sex, love, and relationships for those of us who don't quite follow the rules

Posts tagged ‘repression’

One year later

A year and two days ago, I had sex for the first time. At 28, I was very late to the party. I already knew, from my experiences learning to masturbate (which I started doing at 25), that it would take a while not only to figure out what I liked, but to like what I liked. My thinky-brain works very fast and is always on the spot; my feely-brain works very slow, and doesn’t update me on recent events until they’re long past. What I mean is, I usually don’t know I’m angry about something until a few hours after it’s happened (that number has gone way down… it used to take days). And my body doesn’t know whether it likes a new sensation until it’s had it a few times.

So, while my darling Shaun was very considerate, that first time, about asking what I wanted, what I’d like him to do, and how I liked what he was doing, I wasn’t really able to give an answer. Now, a year later, I feel like my sexual response patterns have stabilized a bit, and I’m better able to answer those questions from a new partner.

One odd thing to me is the way I orgasm. I don’t know how many other women operate this way, and I don’t know if it’s partly a result of inexperience/late blooming, or if this is just the way my body works. I don’t really have hard, explosive orgasms in partnered sex. I do when masturbating: the typically-described crescendo, climactic spasm, and then happy exhaustion. But I’ve never had that experience in partnered sex. Instead I seem to hit a run of mini-orgasms that can go on pretty much indefinitely — ebbing and flowing a bit, but neither rising to a sharp climax nor collapsing into the post-orgasmic refractory period.

I’d love to know how many other women come like this, either sometimes or always. It used to worry me a bit, like maybe I wasn’t really coming, but I never have the sense that there’s a further peak to be reached. I think this is just how my body works, at least for now. While I’d like to experience that sharp orgasmic peak with a partner, it is nice to be able to just keep going and going and going… (last night my boyfriend told the other guy who was fucking me “yeah, she’s like the Energizer Bunny.”) And — what really helped me come to terms with the way I come — one time after some slightly kinky play with a friend, I reached this hyperaroused state where my whole body was one big erogenous zone, and even a touch on my back or neck triggered those mini-orgasmic spasms. That was awesome.

So, a year later, I feel like I’ve established some sense of sexual identity, of “what I’m like” in bed. I’m sure it will continue to evolve, but I have a foundation of sorts.

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being deliberate

Greta Christina has some great things to say about the cultural over-emphasis on spontaneous lust as the precursor to sexual encounters. She points out that sometimes you may want to want to have sex, even if you’re not turned on, and that those second-order wants “count.” She affirms that planned, scheduled sex is not somehow inferior to spontaneous, “got to have you now” sex. She mentions that this is especially important for long-term couples and older people, for whom the fires of youthful lust come more rarely. Rereading them, it strikes me that there’s another category of people who need to remember this: the chronically repressed.

A decade or more of repression doesn’t just evaporate once you’ve decided to become sexually active. There are deep-rooted habits of thought that only loosen their grip slowly. There are complicated identity issues (how do I get comfortable with the idea of myself as a sexually active person?) There’s the simple disconnection from your body; I am convinced that most of my body is less sensitive to sexual pleasure than it would be if I’d been exploring those sensations since my teens. I’m hoping I can rehabilitate myself in all three of these areas, but it’s going to take time. And meanwhile, there’s a lot of sex that I want to be having, even if I’m not hot and horny most of the time.

When I first started masturbating, there was a brief initial “can’t keep my hands off myself” phase. I was having great orgasms, and the thought of how I was going to pleasure myself later turned me on and kept me happy all day. At some point, though, the excitement waned, the orgasms became harder to reach and often unsatisfying, and my private sex life started to feel like a chore. I tried to maintain it for a while, because I did want to learn about my sexual responses, but often it was fairly perfunctory.

What I learned was sometimes akin to “101 ways to kill an orgasm,” but hey, that’s valuable knowledge too. I also learned, slowly and maddeningly, how to tune in to my body, concentrate my attention on the sexy bits rather than the running monologue in my head. Eventually, quite unexpectedly, I learned how to fantasize, adding a whole other delightful dimension to my private sex life. And little by little, I’m getting comfortable with experimentation and trying new things.

My point, I guess, is that practice is important, with sex as with most other activities, and if you didn’t start practicing sex at a time when your hormones were pushing you to do it all the time, you may need a fair bit of deliberate practice, letting your arousal follow the start of your sexual encounters rather than leading the way to them. And remembering that there’s nothing wrong with that.

The First

When it comes to sex, I showed up really late to the party. All you 20-year-old, 24-year-old virgins out there feeling like you’re the only one, take heart: I was 28 when I first had sex, and that’s “sex under anybody’s definition,” not just “cock in cunt” sex. I grew up in a religiously conservative community, and I did such a good job of repressing my sex drive that it took a good three years after leaving that community for me to get out and get myself laid.

I wouldn’t recommend waiting until your late 20s to anybody, but there are certain advantages. I come to the sexual arena remarkably free of baggage or bad mental habits. I got to process my school-age insecurities independently of sexual entanglements. Because I also avoided the whole sexually-active culture as much as possible (no erotica, no sex books, no locker-room conversations), I stayed free from some of the ugly, misogynistic and misandristic ideas that breed in that culture, until I was old enough to recognize them for what they are.

There are disadvantages too. The kind of repression that lets you be celibate for fifteen years can’t be shaken off overnight. And I can’t help but feel that being a clumsy, inexperienced 28-year-old is a lot less cute than being a clumsy, inexperienced 18-year-old. And celibacy comes with its own bad mental habits: the most annoying one, for me, being the notion that sex is a game other people play. It’s been a few months since I first had sex (we’ll talk later about how passionately I hate words like “virginity” and “deflower”), and I’m still wrapping my brain around the fact that I’m in the game now. I’m still hanging back, trying frantically to comprehend the rules, figure out how to do it right, not just in bed but in the whole ritual of flirtation and courting and aftermath. My default response to any new situation or experience is to hover in the shadows and watch until I can fake familiarity — but in this case, as with most physical activities, the only way to learn is by doing. So I’m coming to terms with that.

No amount of “the only way to learn is by doing” wisdom will stop me from prolific verbal analysis of my thoughts, my experiences, things, I read, etcetera, etcetera. And why should it? So this blog is here to give me a place to analyze and explore, in public, so I can stop pestering my long-suffering best friend with late-night text messages about the new realization I had. Some thoughts need to be shared, and responded to. I hope you’ll respond, and I know my long-suffering best friend does too. Thanks for dropping by.