An examination of just how much of my sex life has been dis-connected, and why I put up with it.
If you’ve read this post then you probably have an inkling that sex with my ex-husband was complicated. I honestly don’t think he meant to be such an arse. He certainly didn’t mean to be borderline sexually abusive. He was just a fairly average product of our culture. A guy who deep down, felt entitled to sex.
And I was a twenty-something woman who didn’t really know anything else.
Before I met him i’d had three boyfriends.
The first - L, was when we were 15. We were together 3 months. In that time, my first kiss was in front of probably 20 people, all jeering that I must be frigid since we’d been together 2 weeks (for most of which I’d had bronchitis) and hadn’t kissed yet. So regardless of my wishes or feelings on the situation, he kissed me. Not because he wanted to kiss me. Because he wanted the peer-pressure to stop. That pretty much set the tone. Whilst he never pushed for sex, he did try to push my boundaries multiple times, wanting more physicality than I was ready for. In the end, he cheated on me, with a supposed friend, because he had opportunity and she was prepared to put out.
The second - G, I dated from 16-18. He was great. We’re still kinda friends, and we had a long distance sexting-friends with benefits thing going for a few months last year, where I learnt a lot about myself sexually. There was never any pressure, I never felt sexualised rather than wanted as a person, and we had a really great sex life as a result. But somewhere along the line I guess I forgot what sex with someone who’s really in there with you, could be like.
The third - S, I dated for 8 months when I was 18/19. I usually try to deny his existence because he was an A-grade loser that was only supposed to be a rebound fling, and yet I somehow convinced myself was ‘the one’ but he’s relevant to this backstory. Anyway. S was all old-school gentlemanly charm. But he did it, to try and pull girls. I met his friends before we were really together, and by the end of the night his best mate had me completely convinced that S was a ‘player’. In reality, he was a virgin and I was his first girlfriend. (The friend however was pretty much the stereotypical thinks-they’re-cool ‘player’ of the early 2000’s.) Point being, that in order to feel manly and socially acceptable, and to not ‘scare off’ girls, he felt that he had to come up with this fake sexual history of prowess and lay on the ‘chivalry’, and when we broke up, he booty-called me. Because after 7 months of regular sex, it only took two days for him to realise that breaking up with me, meant he wouldn’t be getting any for a while. So whilst I wasn’t the girl he wanted to marry, I was perfectly suitable as a fuck-buddy, and he saw no irony in asking me for a hook-up.
Entitlement at its finest.
So when A (ex-husband) and I started dating about a month later, entitled behavior was kinda par for the course for me. Besides, it’s what you saw on tv, and movies, and heard about in songs, and in porn (that I still read at the time). Everything my culture had taught me said that I was really lucky with G. That my experiences with L and S were far more ‘the norm.’
And in the first year, our relationship was amazing. Emotionally and sexually. So by the time the issues started to pile up, I was seriously emotionally invested.
The same night we had sex the first time, having only been together for a few weeks, he gave me this letter, handwritten, 3 A4 pages, detailing all the things he loved about me. It’s been at least five years since I even looked at the box that contains that letter, and I can still quote it.
“I love your obsession with butterflies, beautiful with a hidden strength just like you.”
I can still quote the MSN messenger convo we had the night after I first kissed him, when said I wasn’t sure I was ready for another relationship yet. “Sometimes being alone isn’t what you need. Sometimes you need someone who you can speak plainly to without fear of loss”.
Let me be that person for you, he said.
Our first anniversary card? “I don’t want to complicate things, but I can’t help wondering if someday I might first give you a ring, and then later we will exchange rings.” funnily enough my present was actually a ring. A ring he’d had made out of a butterfly earing i’d had from childhood and lost the pair too in grade 8. I wore it on my left hand for five years.
I’m sure you can see why I fell so hard.
Things started to deteriorate sexually and the red-flags of entitlement started to appear in our second year, beginning with The Toowoomba Incident.
We’d gone to toowoomba to visit a friend of his, and we were leaving a club (god only knows what possessed us to go clubbing in Toowoomba of all places) when he announced that he kinda wanted to have sex with someone else right then.
I was not impressed. And we did break up over it. But that lasted all of about a week and a half.
And, at the end of the day, I rationalised the he didn't do it, he only said he wanted to. That that incident and all our other issues were just the end of the honeymoon period. By year three though, he wasn’t just thinking about it on a one off anymore, he was asking me how i’d feel about an open relationship.
Somewhere in the years 2-3 period, i’d lost all interest in sex. Most likely a combination between the pill doing what it does best (fucking with women’s lives) and some subconscious reaction to the damage The Toowoomba Incident had done to our relationship.
My anxiety was also starting to build, and I found it extremely difficult to shut my brain off. So the rare times when I was actually interested in sex, almost always fizzled out like a wet firework. My brain was too distracted with worrying about something, or thinking about chores that needed doing, and I just couldn’t get the physical interest to take hold.
And so for the next few years I would find myself having obligation sex.
Laying there, uninterested, just waiting for it to be over, whilst simultaneously wondering how on earth it could be enough for him to basically be having sex with a doll.
Because that’s what I felt like. A doll. A prostitute.
And in the end it turned out that I was, because I was right, it wasn't enough for him to have completely dis-connected sex. It wasn’t satisfying. How could it be.
But instead of seeking to actually understand why I was so uninterested. Why I felt pawed at and sexualised all the time, why I never felt like he actually wanted me, just sex- he started looking elsewhere. Beginning with asking about an open relationship arrangement, and ending with six women in six years, because he just ‘needed to feel truly wanted sexually for one night a year.’
(The irony is, I ended up saying yes to the open relationship suggestion. He shot it down. At the time I believed his claim that he’d realised it was stupid and immature…… turns out it was really that he’d already slept with the friend he wanted to pursue. Didn’t find that out till seven years later. And he lied to my face about it when the girl in question refused to come to our wedding, stating that she never wanted to see him again.)
Fast forward thirteen years, the last five of which i've been single for, and I finally find myself in a new relationship.
And oh-my-god, it is so nice to not just be having sex again, but to be having connected sex.
After having shitty dis-connected sex for so many years, there was no way I was going the Tinder route. I’d waited this long, I could wait until I met someone who I actually felt I could trust to give a shit about my pleasure and my experience. Someone who wanted to have sex with me, rather than just wanting sex. Willing bodies please apply here…..
And it’s early days, we’ve only been together for a month, but when he hugs me, or comes up behind me while i’m doing something and touches my arm, I don’t feel like he’s secretly angling for sex. Which means I can just lean into his touch instead of wishing I had a baseball bat. Even better, if I really don’t want to be touched, I can say so, and he’ll back off without sulking. Because he’s a grown up.
And that is such a nice change.
But it shouldn’t be. It should be the norm. The minimum standard that women in our culture receive.
The entitlement, and the willingness to have turned-off sex, those should be the rarities.
But they’re not. Which leads me back to the question I asked so many times; “how can it be enough” for so many men, to have sex without connection. And I don’t mean love, I just mean that you couldn’t swap out the woman involved for a doll or a prostitute without him even noticing.
How can that be enough for them? Why is it enough for them? And how do we fix that?
Hi I'm Nicole