Pain: The Fuck Me and the Fuck You

I’m a masochist. A sadomasochist, technically, but today we’re not talking about my sadistic side. I recently started dating a vanilla (I know, horrors!) and a few months ago, in the “getting to know you” phase of things, he asked me about my relationship with S&M and what being a masochist is all about, for me.

I didn’t realize just how hard my desires are to explain until I had to explain them to someone for whom the answer to “you know what I mean?” will never be yes. With other kinky folk, I can say, “well, you know how blah blah blah makes you feel like so and so etc?” And they say “oh yeah totally and also blah blah blah.” But now I was starting from scratch, with no expectation that he would relate, or already know what I’m talking about before I put it into words.

I don’t think I did that great of a job explaining it to him.

Part of the trouble with explaining what it’s like being a masochist is that, for me, pain serves a lot of functions depending on what I want from the scene. Much in the way that people have sex for a lot of different reasons (for the physical pleasure, to feel loved by their partner(s), to feel forgiven after an argument, to vent frustration with each other, and on and on), I crave pain for a lot of different reasons.

It might also be useful to back up and clarify the definition of “pain.” My very favorite sex educator, Midori, doesn’t talk about pain when she talks about S&M. She refers to “intense sensation.” Her reasoning goes kind of like this: a person just finished a long scene, where s/he was bound to a cross and whipped bloody. Tears stream down his/her face, and s/he is floaty and exhausted. Then s/he steps down from the cross and stubs his/her toe. Suddenly s/he doesn’t love pain so much anymore. I don’t necessarily agree with her choice to nix the word pain, but I’d go with “controlled pain.” The stubbed toe is uncontrolled pain. Accidental pain is generally unwanted pain. It’s pretty rare that even the most thoroughgoing masochist will burn him/herself on the stove and be pleased about it.

So when I talk about pain in this post, I’m talking about controlled pain. I’m talking about getting tied up, beaten, stretched, shoved, crushed and pushed to my limits by someone who knows what s/he’s doing and has my consent.

Definition covered? Good! Moving on.

When I think about being a masochist, there are two big umbrella categories of pain I think of. I call them the “fuck me” and the “fuck you.” As in, when I’m in pain, I’ll be screaming either “fuck me,” or “fuck you.”

20121117_171330The first kind of pain, the “fuck me” kind, is pain that I like. This kind of pain is pretty straightforward if you have a basic understanding of body chemistry and endorphins and such. When I get aroused, the lines of pain and pleasure get pretty blurry. And that’s all there is to that. So that means that I enjoy things like having my hair pulled or getting bitten, or smacked, as a part of sex. It feels good, it makes me wet. The fact that it does that for me and not for everyone is, I suppose, simply a difference in body chemistry.

The second category of pain, the “fuck you” kind, is the kind I don’t like. This pain makes me cuss and scream and sometimes cry in pain and rage because I hate it. But I still want it, and I still ask for it, and I’m pleased and content afterwards. Explaining this process to someone who is neither sadist nor masochist is problematic. Why do I want something that I hate? What do I get out of it?

The easiest answer would be catharsis. The misery and the rage are a release of emotion, kind of a brain dump. In the same way that some people scream and throw things and commit acts of violence against inanimate objects as a safe release for their emotions, I like to be hurt. That answer is true, but incomplete. The drained feeling when I’ve screamed and cried and my body is aching and throbbing is cathartic. But there’s something else going on in my head as well.

When I play hard with someone, when s/he gives me the “fuck you” kind of pain, it has to be someone that I trust completely, because I’m asking this person to dig into all the nasty darkness inside me and make me feel it on the outside. I’m asking my top to make me feel misery and fear and pain and rage, and to expose all of it. I don’t like to display my negative emotions in front of anyone. I consider myself pretty emotionally honest, and I’ll tell a person how I’m feeling, but I don’t like to show it. I don’t like to cry where people can see, and if I show anger I will be comically hyperbolic so it’s made non-threatening. I am pretty emotionally fragile, and because of that my emotions scare me; I constantly worry that exposing my emotions to other people will scare them too. Thus will I be pegged as “that crazy girl,” and henceforth be unlikeable. Is this a rational fear? Probably not. But it’s one I suffer from constantly, and more so within a romantic relationship, because it comes with not only a higher expectation of emotional honesty, but higher stakes if I scare the person off.

