Insecure about my romantic/sexual history
September 6, 2020 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm feeling down about my somewhat tame romantic and sexual history, compared to all the super impressive and intimidating people I hang out with, and trying to convince myself that maybe I'm not just a loser. I'd love to hear from others in the same boat!

I am dating a new person who's really great, and I'm very excited about them, but they are also very cool and kind of intimidate me. I couldn't put my finger on what it was until recently, when I figured out that a big part of it has to do with their romantic/sexual history. They have dated around quite a bit, and had sex with significantly more people than I have.

To be clear, I really don't think this is garden-variety jealousy or anything like that - I mean, I'm jealous, but I'm jealous of them. They had, like, A Life in high school, and even middle school(!!) - a handful of boyfriends and girlfriends - and continued to really aggressively put themselves out there in college. I was completely weird and impossible to interact with until at least 13, and became a reasonably social person in HS, but I think my friend group was just tamer and less interesting than my SO's was, and I was still probably too gawky and introverted to date. I didn't get up to anything romantic or sexual until my last year of high school, and then was fully geared up to sleep all over the place in college when sure enough I immediately met and fell in love with someone I stayed with all the way through graduation.

The circles I run in, and of which my SO are also a part, are generally full of extremely cool, kickass people who are very worldly and progressive and queer. I look up to and emulate my friends who fit that archetype. And it is definitely not part of that archetype to have had such a boring romantic life. As far as sexual frequency and quality goes, I guess I definitely ended up better off than many of them. My SO included - we've probably had previous sex the same amount, it was just all with one person for me. I think that, had it not gone that way for me, I would have struggled to deal with all the emotional tumult anyways. But still - I just feel like kind of a loser!

This has all got me really down and feeling insecure - like they're going to realize I'm boring and lame and ditch me for a more exciting girl. And I kind of know how to get out of this - obviously I've still been extremely fortunate, and I know no one is judging me over stuff like this, and whatever I've done has led me to my current person so it's clearly worked out. But... I always find that what helps me the most is just hearing that other people have found themselves in the situation. Any other cool queer ladies out there finding themselves out of step on this and maybe (or maybe not) experiencing the same insecurities? (Celebrities or whoever would also be cool!)

Thank you mefites as always <3
posted by myitkyina to Human Relations (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Why are you dwelling on high school? It's an awkward time for most people, and in the years since you graduated, you have grown in ways you probably don't realize. Please stop beating yourself up over things that did or didn't happen years ago and focus on the now.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:26 PM on September 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: people are not likely to tell you stories where they felt embarrassed, ashamed, awkward, or bummed out...remember that for every exciting dating/sex story you hear from your partner and their group of friends, there may be a couple of other things they aren't telling you. it's not All Fun All The Time to constantly put yourself out there. it often involves an ample amount of rejection and/or disappointment.

i could tell some "exciting" stories about my dating and life experiences i had in my early 20s, they would be entertaining in the context, of at a bar talking to a stranger, or meeting my partner's friends for the first time and trying to seem interesting. but i would leave out the parts where during that period of my life i was also very stressed out, and miserable in some ways. don't assume you're not as cool based on their stories. it could be that you were a lot happier at that time in your life than you would have been if you had instead been having similar experiences to theirs.

"they're going to realize I'm boring and lame and ditch me for a more exciting girl."
no. they picked you because YOU are what they want!
posted by zdravo at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2020 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Boy, being sexually active in middle school does not sound like something to be jealous of. Also, there are real relationship skills required to be with someone for four years, especially when you’re young; there’s a lot to be said for nurturing and sustaining relationships. It sounds like you have some great skills. There’s no good or bad number of sexual partners.

You call yourself boring and a loser, and you say your old friends weren’t interesting. So why are these interesting folks hanging out with you? Pity seems unlikely. They probably think you are interesting. Do you generally have self-esteem problems?

