Problematic Sexual Preferences

As you may know, my boyfriend and I have been doing the long-distance thing for nearly a month now. I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t happen immediately, but the other day he finally asked me about sexting. This is the point in a relationship where my emotional and sexual immaturity really starts to become clear to me. I’ve mentioned before that I have hardly any sexual interest. I believe this is partially due to the SSRI I am taking, but I digress. The point is, I wanted to tell him that I’m not comfortable with sending pictures of myself. I don’t really mind dirty talk. I can actually have a good bit of fun with that. However, for some reason instead of just being honest, I told him I was okay with everything. I guess I’m still just afraid that if I’m honest he won’t like me as much.

I hear my mental voice saying these things and I just want to scream. I sound like the fourteen year old girls that I meet at my child advocacy center. It makes me feel so ashamed that I can’t be a better role model for them. Not that they would ever have any clue what I do in my personal life, but still. I feel like a hypocrite, advocating for these young girls, telling them that they have every right to be comfortable and expect their boundaries to be respected. Yet in my own life, I cave to social pressures just as easily. I don’t know why I struggle so much being true to myself in these types of situations. I’m embarrassed by how embarrassed these topics make me at twenty-eight years old.

Now my dilemma is how to go about finally telling the truth about how I feel. At first it felt like it was too late. I said okay, so now I have to keep going along with it. Then I felt ridiculous for thinking that. Consent can be withdrawn at any point. I believe that for the young girls I work with, so I must also believe that for myself. It’s not even that I fear Nate being upset with me. I know he’s an amazingly kind boy and will be completely understanding. He would probably even feel guilty knowing that I’ve been allowing him to push me past my limits.

Which brings me to the next issue I’ve been having. Nate is a very kind, considerate boyfriend. He asked my permission before he kissed me the first time. He routinely makes sure what he’s doing is okay with me when we are together. While I respect the hell out of him for that and wish more men were like him, especially given the things I hear every day in my line of work, it doesn’t really suit me personally. This is where my “problematic” sexual preferences come in. Given that I’m not very often even interested in sex, I have very specific turn ons. Mainly, they all center around being submissive. I like to feel like the reluctant, innocent, object of desire. Quite ironic since in the rest of my life I am a violently outspoken feminist.

In the past this hasn’t been much of a problem. Most men I’ve been with are very forward and sexually aggressive. They didn’t ask permission and my hesitancy was seen as an opportunity for persuasion rather than a signal to back off. Now normally, I’d say that is really walking the line of coercion and consent. These are dangerous sexual situations to be in for both parties. Yet I think that’s part of the reason it excites me. A lot of my turn ons are unspoken assumptions. I like to feel like my partner wants me sooo much that they can’t help themselves. That’s the only way I ever really feel “sexy.” I don’t want to be asked if I want to have sex. I want them to convince me.

Poor communication is where it all starts to become problematic. I know that if I explained the way I feel to Nate, he would be more than happy to oblige me. However, just knowing that he’s doing it because I told him to ruins it. Now do you see my issue? The only thing that gives me a small amount of comfort is knowing that other women have felt this way. I still remember a comedian joking, “I’m just supposed to rape you and hope you’re into that?” Yes, frankly. But I see why that’s not okay from the man’s point of view. I’m really at a loss of what to do about it.

I realize that this is a VERY personal topic to be discussing in the open forum of the internet. However, I want my blog to be a safe place where I can be completely open and honest with myself and the world. It helps that I don’t know anyone on here personally. Despite that, I’d genuinely like some feedback. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how I can approach these sensitive issues? Have you ever had similar sexual problems? Were you able to resolve them? How? Any and all advice, questions, or comments are welcome. I can use all the help I can get.