However, if the reason I’m sobbing and screaming and crying is because I spent the last 30 minutes getting caned, no one could blame me for that. I can be as vulnerable and messy as I need to be, and trust that the person I’m with expects it, and knows how to handle it. And even better, I know that my partner won’t feel the guilt that often comes with seeing someone they love in pain. If the reason I’m crying is because I’m anxious, my partner feels the need to take some kind of responsibility, that they should be making me happier. And once my partner starts to be upset, I shut my own flow of feelings off and take care of them. During a scene, my partner is making my cry on purpose, because I asked for it. My extreme emotional reaction is not going to cause guilt or worry, because it was intentional and controlled.

At this point, I realize it’s starting to look like I use pain as therapy. I don’t know if it makes it any better to point out that I’m also in therapy, but I will also say that therapy helps me in a very different way. When I see my therapist, I speak candidly about my emotions, including the hurtful and irrational ones, and the parts of my life that are affecting them. Together, we develop strategies to more effectively deal with the parts of my life that cause anxiety and pain.

When I go into a scene where I want the “fuck you” pain, I’m not trying to fix anything. I’m not trying to resolve my anxiety, I’m just giving myself permission to display all the darkness and the madness that fly around my head all day. I can give up all semblance of the emotional control, and even sanity, that define my daily existence. Afterward, if it’s a good scene, the otherwise constant noise in my head is muffled for a little while. I’m exhausted, drained, and quiet. And my partner is there with me, to hold me until I come back to being myself. I’ve exposed everything about my mind that frightens me, and my partner has caused it, seen it, and is ready to keep loving me afterward. In much the same way that having sex with my partner reaffirms that they love me and find me attractive, being hurt by a partner reaffirms that I can trust them, and that they’re not afraid of my darkness.

Every time I’ve read and revised this post, it still aches of incompletion. I don’t think there are words for the kind of satisfaction that comes from being broken by someone I love. I don’t know that I can really properly explain how it makes me feel, and why I crave it. I do hope that I’ve at least chipped away at a little of the mystery.

Advertisements

Cheating Confessions, Part 2: His Best Friend’s Penis

Cis-men – especially heterosexual cis-men – are widely assumed to be fiercely competitive, and in my experience this assumption has frequently proven true. In my poly lifestyle I find my male partners often take a long time becoming accustomed to one another and realizing they don’t have to fight for dominance. Mostly, though, this competition is subtle: scrutinizing each other’s behavior, being possessive of me, that sort of thing. I have only once, in my lifetime sexual history (which, I admit, is less than a decade), had a man directly ask me to compare his sexual performance, and specifically the size of his cock, to that of another man. True story.

45_505216325605_5394_n

I’m really enjoying posting photos corresponding to the phases of my life I write about. This is from fall 2006, at a friend’s birthday party.

The fall of my sophomore year of college, I came back to campus (after a very eventful summer which is a subject for another story) and to my boyfriend Alex who was at this time unaware of my sexual indiscretions. We only stayed together about two weeks into the school year; just enough time for one more cheat before the break-up. When I say this is “part 2” I’m really not speaking chronologically: there were two other men in the interim, but this story is related to part 1 so I’m telling it first. Yes, I hear you, get on with it. Right, so where was I. Just got back to campus for sophomore year of college, Fall 2006.

Scott had gone back to his parents’ house in north Florida to go to another college, and I found myself becoming closer with his best friend, Tyler. I had gotten to know Tyler pretty well the previous year, and our friendship was quite similar to the one I had with Scott. Tyler, though, was more fickle in his affections, and the year before I often found myself ignored by him for a month or more at a time. When he was interested, however, we spent a lot of time together, and I spent quite a few nights in his bed (which was, conveniently, across the hall in the dorms). Like Scott, we didn’t have sex at first; unlike Scott, I didn’t have sex with Tyler until sophomore year, and we then had the opportunity for repeat performances.

Only the first time he and I had sex was while I was still with Alex, so I suppose this is only partly a cheating story, and mostly just a bad-fucking story.

