Content note: lengthy, frank discussion of at least one human’s sexuality
Lengthy frank was on purpose and I’m not apologizing.
Second content note: said discussion is unlikely to be erotic or sexy, sorry – unless your kink is stories of awkward, ignorant, repressed sexuality, in which case, enjoy!
Third content note: profanity, lack of euphemisms – I call things by their proper names unless I’m making bad puns and innuendo.
For homeschooled evangelical Christian girls, growing up in an oppressive, repressive religious atmosphere, isolated from your peers, often means that you will be simultaneously mature and naive, overdeveloped and underdeveloped emotionally.
Normal milestones and normal emotional development may not occur, or may not occur at normal times.
Which is in part why I’m apparently experiencing a second sexual awakening at age 38, because THAT isn’t awkward at all.
My first sexual awakening was mild but memorable to me. (Also literal.) I woke up one night shocked and a little mortified to realize that sex no longer sounded horrifying, and even seemed like something I might want to do. Two weeks later, right around my 14th birthday, I had my first period.
I remember masturbating as early as 6 or 7, getting caught, and receiving the distinct impression it was something shameful. I kept masturbating, but made sure to keep it secret after that. I hadn’t associated it with sex, though. I grew up in farm country and knew all about animals mating, but I didn’t know humans had sex.
That discovery would occur at age 8 or 9. I was listening to our male guinea pig chase our female guinea pig around their aquarium, both of them squealing (weee weeee weeeeeeeeee!), and found it to be a hilarious and undignified process.
“I’m glad humans don’t mate,” I said.
My sister J couldn’t let that pass.
“Yes they do!”
“No they don’t!”
I ended up frantically yelling for my mom, who came to our door – we were supposed to be asleep by then.
“Mom, humans don’t mate, do they?” I asked.
She was silent for a long moment. (One could even call it a pregnant pause, if they wanted to be a jerk to their readers.)
“How do you think you got here?”
I was silent, then.
(Thanks for the informative talk, mom, it was not at all scarring to picture sex as a man chasing a woman around a room while they both squeal at the top of their lungs. I mean, sure, that’s probably what it looks like for some people, but it’s not the average way it goes, you know?)
It should be noted my mom does not read or know of my blog, the above paragraph is the equivalent of yelling at a driver that cut me off while they speed obliviously away.
As I got older, it was easy to see that sex was secret, and often shameful. Taboo with a capital T. People were always getting in trouble because of sex, unless they saved it for marriage. Even then, it was still secret.
At age 12, I was still unaware that such a thing as a vagina existed, and that I had one. I had a conversation with our pastor’s daughter, also 12, in which we wondered if babies came out where you peed, or where you pooped. Both sounded awful, but we thought it would probably be grosser but slightly less painful to poop them out.
I was 15 or 16 before I learned it was okay to touch my genitals in order to clean them. Masturbation had always been stimulation through cloth, never directly touching my genitals.
I’d had crushes most my life. As they happened pre and post-puberty, I didn’t associate them with sexuality. A crush and sexual desire were two separate things, as far as I was concerned – and sexual desire was something I really didn’t understand.
If I had a crush on someone, they’d be constantly on my mind. I’d crave their attention and their time and their physical presence, think about them when they weren’t around, and constantly be on the lookout to spot them, but that didn’t include thinking of them in a sexual way.
The fact that I was pretty much demisexual didn’t help matters.
I couldn’t understand why my older sisters were infatuated with watching Brad Pitt shirtless in Thelma & Louise, or Daniel Day Lewis running in Last of the Mohicans. I could see that they were aesthetically pleasing people, but that didn’t explain the mystifying response.
It was incredibly rare that someone’s physical appearance could trigger an obviously sexual response for me. More often what I would experience was a feeling of being magnetically drawn to someone.
Feeling horny was usually a separate situation that happened at random, and that I dealt with when possible by seeking out my aunts’ explicit romance novels, holing up in their bathroom and skimming for sex scenes before masturbating.
By the time I was allowing myself to have sexual fantasies – something that still felt illicit and guilt-inducing even though I’d settled in for the ride, so to speak – I’d established a pattern of fantasizing about characters, either from books or media I liked, or that I made up for the purpose of the fantasy. I carefully avoided fantasizing about real people.