Here’s a better framing: this kickass person is interested in me. I must be kickass too. Maybe also do some reading on shame.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:06 PM on September 6, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Looking for validation externally by having sex with a bunch of different people is a wildly unhealthy thing to do. If you had sex with the people you wanted to bang, and it was a generally positive experience and/or a non-traumatic lesson in what not to repeat, then that is really all anyone can ask of their sex life. Comparing numbers and scores on the purity test is not a thing past junior high.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:24 PM on September 6, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: This is the whole problem with "cool" queer social circles. The "coolest" people from my erstwhile social circle (now I only hang out with science fiction nerds, basically) ranged from absolutely monstrous to just, well, they were okay, I guess, if you like social circles where everyone was very status-conscious and people watched what they said a lot.

I guess the issue here, to me, is why you're hung up on people being cool. "Cool" is a horrible metric. Not only do you not need to be cool, being cool is dumb and bad. "Cool" queer circles generally reveal themselves to be intensely fucked up the longer you stay in them, and it gets really boring to only talk about cool things in a cool way. Also people lie a lot because of the pressure to pretend that you're super sexually sophisticated and low-needs (except in "cool" high maintenance ways). Half the people you think have been having really great sex lives with tons of homonormatively beautiful partners and the most refined use of whatever the most radical sex toys in your circle happen to be have actually been having miserable, unsatisfying encounters lubricated by drugs and alcohol in which they did stuff they didn't particularly want or enjoy because they wanted to be chill.

I mean, I'm sure your partner is a delightful person, but my time in really hip, cutting edge social circles was a process of disillusion. Don't assume that other people are as they seem.
posted by Frowner at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2020 [33 favorites]

Best answer: Your romantic history doesn't sound boring. It sounds steady and suggestive of being someone who can carry on a longterm relationship successfully. That's a positive quality. Own that.
posted by shadygrove at 1:58 PM on September 6, 2020 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Most people are not developmentally mature enough for healthy appropriate fully-consenting sexual relationships until mid-late teens to early or even mid-twenties and sometimes much longer than that. Your own experience is significantly more common and no more or less valuable than anyone else's.

And as someone who only skirted the edge of the Wild Kids in my formative 20s 20-some years ago and have gotten to see how all that played out over decades, I would suggest you assess this group of people with a cooler clearer eye. A percentage of those people are actually having safe freaky fun that they will laugh about nostalgically later, and good for them but that's not actually the only way to have fun or be interesting, and being sexual technicolor is nowhere near the top of the interesting list in the first place. But:

A percentage of these people are lying (either about their experience at all, or about enjoying it and fully consenting) to maintain the illusion, and suffering from the stress of doing so.

There's at least one serious predator, missing stair, or vampire of some flavor in the group, because they cannot resist a Scene.

Some of the people you think are having such a great time being fabulous will eventually have to grapple with childhood sexual abuse and subsequent inappropriate trauma responses, assault or abuse happening right now while you're watching but not seeing, and/or getting sober. And look, those people can be having fun now from the current perspective and ALSO have to later do serious psychological recovery work about it, humans are very good at self-delusion.

(Also: All of them are giving each other's coworkers and family members covid right now. Also also: not everyone has a life of so much leisure they ever get to be Interesting Sexy People, they are busy keeping the rent paid and their families alive, so reconsider your heroes on that dimension too.)

Don't trust people who make you think your old friends were uninteresting. You're getting glitter in your eyes, and that stuff can sparkle-spackle over serious relationship issues. Don't date or hang out with people who make you feel bad about yourself, even if you don't think they're technically doing anything to you, just if being around them and their friends makes you feel lesser, that is a big red flag. It's on you to be okay with being who you are, but if that's not happening you need to question your environment too.

Also just know this isn't the only way to be young, queer, and fabulous. That particular flavor isn't the entirety of that identity, especially that really intense SuperQueer Influencer Orgy Brand thing that was really picking up steam before the pandemic. It is not possible to live at that speed for terribly long, and also those groups drama-implode and split regularly anyway. Just step back and be a little more skeptical, is my suggestion.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on September 6, 2020 [26 favorites]

Best answer: I've taught high school for decade. The vast majority of kids are like you--kind of awkward, kind of social, generally figuring themselves out. Most aren't sexually active and most aren't dating like crazy. The kids that, to me, seem like they are going to be successful and interesting people are generally the ones with passions and interest--not the ones that are the "coolest" or getting the most action.
posted by Nightman at 2:11 PM on September 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you and your friends would be (rightly) horrified if someone judged a person negatively based on how frequently they had sex. But then that should be true whatever that number is, including zero. You all sound lovely - I'm sure you would welcome an ace person into your group, right?