Tyler knew throughout our friendship that I was involved with Scott, and sometimes looking back on it I think they might have talked about me quite a lot, possibly even turned the whole thing into a game between them. I find myself wondering about that because the first time I saw Tyler’s cock he outright asked me if it was bigger/better than Scott’s. I figure he was hoping for an answer he could rub in his best friend’s face. Well, to be perfectly honest, I only ever interacted with Scott’s penis one time, the room was dark, and I didn’t get a very good look. That was my answer, and it was the truth.

Tyler, though, was damned proud of his equipment and wanted it flattered: not without reason, as it was sizable and very interesting looking when it was hard. That sounds like a left-handed compliment, but I generally don’t have a lot of comments to offer about the aesthetics of a penis. Interesting means I liked to look at it, and that’s about the best compliment I’ve got in that department. I was nonetheless a bit flabbergasted by his directness in asking about his best friend’s package in opposition with his own.

Unfortunately for Tyler, his cockiness (see what I did there?) got the better of him, and he failed to actually figure out how a woman’s body works. Apparently someone informed him that big dicks gave women orgasms, and he stopped reading the manual after that. Obviously he wasn’t completely hopeless or I wouldn’t have spent so many nights in bed with him before getting formally introduced to the aforementioned penis. Tyler was extremely seductive and arousing before he got into my pants – hell, with the amount of time and effort he put into being with me at that time, he was practically my boyfriend. And he was a good one, then. We spent loads of time together, often in his car (a Tiburon, which at the time I thought was bitchin’ but now I realize is the staple vehicle of douchebags…though he and Scott both had absolutely beautiful sound systems in their cars, and we would often just drive around with the windows open listening to music. I sometimes think that their cars seduced me as much as they did. Beautiful music and vibrating engines will do that to a girl. Aaaaanyway, this was the longest parenthetical ever.) since we were college students with no money for real dates. In public, he was affectionate – in private, he was very physically attentive. He could get me panting and desperately wet with his touch.

This part of the story is depressing for me - allow me to soften it with this funny picture of me climbing a dead tree. Also from fall 2006.

This part of the story is depressing for me – allow me to soften it with this funny picture of me climbing a dead tree. Also from fall 2006.

All that completely turned around when our relationship became directly – which is to say penetratively – sexual. His idea of sex was to kiss me long enough to get me naked, then the condom went on and it was time for penetration. I often wasn’t wet at all, because, well, why would I be? This was yet another reason I grew to hate condoms over the years – if I’m not moderately lubricated already, the condom will effectively parch me completely. And then, bad friction. Bad friction while he pumped away on top of me, in missionary position, on a squeaky dorm bed. I did my best to tighten my muscles around him to get some deeper sensation, but with no warm-up my vagina would have none of it. I have never in my life faked an orgasm, but I admit I played up my enjoyment with him quite a lot.

After we had sex a few times, our relationship changed drastically. No longer courting me, he didn’t go out of his way to see me or be kind to me. And apparently dissatisfied with my sexual performance, he would openly mock me in front of our mutual friends, saying that I would “just lie there.” I’m pretty sure the phrase “dead fish” came up once or twice (which, for anyone other than him who has ever had sex with me, is obviously laughable). Generally he was a complete jerk, and then would ask if I was coming up to his room at night – though he often sent me back to my own room afterwards, which this semester wasn’t even in the same building as his. I admit, I went up to that room more than once after this behavior started. It took some time for it to sink in that he really was going to go ahead and treat me like crap now.

Tyler also asked me about his sexual abilities compared with Scott’s, and I don’t remember what I told him, but in hindsight comparing the experiences is amusing to me. When Scott left our college, he told me that he regretted not being around to pursue a real romantic relationship with me. After I started having sex with Tyler, our relationship became significantly less intimate than it was before. Funny things.

The only overall positive experience of having sex with Tyler that I can remember was a threesome that we had with my best girlfriend at the time. She and I had a sexually active friendship, and on several occasions had threesomes with guys that I was involved with. We had a lovely sexual chemistry, so the experiences were universally pretty awesome, and this was no exception. I think we managed to get Tyler caught up enough in our pheromones that the encounter was a satisfying one for everyone. She later theorized that he was using me to get into bed with her, but I don’t necessarily buy that. I briefly considered posting one of the many photos I have of her and me together, but unlike the men in these stories I still care about her enough to be interested in preserving her privacy.