Teen Sexting: What Should Parents Be Aware Of

Sketchy Sexual Experiences

I was talking to my friend the other day on the phone. I wanted to know some of the less discussed details about the beginning of her relationship with her now husband. When did they first kiss, how long did they wait before having sex, etc. Even though I know that these things are highly personal milestones in any relationship, I felt like it would help me to have some idea of the timelines for other people. Discussing this with her was highly therapeutic for me. I realize that I don’t need anyone else to justify my decision on waiting to have sex. In the end it’s my decision and whenever I choose to have sex with a partner is valid. Yet it did help me feel more confident and reassured after hearing someone else’s perspective and experience.

Working at a child advocacy center for over a year now, I’ve learned a lot more about sex and consent than I expected. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear the stories of some of these teen girls who we see here. Their stories all sound so similar. They tell us they didn’t want to scream or make a scene. They second guess and doubt their own intuition and perspective. They are ashamed. They blame themselves. They don’t know what to do. They feel bad for their abuser even, at times. After a while, something finally clicked inside of my head and I began to see my younger self in a lot of these girls. Some of the scenarios they describe sound so familiar.

When the Me Too Movement first started a few years ago, I felt somewhat conflicted. I saw everyone around me sharing stories of times they had been abused or disrespected by men. It seemed like all women had at least one story. Yet after searching my memories, I felt I didn’t have any of these types of experiences. I felt lucky, of course, grateful, but I also felt confused. Why didn’t I have any of these stories when so many other women did? I couldn’t find a satisfying answer. Of course my self-hating, low self-esteem mind told me that it must be because I’m not attractive enough to be assaulted. Which I know is offensive and ridiculous.

Since that time, I’ve thought about a lot to different sexual encounters I had growing up. It feels weird to say, but looking back, I feel like I was victimized at least twice without even realizing it or acknowledging it. How can that be possible? I’ve asked myself that question, and I still don’t know. Maybe the only separation is whether or not you feel like you’ve been traumatized. That doesn’t seem right to me either though. Just because a lot of the kids we see at our center are in love with their abuser or even enjoyed the sexual experiences they’ve had, doesn’t mean how things happened wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean these adult men haven’t broken the law and done egregious things. Does the fact that at the time I was complacent or believed I deserved what happened because of the situation I put myself in make what happened to me acceptable? I don’t think so.

It’s not as if I want to go after these boys from my past or have them prosecuted. Although I’ve come to accept I wasn’t to blame for what happened back then, I don’t necessarily put the blame on those boys either. I think what’s more important is to address the toxic, sex-phobic culture we were raised in. The culture that led me to believe being drunk and alone with boys meant it was my fault if I was then sexually assaulted. The culture that taught these boys what they did was normal, perfectly alright behavior. This is what I want to address. I don’t think the boys from my past had any intention to harm me or even disrespect me. They were just doing what young boys are expected to do. I doubt they viewed themselves as sexual predators, nor do I necessarily want them to. I just want us all to learn together how we can communicate better and respect one another so we can facilitate healthy sexual experiences, especially for teens and young adults.

During that phone call with my friend, we talked a lot about my sexual promiscuity when we were in college. Her impression was that I just had a high sex drive, that I was being care-free and having fun. She seemed surprised and somewhat saddened when I told her that actually wasn’t the case. I just didn’t know myself well enough, didn’t understand relationships enough, to make the right decisions. Given that my first sexual partner was someone that I was dating and who I was deeply in love with, I didn’t really grasp the correlation between love and sex. Desperate to feel that same emotional intimacy, that spiritual closeness, I found myself confusing it and conflating it with physical intimacy. I really didn’t have desire for the actual act of sex with most of the men I’ve been with. What I desired and hoped to obtain from sex was actually love and tenderness. As you might imagine, it took me a long time to understand and process the pain of never finding it.

This is one of the many reasons why we need to teach our children how to have these important conversations surrounding sex. The more prepared we make them, the easier it will be to talk about with their partner when the times comes. I wish I had been wise enough, brave enough, to ask more questions of my partners before having sex with them. Questions like: what does sex mean to you? where do you see our relationship going, if anywhere? do you have romantic feelings for me or are you only interested in a physical relationship? I always made the mistake of just assuming we were on the same page. Then I felt heartbroken and wronged upon discovering that wasn’t the case.