Also, you got to fall in love! There just aren't that many people who get to fall in love in the way that they look back on it, and say "yep, I was in love" AND get to be with the person they fell in love with (regardless of whether or not it lasted.) How cool are you to be one of the few who has that life experience. What is more badass than a person who is brave enough to follow their heart into WHATEVER THEY WANT rather than what other people think is cool?

Friend groups where everyone is exactly the same are boring. You love these people for a reason - it's quite likely they love you back for their own reasons. Be proud of you - you're the kind of person who defined themselves on their own terms early on, and turned into the kind of person others want to love for years.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 2:12 PM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

So, uh, sexual history generally is varied (hey, I was a virgin at 35) and doubly so among folks who have had to navigate a nonheteronornative sexual identity (some figure out what they want early and find it; some figure out early what they want but don't see a way to get it and do without; some search for what they need with varying levels of success and satisfaction). Broadly though it seems like what you're looking at is an inside-of-head vs. outside-of-head image. You only see your social circle' s exterior of sexual confidence and experience, while you know your own full gamut of anxiety, sense of inferiority, etc. But just because you don't see the negative aspects of their experience doesn't mean it doesn't exist! For all you know, there are folks who found you as intimidating as you find others, because you too can project confidence.

So, y'know, be who you are. Bonafide cool folks will understand your history. Where you are now is good and getting there is a struggle worthy of respect.
posted by jackbishop at 2:27 PM on September 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was wanting to sleep around during a time my SO and I were broken up. A wise friend with more sexual experience than me said "What? What are you looking for? You've had the good, the bad, and the middle of the road. What other experience do you want?"
posted by 8603 at 3:12 PM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

The circles I run in, and of which my SO are also a part, are generally full of extremely cool, kickass people who are very worldly and progressive and queer. I look up to and emulate my friends who fit that archetype.

Don't look up to them because that is going to break your heart.

Ten, maybe even five years from now, you're going to look back and think, [Name] and [Name] were real bullshit artists. I can't believe I was friends with them for so long. Or maybe this is something you say to one of the friends from that time that you did keep in touch with.

Taking the long view doesn't really help you right now, in 2020, so what I would suggest is learning to be kind to yourself. It sounds like you already know what that looks like for you.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:27 PM on September 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, I had an ex like this. Imagine telling that guy about my lack of experience.... (Sorry, can't speak to dating ladies on this one specifically, but I related to the rest of this.)

Seriously, he didn't give a shit. He had cooler friends, he'd done everything/everybody, but for whatever insane reason, he was into me for awhile and me being me didn't faze him. It wasn't really an issue in the relationship, until it turned out he was a commitmentphobe. Which hopefully won't be your issue. But since your SO hasn't been all, "Well, you haven't slept around ENOUGH for my "popular" standards, I'm through with you!" clearly, they are fine with you not having a gold medal in High School Popularity Olympics.

Though I do think that he wasn't a picky person At All and would date basically anybody and everybody, and I was just another truffle in the truffle box to try out. Like a weird combination of chocolate and Cheetos or something and he just tried everybody out as every kind of flavor. So....I dunno, maybe a slight bit of caution here on that score. But possibly by comparison to everyone else, you're exotic to them?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:53 PM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

"As far as sexual frequency and quality goes, I guess I definitely ended up better off than many of them"

Key word in any romantic/sexual history accounting is quality. If you have felt that the sex you had was satisfying, giving, sexy, quality sex, then that's all that matters. And if there are things you want to explore, then remember you can do that do, you haven't run out of time.
posted by brookeb at 5:11 PM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you had sex with the people you wanted to bang, and it was a generally positive experience and/or a non-traumatic lesson in what not to repeat, then that is really all anyone can ask of their sex life.