As usual, with these little stories and glimpses, there’s no moral or nice little tie-in to end the story. Though I think I will end that story with this one: not long after Tyler and I stopped having sex (which was less a direct break-up and more a tapering off of contact), Scott came to visit us on campus. We were sitting outside smoking, and I headed inside to go to bed. Scott got up, and gave me a hug, and we were generally happy to see each other and catch up that night. Tyler got up to hug me, and I blew him off. He said something about why didn’t he get a hug, he thought he was my friend, something meant to be comical but also was a little petulant. I told him of course we’re not friends, you’re not even nice to me. BA-ZING! Yeah, no, not a great burn, but I almost never say anything mean to anyone, so being honest like that felt really good. It was really nice to place being honest about my feelings over not being rude.

Cheating Confessions, Part 1

I have a long standing issue with impulse control. By that I don’t mean that I find myself unable to control my desires. I mean that I understand exactly what I’m doing, I know that I can stop at any moment, I know there are consequences to my actions. But, frequently, I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway. This trait frightened me when I was going through my sexual exploration phase.

When I say sexual exploration, what I mean is cheating on Alex. I was a fairly attractive girl, and guys did pay attention. Teenage guys, who have the mental capacity of a grub and the sex drive of one of those little test rats with the pleasure buttons.

The first one was named Scott. We met my freshman year of college – I don’t have a good story about how we met, just a fairly cliched mental image. There were concrete benches in the courtyard of our dorms. It was night-time, we were under a street lamp on a bench. He was in the seat, I was perched on the back because I am incapable of sitting properly in a chair. It’s not especially telling, I know, though I suppose I could make that scene into a metaphor for how I dangled the carrot of sexual possibility in front of him for the rest of that year.

Our “friendship” consisted of spending a lot of time together, casually, like real friends, in public venues. We’d eat lunch together in the cafeteria, had mutual friends, went to parties, you know, college friend stuff. But then in the evenings he would ask me to come hang out alone in the room with him. Inevitably, we’d wind up cuddling in his bed, where he would systematically attempt to fuck me, and I would attempt to get as much gratification out of the experience as I could without doing so.

Early on, I was not only resistant but a tad spiteful. Once, he told me he wanted to get me drunk, so that I would lower my inhibitions and sleep with him. A short time later, I went to my first college party, and got drunk for the first time. After three Parrot Bay Coconut-and-Diet Cokes, I picked up the phone and called him. My first and only drunk dial. It consisted of the following witty dialogue:

206610_508600393905_8648_n

There’s me, at the party where I made my first (and last) drunk dial. Did I mention it was pirate themed?

Scott: Hello?

Me: Hey, guess what? I’m drunk right now!! And guess who I’m not fooling around with? You!!

Scott: What?

Click

Yep. That was it. The epitome of wit, and class, I know. The problem was, the desire between us really was mutual. I wanted him as much as he wanted me, and we both knew it. But I was still in a supposedly monogamous relationship, and imposed nonsensical letter-of-the-law boundaries on myself to assuage my guilt in getting involved with Scott. Sure, I sometimes spent the night in his bed, where we would never sleep, but tease and grope each other all night. But I never kissed him, and I never let him take my clothes off. So, obviously I wasn’t cheating. Right.

When I’m feeling particularly uncharitable, I often look back on that experience as a seduction – that Scott was slowly coercing me, and I was resistant. But I think that’s mostly to keep myself from feeling like a terrible person. I encouraged his advances, even while rebuffing when he tried to push the lines. Though, I will say, he was a person with a track record for assaulting girls, so though he never forced anything on me, my view of him is colored by something he did to a friend of mine. I’m not here to share her story, as it’s not mine to tell, but suffice it to say that though our desires were mutual, he wasn’t always as equitable in his interactions with girls.

