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.

16 thoughts on “Numbers

  1. i live in glen burnie md and i certainly feel alone in my kink and poly stuff. the pressure is on now that i am back from an 8000 mile trip to settle down and get normal, a specific idea of “healthy” and monogamous. the kink people i have met here to be honest are creepers so trying to find that balance of meeting a good person, relatively stable and healthy in the rest of their lives as well as into anything radical feminist kink poly or deviant is almost impossible. i have had lots of sex in the past year but often left me feeling way more alone. if there is kink involved its not called that, its not thoughtful, and there are certainly no discussion of boundaries around the act so it could be really fun until it isnt.

    • Thanks for sharing this. And ugh, re: pressure to be someone else’s standards of “healthy.”

  2. hey. i’m not the demographic you’re writing for, so i’m not going to tl;dr all over your comments section, but i just wanted to say hey as another person out there who kind of feels similar.

    hope things look up for you soon.

    • “Kind of feels similar” actually does sound the demographic I’m writing for. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I feel you on the word “abundance.” I think that is a perfect word to describe something that I’ve longed for too. And it can feel really incongruous to long for it when you are surrounded in your community by not-quite-right iterations of it– it seems like plenty of people have an abundance of abundance.

    I can’t believe anybody’s reaction to a post like this would ever be to tell you how your aloneness is your own fault or how you can fix it. Aloneness like this is a product of so many challenging conditions. To offset anyone who might say those kinds of things to you, I’ll tell you now that I hear you, I feel alone too, and I love the bejeezus outta you!

  4. I’ve felt this way too and have also been alone in this sense for most of my 20s. I really identify with what you said about being proud of choosing to be alone rather than be with someone who’s wrong for me. This is actually one of the strategies I use to deal with it, to notice the times when people choose to be in an unhealthy relationship because they’re so afraid of being alone, and this helps me reinforce why I chose not to do that.

  5. I hear this. So strongly. The more I’ve begun to understand what forms of desire and intimacy and communication I want – in general and in specific – the more I find they are not available to me. Most of what I think about is geared toward understanding that. ‘Fixing’ it? Well. That may come, or not, but like you I want the right to claim space for this kind of sadness.

    Just to say, then: I’m with you, in some sense, if not in the particular ones this post intends. And also: thank you for writing this. It made me feel less alone. ❤

  6. “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.”

    This is such a heartfelt expression of the human experience that it is hard for me to imaging that anyone could read this and not have some ability to connect with this kind of loneliness in desire. So often the assumptions that we make about knowing other people’s desires/experiences within our communities and even with our partners (when we have them) are what lead us to perpetuate the pain and isolation of our own desires. I would be willing to bet that the inaccessibility that you describe in spaces that assume the experiences of those in attendance is a feeling that many others in those spaces share but are afraid to name for fear of loosing the albeit limited access they have.

    How many times have I felt shame, like I was hiding something, or lying just by existing because of assumptions of some kind of universal queer experience. How often have I questioned my own authenticity because my desires were not in line with those assumptions. And that’s crazy. I know who I am and how I got here. Not in a static and concrete way, but how you described learning yourself and what you want and need, and how important that journey to your own desires is. I share that kind of pride in becoming-through-understanding those things about myself.

    I hope that when you read this you understand it as a challenge to the dominant tropes of relationships that say–having a partner means having (what you describe as) enough–and not as a challenge to your experiences and feelings of loneliness. I hope to try and bridge some of the isolation you describe of feeling like everyone around you is partnered or has been and therefore has or has had access to this thing that you so desire but don’t have right now. And I also want to do that without the fear of being judged for engaging with partners who are/were not able to give me “enough.” (I am not unafraid of that judgment here; however, I am choosing to write this anyway because you have made yourself vulnerable and opened up space that makes this kind of risk feel worthwhile.)

    One of the things that I have realized for myself is that loneliness and alienation from desire can persist even in the presence of a healthy and loving relationship. Part of my experience as a survivor of sexual violence is that sex, no matter what kind and with whom, will always carry a certain danger of isolation, dissociation, guilt and shame. That no partner can, nor would I want them to feel responsible to untangle that for me–but that those partners with whom I have had the privilege of sharing positive intimacies have been those who recognize that potential, are not afraid of that lurking danger, exhibit courage in the face of all the ugliness and creativity in response to the rote sexual tropes of a society that can not see queer/trans/bdsm/survivor/etc sexuality as legitimate, healthy or even as sexy. I feel lucky to have had a few partners over the years who could do that, and I recognize that gives me a level of hope and confidence that I will find those moments and relationships in the future that perhaps you don’t share. But for sure they are few and far between. And it is f—ing scary to be in that place of searching, to put enough of myself out there to see if someone will maybe understand, maybe be interested in delving into those scary but potentially rewarding spaces with me.

