A few numbers that don’t sit well with me: This month makes two years since I’ve had sex or play in my life. I’m turning thirty this summer. It’s been twelve or so years since my high school abusive relationship ended, which makes about eleven years I’ve been throwing myself into the work of trying to make sex feel safe and generative and good.
I am proud of the work I’ve done, of the person I’ve become and am still becoming. I am proud of knowing what I want (emotional intimacy, D/s, to give touch more than receive it, to balance alone time and togetherness), and I’m proud of saying no when I’ve needed to say no.
And, I am heartsick. For eleven years, I have wanted this thing. I couldn’t have put a name to it at first, but what I’d call it now is abundance. I want sex and play, and the particular kind of emotional connection that comes with them, and I want enough. Enough that there is time and space to learn and explore and grow and try things and make mistakes. To meander into different corners of my desire. To surprise myself by liking things I didn’t expect. To watch my edges shift, to move with them. To have kinds of play that feel comfortable and easy, and others that challenge me. To do things wrong and learn to pick up the pieces.
By and large, I haven’t had this. And today, I am filled with sadness for the things I haven’t done and for the ways I feel alone now.
Someone asked me recently if there was “anyone special” in my life. I answered that there were many—the housemates I live with, friends near and far, but as for “special” in the romantic way, no. “And you’re okay with that?” she asked, sort of marveling at it. And the truth is I’m not, really. It’s not what I’d choose for myself if I had the choice. And the other truth is that I am. It is what it is, and I’m proud of choosing to be alone rather than accepting partners (romantic, sexual, play, etc.) who are wrong for me.
But it hurts. It hurts to lack some fundamental kinds of intimacy. It hurts because I am someone to whom desire and intimacy matter deeply, and there are parts of myself that I can’t fully access alone. It hurts because it feels like it’s so often been this way, that I’ve spent so much of my adult life alone. It hurts because I feel alone in my aloneness, even though I know I’m far from the only person who’s spent most of her twenties unpartnered, and certainly not the only person who feels alone right now.
And yet, in so-called sex positive and kink communities, which in some ways are communities to which I feel connected, aloneness seems to be unthinkable. Every play party seems to assume you’ll either bring a date or pick one up there. Most skills classes seem to assume you either have experience doing whatever the class is about or that you’ll have somebody to practice with after. Most casual conversation in kink circles seems to assume you either have experience doing x, y, or z or, if not (and if it’s the sort of thing you might like to do someday), priority number one is to try it. For me, priority number one is to take care of myself. I’m not going to play with a partner I don’t trust (experience tells me that leaves me worse off than not playing at all), and I don’t build trust easily.
And it hurts. It hurts to watch communities grow out of these spaces (parties, classes, etc.) that feel fundamentally inaccessible to me. Sometimes it feels like everyone is moving forward and I’m the only one standing still. And yet, I know I’m not alone in this, even though it feels like I am.
As I write this, I am anticipating responses. I am imagining that someone might read this and feel compelled to tell me that my aloneness is my own fault, or to tell me how to fix it. If this is you, I ask you to step back, to not share those things with me. The truth is, some factors are within my control, and some aren’t, and I reserve the right to be sad about the aloneness I feel whether or not I’ve made every possible effort toward finding abundance.
This is what I would like you to share: I want to hear from other people who feel alone, or who have. I want to hear from other kinky folks who feel like they don’t have access to kink. Tell me a story about being alone or alienated from desire, tell me what it feels like for you, tell me how you take care of yourself, or just tell me that you’re out there. Maybe we can be a resource for each other. I hope so.