In addition, we need to emphasize that while no means no, only an enthusiastic, informed yes is true consent. Pressuring someone until they eventually give in is not consent. An obviously reluctant partner that hasn’t verbally said no is not consent. It is so important that we all work to improve society when it comes to its ideas and understanding of the complex issues surrounding sex. I only wish I could go back in time and share this new, deeper understanding with the young girl I once was. Instead I will try to help other young girls avoid my same mistakes.

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Empathy for All

I consider myself incredibly lucky to work in such an interesting field. Psychology has always fascinated me, but actually working with kids and families in my community has broadened my horizons even more than I could have imagined back when I was still in school. Given that I’ve struggled with social anxiety for the majority of my life, it seems strange to me that I would have such a good time working is social services. However, I’ve learned to be more fascinated than fearful of people. Even so, I also believe that I am on the autistic spectrum which I feel gives me an interesting perspective on interpersonal matters. I have always been able to set aside my emotions around a subject or situation fairly easily and act based on logic and facts rather than my feelings.

I’ve learned throughout my life though, that this analytical character of mine can often be seen as cold and calculating by those around me. Many times I have offered up an opinion about something that seems perfectly logical to me, but has been terribly shocking and offensive to others. For instance, a recent conversation I’ve had with a friend at work sticks out to me. We were discussing the idea of legalizing all drugs and illicit substances. We both agreed that at face value, this seems like a shocking and unethical idea. I think most people have a gut reaction to this proposal that causes them to condemn it right away. However, I have read the research on this idea from countries where similar policies have been implemented. It came as a surprise to me, but legalizing these substances actually has the opposite effect than you would expect. Rather than more people abusing drugs and overdosing, there are less instances of this behavior. This is because people are more easily able to reach out for help. There is less of a stigma surrounding drug abuse. People that use are also able to do so more safely than they are when it’s illegal, which results in less instances of overdose and infection.

After discovering this data, I was fully on board with legalizing all drugs. Even though my emotional reaction to the idea remained unchanged. It still felt like a bad idea, but I was confident in the science enough to overlook my personal biases. However, when I shared this information with my coworker, he refused to change his position on the matter. I asked him, “So you’re still against it even if it results in less drug abuse?” This seemed so interesting to me. That even highly intelligent people will often side with their emotions rather than the facts.

A similar discussion came up the other day at a meeting with people we work with on cases of child abuse. We began discussing the idea of virtual child pornography or child sex dolls. Of course the idea is repulsive. Everyone’s initial reaction is of disgust and condemnation. Yet, I remain convinced that if there is data that shows these things lessen the likelihood that actual children will be abused, then I think they should be allowed. I’m not aware that there is any such data. It could very well be the exact opposite. But even in this hypothetical situation, no one else would agree that this should ever be legal. Even if it stops children from being abused. Once again, I was left feeling amazed at the irrationality of these smart individuals.

I am careful to watch what I say, lest I upset anyone, but a lot of the time, I don’t find it as easy to condemn the alleged perpetrators as I feel I should. Obviously child abuse of any kind is inexcusable and all measures must be taken to protect children from these offenders. However, this doesn’t make me incapable of still feeling sorry for everyone involved. After all, a lot of pedophiles were once the innocent victims. This obviously doesn’t justify their crimes, but it does somewhat explain them. We are unable to just cast these people out of society. The fact remains that putting them in prison for ten years doesn’t solve the problem. They are very likely to go on offending as soon as they are released. The science has shown that as upsetting as it is, pedophilia is a sexual orientation. It is something that cannot be changed. These people must learn how to control these urges and understand that although they cannot control their thoughts, they are able to control their actions. If they are considered monsters by society for their thoughts alone, why wouldn’t they give in to their urges? There needs to be an effort to rehabilitate these people, not just punish them.