QFT. Bedpost notches aren't much less juvenile when they're kept by queer folks than when they're kept by straight frat boys. If you had sex with someone and both parties wanted to repeat the experience, you're probably in better shape than the majority of people who fucked around a lot in college.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:35 PM on September 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My humble opinion, be careful with those insecurities and try to understand where they're coming from and why. Then get comfortable enough within yourself with the grace to realize you are unique and valid and don't have to compare yourself to anyone to be worthy.

You might accidentally get caught up in trying to impress these people and do things and get involved in situations that you normally wouldn't and go down a path you wouldn't have chosen for yourself if you hadn't let those insecurities cloud your judgement and become the overriding factor in your life.

You can lose years of your life and parts of yourself that will make you wake up one day and think, how did I become this person? To then have to pick up the pieces you have left and relearn who you were and reconcile that with the person you've become. Not to be dramatic, but it can happen, especially if you have an intense desire to be liked that you don't even realize or understand until you start looking back and thinking who was I?

Be YOU and don't let anyone make you feel like the you that you are isnt enough. Insecurities and doubts can be normal but they can turn destructive if you keep trying to fit in at the expense of yourself.

Sexual experience that is mutual, respectful and with both parties consent is so much better than experience that you think you need because everybody else does it and it's ok and why do I have to be the one that needs a safe relationship. Why can't I just go and have sex with someone just because? *shrug* why not? Well because at the very least you might regret why not sex. As a wise mefite once said, HELL YES sex is so much better.
posted by VyanSelei at 7:01 PM on September 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As far as sexual frequency and quality goes, I guess I definitely ended up better off than many of them.

Speaking as someone who spent my 20s having Interesting Experiences, I can almost guarantee that actually. Even if one has a stunning success rate, arranging hookups at the same rate as established couples have sex is actually an enormous amount of work that requires a lot of socialising.

For every story that gets told of wild bacchanal, there's 100 that don't because they end in going home from the club by yourself, or the orgy that nobody turned up to, or someone crying in a bathroom while their "friends" cattily say they should just get over themselves, or someone being quite insistent about others getting over their bourgeois attitudes to addictive drugs (guess how that one ended up!).

It is much better to have led a louche life than to actually lead it.
posted by atrazine at 4:17 AM on September 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have this but less about my romantic/sexual history than about other things. I have never really had a louche, decadent or cool period. I still often feel like the uncool younger tagalong if other people smoke weed near me because its something I never really did. I don't have many stories of reckless behaviour from high school or college, because I'm not really a reckless and risk-taking person. The thing that I hate the most though, is that I never really went to gigs and listened to cool bands. I would really like to have been a person that went to gigs but for one reason and another that never happened. Between them, my friends all did all of that when they were younger and I'm often jealous.

They do say you regret what you haven't done more than what you have. I just live with it. I spent my time how I spent my time and it got me where it got me. It took me until my late 20s to find my tribe and I am just grateful that I have found them and that I have a great set of friends. Sometimes I lean in to my lack of particular experiences, and other times I lean into sharing about the actual experiences that I did have (as it happens, I have travelled to a few different countries but really it could be anything). I don't try to make up for lost time now particularly, I take or make the opportunities to do the things that I want to do now, which are often different from the things I wish I had done when I was younger.
posted by plonkee at 5:40 AM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Most adults don't really talk about high school unless they had a really great time in high school, and that's not a very common experience in the world.

Pay attention in your friend group and notice who never shares stories about high school. I bet there's at least a few people who avoid talking about their time in high school, and a few more who have a couple stories to trot out to seem like they had an awesome! high school! These high school reminiscence discussions might be driven by a few people or just one person having a great story to tell, and others feeling like they are supposed to have good stories -- there's probably others who dread these kind of discussions and are silent or decide they have somewhere else to be.

Sometimes people who have the most stories feel pretty insecure about where they are NOW.

But you can't see other's insecure thoughts, you only know about your own. You aren't the only one in your group having them.
posted by yohko at 9:08 AM on September 7, 2020

A lot of the answers here seem be trying to reassure you by bringing down your friends, and operating under the assumption that your impression that these people are worldly, progressive, and cool is a result of them bragging. And it might be! But it might also not be, and that would be even better! Maybe they really are excellent folks, and if that is the case, then they are definitely not judging you for having had a stable, supportive, long-term relationship. Because excellent folks do not judge other people for having made good life choices.

