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

Posts tagged ‘Shaun’

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.


the other shoe

It’s a cardinal rule of life, isn’t it, that whenever you smugly announce that something is easy for you, you’re shortly destined to encounter snarls and snags and all manner of complications that make you wonder what you were smoking when you used that “e” word.

In the 48 hours since I wrote my last post, Shaun has asked Athena to be his girlfriend, and she has almost accepted. “Almost” in the sense of “a work in progress nearly completed” rather than “a possibility narrowly avoided.” She has reservations, and she makes decisions as cautiously and reluctantly as I ever have (which is to say, very), but I feel fairly sure she’ll say yes before long. Which puts me smack dab in the middle of the new territory that I admitted, last post, that I’d yet to explore.

What that territory is is a little hard to define. I’ve shared Shaun with another girlfriend before (the short-lived Bess), so it’s not that by itself. This situation is very, very different from the Bess situation, and in fact is dramatically better in just about every way I can think of. Better, but also harder. The swirl of feelings I’m having, some positive and some negative, is one of the more intense emotional cocktails life has mixed up for me.

Here’s the biggest hard thing. My relationship with Shaun, as I’ve described before, began when he was an emotional wreck. He had very little to give me, and I expected even less. From the outside, I’m sure it looked like something that would never last, and I’m still not sure why it did. But for whatever reason, those early days of clinging together from need (his much greater than mine, but mine was there too) turned into a relationship of deep trust, comfort, and affection. We’ve only been together for 4 to 6 months, depending on how you count it, but in many ways it feels like we’re an old, cozy, established couple with years of history behind us.

That’s very nice — it’s the kind of relationship I trust and desire most — but the down side is that we completely missed the giddy infatuated stage. I’ve known for a long time that this was how things would look, and I’ve felt some pangs of sadness over that, but not too much. I’m happy for what we have. And one nice thing about polyamory is that, even if I’m with Shaun till the day I die, I’ll still have the opportunity to go through that giddy infatuated stage with someone else… hopefully several other people.

Here’s the problem, though. With Athena, Shaun gets to go through the giddy infatuated stage (poly geeks, which is most of us, call it “new relationship energy” or NRE for short), and because of the level of chemistry between them, it’s going to be intense. I’m really happy about that for him, especially because I feel like it will be another important step in healing from his breakup. But there’s that voice in my head, and today it’s been shouting very loudly, and what it says is, “It’s not fair.” Because it isn’t. I missed out on the NRE, and it wasn’t because of anything I did or anything I am (although one of my biggest insecurities is that I’m incapable of arousing those giddy feelings in anybody, and although I know it’s not true, you can bet it’s not helping this situation any.) I wouldn’t want things with Athena to be any different, and I agree that she’s totally deserving of all the intense feelings he has toward her (I’m a little infatuated with her myself), but watching her get what I would have liked to have is just not going to be easy on me.

But nobody said this was going to be easy. And the rewards here far outweigh the burdens: I get to have this fascinating, beautiful person in my life; I get to see Shaun finally getting something he’s wanted for a good nine months now; and I expect I’ll be taking part in some very hot threesomes on a regular basis. On the whole, I’m happy and excited and eager to see what the next few weeks will bring. But being happy and excited on the whole doesn’t preclude having some strong sorrows and anxieties in the midst of it. I’m just trying to deal with each feeling as it comes up. Stay tuned?

suddenly slutty

Fashion puzzle for the new millenium: what to wear when you’re about to meet the woman your boyfriend is dying to have sex with?

Six months ago, a question like this was nowhere on my mental landscape. Yesterday night, it was the first thing I had to figure out upon coming home from my work. So has my life changed. Six months ago, polyamory was an interesting lifestyle that a friend of a friend of mine practised; unless I was talking about that particular friend, I didn’t give a thought to it. This morning, I woke up in a bed with my boyfriend and the aforementioned woman-he’s-dying-to-have-sex-with.

