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I didn’t go into this with strong emotions. I liked him enough. I was even ambivalent about starting anything serious, but there are strange emotions that come out of sex when it’s mixed with rejection. And, honestly even when it isn’t.

A friend’s mother once told us that every time you have sex you lose a little piece of your soul. I think she meant casual sex and that her intentions were kind when she gave us this little insight.

My mother says that I am supposed to value my body. Sometimes I don’t even know what that means. Does having sex mean that I don’t value my body? I think I value my body. I value myself. But girl power, right? Aren’t we Gen Y’s supposed to be allowed to sleep with someone without guilt? Without that feeling of blackness? Without a feeling of a hidden brand of shame? Isn’t that one of the tenants of feminism? Or maybe we’re just having sex hoping that love will come later. Maybe we’re all wrong.

I have a very complicated relationship with sex.

Like I said, there are emotions that come out of sex followed by rejection even if we weren’t that interested in the person. I feel dirty and weird — like I gave something up that I shouldn’t have. Like I wasn’t, as my mother says, valuing my body. I’m constantly struggling with the notion that women are sexually free while battling my own demons and self-doubt at the same time.

I’ll readily admit that I’m nervous about writing this post. But somehow I feel more human for doing it. Like I’m somehow admitting that sex is power and sex is fragility at the same time. One f*cked up two-headed monster. There’s something cathartic in sharing how I feel about this.

I don’t want to generalize all women, or say that women can’t have casual sex–because I myself have casual sex on occasion–I just want to point out the delicate nature of my own womanly sexuality in sexual situations. For me, sex coupled with subsequent rejection (or fear of rejection which I, sadly, always have) can shake me so thoroughly that I question how strong I am as a woman. For a few tender days or weeks I feel anxious and broken.

We women should be strong about our sexuality. We’re told that everyday be feminists and Cosmopolitan. Female empowerment is a good thing. So why do I still feel like nothing when I’ve given myself sexually to a person and then been dropped? Rejection. It’s ugly and it hurts. Even if I didn’t like the guy that much, getting rejected is what is so painful, that I put myself in that situation, that I thought I was in control when I wasn’t. When I let myself do something that I’m ashamed of when I don’t want to be ashamed of it. I’ve added one more notch to the old belt and for what? I wish men didn’t have that kind of power. I wish I were more like a man in my sexuality. I act like I am. I tell myself I am. But, I’m lying to myself.

I’m a confident person. I have an amazing support group of people who love me and yet, I still feel this way every time. A little bit shattered, a little bit shaken – shell-shocked.

And I enjoy sex. I like doing it and (almost) everything that goes along with it. It can be hot, dirty, sweet and I do really enjoy it. But like I said, my relationship with sex is complicated. It’s hard not to feel vulnerable when I’ve been naked and pressed up against another person’s sweaty body in the throws of lustful abandon.

When rejection happens, it makes me question myself. And it’s often because I wonder: Why? Why didn’t they want me? Even if I didn’t want him, why didn’t he want me? That’s where the doubt comes from and the deep, sickly sweet feeling in the very bottom of my belly, stretching over my spleen making me misty-eyed and red in the cheeks. There lives a demon of regret inside me when I wish I could say, “Carpe Diem.”

Another night. Another sexual encounter in my experimental early 20’s. Even though it was a technical fourth date and I was supposed to be able to do this without feeling guilty. I was supposed to come out of this okay.

But there I am standing on the platform of the train at midnight. Alone again. He could have paid for a cab. He didn’t even walk me to the train. I hear my mother’s disapproval in the near future (and, frankly, my own disapproval). I hear her asking me why I didn’t value my body more than this. I feel the onset of that sinking feeling, that depth of despair that no one can fully understand until they’ve felt it themselves. Dirty, used, and alone.

All I can do is pray that this will be the last time, but I know it won’t be. I know I’m not finished with the mistakes of my youth. Not yet. The trials of the future are there standing in front of me, glaring, while the demon stares back. What now? Am I less of a person standing there on that damp train platform in my army coat wishing I were somewhere else, wishing that I were someone else? I’m waiting for that train to arrive, the one that will take me home.