Anyway, the end of the story is utterly predictable. The day before move-out, spring of my freshman year. Scott was transferring to another school, so our teasing and seduction games had to end one way or another. I figured what the hell, we’re never going to see each other again. So, that night I spent the night in his room, and we had sex. It was…lackluster. Not tragic, but I remember very little of it (and no, I wasn’t drunk), which tells me it couldn’t have been great. He was a pretty good kisser, I remember that part. The next day he moved back to Jacksonville. We exchanged a few instant messages after that – when I told him I’d broken up with Alex he said he regretted not staying in town to pursue a relationship with me. I saw him once more after that, the next year when he came to visit some friends that stayed at my college. So, there’s another of my sex stories with an anticlimactic ending.

With This Ring – What Marriage Means to Me as a Polyamorist

This blog was originally posted in Life on the Swingset on November 28, 2012.

I went to therapy for the first time last week. Between the recent breakup with my (our) girlfriend, and general marital stresses at home, it was time to find someone to vent on that would actually be able to help, instead of just thoughtfully nodding at me and offering hugs. Not that I don’t like hugs.

One of the questions that my new, delightful, poly-friendly therapist posed to me was about marriage. We were discussing commitment, and she asked what marriage meant to me in terms of commitment, and how it’s different from a long-term boyfriend/girlfriend type of relationship.

44

Here’s me, playing with my dress on my wedding day. Photo by Brenda Sandhouse.

This is actually a pretty poignant and pertinent question for me, especially because I’ve seen so many people that seem to be on board with polyamory or open relationships, until marriage becomes a question. In an online article about an open marriage, I read a horribly vindictive comment that basically said “Sure, it’s great to fuck around when you’re young, but once you get married, it means you need to be monogamous forever.” Worse, we encountered a similar sentiment in real life with the parents of one of the girls in my constellation. My husband had to deal with his girlfriend’s dad basically treating him like a confused frat boy. His sentiment was that you know, it’s great that you can get this many girls to fall in love with you, but you’re married now. Stop that. He treated the idea of multiple partners as a great thing for a young man that wants to sow his wild oats, but that’s all. So my husband’s girlfriend’s father is now treating her like a homewrecker, and is concerned on my behalf for my marriage – mind you, I’ve never met this man.

So, no. Marriage does not mean it’s time to sever all the polyamorous connections and commit to monogamy with my one and only. Pardon my severity, monogamous folks, but that’s stupid. If I wanted to be monogamous, I would be monogamous with my boyfriend or girlfriend just the same as my husband or wife. I want to be polyamorous, and therefore I will do so with my boyfriend or girlfriend just the same as my husband or wife. Which brings up another issue I’ve come up against. I’ve heard a lot of people – poly folks included! – who have assumed marriage is off the table with any new partners because they’re already married. Yes, it’s true, unless we all move to Northern Africa or Southeast Asia, we can’t be legally polygamous. Sad, but true. But just speaking for myself, I don’t need the government to rubber-stamp my marriage in order for me to consider myself married. I am legally married to my husband, but personally that part of the marriage was primarily to make our financial lives easier. We’re now able to be on the same health insurance, and I think both our credit scores got a little better. We file our taxes together – by which I mean he does it for us, so big win for me. But I didn’t need the government to tell me when I was married – I just needed them to give me permission to do all those annoying money things. This means that I am open to the idea of being married again. It hasn’t come up, but it is hypothetically an option.

Ok, I hear all your frustrated sighs, enough stalling and explaining what marriage does NOT mean to me. What marriage does mean to me, is that if I decide to marry someone, I’m choosing them forever. I know, in the world of the 50% divorce rate, that doesn’t seem to be what marriage is about anymore. The fact that the phrase “starter marriage” even exists is evidence of that. Polyamory may have scrapped a lot of the terminology of the standard wedding ceremony (“forsaking all others,” for example), but I hold strongly to the “’til death to us part” portion. A wedding, to me, is a promise made among people in the witness of family, friends, and your optional deity of choice, that no matter what happens, that relationship will survive. My husband and I promised each other that we are committed to each other for the rest of our lives, and not just because we’ve legally tethered ourselves together. To me, the difference between being “partners,” “together,” “in a relationship,” etc, and being “married,” is the promise of forever.