My first kiss, around age 20, was incredibly disappointing. That was what people made such a big deal about? That was what they portrayed on screen as a moment of heat with music swelling in the background? Ugh, humans, what the hell was wrong with everyone?
I didn’t say any of that to my new boyfriend of course. I had a little tact. Okay it was probably more fear of appearing abnormal than sparing his ego.
Kissing as an experience never improved. It had all the thrill of a handshake with the unfortunate addition of saliva.
Sex was better than kissing, at least. Plus it had the thrill of being illicit. Even though I knew I intended my relationship with my boyfriend to be a permanent one, we weren’t legally married, and thus were living in sin. Sin can make sex spicy. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons people love to make it Taboo.)
Still, even though it was enjoyable enough, it made no sense to me that this was what caused so much trouble, what people got so obsessed about. Back rubs and ice cream and swimming were all great, and no one was writing sonnets and pining away over those.
Sex, in fact, seemed like some kind of colossal joke intended to keep humans humble. Here, rub these weird, often ugly body parts together until you create pleasurable friction – oh, and by the way, the chance to share this awkward, noisy, fluid-filled genital stimulation with one or more people is something that’s going to be a huge motivator for a lot of people, and even inspire oodles of beautiful poetry and other creative works.
Sexiest description of sex ever, right? YOU’RE WELCOME!
My elaborate, secret fantasy life was more stimulating than actual sex. The fantasies usually went beyond sex, including romance and plots and characters that weren’t involved in the sex. Hell, some of my fantasies were practically books.*
Sex or masturbation were what I used when being horny edged towards uncomfortable and demanded some relief. Sometimes I enjoyed the feeling of being aroused more than I enjoyed sex, though.
Sex stopped being a relief. We were a few years into our relationship and I still wasn’t enjoying it to the degree my now-husband thought I should be. I didn’t seem to be experiencing orgasms. He became insecure about his performance. He’d show disappointment that I hadn’t enjoyed an encounter as much as he did.
It didn’t matter that he wasn’t blaming me – seeing someone’s disappointed face after sex does a number on your psyche, even if they’re feeling disappointment for you instead of feeling disappointed by you.**
I’d never been particularly good at faking or dishonesty in general, so that wasn’t an option. A blank, neutral face to try and hide my thoughts was the best I could muster and that’s not exactly a sexy response, either.
Sex became a catch-22. According to conservative Christians, I was supposed to try to have as much sex as possible if that’s what my husband wanted, but he wanted my enthusiastic participation and to know I was enjoying it on a similar level.
I can’t state enough that it was a -very good thing- that my husband wanted enthusiasm and for me to enjoy myself. A lot of women that grew up the way I did end up with husbands that don’t care if they’re enthusiastic or enjoying themselves – that may instead get off on abusing their wife.
The problem for me was that I couldn’t fake enthusiasm, and rarely felt it anymore.
Since search engines had become a regular part of life, I would research sexual dysfunction, but what I found couldn’t answer my questions, and didn’t match my situation and experience.
I told my husband I didn’t think it had anything to do with what he was or wasn’t willing to do in bed. We’d already been doing what was recommended for couples experiencing sexual difficulties. We played around with positions, he’d always paid attention to foreplay, and he even went to a sex shop and purchased a vibrator for me.
Some of the advice I found wasn’t even something I was willing to try, though. I wasn’t going to spend an hour stimulating my genitals, with or without my husband, until finally something happened. I’d end up so bored that I’d become angry and frustrated which would kill my libido and guarantee there’d be no results.
I was convinced that whatever was happening, it was me. I just wasn’t experiencing sex the way other people did. I wasn’t experiencing anything flashy or obviously orgasmic when I masturbated, either, even though it seemed to do the job and scratch an itch, so to speak.
Well this is getting REALLY long so I’m going to split it into two parts. If you make it to the end of the second part, congratulations, it’s possible you’ll know more about my sexuality than you do about your own! (Though I certainly hope not, as that would denote similar levels of not being self-aware…)