Numbers

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.

I Just Wanted to Say…

I’ve been blogging a little more regularly lately and promoting this blog a little more widely, and I’ve been really surprised and touched by the responses I’ve gotten here and elsewhere.

Ever since my high school abusive relationship ended, sexuality has been central to who I am, what I care about, and how I approach the world. Such that you couldn’t really know me without knowing how much work I put into both healing from trauma and exploring and celebrating my desires.

And yet, somewhere along the line, I think I had internalized the message that this thing about me, this thing that is core to me, was something icky and unseemly. Something that had at all costs to be hidden from work, family, and all but a few vetted friends. And you know… I don’t really want work reading what I write here. I’m not really ready to discuss it with my family. And there might be real-world consequences if the wrong people find out. (Not too many for me at this point, as far as I know, but I don’t want to minimize the ways that there can be consequences to being publicly visible as kinky or make presumptions about how other people should handle this stuff.)

But the past couple of weeks, as I’ve written more and shared more openly, I’ve felt some of my loneliness start to ease up. The other day, an old acquaintance, someone to whom I hadn’t spoken in years, whose relationship to sexuality I know nothing about, followed a link to this blog on Facebook and commented sweetly and positively about it.

I literally wept in my hands. All I could think was, all these years, I’ve kept this stuff hidden… at great cost… and for what?

I’m still figuring out exactly how open I want to be (you may notice that I’m not sharing much about the context in which I’ve made these choices), but I’m feeling really gratified and inspired and moved by what’s happened so far. And I hope that it’s also been useful and meaningful for you.

 

Fear, Panic, and Things I Haven’t Done

A while back, a friend told me with a degree of wistfulness that they thought they’d done pretty much everything their body could do.

It was the wistfulness that got me. My heart is so full of longing for the things I haven’t done, and so full of fear that I will never get to do them, that it’s hard to imagine having even a twinge of sadness about having done something already.

It’s better now than it used to be. A year or two ago, I had my first kinky relationship, and it quelled some of the urgency I was carrying. Before it, I was just starting to know what some of my desires looked like, but in a way, it was all still theoretical. I had so many hopes for sex and play being hot and healing and transformative—being worth all the pain I’d gone through to get to this point—but I’d had hopes dashed before. My kinky relationship made something solid for me, showed me that what I hoped for really was possible.

Still, old patterns are hard to shake. And as I get further and further from that relationship and less and less connected to kink communities, I feel the old longings—and the old fears—coming back.

Thinking about what I still haven’t done within sex and play and relationships brings up a host of ugly feelings. Entitlement: this sense that I deserve to have done more, that the universe has cheated or robbed me of experiences I ought to have had by now. Competition: resentment and jealousy of the people I imagine have done more than I. Self-loathing: a certainty that all this is under my control, and that my not having done as much as I wish means I’ve failed somewhow. These feelings feed off each other (I work twice as hard as that person, and look what they get to do that I don’t!), grow big and panicky and monstrous until I am no good to anyone, least of all myself.

When I was still hanging out in the public kink scene, looking for miracles, I sometimes imagined myself as a rat trying to climb a glass wall. I’d scrabble and scrabble and scrabble against the wall, and the more I tried to climb, the more I panicked, and the more I panicked, the more I tried to climb, and the only thing to do was the most impossible and terrifying thing of all: I had to give myself permission to stop trying.

Which is what I do now when the panic sets in. I step away, take myself out of whatever thought spiral has led me here, get some air, watch a movie—self-care stuff. It doesn’t get me any closer to the sex or play or relationships I dream of for myself. But then, neither does the panicking.

You might be asking yourself, by the way, why I’m talking about things I long to have done rather than things I long to do. It’s a wise question, and I think that the answer is that the things I have done I now trust are possible, but the things I haven’t done I still fear are not. It’s a fear worth untangling (and the idea of “experience” is one I’ll likely come back to a lot here), but the fear is something I’m stuck with, at least for now. It’s not pretty, but heck, sometimes desire isn’t.

On Loneliness

It’s a bit of a dreary subject for a kink blog, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness..

I’ve been lonely. At least, I’ve been what I think of as lonely. I’ve been restless. I’ve been sad. I’ve spent a long Friday night or several not quite sure what to do with myself. I could say it’s because I’ve recently moved to a new city, but the truth is that I’ve felt this way most times in my life. I have rarely if ever experienced an abundance of intimacy. What intimacies I’ve had, I’ve cobbled together—this friend here, that friend there, sometimes a partner—and I’m often afraid I’m leaning more on one person or another than our relationship can bear.

I’ve been thinking about the stigma of being lonely. How I feel inclined to closet myself about it, afraid that if I admit to feeling friendless (or at least not having quite as many close friends as I’d like) or to having an empty weekend, it’s as good as admitting that I’m just plain unlikeable. Even as I write this, I’m hyperaware of how I might come across (oh good, I sound like I have some friends at least). I’ve been thinking about the way we talk about lonely people, or people without friends: Pathetic. Pitiable. Losers.

I’ve been thinking about the ways that finding intimacy takes skills, energy, and vulnerability. The ways heteronormativity (and homonormativity too), assume that all the intimacy we need comes from our romantic/sexual partner(s), and how much of that belief I’ve taken in—sure, I say I’m looking for community, but every time I get close to someone, I catch myself hoping that it’s romantic and/or sexual, and often when I think about loneliness, I imagine that what I want is a partner.

But this restlessness is one I’ve felt even while partnered. It’s one I’ve felt even in a room full of people I care about, who care about me. And it’s one I can sometimes quell by wandering somewhere new, or absorbing myself in reading. I’ve been thinking that what I’ve been calling loneliness could better be described as understimulation. That what I need isn’t precisely intimacy with other people but ways of challenging and engaging myself (intimacy with other people often facilitates this kind of challenge and engagement but isn’t the only route there).

The other night, I had planned to go to a local kink event, and I was dreading it. Interacting with strangers takes a lot of energy for me, and I don’t trust public kink groups, particularly ones that aren’t explicitly queer, to give me much energy back. There are too many wrong assumptions made about me when I walk in the door: that I have certain kinds of kink/sex experience; that I am available to be touched (kinky folks might ask first, but I don’t trust most of them not to balk at a “no” answer); that I will not object to casual racism/classism/misogyny; that I find play easy and uncomplicatedly rewarding.

But I’d also been thinking that going to the event might ease my loneliness. After all, this is a community with which I have at least one significant point of connection (that kink informs my worldview), and it’s a point of connection that’s been missing with many of the radical queer folks I’ve recently started getting to know.

I didn’t go. In the end, I didn’t feel I had the energy to interrupt all those assumptions, let alone reveal to strangers the things that about me that are real. Instead, I asked myself, what is it I need now? what is it I desire? The answers surprised me. Exercise, because part of this restlessness is my body wanting to move and be challenged. The right books, because incisive political analysis, mind-bendy alternate realities, and skilfully rendered emotional experiences challenge and engage me even when I’m sitting still. To make a practice of pushing to my edges (and no further) when it comes to building connections, which means knowing what I’m up for, being aware of things like, say, the impulse to be closeted about my loneliness, and prioritizing being vulnerable and open when it feels reasonably safe and productive to do so.

It’s no coincidence that noticing these needs and desires brought out my first blog post in months. Particularly when part of the mission of Circumstance and Carefulness is to build community.

So, welcome back to Circumstance and Carefulness (and on its shiny new site, no less!). If you’ve got any thoughts on loneliness and desire, you are welcome to leave them in the comments.