical reactions.
I suppose my message is, try not to feel pressure. You’re no less of person because you haven’t felt a connection yet which is enough of an incentive to inspire that trust, in fact, I think it makes you morally questionable if you enter into relationships purely to make yourself feel better about the image you see when society’s mirror is held up.
Be true to your values, if you measure yourself by the way you think you ‘should’ act, as my story shows, it only holds you back.
Christopher Elliot Panks is editor of South Sounds, a freelance sports and arts journalist, broadcaster, public relations consultant, and musician. If he”s not running or in the pool you can generally find him in the stands of a local sports ground. He writes about his home team Swindon Town for Sky Sports, has had commentary published in the Guardian and is press officer of his athletics club. You can follow him @incrediboymusic and his site @southsounds