When was the first time you truly thought about sex? I don’t just mean in high school when you had to sit through an excruciating sex ed lesson, or when you knew people ‘doing it’. I mean, when did you first think about the sex you were having or perhaps wanted to be having. And when, if ever, did you think about the importance of sex in your life?
For me, it was somewhere in my mid-twenties. I was in the throes of a very intense, all-consuming (and at times, abusive) same-sex relationship. My partner at the time had very specific ideas around the kind of sex she thought we should be having. Forget what mainstream porn tells you, as our sex life was far from tittilating. It wasn’t bad, mind you, but was relatively restrictive considering we were meant to be two hot young things exploring our sexuality. Without going into too much detail, there was simply a lot my partner insisted we ‘could’ and ‘couldn’t’ do in bed, a general script we had to stick to. Because of the person I was dating, and because of the sex we were having (of which we were not having very much), I came to the decision that maybe, sex isn’t so important to me. Inevitably, as much as we thought we were above it, we too became casualties of lesbian bed death – something I joked about outwardly, but allowed to fester inwardly. I felt conflicted, flipping between wondering why I wanted to have more sex than my partner and trying to convince myself that love is enough and isn’t only shown through sex. As you’ve likely guessed, that relationship ended after six years, having taken up the bulk of my 20s. Aside from leaving me heartbroken, it left me wondering who the hell I was, who I wanted to have sex with and how I actually felt about sex. At the tender age of 26, I was on the cusp of a sexual revolution, I just didn’t know it yet.
As any person who became single post the Tinder revolution will know, getting back out there has never been easier. Or more terrifying. Everyone talks about sowing your wild oats, having fun and rebounding, but for someone trying to grapple with my sexuality as well as new-found freedom, the prospect of hopping into bed with someone new was overwhelming. I remember spending about 6 months, unintentionally, in a state of celibacy, feeling out every new experience that presented itself. I sought out both men and women on dating apps, because, truly I didn’t know what I wanted. Despite all these best efforts to get out there again – albeit gingerly – my first post-breakup hookup happened as most do: with a relative stranger, drunken after a night out at a bar. The sex itself, or at least what I remember of it, was good, but this wasn’t the point. I recall thinking, ‘that wasn’t such a big deal’ and that I had fun. The Band-Aid had been ripped off, all bets were off, the falcon couldn’t hear the falconer, and I made a small vow then to explore any and all avenues of pleasures. I joked to my friends that I was embarking on the ‘year of the slut’ as a way of figuring out my relationship with sex, as well as myself.
That year turned out to be a watershed one. Again, I’ll skim over details, but it was a year filled with lots of saying ‘yes’ to people I might never have considered previously. Some trysts were from Tinder, some from events like weddings or friends’ parties, some from more random nights out. Some encounters ended the next morning while others were repeats. If the metaphor here is about trying lots of different hats to see what suited me, I feel like I nearly went through the whole store. And while some of the sex was bang average (pun intended), some of it was incredible. Aside from getting it on and having a great time doing it, I was building up a mental list of what kind of sex I really liked.
Just as with the food I liked to eat, the wine I liked to drink, I was now starting to identify what I wanted in bed. It doesn’t sound like much, but having spent the better part of six years in my 20s thinking sex doesn’t need to be important, this was a lightbulb switching on in my head. That year did more for understanding myself than I could have ever imagined. Sure, parts of it were awkward, vulnerable and disheartening, but others were exciting and empowering. I know for some this might sound scary and, well, slutty. Sadly, there’s still so much shame and general bullshit womxn, in particular, have to navigate around sex, but it’s worth persevering. Even if only once, with one small aspect. Think of it as a bit like self-care, perhaps even as the ultimate form of self-care.
So, what is the point of all this catharsis? How is this helpful to you, KushKush reader? In all honesty, I’m not sure. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea to bump uglies with just any person, and that’s certainly not what I’m suggesting everyone does here. I’m simply saying that my process of truly, and unconditionally, letting myself fully explore the crevices of my own pleasure was life-changing. Which is possible for everyone to do – single or not, sexual or not – and I encourage you to do so. It can be as small as trying something you previously dismissed. Try porn, toys, maybe get a little stoned and have sex or use a CBD lube, explore masturbation, daytime sex, anything!
The act of exploring sex to learn more about yourself is something we should all endeavour to do more of. I know now that sex is important to me, that I value it as highly in a relationship as I do good manners and a sense of humour. Something I now mention in those early stages of a relationship - the same way I would mention that I do want kids and a beach house in Scarborough one day. This might sound immensely selfish but if it ends up helping you find a bit more happiness, in and out of the bedroom, I think it’s worth it. This has also helped shape me into the person I am today, as well as the lover and partner I am. Being aware of what you want in bed in turn makes you more in-tune with your partner. You know that to be able to value your own pleasure, you need to do the same for them, too. Tit for tat, if you will.
Lastly, it goes without saying that a shameless womxn can’t be shamed. So, don’t let anyone shame you, be it friends, family or the person you’re intimate with. Find that confidant, that Instagram account, that podcast that resonates with this journey and you’ll soon see you’re not alone or some wanton, wayward woman. To quote Kourtney Kardashian: “Kim, there are people that are dying!” and she’s right. There truly are bigger things for people to get angry about – it shouldn’t be your sex life. If wanting to love yourself and the sex you’re having is wrong, well, then I don’t want to be right.