Often we will interview a child because they have been abusing other children. We won’t ask them about what they’ve done, rather we try to ascertain whether or not something has happened to them that is causing them to act out this abuse on others. I think it’s very interesting that when a child hurts another child, we still feel empathy and compassion for both of them. It makes me wonder at what point we draw the line. When does a troubled child become an unforgivable adult? Does the limit of our compassion end at eighteen? Why do we make that distinction?

I find it hard to make sense of this divide, even though I do feel it viscerally within myself. It is much easier to vilify an adult than a child for the same crime. At the same time it seems illogical to arbitrarily make a decision that someone isn’t culpable at 16 but they are at 18. How exactly were they expected to “fix themselves” now that they are legally an adult? This atmosphere of shame and condemnation only makes it harder for the “undesirables” in society to seek help. Apparently in the U.S. you may be reported to the authorities for even mentioning you feel sexually attracted to minors to your therapist, even if you’ve never acted on those urges.

At the end of the day, despite our feelings on these difficult matters, we need to act and make decisions in a way that results in the best outcomes for society as a whole. Sometimes it may end up to be something that at face value seems counterintuitive. But we’ve got to learn to look past our emotional impulses and trust the data. I certainly don’t know all the answers to these very challenging questions. I just hope that we can be objective and open as we continue to search for those answers.

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Sexuality on the Spectrum

Today I wanted to somewhat build off of what I wrote about yesterday which was emotional intelligence. I feel as though my deficit in that area contributes a lot to my increasing uncertainty when it comes to sexuality. There are a lot of peculiarities when it comes to my sexuality and sexual expression that leave me wondering where I fit in. What labels would even suit me? Do I even need any? The ever-evolving sexual nature of our society has left me more confused than ever. In addition to that, though undiagnosed, I also think I struggle in part due to autism and general lack of understanding when it comes to relationships and social situations.

When it comes right down to it, I think the biggest problem is that I don’t seem to know myself very well. Especially when it comes to sex, romance, and where the line is in between the two. I never thought much about it when I was younger. But as I’ve gotten older and explored my sexuality more things have become murky. The libido inhibiting effects of taking an SSRI certainly haven’t helped.

So here’s where I am currently. I am pansexual. I am attracted to who a person is rather than their gender or gender expression. I would also, in the same light, consider myself demi-sexual. I am not sexually interested in anyone until I have a romantic attraction toward them. These are the only two labels I feel comfortable with at the moment. And hardly anyone in my personal life even knows I identify this way. It isn’t that I’m hiding it. I just don’t feel it would be appropriate to make a big announcement or anything.

Here is where I’m stuck though. I have been taking Paxil for so long, I don’t know if this is even an accurate reflection of how I truly feel or if it is in large part due to my now practically non-existent libido. It is kind of difficult to tell who you’re attracted to when you’ve been single for years and rarely ever feel any sexual attraction anymore in general.

I have even been contemplating the idea that I may be asexual. After reading more about this orientation, it might fit me. Apparently there are asexual people who do have sex with their partners, but it is more to please their partner than it is to please themselves. This seems to fit me pretty well. Despite going months or even years without sex, I never really think about it or miss it. If it were up to me to initiate, I doubt I’d ever have sex. But I am happy to have sex for my partner’s sake. And I am certainly capable of enjoying it, especially if I have a deep loving bond with that partner.

However, I am hesitant to identify as asexual. Because once again I don’t know if this is true or a side effect of my medication. Or if that distinction even really matters at this point. I am also afraid of the sigma that may come along with that label.

Tying in my last two posts about internalized sexism and emotional intelligence, this is a huge fear for me. Part of me thinks no one would ever pay me any attention if they knew I felt this way sexually. Seems like it could be a huge turn-off to a lot of people. That’s the sexism part, as if I am only worth anything as a human being if I can also be pictured as a sex object. The other side of that coin is my low emotional intelligence.

