11… Moments Leading to Embracing the Fact I Have Sexuality
It’s Women’s History Month, and I am an absolute history nerd. I’m also a woman. So yay for this month. I had a voracious craving for history as a kid. As an adult, I realize I was searching for women. Women who bucked tradition, lived exceptional lives, did the unexpected. Women who did not sit down and look pretty. History, more often than not, has been documented by men, who were more concerned with their own stories than those of their mothers, sisters, wives, mistresses, and daughters. Though the stories I sought out were harder to find and less documented, they did exist. As I pulled on the thread, I found more and more extraordinary women.
As a student of history since I was seven years old, I have been acutely aware of the problems women have faced throughout documented history, and I have seen those same problems play out in far too similar ways in my own life, my friends’ lives, and in the media. For as far as we’ve come… How far have we really come?
By the time I turned into a teenager, I was in love with the resilience, audacity, innovation, and endurance of women throughout time. I still am. I also saw the glaring pattern. Women were noted in history, novel, song, and poem for two reasons: they were born to the right family; married well; and gave birth to someone [usually a boy] important OR they were someone’s mistress and or a prostitute. There are exceptions, but by and large, the pattern is clear. At the heart of this… S.E.X. Let me be clear, sex for men. Not with. For. Sex for men’s desire, power, wealth, name, lineage, so on and so forth. Wife or whore, women were notable for one reason and one reason only: their sexual/fertile availableness to men. Even the women who were not attached to men, so much focus is placed on their fuckability or their “virginity”-looking at Elizabeth I-or their sexuality was questioned-fair, lesbians have existed for a lot longer than TikTok; it’s just upped our visibility. This is a long-winded way of saying: By the time I was a teenager, it was blatantly obvious how powerful women’s sexuality is. For the good and the bad. Every single woman noted in history books (up until a very recent point but even they probably have had to do some of this) has had to leverage their sexuality in return for protection, shelter, food, power, money, and all the in betweens. Some did it overtly by being a mistress/prosititute, not having sex but leading men on, or marrying and having a “cushy,” “respectable” life. I had read enough history to know all the outcomes, the positives, and the negatives. Whore, wife, or virgin, I knew I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.
Sexuality and I have quite the shituationship.
I don’t and shouldn’t have to choose between the two. Fuck convention. Normal doesn’t exist. It’s all a spectrum, and I don’t have to pick one static spot on that spectrum. I and everyone else can be wherever we want to be on that spectrum whenever we want to be there. And that’s the problem… History has always divided women into wives and whores. One doesn’t like sex; one is only sex. Both versions erase the woman and her sexuality.
At 30 years old, I’ve finally decided to dive head first (yep, innuendo) into a sexuality journey. And I hate it. Legitimately, it makes me uncomfortable and anxious and sometimes a little nauseous. I have half-heartedly embraced and avoided my own sexuality my entire life. I’m not talking about being gay-gay. I’ve been out in some fashion for over a decade and coming out-out in November was about the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I’m talking about sex-sex. Having sexuality at all. Actually, no. I’m talking about sexuality and not sex or sexual orientation. Though the three are related, there’s a difference. I have always wavered between my need to be taken seriously as a straight-laced, conventional human and the fact I’m a human who really loves sex and leveraging the sexuality that comes very naturally to me.
Without further ado… Here are eleven moments that would define my sexuality and inevitably lead to my need to embrace the fact I am a sexual human being.
- Rape Though this should be plural, I can’t count how many times it’s happened. But every time I was raped, it pushed me further and further away from my sexuality. It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with sex and sexuality when literal years of my life sex equalled violence and sexuality equalled asking for it.
- Losing My Virginity It’s not even a good story. I just got rid of it with someone I trusted so I could finally say “yes.” But it was a pivotal moment. Terrible sex, but I got to say ‘yes.’ I learned I could consent to sex. I would continue to get raped by other men for a handful of years to come, but it’s the life I’ve had.
- Dating Men It’s hard to claim sexuality when I only dated a gender I have no attraction to. Then again, dating men allowed me to not have to confront my sexual dychotomy because I made the excuse of “I’m just not that sexual.” or “Sex is hard because of my history with sexual abuse.” Valid, but also a fucking cop out (for me personally), if I’m being honest.