The surprising thing to me is how easy it is, how natural. (People who have entered into polyamory with great struggle and agony, feel free to throw things at my head.) In fact the aforementioned woman (okay, she needs a name: Athena is appropriate, I think) commented last night on how I’d gone from conservative Christian virgin to polyamorous, bisexual, and kinky. It sounds like a dramatic change, but to my mind it’s quite simple. Growing up, I had exactly one rule about how to do sexual relationships (only within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage), and exactly one source of that rule (because God says so, and God knows what’s best for me.) I never absorbed a lot of the secular cultural prejudices against nonmonogamy, BDSM, and homosexuality, because I had no need for them.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense without further explanation. To start: I think most human beings have an intuitive sense of the inherent danger in sexuality. Certainly there are a lot of cultural voices preaching this danger, but I think those are generally dressing on an innate instinct. And the instinct is true: sexuality is powerful, and everything powerful carries at least a seed of danger. Yes, it gives pleasure, it creates life, it strengthens human bonds, but it also has the potential to cloud rational judgement, to fuel violence, and to carry disease. So. Our brains are formed to crave sexual activity, but also, at least a little bit, to fear it.

And think about the experience each of us has in going through puberty. Our bodies and our brains change dramatically; scores of things happen that we can’t control, some of them pleasant and some of them unpleasant. Even if we welcome the change, it’s profoundly unsettling, and I think most people instinctively reach for some kind of rules and structure in order to help mitigate the feeling of being a helpless plaything of biological forces.

So. According to my ad-hoc, shamelessly subjective psychological analysis, the need to have some kind of rules about sexual behavior is pretty common to human nature. Even people who don’t have religious bases may internalize rules like “only if you’re in love” or “only with one person at a time.” Me, I didn’t internalize any of those, because my “God says only have sex if you’re married, and God knows best” was ironclad protection against that sense of danger. So once I stopped believing that, the only thing I had to consult was my own inclination.

And my own inclination seems to be decidedly polyamorous. I liked having a thoughtful discussion with my boyfriend about whether he should answer a booty call from his ex. I liked sitting with his hand on my knee while I flirt with his friend across the table. I liked lying on one side of the bed and seeing the parallel curves of Shaun’s and Athena’s neck and shoulders as he lay with his arms around her. (He wants her so badly. They haven’t had sex yet. I relish the tension, the drama of unfulfilled desire, even as I hope it ends soon.)

It’s only been six months, and I know there’s a lot of territory for me yet to explore, and I’m sure some of it will be more difficult. But it’s going well so far.


I am thinking about Shaun today.

This is not unusual. He is my lover, so I think about him often, and he was my first, so I will probably think about him recurrently through the rest of my life. But today I am thinking about him and want to write about him.

I met him under the rafters of my favorite pub. A friend of mine was having a small party and he was the only face I didn’t know. Slim, dark-haired, intelligent — I decided quickly that he would do. I was looking to make a conquest, having spent a previous hour crying over the withering of a promising affair. I slid in next to him and put on brilliance, vivacity, boldness. Somewhat to my surprise, he responded. He loved good beer and British sci-fi, his intelligence showed itself to be subtle and grounded in good judgement. By the end of the evening, he was lightly stroking my leg under the table. I am always startled into immobility by a blunt advance, but I did find the momentum to shift my leg an inch or two closer to him.

He lost no time in getting my number, in finding me on facebook, in reading my blog (the other one, the one that uses my real name.) He made it clear very quickly that he was polyamorous, that he had a girlfriend. I was intrigued. We communicated regularly throughout that week, and both expected to get together very soon. After three days, when the memory of his fingers on my thighs still caused them to squeeze together hopefully, I knew I would sleep with him.

Then his girlfriend left him, and the entire landscape changed. The bright, energetic, slightly goofy man I’d met was scattered, shattered, confused, and depressed. He’d be there, on the surface, and we’d be enjoying ourselves, and then with very little warning he would slide into raw, open despair. He had moved a thousand miles to be with her; she had left him dramatically and without explanation; he was broken and bewildered. I was in the right place at the right time to catch him as he fell, and strangely his confused and painful circumstances made him exactly the right person for me, at that moment, just as I was exactly the right person for him.

I got used to the rhythm of his misery, of the way, after we had sex, he would roll to the side and be consumed by grief once the pleasure had subsided. I learned what to expect from a long silence; I learned the exact way his face breaks when he is trying not to cry. I never discovered whether sitting silently beside him, stroking his hair, and kissing his forehead was the best way to respond to his low moments: I thought sometimes that a more bracing approach, a distracting liveliness, might be more helpful, but I couldn’t manage it.

