“Let’s talk about sex,” the therapist sitting across from me says.
I squirm with slight discomfort, all the meanwhile knowing this was why I, a single, nearly-30-year-old woman with zero romantic pursuits on the horizon, was here. To, yes, talk about sex.
To talk about the sex I was actively not having. Oh, the irony of it all.
Well, it seems sex is back on the table, or at least being invited in for tea and polite (or not) conversation. And, here I am, doing my best to make the inner squirmy, red-faced, embarrassed teenager in me feel comfortable with a previously taboo subject of conversation.
Currently, sex is coming into the forefront of conversation in my inner and outer world. After nearly 30 years, I’m just now starting the conversation no one ever had with me.
Sex was not talked about growing up in a Christian home. Most who were also raised religiously or perhaps in an equally sexually-repressed environment know what I mean.
If sex was talked about at all, it was laced and lathered with shame, sin, and judgment. God forbid you even think about having sex outside of the confined, limited box of patriarchally defined man-woman marriage.
Well, here I am, almost 30, and I’m saying that none of the silent treatment I received as a child and teenager about sex was ever helpful, and rather, opened Pandora’s box of confounded self-judgment, shame, and a weird, stifled relationship to this part of me and of life.
As a woman, and for those who identify as such, sex has come with so many misperceived notions around who we are—if we are having it, how much we are having it, and how sexually free we are. Especially in the new age spiritual cultures of tantra-this, tantra-that, yoni-egg here, internal-orgasm-meeting-god-aspect-of-self that. Okay, so I’m a little bitter.
I can’t say I’ve ever orgasmed with a partner. Woah, that’s vulnerable to share. (And, I’m all about vulnerability.) But, again, sex—and communicating about sex—is a bit more foreign of territory for me.
So, yeah, I’m a little bitter when I see streams on Instagram of sexually-free and liberated pussy queens using it as yet another way to prove my inadequacy as a woman and as a human being. I can’t even “do” sex right.
How messed up is that? That we can use spiritual new age ideologies and paradigms against ourselves.
I notice the pattern in me. Step one.
Step two: get off social media long enough to be with me—know that my journey is my own and no one else’s.
So, yeah, I’m a little “behind the curve” when I compare myself to those who seem to be so sexually free and liberated. I didn’t have sex until I was 21. With a trusted friend, human, and partner.
Sex never was great for me. It wasn’t bad, but I could never fully relax and enjoy whatever it was I was supposed to enjoy anyways. Of course, learning about trauma over the last seven-or-so years—somatic holding patterns, deep-held shame, repressed emotions, et cetera—I began to (slowly) unwind that narrative and allow myself to feel again. And, we know that sex requires feelings.
I was and can be someone who lives in their head—even still. So, I realize that connecting to my body is the starting point. But, damn, sometimes, it feels like there’s all this pressure and expectation when it comes to sex.
There’s pressure to make the other feel good; pressure to perform; pressure to appear sexy; the expectation to orgasm. This is how sex was taught to most of us, and it literally cuts us off from our moment-to-moment experience of tuning in to what is here, sensation and all. And, sometimes, letting go of the end-goal is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
All of this I am (and will be) learning as I sit here, talking with this therapist, as I rework my beliefs around sex, intimacy, love, attachment, boundaries, and safe connection.
The intake form was a doozy, to say the least.
“Tell me about your negative sexual experiences,” it reads. Gulp.
I have had some not-so-great sexual experiences, and by “not great,” I mean wildly uncomfortable, breach of comfort and boundaries, self-abandonment, and self-betrayal. I can’t say I’ve ever been raped or sexually assaulted, but damn.
Still, there I was writing a near-novel of all the times my body was screaming, “No.” Or, “Slow down.” Or, “Stop.” And yet, I didn’t listen or speak up.
I believed, for a long time, I was too naïve and unknowing about sex to know what was supposed to feel good and what wasn’t. And that using my voice and speaking up was actually the very thing needed—the very thing I was terrified to do most of the time.
As women, they say our voice and our pelvic floor and vagina are intimately connected. And, this I can absolutely attest to. I know this because the first time I ever orgasmed as a kid was literally pure magic and happenstance.
I was playing outside in my backyard alone on our playground. I was hanging upside down on a swing bar and singing. I always loved to sing as a young girl. All of a sudden, I felt this whole-body sensation of pleasure emanating and filling my entire being and body. I was flooded with pleasure from crown to toe.
I hung there, bewildered at what had just happened. One thing was for damn sure: I was going to do that again. In time, of course, in my religious environment, self-pleasure became entrenched with shame and secrecy. Instead of this expansive opening, my connection to that part of myself became hurried, restricted, constricted, and fear-laced.
So, here I am, a single, sexually-seeking woman, in somatic sex therapy for many reasons. I am trying to reconnect with that little girl inside of me again and let her be wild and free. To let her voice be heard. To learn how to make her feel pleasure again. To heal the wounds I still carry from being raised to reject and be ashamed of my sexual self.
Healing as an adult is hard as f*ck because there’s no manual for this. We literally have to figure it out as we go. We have to take one step at a time, each step in the healing journey bringing us a little bit closer back home to ourselves. We have to go back in time—bring forward parts of ourselves into the present—and heal them with the loving, welcoming embrace they never received.
Sex is a deeply integral part of life. It connects us to the self, to other, to all of life, to the pleasure that is our divine birthright. No matter the lies and fables we’ve been told. No matter how far away from return we feel. No matter how far away from ourselves we’ve wandered. Maybe, the self is not as far away as we think.
So here’s to the journeys that make us shake, quake, and a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. To pressing the comfort zones of our limited thinking and belief system.
Maybe, we can rewrite the stories held in our bodies and minds. No matter how much more healing we feel we need to do to “get there,” maybe we’ve already arrived. In this moment. Relearning how to allow for a fuller, expansive presence of all that is already here.
In that, healing and freedom are already here, ready to awaken.
So, yes, “Let’s talk about sex.”
Let’s use our voice now to speak up for the self, which is so worthy, so loved, and should be so absolutely free of any human-designed box and shackles of shame.
One step; one breath; one return at a time.
In that self-reclamation, let’s know freedom once more.