It is hard for me to really understand my own feelings and reasons for having sex. Have I ever truly wanted the sex? Or have I just wanted to feel desired, loved, accepted, admired? Perhaps it could be both, but I know I’ve definitely had sex for the latter reasons.

I may never have thought about these things in the initial phases of my sexual experience because for the first few years of it I was in a relationship with someone I dearly, dearly loved. Yet I also was not taking Paxil. So I was very interested in having sex with that person. But was it because I loved them, wanted them to show love for me, or because I actually had a libido back then? Are you starting to see why I’m hopelessly confused?

As for now, I am a pan and demi-sexual. Although I am warming up to the idea of identifying as asexual as well. Not that any of these labels really matter. I don’t think I’ll be publicly proclaiming them anytime soon. I’d just really like to understand myself better. Otherwise, how can I even hope to be understood by another?

Understanding Bisexuality

Up until this past year, I considered myself strictly heterosexual. Apart from looking at women endlessly on Tumblr and having French kissed multiple women on several occasions while intoxicated, I had only ever been interested in dating men. Although, nothing about the male physique was particularly alluring to me. I had always said without hesitation that women were much more pleasurable to look at. But never did I think for a second that my visual interest in women’s bodies or having kissed women before made me a lesbian or bisexual. I reasserted my heterosexuality by rationalizing that I was only doing these things for men. I looked at gorgeous women to learn to emulate them and attract men. I made out with women to sexually excite the men nearby. At least, this is what I had always told myself.

After discovering that a vegan I had been surreptitiously flirting with and his girlfriend were interested in polyamory, I found myself with an interesting dilemma. I wanted nothing more than to become involved with this man, but did I want to be involved with his girlfriend as well? She was bisexual and in order to avoid jealousy as they made their initial voyage into polyamorous waters they were looking to form a triad.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I was disgusted by the idea of sex with another woman. I really felt neutral to the idea apart from being a bit nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar sexual territory. My main concern was being ingenuous. I didn’t think I was necessarily attracted to women romantically or sexually. I didn’t want to put on an act just to be with the man I already liked and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a delightful vegan woman that I already knew I wanted to befriend either way.

For a few weeks I moved slowly and unsurely. I began testing the waters of my own heart. I hung out with the girlfriend a few times on my own and definitely enjoyed her quite a bit. After endless internal turmoil, and me still not feeling absolutely certain, we finally decided to all be together.

And I was so happy! During the few months that we spent together, I was able to peel back so many layers of myself and discover new forms of love I had never fathomed could be for me. I realized that misunderstanding had been with me for so long. I felt that because the feelings for women were not the same as the feelings I have for men meant definitively that I was heterosexual and that was as far as I cared to investigate. But then I learned that there are so many different flavors of love and attraction. While my interest in men is bright and intense, my love for women is soft and ensnaring. But both of these are valid and more than worth experiencing.

While I would still consider myself bisexual with a preference for men, I could never sever ties with the feelings and emotions I have for women. (Thank god I’m polyamorous!) There is something so beautiful and exciting about the different emotions and experiences that we are able to cultivate with others. No two relationships are ever alike and I’ve finally made peace with my own sexuality and am no longer afraid to explore it because of what others might think of me.

I was never afraid that I would be judged as part of the LGBTQ community, but I was afraid that community itself would judge and reject me. I was afraid that if I really was only interested in men but explored relationships with women that I would be viewed as an imposter, as someone desperate for attention, and I couldn’t bear seeing myself in that light. Now that I’ve finally figured this all out in my own mind, I just wanted to share it with others so that it might bring about a better understanding of bisexuality from someone who was struggling with it themselves. I hope that you aren’t afraid to explore your feelings and extend yourself in different directions, because you might find something lovely there, a whole new dimension to who you are.

P.S. – I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Pride Fest this Sunday with said bi vegan goddess. ❤