As a queer lady who has had what might euphemistically be called quite a range of sexual experience, I have happily dated people with almost no sexual experience, and folks who made me look like a nun. Honestly, the only thing that concerns me about a person's sexual history is that they've been making safe (in the broadest sense of the word) choices and are continuing to do so. It sounds like you've made a series of excellent choices for yourself, and enjoyed them thoroughly, and that is extremely attractive (and it sounds like your new sweetheart agrees!).
posted by dizziest at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a 40 year old divorced gay guy, so my take might not be super relevant for you, but here's something to consider that I think applies pretty well generally across all manner of differences between people: over time, you just get less and less worried about how others think about you.

I mean this to say, embrace you anxiety about this--it's part of you! That anxiety might influence how and when you're attracted to certain people, or be part of your bridge into talking about your anxiety more openly, or... honestly, any number of things. I'm not advocating this, but I certainly felt a lot of the pressure that you're talking about. By my early 20s, I felt like experience had passed me by living as a gay youth in a rural, conservative area. So I went to grad school in a big gay city. I threw myself into nightlife and "experience" like it was my job. It didn't give me the fulfillment I'd expected it would. And, having burned that candle at both ends for a while, I calmed down. I'd spent some time on the green grass on the other side of the fence and decided that, no, it wasn't greener.

So hang in there! This is part of you, and you being you is what attracts people to you.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:23 PM on September 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am a 37yo bisexual woman. I have way more experience than average with men and gender non-binary people and less-than-average sexual experience with women. I had my first serious relationship with a woman a few years ago: I felt so insecure and also judged. Part of it was my own insecurity but much of it was also her being a bully. Some sexist, insecure men judge me for having had so much sexual experience with other men; some queer women judge me for this too. I don’t keep dating these people because I don’t have time for their insecure bullshit. I am happy to date people over 30 who are single & whom I feel a connection with. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’ve never had sex with anyone else or had sex with 100 other people. My history shouldn’t matter to them either. We should appreciate each other for who we are just as we are right now. Unfortunately, a lot of people are closed minded but there’s no need for us to waste our time on them. It’s taken me a long time to get here!

I am so glad to have had the many sexual experiences I did. I still want more! I too was a late bloomer, then a serial monogamist. Later I hooked up with a lot of people these past few years and am now focusing on being single and not dating anyone. I am more confident than ever before but we all deal with so much internalized shit when it comes to how we view our own and others’ sexual experience. I agree with the people above who said that seeking out more sexual experiences just for the sake of adding to your numbers in the hope that you feel more confident isn’t probably going to make you happier. BUT if you WANT to sleep with more people because it sounds fun — and so of us very much enjoy it; others don’t— then that’s totally OK to seek out too. These days I have twentysomething women seeking me out because they imagine me as confident and experienced and hope it’ll rub off on them. It’s so weird to be on the other side of this because I see myself as just a normal person in that all of us are normal. A lot of queer people, even in 2020, come out later in life and/or don’t have a ton of sexual experiences but because of shame we don’t discuss it much. I could go on about this so let me know if you’d be interested in more about it.

Finally, I don’t want to to bash your new partner or put this all on them but I am worried that you, like me four years ago, might be so in awe of their queer coolness quotient that you don’t realize they’re kinda a jerk and/or immature. We talk so much of queer community being supportive but it isn’t always and there are certainly experienced queer womxn/humans who prey upon people with less experience and confidence, first making us feel ok, even special, about our starting point and then wearing and tearing us down with criticism. Yes, this is about your facing your fears but it’s also about being with someone who makes you feel good about yourself. Please send me a PM if you’d like to check in or share more details because, while our experiences may be different in many ways, I have been in your shoes and know how fucking vulnerable and awful it can feel. You are enough and absolutely lovable and sexy and worthy exactly as you are right now. Everything will work out, and I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 10:20 PM on September 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your answers - particularly those of you who encouraged me to approach this whole situation with a clearer, more skeptical eye. This has helped enormously!
posted by myitkyina at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2020

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