I grew up really confused about sex.

Any time the subject of boys came up, my father said he any boy’s kneecaps who showed interest in me and lock me in my room until I was 30. He claimed it was a joke, but he repeated it so often and with such conviction that it didn’t sound like a joke to me. (I didn’t realize I was also attracted to girls back then – I wonder what he would have threatened to do to them?)

He also told me that I was undesirable and no one would ever want me.

I, of course, believed him.

But I wasn’t confused about who I was supposed to be.

17 years old – still never been kissed, and SUCH a good girl that it would still be another EIGHT YEARS before I dared to have sex …

I learned early that there was no way to avoid my father’s ridicule and abusive behavior, but the best way to avoid obvious landmines was to be very very “good.” Bring home perfect grades; be intelligent but don’t speak my mind; always be polite and kind; take care of his needs before my own.

After navigating this terrain for 18 years, I went to college well-schooled in how to be a “good girl,” but with no idea how to choose an appropriate partner or build a loving, trusting relationship.

I got involved in a series of emotionally abusive relationships, always convinced that I was the problem – I wasn’t pretty enough to attract any of the people I was interested in; I wasn’t smart enough to attract anyone of value; I wasn’t sexually skilled enough to keep anyone’s attention. I believed that I needed to take whatever I could get and be grateful for it – even if it made my insides crumble.

Even worse: I wasn’t having pleasure during sex, so clearly I wasn’t just undesirable – I was also broken.

At age 42, the dissatisfaction finally became greater than the fear.

The year before, my mom had passed away from cancer. She had always been my best friend and losing her was devastating.

But her passing also opened a door that I’d never realized was closed: as an only child whose parents were both gone, I no longer had anyone for whom I had to uphold the old family stories and mythology.

I got rid of everything but the essentials, threw the rest in my car, and drove away from the familiar life I had known. I planned to spend a year traveling the United States in search of adventure and the next place I wanted to live.

What I found in addition was a sexual awakening and sexual healing that I had no idea was coming. I sought out sexy experiences I’d never allowed myself to have before, took classes on consent, boundaries, sexual communication, and more.

I stared straight into the face of the beast and dared to ask: Am I really broken? Is it true that I’m undesirable? Am I actually meant to go the rest of my life without pleasure or true companionship?

The answer to every one of those questions came back loud and clear : NO.

It turns out that there were some basic concepts and skills that I never learned while I was perfecting my Good Girl routine – and those skills and concepts make all the difference.

It didn’t happen overnight and the path has taken many twists and turns. I’m still learning every day – and probably will be for the rest of my life.

I no longer believe that “good girls” are quiet and docile and take care of everyone else’s needs before their own.

I believe that taking control of our sexuality, speaking up for our needs, and talking honestly about what really matters is the essence of goodness, kindness, and integrity.

That’s the kind of Good Girl I want to be!

What about you?