But the thing is, I rejected that stereotypical teenage-virginity narrative long before the choice was taken away from me. I didn't have the will-I-won't-I debates with myself because I didn't think they were worth having. If teenage me were hanging out with Buffy, and she said
I don't know. I... I mean, 'want' isn't always the right thing TO do. To act on want can be wrong.
I would be confused. I mean, seriously confused. As far as I was concerned, the only relevant question after "Do I want to?" was "Can I get away with it?" This whole "right and wrong" thing? Did not care. Teenage-me would have said that should and shouldn't were just the dictates of stupid, close-minded, prudes. I didn't recognize the choices that these TV teens were making, not because I wasn't making a choice, but because I didn't think about it the way they did.
It's an important re-framing of my teenage years. Yes, I struggled with self-loathing, and yes, I accepted assault, coercion, and emotional abuse, all of which I labeled love. Yes, there was a time when my agency was taken away, but there were many, many, times, both before and after that, when I did make my own choices. After Boyfriend #2, I decided that I wanted to scale down my sexual activity, and I told boyfriend #3, flat-out, what was and wasn't on the table. And with #4, when I wanted more, we planned and prepared together. I had never really thought about it that way before.