We talked periodically of the two of us, of his fears, of my expectations. For a time, my expectations didn’t reach beyond honesty. I was prepared any any moment for him to leave the state, to forswear lovers, to date seven others, to suddenly hear from her and take her back. When I went to see him, I didn’t go for love; I went for companionship, for sex, and for the satisfaction I get from soothing the wounded.

I wanted to write about the changes that have taken place since, but I realized I would have to shift tenses. All the above, about meeting him and knowing him through the first weeks after his breakup, is in the past. The landscape has changed again, but the change is gradual and still going on. So I’ll leave that for another day.

jealousy, mistrust, and other things beginning in “3”

A little background on my personal life is in order here. Shaun, my current (and first) lover, is polyamorous. I’d heard of polyamory before meeting him, and thought it was an interesting idea, but it had never occurred to me to explore it personally. Funny how being completely hot for somebody broadens your horizons, no? So now I’m dating a man who is seeing me and another woman pretty steadily, and occasionally goes out with, or just flirts with, other women too.

It’s going well so far. Raw sexual jealousy is not part of my emotional makeup — jealousy is complicated and many-layered (there’s a great little discussion of jealousy here), and I’ve experienced jealousy springing from insecurity, but I’ve never had the visceral reaction that many people have to the idea of my lover in bed with someone else. Mostly I’m curious about the experience; often I’m a little turned on.

But it’s still uncharted waters for me, and I’m staying alert to potential problems. Bess, the other woman Shaun’s seeing (the names I use for most people here are pseudonyms, by the way), is older than both of us and at least as experienced as he is. I haven’t met her, though I’d like to. Apparently she’s said, more than once, that she’s worried about me because I’m so very inexperienced, and she’s afraid that at some point I’ll want Shaun to be exclusive to me. He had similar worries when we started seeing each other, but he says they’ve mostly faded.

The first couple times he told me about this (Bess’s worry about me) I took it to mean she was concerned for my emotional health, and Shaun’s to a lesser extent. He and I had a conversation last weekend, though, and he mentioned that she had a big traumatic breakup a few years ago, and has a hard time trusting women. Naïvely, I asked, “Wait, was the breakup with a woman?” (It wasn’t.) It’s weird to me that, to someone who dates only men, trust in women would ever be a factor. I mean, I think I get the general idea: the fear is that some devious and manipulative woman will try to steal your man, right? But granted that devious and manipulative women exist, and granted that your man might be desirable to some of them, shouldn’t you be worried more about his actions than theirs? Can a competent human adult really be “stolen”? Or is your fear an indication that you don’t think he’s smart enough or loyal enough to fight off the sirens?

I think I’m being slightly naïve here. I know lust impairs the brain, and I know that a really devious and manipulative person can run rings around someone acting in good faith — for a while, anyway. I’m reading She Came to Stay, by Simone de Beauvoir, and I’ll reserve full judgement until I get to the end, but holy cow do I want to wring the little bitch’s neck. (If you’ve read it, you’ll know what little bitch I’m talking about.) But I still expect any man — or woman — I get involved with to have enough good sense, and enough attachment to me, not to get carted off by some siren. And I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around a frame of mind that thinks differently.

Back to my specific situation: it occurred to me after this last conversation that Bess might be less worried that I’ll insist on exclusivity with Shaun, causing drama and upheaval for all of us, and more worried that he’ll agree to it, causing pain and loss for her. This makes a lot more sense to me (I was a little confused as to why she was so concerned for someone she’d never even met), and at the same time I think it’s completely bonkers. I would be an idiot to expect Shaun to be monogamous, and he’d be an idiot to agree to it, no matter how much he wanted to keep me. He’s tried monogamy, he’s tried nonmonogamy, and he knows what he wants. If I ever decide that I want monogamy, I’ll be saying goodbye to him. Love comes and goes, but strong lifestyle preferences are forever.

Even saying that, though, makes it clear to me that a lot of people probably don’t think that way. Which explains why people who want kids marry people who don’t, or why people who want to be stay-at-home moms and shop at Pottery Barn marry theatre majors.

Anyway. I’d like to know what other people think. If your partner leaves you for someone else, do you blame the partner or the someone else? If you’re anxious or jealous, is your mistrust directed at your partner or at the people who may be trying to “steal” him or her? And am I completely naïve to expect that my partner be able to ward off sirens on his own, or at least have the self-awareness to lash himself to the mast?