That’s my easy definition, now let’s throw a kink in it, because my constellation are a bunch of kinky bastards. I’m gonna talk about my boyfriend. He’s got two ex-wives under his belt, and as

such will not get married again. Period. Hard limit. And we accepted that as part of the deal when we got together. The question – and fear – that boundary raised in me was about how much he was willing to commit to a relationship. Based on my personal definition of marriage, “never getting married” meant “never making promises.” It meant forever wasn’t an option. But the world doesn’t operate on my definitions of things. So when he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I started doing some hard thinking. Once again, I do not have a gift-wrapped platitude to close with, because life doesn’t come with those. But I am reconsidering the meaning of commitment, within marriage and outside of it. The one thing that is certain about polyamory is that you have to let your definitions be fluid. All of them.

The Rules – Constant Communication in Polyamorous Relationships

This blog was originally posted in Life on the Swingset on June 19, 2012.

I live by two non-negotiable rules in my relationships, which are the foundation for my sense of security and trust with any other human being and the starting point from which all other relationship boundaries are built. The rules are, “Talk about everything, all the time,” and “No surprises.” The first rule is the most important, as the second is something of an offshoot from it, but these are the standards to which I hold myself and the people with whom I surround myself.

Talk about everything, all the time. This sounds like the simple answer that is always given when someone is offering relationship advice. “Talk to your partner!” “Communicate!” In a way, yes, that is what it is. But this rule is a lot more than that. I apply my rules not only to my romantic partners, but to anyone in my life whose opinion and trust are valuable to me. When I say, “talk about everything, all the time,” I really mean that I want to know everything. Not all news is good news, and not all bad news has a solution, but allowing anything to go unsaid leads to secrets and, potentially, lies.

Rather than vague admonitions, I’ll offer you an example. In my previous post regarding grey areas of affection, I referenced a person in my life who falls into a nebulous category. He is in a monogamous marriage, but he and I share an acknowledged chemistry which we play upon to our mutual advantage. From a certain perspective, a person might argue that it would have been wiser for us to leave any attraction or interest unspoken, because to mention it is acknowledging its existence and asking for trouble for the person in the monogamous situation. My counter-argument is that to leave the attraction unspoken and “understood” is first off assuming that both people understand what’s going on, which is not necessarily true. Second, to avoid that conversation prevents an honest and useful discourse regarding the emotional and physical boundaries of the relationship. Relationship boundaries are tailored to the people involved, and if two people aren’t fully honest with each other, they can’t set boundaries that will keep them both emotionally satisfied and secure.

I once heard a person in a monogamous relationship say that she felt betrayed by a partner’s interest in someone new not when that emotional attachment occurred, but when it was acknowledged. Her partner told his outside interest that he had feelings for her, they discussed it, and accepted that it was mutual but couldn’t lead anywhere. His partner felt that if he had said nothing to this girl, she would not have felt betrayed by him, because to express the emotion makes it somehow more real. I can understand the visceral, emotional urges that make this sound like a really good idea. If he hadn’t told her, then they could just keep being friends and pretend like nothing was between them. The trouble with pretending, though, is that it’s a whole lot like lying. While this guy’s girlfriend might have felt more secure if he kept his outside feelings a secret, he would have been betraying his friend by concealing his true feelings for her. How we treat our friends is based on how we feel about them. That sounds incredibly obvious and inane, but if we aren’t honest about how we feel about one another, we can’t develop legitimate relationships. Imagine the opposite – if a friend secretly despised me, that would have to come to light or our relationship would be poisonous.

Another issue that I find disconcerting is the idea of leaving something unspoken and understood. This idea is that you and another person both know something about your feelings toward one another, but you intentionally don’t address it directly. I refuse to leave anything “understood” between myself an a person that I care about. I am easily confused and misled by subtlety, and I would rather be utterly gauche with my bluntness than misunderstand someone’s intentions. I have often said that I would be much happier if a person who is interested in me would simply state it point-blank to my face than try to hit on me, gauge my reactions, and move slowly. This is because I will assume that everyone falls slightly on the positive side of neutral in their feelings toward me unless I am explicitly told otherwise. This means hitting on me is a generally ineffective strategy. The end result on more than one occasion has been that a person assumed I had no interest and moved on, when in fact I had no idea what was really going on. This is a frustrating problem that is, I think, incredibly easy to alleviate.