    I have had my share of seeking for that feeling of abundance and instead finding exploitation; of making myself vulnerable to try and meet someone in that powerful moment of intimacy and instead being presented with pain, bitterness, and judgment. Maybe the worst is finding someone trying equally as hard to be vulnerable but still not finding a way to connect, for whatever reasons (fear? trauma? circumstance?), and managing to scare and hurt each other even as we proceed with the best of intentions.

    That said, even in the midst of a deeply rewarding and reciprocally caring relationship I find moments when that desire for “enough” is thwarted by the very aspects of our partnership that make it a good and health relationship. Sometimes what my “enough” is made of would be not enough or too much for my partner and vice versa. While we find a deep sense of safety and convergence because we are both survivors (again it is hard but necessary to not generalize our experiences because they are very different from each others even though they carry that same name), our actual desires do not always align–and more importantly to enter into conversation with your post, I think it is actually impossible for any two people’s needs and desires to match so closely that they could always be getting enough from each other. I think it is a dangerous assumption that is reinforced by dominant tropes about love and marriage that once two people find each other they no longer will ever feel lonely or alienated and that if they do they are doing it wrong.

    One of the things that has made my current relationship work and that has allowed both of us to learn and grow into our desires together is that we talked from the beginning about this assumption and the pressure to fulfill it. Naming both the desire to have “enough” and to make sure that your partner is getting “enough” from you and acknowledging that those two things would likely come into conflict at some point has been crucial. On one level that means taking responsibility for our own desires. Telling each other–it’s okay to not give me everything I want–has allowed us to talk about desires that we were afraid the other person might not share, and hearing–it’s not your responsibility to satisfy all of my desires–has made hearing about the other person’s desires feel less pressuring. It is also liberating to be able to say to someone–I can want this and whether or not I get to have it, with you or with anyone, I can enjoy that desire in myself because it’s mine.–It is empowering to realize that even unfulfilled desire has it’s place in the rich world of erotic satisfactions, frustrating though that realization can sometime be.

    I remember the first time this partner said no to something I asked for in an intimate moment. I remember going through the usual rush of emotions, shame, frustration, fear, (and though I’m not proud to admit it even) anger, and realizing that they were not pushing me away or judging my request. Because of the groundwork we had laid in understanding that these moments would inevitably happen, because of the trust we built that our boundaries as well as our desires would be respected, I had something in which to ground myself and take stock of those knee jerk emotions and not be ruled by them. I had assurance that we would both stay present in that moment of discord and maybe together we could turn it into something different, something powerful beautiful. And I remember when I first said no to them and with the usual rush of fear, inadequacy, and shame, finding them again through the walls that I used to keep so impermeable and hearing them understand that this was not a rejection but an affirmation that they could feel safe in asking for what they wanted because I could say no, and that this is exactly what we were trying to build.

    Even as I write this and read it back, I realize that I’ve painted a picture that privileges the positive and hopeful moments and overshadows the times when I still feel lonely and alien in my desire. Those stories are harder to relate, they dissolve in the telling because where do you even begin when it feels like no one else could possibly understand or connect to that experience–such is the nature of alienation and isolation. And with a partner there is also the impulse to keep these things hidden for fear of exposing our imperfection to public scrutiny (even though we all know that no one and no relationship can be perfect and be real at the same time), and the need to empathize and keep these stories private so as not to cause shame or guilt for desires left unfulfilled. But there are times when that same humanity that riddles us with erotic energy and desires also limits our ability to engage with that part of ourselves or others. Times when we are exhausted, times when we are grieving, when we are triggered, when we are busy, or lazy, or sick, or hurt, or distracted, or on and on and on–and just can’t be “enough” for each other or ourselves. And that is only human.

    You asked for stories about how we take care of ourselves, how we access aspects of our desires that feel inaccessible. A big part of that for me has been being able to talk about exactly the hurt and the loneliness that you describe, and giving myself (and my partner reciprocally) permission to feel those things and not be afraid that having those feelings would be hurtful to each other. I can’t express how much more access I feel I have to an ever growing lexicon of sexual desire and expression when I feel safe saying that sometimes those desires make me lonely, that sometimes I hurt because I want things so passionately and I can’t for whatever reason get them.

