I haven’t spoken about sexual positivity in a while. But, while I was at the convention, a short discussion with someone brought up the situation that makes me want to talk about it for a bit.
There are a few misunderstandings involved when someone is a sexually positive person.
There is a basic misunderstanding in our culture about sexual orientation, that the millennial generation seems to have finally acknowledged on our cultural stage. It’s not that they were the first generation to figure it out, just the first generation to be honest about it.
Sexual orientation is truly a spectrum, not a single dichotomy. It isn’t that there is only heterosexual and homosexual. There are so many other naturally occurring variants of sexual orientation that it can become a very interesting study. I would encourage people who have never heard of this to not only visit the link in the header of this section, but also to look at the Wikipedia article for sexual orientation.
Additionally, some (NOT all) of those sexual orientations can change over a person’s lifetime. This is due to the fact that there are three components to sexual orientation: a) sexual attraction; b) sexual behavior; and c) sexual identity. I can say that the change in my own personal sexual orientation came from changes in sexual behavior and confusion about my own sexual identity, as well as having struggles with both my gender identity and my gender role.
It’s also a matter of romantic orientation (which is completely separate from sexual orientation). Someone can be, for example, pansexual but have a romantic orientation that aims them toward a particular gender. Or, someone can be asexual, but still want to have romantic involvement.
For myself, I have a romantic orientation to men and a sexual attraction to men. However, I have exhibited a range of sexual behaviors, and am still actually working to classify my sexual identity. Part of the reason I’m still classifying it is that my gender identity and gender role are being completely changed as I continue to recover and work extremely hard at fixing the issues that make me a perfect victim for a narcissistic abuser.
Let me lay it out for you. When I was younger, during my teenage years, I did have a normal level of angst about the opposite sex that any other heterosexual teenager would have. However, if I assess my memories, the reality is that it was only a romantic orientation issue. It is obvious to me now that I was quite a bit asexual until approximately the age of 21. Whether this was due to a confusion about who I was and how I should face the world or any other issues, I can’t tell you at this point.
For a short time, approximately from age 21 until I was married at the age of 25, I was admittedly promiscuous. The median number of male sexual partners for a woman in America is four. By the time I was 25, I had already been with 44 men, making my ex-husband #45. But, the reasons for why I slept with so many men changed in those four years. I will honestly admit that 21 and 22 I was sleeping with men out of a skewed view of intimacy. In essence, I prostituted myself to men in order to receive physical touch and affection rather than for any financial reasons. In fact, I can remember feeling superior to prostitutes because I did not receive monetary payment. But the bare-bones truth of the matter comes down to this: any trade of sex for anything not-sex is prostitution – and is something that both men and women do at least once in their lives.
After my marriage, I became rather asexual. It happened earlier than the issue of my ex’s impotence. Because I had spent so much time confusing physical intimacy for emotional intimacy, the physical intimacy became unimportant. Oh, I still had sex with my ex – but it was always with pain involved, and rarely if ever any actual satisfaction from the experience. That is probably why it became so much easier to enclose myself in the Ice Queen persona after he stopped having sex with me at all in 2000.
But, what the hysterectomy in 2012 actually did was break that shell in which I had enclosed myself. Different medical and psychological articles have supported my own experience – the more a woman represses her natural inclination as a sexual person, the more likely she is to have a 180° turn from her previously established sexual practices. My therapist at the time warned me of this, but I blew her off. So, approximately four weeks after my surgery, I was happily opening myself up for intimacy (both physical and emotional) to others.
In fact, my almost non-existent libido became an almost nymphomaniac need for that intimacy. But since I had not resolved the trust issue between myself and my ex-husband (both of our faults), I turned to other men.
