You Tell Me Yours…
In my Human Sexuality class this week, the discussion is fairly heated. Our discussion topic is:
In your opinion, should a person disclose all previous sexual activity with a potential partner? Please note: The question is not should a person disclose an STD to a potential partner, but should people disclose the details of their previous sexual relationships? Who . . . how . . . when . . . where . . . and why
What would be the purpose of this disclosure? What would be the benefits and the down side of this type of open communication?
Do you want to know the details of your partner’s previous sexual activity? Why would this information be important to you?
I think you can probably imagine what *I* would answer to that, but in case you can’t, here is my response:
Because this question stipulates that this is NOT related to STD information, but rather based on more personal information, for me to answer it, it seems like you need to know a bit of my background…
When I was an adolescent, my family was strictly religious and I was taught that I MUST remain a virgin until I was married. I thought – even when I was still a “good girl” – that it was absolute malarkey that I was going to sign on for life with someone who may never be a good match for me in the sexual intimacy department. Even with all the religious indoctrination about the evils of sex, I KNEW I wanted my first partner to be sexually experienced and know what he was doing. My first encounter with intercourse didn’t happen until I was almost 21 – before we were married, but when we were considering getting married.
My experience has been limited, considering how open I am. I am selective about who I am intimate with and, honestly, the only person with whom I delved into the complete details about who he had been with, how many he had been with and in what ways – as well as the same details about my choices – was with my former husband (and that was not my first partner I referred to above). My former husband was the only one with whom I had interest in developing a long term relationship with (which ended up being not so long-term but that is an entirely different topic for another day) so he was the only one with whom it seemed to matter that I know those details.
At almost-18, he was 6 years younger than me when we met and I remember feeling awed when he told me he had a “Baker’s Dozen” of lovers on his belt. My numbers paled significantly in comparison with him and my understanding is that, for most women that would turn them off. For me, it set off the “ding ding ding” of the winning bell because my theory was, with that much practice he had to have at least SOME skills. And when we finally made it to bed, he had MAD skills. I was in heaven! And, through him, I learned a lot about myself, about how women’s bodies are so miraculous and about the marvels of the male body. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
For me, his experiences – and his willingness to openly provide a candid answer for whatever I asked – helped me to feel comfortable about what was to happen for us. I understand that I don’t process information like many women do, but his disclosures to me created a foundation of trust and openness in our relationship, for both of us. His willingness to listen to the stories of my past – which was FAR from the decorated stories of his past – and receive them with as much gentleness and awe as he did, helped me to feel comfortable.
As you may have read in my other posts… I am a stickler when it comes to accountability and communication. For me, if I want a long-term intimate relationship with someone, I use the open communication about our past experiences to build upon. I believe it solidifies trust to be able to be honest and open about my past, as well as listening without judgment about my partner’s past.
You can probably imagine the responses I’ve gotten on this. Apparently, my theory of TOTAL accountability and honesty flies in the face of every single person in my class, including my professor’s. I’ve been astonished as some of the feedback I’ve received and the rationalization for why it is beneficial to be dishonest and withhold information.
After I got several remarks about not being able to understand why I would EVER want to know all the gory details of my lover’s past, I went back and re-read my post. I didn’t remember saying I wanted all the details, but maybe I did. I guess the part about where I said, “I delved into the complete details about who he had been with, how many he had been with and in what ways” was the part they all interpreted as me needing the nitty-gritty details. So I posted an addendum:
While I am a proponent of open, honest, clear, direct communication, I am NOT a proponent of sharing explicit details of the past. I don’t need to know what my partner did with other partners. I may be curious about things they tried and wonder if he liked it and if I might like it too. But I don’t need the gory details.
With my former husband, I knew how many girls he’d been with; I knew in what configuration (threesomes, etc) and I knew how longstanding the sexual relationships lasted. That was all the information I required in the beginning.
After some time, when we were comfortable together and I felt secure, I started asking my “curiosity” questions… “Have you tried yada yada? Did you like it? Would you do it again?” Then he would ask about what he was curious about. It wasn’t revealed up front, but when we were ready, we started sharing our likes/dislikes, but still no gory details.
Today I received a sweet response…
I love how you’re so open and honest!!! It’s nice to get an honest opinion. I don’t know how easy it is for me to be comfortable with my partner after knowing about his other sexual encounters. After I know about it, it’s really really hard for me to let it go.
Which, in the response, I discovered something delightful:
I can understand the difficulty that can come from having “too much information” about a person in your head. I guess I’m lucky in that I’m trained as a life coach so I’ve become very skilled at KNOWING that a person’s experiences (past, present or future) are THEIR experiences, not mine. Therefore, it is not a reflection on me or who I am. I also really value my past because it makes me who I am. I believe that goes for you, for my partners… for everyone. In light of that, I have been able to appreciate each person for who they are, based on where they’ve been and find a way to believe in the LOVE that I see in myself through their eyes….
That was a deep process for myself to right that. Thank you for providing the space for me to do that!!!
There was something in the way that came out through my fingers that solidified the process I’ve been in since Tuesday morning. I feel peaceful and loving toward myself and I feel like I’ve been tricking myself to believe I don’t know how to be discerning of others or loving of myself.
But… as I was reminded in lab today… I actually DO know what I’m doing most of the time. My intuition leads the way and it is generally loving of myself and discerning of others.
Duh! I keep forgetting that part! Funny me…. =-D
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