All I want to do is reclaim my body.
My entire life, this ambulatory, confusing bag of meat and bones has been considered a plaything, punching bag, object of desire, and scapegoat by so many throughout the years. Very rarely, has my body ever truly been regarded as a delight or something to hold and love; not by others and certainly not by me.
Can I ever feel safe in my body, experiencing the full power of my sexuality instead of observing it through a glass of depersonalized, dulled sensations and emotions?
Very unlikely, it seems. Even when alone, I love myself with the aplomb of an old married couple that’s long given up trying to kill the other one.
Since about age 23, I regarded my self and masturbation as a necessary evil. Certainly not an awful, sinful thing that should be repressed for Jesus’s delicate sensibilities – more like an annoying bodily function, a buildup of energy that I need to excise from my body. Orgasms aren’t an expression of genuine pleasure nor arousal for me, but a way of ridding a physical discomfort, be it the ache of arousal between my legs, or the staccato thumping of anxiety against my rib cage. While climaxing does feel quite nice during and after, getting there is about as fun as cycling uphill in a sandstorm.
And having a partner in this dance, really doesn’t make it any easier.
I don’t particularly love myself; I feel hideous and defective, when the layers are stripped away. Because I’ve internalized all the horrible, damaging messages I had flung at me growing up, there seems to be nothing worthwhile underneath. I feel like I can’t allow myself to feel pleasure but I simultaneously feel pressure to perform and to give my body over as some form of currency for attention and affection.
As a result, how can I teach or even allow others to love me?
When people touch me, there’s a feeling of being invaded, a secret space in my heart that’s being encroached without my enthusiastic permission, even when I have given permission, and quite enthusiastically.
Trust me, I know that this doesn’t make any sense.
When people pleasure me, I feel immensely frightened. My body becomes activated in ways that I don’t understand. I have been immersed in unsafe environments where hypervigilance is not only useful, but necessary. At any moment, I may need to fight, flight, or freeze; therefore, anything resembling arousal is equated with danger. As my breath shortens and cheeks begin to flush as blood travels southwards, I begin to demand that I get myself under control. It’s all about control, for if I have an ironclad grip on my pleasure, they will never be able to use it against me.
And then there’s the performative pressure I put on myself.
The aforementioned excited consent and desire to explore someone (rather than experience my own pleasurable emotions and sensations) then run up against a wall of questions and anxieties.
Should I moan deeply, and growl? Arch my back, squirm incessantly? They’re pleasuring me, I don’t feel anything, should I feel something? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be in the moment and aroused like a normal person? Why do I even bother, I don’t mean anything to them, they are here to simply use me and then trash me to their buddies.
As all of this runs through my head, the brakes are promptly applied to any sort of arousal I may have had, and I end up berating myself silently while flopping around like some sort of fish-person posing for a skin rag.
There’s a number of things wrong with this picture. First, rather accept the fact that the other person is unfamiliar with my body, and comes with their own collection of sexual baggage and hang ups, I place all the blame on myself. It is I who is defective, and wrong for enjoying things the way I do, or don’t. Secondly, and quite simply, I don’t allow myself the permission to be my own person, with my own set of likes and dislikes. Because of my insecurity and innately competitive nature, I have to simultaneously be an amalgamation of every favorite porn star they’ve ever jerked it to, and the best lay they’ve ever had.
Jesus, I put impossible standards that obviously prevent myself from really having fun.
Of course, none of these things are true, nor are they beneficial for me. It’s just a matter of understanding it intellectually, and allowing the feeling of being worthwhile and just fine the way I am to really get through this armour of self-hatred. It’s really slow going, as it’s taken me 30 years to internalize these sentiments, and will take me probably just as long to finally let them go… just in time for everything to start sagging.
But at least I’ll be having fun.