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Let's start with a bit of background. I grew up in Texas, meaning my sex education was already lacking. The most memorable thing from that class was not even the curriculum, it was how uneducated my peers were in what I thought was common knowledge, double wrapping, the pull out method, and how STDs are transmitted. I remember a kid honestly thinking homo sapien meant we were calling him gay. So I decided to go out and get the information for myself. First off seeing as my teacher was an older male he even admitted to being uncomfortable teaching us about what sex would do to our female bodies. So I turned to the internet as a high school freshman fearing the day that I would have to fling myself into womanhood because all the adults in my life said it would hurt and that I was giving away the most vulnerable part of myself. Even my mother with her purple dyed hair and her seemingly accepting nature had me convinced that sex was not to be happily anticipated. But the years went by and I realized there was nothing to be afraid of, so I delved deeper into the internet's cornucopia of knowledge and decided it was not up to anyone else what would happen to my body. Sex is just SEX, it doesn't have to mean anything and there was no harm in learning what I would like. And so I took the leap and had sex for the first time with a boy I felt safe with.
Now I learned that sex and being ready are dependent on two main factors: can you have the conversation with your partner without them judging you and you feeling uncomfortable, and are you at a point in your life where you can truly accept yourself and be OK with letting someone see you bare. Because the fact is, being so exposed does feel vulnerable. There is an age component that plays a factor; for example, is it legal? Can it cause any biological harm to either of you? I personally decided to wait until I was 19, which seems like a while seeing as many of my friends were losing their virginity when we were still in middle school and that suited them, but I decided I did not want to be someone's conquest. Nobody can tell you when you are ready to let someone into your temple, so to say.
Now that you have decided to have sex, there's still the matter of having safe sex. We all hear about condoms, but make sure and read the labels. And storage matters so much in this. DO NOT LEAVE CONDOMS IN YOUR WALLET. This can weaken the integrity of the latex. Proper instructions on where to store them are on the box. Communication is so important prior to and during intercourse. I was fortunate to have my first time be with someone that respected me enough to immediately stop or slow down if I was uncomfortable. The fact is, it can be a little uncomfortable at first. Even when you have been having sex for a while, it can still take a minute to adjust. Even if you are having vanilla (regular) sex, there's no shame in a safe word.
Now condoms are the most popular form of contraception, but there are so many that are up to a woman to decide from. And in the world of medicine birth control is ever evolving. There is the more common pill which has its up and down sides, as do all of the options. There is a long list of side effects with each method, but personally it is worth it. and there is information on each of the methods in detail that I won't bore you with. And remember, ladies, every body is different and will react differently so consult a professional as to what will be the best option for you.
Another thing nobody told me was how useful porn and erotic novels are in discovering your own sexual identity. There is this stigma that these are "dirty" and "pervy," but it has been used to help sexual assault survivors cope with their trauma to move on. If consumed in a healthy dose porn can actually be good for you. It can be used to determine what you like and don't like, also can help you get more comfortable with sex in whole.
I won't claim to be an expert, nor will I even try and pretend I have fully discovered myself sexually. The fact is, I have only begun the journey and that is where all the fun lies. I remember thinking some people were just born to be kinky or not but how would we know if we kept our eyes closed to all the possibilities our sexual endeavors can bring. The true thing I wish someone would have told me is it is totally OK not to know everything you like, it's OK to be uncomfortable, and to truly cherish the moments after sex with someone you love because that is the most pure and unfiltered self you can be.