Now that I’ve ended up crying on three separate second dates, I think it’s time to look more in depth at the things that keep me from feeling the base-level confidence that other women carry into their sex lives with men. I want to excavate and exorcize the ideas and images that sometimes hold me back from wholeheartedly and trustingly enjoying men in general and PIV sex in particular. I feel a little apologetic about this line of thought since I’d rather just be writing hotness, but hopefully self-examination will lead to more hotness.
My parents fought loudly and constantly on every topic. One night on a long car ride home, I woke to hear them having a way-too-intense discussion on the subject of the Designated Hitter Rule. They fought every year on the day we went to get the Christmas tree. They fought when my friends were sleeping over. But on no subject were they as loud, articulate and traumatic than as they were on the topic of sex.
Before I even really knew what sex WAS, I knew what it sounded like to be a woman who was deeply and bitterly frustrated by her sex life. I believe that my mom had the same hotpants tendencies that I have, but she hated that desire and never found a way to enjoy it or take ownership of it. In recent ill-fated discussions of my sex life, she’s suggested that I just ignore and wait out my attraction to men, with the bone-chilling advice that once I reach menopause, I just won’t care anymore. This does not make me feel less urgent.
As a kid, I was awoken many nights by her screaming indignantly about his inability to get her off. That this was my introduction to the concept of the orgasm makes it seem miraculous that I ever would’ve gotten so good at them. From the fights it seemed like his desire was lower than hers, too—some of the fights started by her trying to initiate something (“I got ready” she’d say, meaning she’d put in her diaphragm, which usually resided on the side of the family bathtub, a monument to her complete lack of boundaries.) only to be rejected. And then they fought, about how ineffectual he was, about how he didn’t love or want her. Because the fights often turned violent, I developed a hypervigilance and protectiveness toward her, even though she ran me down as constantly as she picked at him. (And, in fairness, he treated me with the same emotional distance and rejection as he did her.)
I was probably ten when I was being forced to have this over-awareness of their sex-life, and one night in particular stands out. I’ve talked about it a little here before but I think I need to go into it a little more deeply.
I awoke to hear them having sex. I guess she pulled away midsex because she said, in the most contemptuous voice possible “See? This is what it feels like when someone stops before you’re finished.” Her voice sounded so deeply spiteful and ugly, but in no way did it excuse what happened next.
There were sounds of struggle and she said “NO! NO! Stop! (his name)!”
I knew something really bad was happening and so I started to cry as loudly as I could. The struggling sounds stopped and she said “See, now you’ve made (my name) cry.”
The fight boiled down but the damage was done and I was somehow creepily part of it.
I asked her about this incident during their divorce proceedings a few years later and she says he never raped her. Given my own complicated relationship with sex and struggle I could see how she might see that as true, but I know that after that night, part of me gave up on the world. It seemed too dark and hopeless, and there seemed to be too much threat and danger, especially in male-female partnerships.
Part of me has trouble not identifying with my mother, with the anger and ugliness of her unmet desires, or rather the ugliness of how she blamed everyone for them including me. It’s hard not to feel guilty for loving my dad, given his general abusiveness and the callous brutishness and selfishness of his response to her bad games. It’s been such a long struggle to mentally separate my own sex experiences from those of my parents. It’s hard to see my own urgency as normal and natural, to see men as the sensitive caring humans they most assuredly are, to see PIV sex as something that isn’t inherently humiliation. Even after all these years and all these adventures, I still have to learn that I am not bad for wanting it.
I am so ashamed of that night, for being part of it, part of them. I’m ashamed for the times I’ve been like her and treated partners in less-than-humane ways, for being like him and acting selfish and callow sometimes.
But it’s way past time to realize that I’m not them. Like her, I was born more desirous and aggressive than a woman is expected to be, but I’ve tried to make myself responsible for my own satisfaction. It’s not really me who feels guilty for wanting to climb all over men, it’s my mother, and I am not my mother. I have the advantage of having been born in a more liberated era, and while I am proud of trying to make the most of the tools and advantages I have, I feel compassion for her sex drive being thwarted and unloved for a great deal of her adult life. It doubles my commitment to loving it in myself.
I’m not sure how I’ve lived all these years with a rapist for a dad, how I’ve spent all these years loving him. In that one moment of desperation, hate, and anger he squashed a beautiful part of me that has been so, so hard to get back—the belief that sex with a man can be loving, or fun, or empowering or even (gasp!) all of the above. It’s hard to trust that if I say what I need, I won’t be punished for it. It’s hard to believe that I am not as dark and broken and unlovable as that memory. That’s what I’m working on here, and I’m so grateful to have the chance.