    I hope that even though I am talking about what this feels like with a partner and that is not where you are right now that these strategies for self care and care of others might resonate with the larger emotional landscape of negotiating satisfaction and desire. I like having these conversations with you. Thank you for making this space and for making me think so much about this today.

  7. I came across this post a week or two ago, and I’ve kept the tab open. It’s been comforting. Loneliness has been a significant part of my life, almost a constant. It sounds like my life is more reclusive than yours, but still, it’s refreshing to hear another speak openly of how it feels to be so hungry for the right connections and companionship, the integrity and determination not to settle, other stuff too. I hope you have the support you need, but if not, feel free to email me for validation, or reflection, or to exchange dreams, and how they live against the backdrop of the random minutiae of daily life. For me, aliveness comes from authentic expression, not from pretending I’m fine when I’m not. I applaud your courage in sharing your true experience.

    • Oh dear. It’s been months, but I wanted to say thank you for this generous and compassionate comment. I’m glad this post was a comfort to you. And I agree – pretending things are okay when they aren’t (or when they only partially are) is one of the easiest ways to feel cut off from reality and from myself. Sometimes expedient, but never quite feels right.

  8. I’m also lonely. I do want a partner, I want romantic love, I want that kind of companionship. I haven’t dated anyone I’ve really liked in 1.5 years. Sure, I’ve had sex and some of D/s dynamics since then, but I miss partnership. The one girl I felt like I could have relationship potential with just left for the other side of the country. Even though we’ve known each other for only a few months, I feel ridiculously heartbroken.

    I feel like I don’t know enough to participate in kink community & culture, like there’s all these protocols and skills I’m lacking, and if I tried to “get out there” I’d offend someone or make an ass of myself. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong. It’s mostly been something that I’ve explored in private, in fantasies and with some partners. I’m very open to talking about it with other people, though. I need a Queer Kinky Outsiders social group.

    • Can’t believe I never answered this. But… I feel like the ways you name that kink community feels inaccessible to you are problems with established kink community, not problems with you. What is the point of building kink communities where people who care about kink but don’t want to follow a particular set of (often problematic) rules feel alienated or unwelcome? I long for a Queer Kinky Outsiders Social Group. I wish I had a better idea how to create one.

  9. Hello. I realize this over six months old, but I just found your blog–and I’m enjoying it. This post is quietly moving. I understand the need for “space” to feel lonely and alone–it’s hard to let go of the impulse that says “Oh, if I tried a little harder… then…”, and to not feel bad about being unable to “fix” the situation. For me, at least.

    I feel alone when I’m with a partner, and they can’t give me what I need because I’ve got… kinks, and then I feel guilty because I can’t give them–in good faith–what they need either. I feel alone when someone cute looks at me, likes what they see, and then assumes that I must be a “top”. At the same time, I love my jeans, and my boots and my Hackers glasses and would hate to give these things up to just to attract a sexually compatible mate. The submissive part of my personality gives me a lot of trouble, because it makes me feel like I’m being selfish and needy, to want what I want. I got a really late start at sex, for a couple of (good) reasons, and so, compared to most people my age, I am much less experienced than the norm. I feel alone whenever I do end up in someone’s bedroom and can’t bring myself to tell them that I can count my sexual encounters (not partners, encounters) on two hands, and I don’t really need all of the second one.

    I don’t know if you’ll read this, but thank you so much for the opportunity to say these things. It’s… cathartic, and I really couldn’t have said it if this hadn’t been anonymous, and if this blog hadn’t been about what it’s about. See you haven’t posted in awhile–I hope it’s because you’ve been doing something fascinating!

    • I did read this. 🙂

      I’m really glad to know that this post spoke to you and gave you the space to say things you needed to say. And I empathize with a lot of what you’re talking about here. (For instance, I think people rarely read me as a top, and I definitely feel inexperienced compared to other people my age… and at the same time have a huge critique of the idea of inexperience, because who says having done a particular thing before is the only way to be competent at it now? …one of the many things I’ve been meaning to blog about.)

      It really sucks to feel selfish and needy for wanting what you want. I think one of the beautiful potentials in kink is that for whatever you want, there’s someone out there who wants the converse. I remember what a revelation it was to find a partner with compatible desires once: she was like, OMG, I don’t have to top, I can just bottom? And I was the opposite, thrilled that I could top to my heart’s content and not feel like she was disappointed I didn’t bottom “in return.” I haven’t found that in a long time, and I don’t want to pretend it’s easy to find, but it is out there. For what that’s worth.

      Anyway, thank you kindly for this lovely comment. It’s always lovely to hear that this blog has meant something to someone.

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