I’d like to preface this by saying that what I’m writing about is scary for me. It’s uncomfortable. But because I’m so scared, this topic matters. If you ever feel incredibly strongly about something — whether you’re angry or excited or, like me, terrified — it matters. Being a human and feeling strongly about something makes it matter. And this matters to me.

Last year, as a junior, I was a gym leader to a class of forty-five freshman boys. I was sixteen. They were fourteen and fifteen. My lack of authority over the majority of them was apparent in the fact that a group of them decided to play “strip tennis” when we had a substitute teacher. Yeah. Needless to say, few of them had filters when they talked to me. I got asked if I was a “prude” or a “slut” and, most often, “How far have you gone?”

Now, obviously they meant sexually, but in response to that, I wish I had said, “I’ve gone out of my way for people because I loved them. I’ve rushed to people’s houses when they were crying because I loved them. I’ve helped drunk kids get home safe because everyone else was annoyed and because I loved them. That’s how far I’ve gone.” Because isn’t that what matters? Because when push comes to shove, when you’re the one who’s crying or drunk or emotionally wrecked, it doesn’t matter how far I’ve gone with guys. It matters infinitely more how far my love for you goes.

But the boys from my class didn’t ask about that. They asked me if I was a “prude.” Or a “slut.” And to those questions, I simply said, “I’m not telling you. You don’t need to know that. I don’t have to tell you anything about me.” I shut them up with vague answers that meant nothing because I was too ashamed to tell them the truth. With labels like “prude” and “slut,” girls like me are conditioned to think that no matter how much we do for the world, no matter how much we accomplish individually, we are ultimately judged by what we do with boys. Somehow, men decide whether or not we have worth.

In an ideal world, our regular, platonic relationships would matter just as much as romantic or sexual relationships. I would have loved it if those boys had asked me about my friends and my church group and what I think about books. And a few of them did, which I’m very thankful for. But to most people, including myself, romantic and sexual relationships seem to be more important than emotionally intimate relationships with regular friends.

I think a lot of the philosophy behind that notion is the idea that once you find your “true soulmate,” they will be your source of love. But that’s not how love works. Love comes from inside of you, from finding things to love. For me, I think my love comes from my God. For others, love might come from the purpose found in volunteering or music. But most importantly, love starts from you. It trickles out with every nice thing you do and every apology for every crappy thing you do, and it starts to build up, and you appreciate yourself a little more, and you know that you’re making a difference. And yeah, it’s small, but if you keep going, it gets bigger, and you love more and you love yourself more. That’s how it works.

I read once that Van Gogh ate yellow paint to get the happiness inside of him — which seems incredibly stupid until you lie down with someone and expect him to be there when you wake up and he’s not. This is not an attack on sex, but if it’s what you’re using to feel loved, then you’re going  to be let down. That’s your yellow paint. That’s what happens when you give the responsibility of loving you to someone or something else; you’re let down. Let other people love you, yes, but don’t rely on them to feel loved, or you’ll be disappointed.

And that’s why it bothered me so much when those boys asked me how far I’d gone. Because it reaffirms the idea that my worth, and therefore, my love, should come from what I have or have not done with guys. I’m sure there are students here who have ignored their personal boundaries to feel normal. I guarantee that there are students here who haven’t done anything and feel like they aren’t normal because of this pressure.

Because of this, I’d like to share how far I’ve gone with a guy. I am a senior in high school, I’m seventeen years old, and I haven’t had my first kiss. I have amazing friends and family and a really cute dog, and I care about people, and I do pretty well in school; but, sometimes I think that because I haven’t had my first kiss, I’m not normal, and I’m terrified of telling anyone.

But I know there is some kid in the audience who just mentally classified me as a “prude.” I’m saying this for him. I know there are kids in the audience who also haven’t had their first kiss. I’m saying this for them. But most importantly, I’m saying this for myself, the freshman me, the sophomore me, the junior me who needed a senior to stand up here and say that I was normal and I was loved regardless of not having my first kiss.

This is important. But it’s only important because it shouldn’t be.




IMG_6383Dannika is a freshman at the University of Illinois majoring in Global Studies. Her hobbies include watching documentaries on North Korea, sneaking pets into her dorm, and serenading strangers with her ukulele. In the future, Dannika wants to have two dogs and to work as a diplomat specializing in nuclear nonproliferation.

One Reply to “When “How Far Have You Gone?” Goes Too Far”

  1. Dannika, thank you for writing this article! It needs to be said and it needs to be heard. There is so much more to life and to love than “how far” and I love how you defined “how far” you’ve gone, loving your friends, family, strangers with real love, real action.
    Just as a side note, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 23 and prior to that, I often wondered what was “wrong” with me. “Am I really that undesirable? Am I unlovable?” But God was faithful and always answered, no, you are loved, you are valued. Our value does not come from what others think or say about us; it comes from what God says about us and what we believe about ourselves. Sometimes it can be hard to rise above the voices, but be brave, be strong. You are an individual and you are amazing!

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