I was talking to one of my male friends, and he told me that he had recently had a sexual encounter where the woman wouldn’t fuck him unless he engaged in BDSM with her. She was on the younger side, and as he was telling me this story, it struck me: I have heard this story before. Actually, I have lived this story before.
What struck me about his story were the small details: her age, which, at the stake of being stereotypical, belies a point in a young woman’s life when she is gaining sexual experience and being sexually explorative. The nature of the hook up was casual, but the demands were concrete and communicated solely during the sexual encounter rather than before. This speaks to a sexual exploration that isn’t necessarily in sync with romantic or emotional exploration, either.
The reason I was interested in my friend’s story wasn’t because it was a curious case, but, rather, because it was so familiar. That was, at one point, me. Granted, I’ve evolved considerably since then, but looking back on my former behavior through a mature lens made me realize: this is the mode of sexual exploration for women these days. Which has nothing to do with age and more to do with gaining useful bedroom experience.
Everyone explores sexuality differently. My sexual exploration was influenced heavily by two things: on the one hand, the presence of pornography and living in a geographic region that is known for easy access to kink culture skewed my perspective of sexuality to be a bit more extreme than it might actually be in real life. Granted, I love kink and porn and the LGBTQ community, but going from young and virginal straight to kink community gave me no foundation of the sexual basics. If anything, it taught me that if I want to be good in bed I have to be able to take ten inches in the ass while getting choked and humiliated – while enjoying the whole thing. It’s something I got good at over the years, and something I enjoy doing from time to time, but the fact of the matter is: if your partner doesn’t think that’s hot, then using that as your go to move can be a turn off. It doesn’t automatically qualify you as good in bed – what it does do is widen your sexual repertoire and vocabulary to be flexible and creative in a myriad of sexual situations. That way if your partner thinks it’s hot, then the sex can be amazing.
What the kink community didn’t teach me is that the basis of good sex is both an animal and an emotional connection with the people you fuck. Which brings me to the second, negative influencer on my sexuality: Catholicism. Ah, yes. I’m a fucking weirdo – it had to come from somewhere, right?
For me, the second influencer was Catholicism, although for you it might be religion, or a strict household, or reception of media images that preached shame around sexuality. The problem with preaching shame around sexuality is that it necessarily stunts the emotional response to sexuality – when sexuality is approached with an initial emotional state of shame, reaching emotional levels of vulnerability, intimacy, animalism, connection and pleasure can be entirely inhibited by the demon of shame. Which is why when confronted with conflicting influencers of emotional shame and high brow kink, I found myself willing to debase myself sexually in the name of figuring this shit out without being willing to engage emotionally with anyone I fucked.
Hence the numerous occasions on which I wanted a guy to choke me, but shamed him because he couldn’t or wouldn’t – I wanted to be sexually superior and capable of doing all those things that I had seen that would make me undeniably sexually attractive without having to actually take the time to communicate with my partners what they wanted or what turned them on or what was the best way for us to fuck each other.
This also speaks to a fairly limited perspective on my sexual partners, which are mostly men. Men have earned a bad rap for themselves, but over the years I have learned that not all men want the weirdest, kinkiest, freakiest shit in the bedroom. This has been a disappointing revelation for me personally – turns out men are not a one size fits all, be as freaky as you can be sexual beings. Good for them. (But, if I may speak to toxic masculinity here, it would be great to see men who don’t secretly want to be Hugh Hefner speak up on it publicly, to create that positive image of male sexuality as antithetical to all of that without being portrayed as a bitch or non-masculine in the face of toxic masculinity. That one’s on y’all.)
At this point in my piece, I would like to state: none of this is meant to kink shame or sexually shame people who are into kink or who have gone through this mode of sexual exploration. Rather, this is about a psychological self examination of how we can do things better. This is about talking about how we have embarked on our sexual journeys, and what we have learned along the way. This is about increasing our sexual intelligence in order to have better sex and in order to make better decisions. I know that as someone who took this path of sexual exploration, I have come out relatively unscathed. But that’s not true for everyone who walks down this path.
Reconciling a high kink sexuality and a non emotional relationship approach is harrowing. My particular path of sexual exploration meant discarding a lot of people who didn’t want to be discarded. I hurt a lot of people because I was (for whatever reason) in pain, and that level of pain seemed normal and manageable. It didn’t feel unnatural or wrong to have other people at my level of pain because of what I did to them.
I could say that I wish I had learned that lesson sooner or differently, but the fact of the matter is that I was going to learn that lesson regardless, and it was going to be painful anyways I learned it. I happened to learn it through sexuality.
I’m still learning. After a certain point, I realized that my pain was allowing me to put myself in increasingly more painful situations when it came to sex and romance. However, after coming to terms with my pain, I didn’t want to ratchet up the amount of pain that I was experiencing and creating. At a certain point, I realized that I wanted to be loved and to love. It’s a cheesy sentiment when I look at it in a sentence, but, then again, love has been coopted by our capitalist society as a mechanism of selling shit. But that conversation is for another time.
Love, much like sex, is something that you have to practice in order to be good at. Some people are lucky and just automatically know. The rest of us have to suffer through trial and error in order to figure out how this shit really works.
Which brings us back to the title of this piece: sexual intelligence. Hopefully, as we continue our journey through life, we get better at fucking and loving. Ideally, we are learning positive lessons (even in negative situations) about how to be better lovers in every sense of the word. It’s easier said than done. Being the best at sex and love can take years to learn – and sometimes it starts out with asking random hook ups to choke you out and then dipping if it’s unsatisfactory. That’s fine. That’s fair. Maybe that’s how forever goes sexually, or maybe that’s something we’re just doing for now.
Here’s to having better sex and better love as time goes on.