2)Sexual Positivity Only Comes from Self-Esteem Issues
Why did I prostitute myself for affection? To be completely honest, because I was touch-starved (a.k.a. skin hunger) and I felt it was the only way to get it. My family has not always been the most physically demonstrative. Mom is more demonstrative than the rest of us. Unfortunately, some of that demonstrative behavior make me retreat further and further from her – because that affectionate behavior stripped me of my own body autonomy (in other words, she would pet me or hug me, whether or not I wanted it to happen, and was quite hurt when I would reject those attempts at affection).
I am NOT in any way blaming my parents or sister or grandmother for why I developed that need. And, if I’m completely honest, there are still times that I will refuse affection or touching because I am feeling the need for isolation. And, as an adult, I can also understand that my mother’s childhood set her up to be emotionally hungry parent.
I have always been somewhat demonstrative when it is someone else’s need rather than my own. I have cuddled and supported both men and women, because at that moment they needed to feel the touch of another human to deal with whatever it was they were dealing with. For example, at the convention I went to over the weekend, a younger woman came up to me, took my cigarette out of my hand, and grabbed both of my hands. She was shaking, and had her eyes closed. Later, I understood that the reason she needed support was because she was so drunk that she was completely out of touch with the real world, and needed a grounding point. When she opened her eyes, and looked at me, she was absolutely terrified. She had intended to do that with a mutual friend of ours, who was sitting two chairs over to my right. That friend reassured her that all I wanted to do was support her and that she could trust me. Shortly, she moved onto my lap, because I felt she needed further calming given the amount of fear of everyone and everything else around her. I still don’t know her name, but I knew she needed someone – and I was (and am) willing to give someone reassurance if they need it.
But, when it comes to admitting my own needs for touch, I was ignorant of exactly how to ask for affection without offering my body in exchange. So, honestly, I became a broken person magnet. The more I ignored my own needs, the more likely I would bring someone who wanted to use me into my sphere of influence. I had some absolutely wonderful healthy people who also showed up, but I tended to spend more of my energy with those broken people. It isn’t surprising that those healthy people often ended the relationship, because I wasn’t energetically meeting them halfway.
This is not a self-esteem issue. There are far too many other issues to over-simplify it like that.
Now, I can tell you that since I restarted dating (which I started before I left my ex – please remember, our relationship has always been polyamorous), I have nearly doubled the number of men with whom I have been intimate.
Notice the difference in word choice. Now that I am older, and understand more about myself, my reasons for sleeping with those men has become something completely different. In my younger years, I had a fear of admitting that I needed anyone else. And the need for affection is a real one. While I will honestly admit that I withheld those vulnerabilities from my ex (mostly because I could never trust him with my vulnerabilities, because he would use them to control me), I have been learning how to be vulnerable, and with whom to be vulnerable.
Choosing to sleep with or be intimate with those men now is simply another way to express a connection with someone. And being intimate with someone does not always mean sex.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to someone isn’t limited to the sexual realm. I have a number of ex-lovers with whom I am still intimate. We don’t have sex, but that doesn’t mean we’re not intimate. I bare myself to them, and they gift me the trust to bare themselves to me. I can still ask them to cuddle with me, or to in some other way allow me to deal with a particularly bad case of skin hunger. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t love sleeping with them again, but it isn’t necessary for the intimacy to be there.
In fact, where I am mentally and emotionally I actually appreciate the emotional intimacy just as much as I appreciate the physical intimacy. Why? Because it is a sign of trust. They trust me, and I can honestly say I trust them – without hiding any fear of betrayal or them using my needs against myself.
What I know now, that I did not know then, is that intimacy can come into a relationship even WITHOUT physical intimacy.
The reality is, I am far happier now. And I acknowledge the fact that some days I am going to have more skin hunger than other days. I acknowledge the fact that I can resolve the skin hunger with or without sex being involved.
Am I more of a sexual being than I have ever been before? Yes, I am. But, my continuing issues with gender roles and sexual identity haven’t gone away. I’m probably going to still have those issues until the day I die. On the other hand, I am confident enough in myself to take the risk to be emotionally intimate with someone regardless of my physical intimacy with them.