Talking about everything all the time is also the best way to implement the “no surprises” rule. I have shared quite a few details with my partners that have, in retrospect, turned out to be trivial, because I am trying to stave off the possibility of a surprise in the future. For example, if I’ve been flirting with someone but I’m not sure if real mutual interest will develop, I still tell my partners about it. Because I think they would rather know about flirting that doesn’t lead anywhere than have the reverse happen: Surprise! So-and-so asked me out, or so-and-so and I made out at the bar last night. When I used to maintain an online dating profile, I would tell my husband about anyone who I exchanged more than two or three messages with. The vast majority of them came to nothing, but I would rather be overly cautious. Unexpected changes seriously mess with my comfort level, so I do my best to avoid pushing them onto anyone else, and I expect the people around me to do the same. While my partners have the right to seek both physical and emotional relationships with anyone they deem worthy, if I were to find out after the fact that one of them had a sexual encounter that I had no forewarning of, I would be devastated. If a person I considered a close friend revealed that they had an emotional or sexual attraction to me that I was not made aware of, I would be offended. Surprises are never good for me.

With the exception of presents, presents are good.

My First Time

My first sexual experience is a difficult thing to pinpoint. I spent my teenage years with the same boyfriend, starting at 14 (March 2002, freshman year of high school), up through 18 (August 2006, sophomore year of college). I wasn’t exactly a late bloomer, but I certainly wasn’t ready to lose my virginity at fourteen. Fifteen, still no, but maybe I can try a handjob, and I guess you can finger me. Sixteen, no, but let’s learn oral sex. Let’s give me my first orgasm, my first mouthful of cum. Seventeen, almost, so close, then two weeks before my eighteenth birthday ok sure, let’s give this thing a try.

Those three years leading up to this moment, Alex (my high school boyfriend) and I had a totally sexually fulfilling relationship. We had a delightful track record of orgasms to offer one another, with our hands, our mouths. We were wild children who fooled around in the back of his van (Oh! What a crying shame when he traded that van for a PT Cruiser! Oh the humanity!), in dressing rooms of department stores, in parking garage stairwells and the back rooms of my church.

 

IMG_0719

This is me, around the time I’m talking about, curled up with Alex. His face is cut out, though I don’t know that he would know it if I failed to respect his privacy.

At this point in my life I was so wrapped up in stereotypical ideas of sex and virtue that, I shit you not, I gave my boyfriend my virginity as a birthday present. It was his 20th birthday, and about two weeks before I turned 18.

When we finally decided to “go all the way,” something changed. I can’t tell you if it was wearing a condom, or anxiety, or just one of the mysteries of the universe. But once his penis started spending time in my vagina, Alex lost the ability to maintain an erection. Over the final eight or nine months of our relationship, I could probably count on one hand the number of times we completed the act of copulation. Sometimes I think this was a big part of why we broke up.

Sometimes I also wonder if “losing his/my virginity,” in big official culturally acceptable terms, was just too much for him. Because up until that point, he could negotiate with his Catholic brain that he was maintaining our virtue, that we were going to wait until we were married. By teen logic, we were both still virgins until penile-vaginal penetration occurred. But once we transgressed that, maybe it took things too far for him.

Virginity is a big deal in our culture, but for me “losing it” was mostly about being afraid of being penetrated. Alex wasn’t exceedingly large, but anything bigger than two-fingers was a big step for me. I was right, it did hurt the first time, but that was brief and really not major for me. What was major was trying to figure out what it meant when my partner suddenly couldn’t maintain an erection anymore. Was there something wrong with me that wasn’t pleasing him? I had no idea, and neither of us had the ability to communicate freely and openly about our sexuality, because no one ever told us we were supposed to. Sex was a thing that you did or you didn’t do – it wasn’t a thing you discussed in a frank, objective manner. His guilt was immense, and I was confused.

Sex with Alex never got better. And that’s a shame. It’s not a great “how I lost my virginity” story, it’s just a true one.