- Stripping Gasp. I was a stripper to pay for my very expensive piece of paper. Really. It’s how I paid for college. I became obsessed with human sexuality and the science behind attraction while I was stripping. In my typical logical fashion, I scienced my way into making a lot of money. I had truly lived in a thought bubble where anything outside of basic sex was fringe. Hahahahahaha! Ha. I was so cute and naïve once upon a time. Sexuality is fucking weird. It’s a grayscale. There is no normal. Everyone has a kink or a thing, and it’s about embracing your sexuality and finding a partner[s] who makes you feel safe enough to explore that. As a stripper, I was quite literally paid to be that safe place for people to embrace and explore their kink and pleasure. Sometimes it was creepy, triggering, strange, cringey, awkward, but sometimes it was erotic, fun, lovely, and humorous. I walked in clueless; I walked out with my eyes wide open.
- Rape Really it’s a two parter. If I didn’t give sex, it would be taken. So I made sure I was never in a situation where it could happen because whether I said “no” or not, sex was happening. (I am very aware this is not at all true. So many men, women, and theys are polite, lovely humans who have no problem understanding consent. As a woman in my early twenties, that was not my reality or experience. So it was easier to pretend like sex was never on the table ever so I would never have to face the potential of being raped… again.)
- First Time Touching A Woman Ohhhh my god. I realized I was riding the gay train on a strip club stage a few weeks after I turned twenty, which was about three days into being a stripper. In Iowa, the laws are lax, and a great deal of touching is allowed. I touched boobs for the first time… Yeah, it was great. The fact I was getting paid to do it took some of the joy away, but hey, it was my gay awakening. Though it would take me ten and a half years to go full gay.
- First Time I Kissed A Woman I was a little drunk one night at the bar the last week of my Junior year in college. A very tiny, beautiful woman kissed me. It was the first time I kissed someone and thought, I’d like to have sex now.
- Masturbating I’m going to tell you something that I have only ever told one person. But first, back story. Masturbation has held an immense amount of guilt and shame for me. It was something I was forced to do by my high school rapist, and it just has been something I have avoided for almost half of my life. That being said… I did it when I was younger… to women. I never masturbated to men or straight sex. The fact I don’t touch myself has become the punchline to many jokes in my friend group. It’s also a great way to win Never Have I Ever. My closest friends know it’s hard for me, maybe not the why because I’ve never put words to it until right here. I’m exploring that now at almost 31. It’s an adventure akin to a battle. But it’s also an important step, that I’m hesitantly taking.
- Rape Last time, I promise. What I didn’t learn in the history books, I learned from this. Sex is powerful. Learn how to leverage it in any and every way, and it could get me in and out of situations I didn’t want to be in or situations I did want to be in. I learned where I was willing to compromise my dignity and self worth for my safety. I learned how to nuance conversations and body language in covertly and overtly sexual ways to get what I wanted no matter what. I truly believe every woman knows how to do this on some level whether they realize it or not. Some of us have just been forced to master it… Mine was for self-preservation. It worked; I’m not dead.
- Sleeping Naked Ignore the fact I was a stripper. I hate being naked. It makes me so uncomfortable and vulnerable. I don’t care if people see me naked, but the act of existing without clothes is deeply unsettling. Because I was a stripper, I am very, very good at hiding my discomfort, but to this day, I am not comfortable with my body because it is the thing that someone took away from me. So I started sleeping naked sometimes. I hate it, but it’s also kind of helping, a little, maybe, hopefully. I won’t keep you updated.
- Naughty Photos I very recently started taking spicy pictures of myself. And I’ve decided it’s important for women to have them, even if it’s just for ourselves. Actually more so just for ourselves. It’s empowering. For me, it’s a reclamation of my own body. Also, I may never look as good, as young, as strong as I do right this moment. I want to look back and think, good for me! I’m not sharing the vast majority of the pictures I have, but it makes me love my body just a little bit, which is a weird and new feeling. Looking at them makes me feel sexy and beautiful and desirable, and those are not feelings I have ever felt I am worth or deserving of.
Originally published at https://onthebl.org on March 29, 2022.