Let’s talk about sex.
Not because I want to — specifically because I don’t want to.
I don’t like talking about sex at all. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s taboo in society to even have a conversation about it. These days, kids learn more about sex from internet pornography than they do from conversations with their parents or their peers. (I’m making that up, but it sounds accurate, doesn’t it?)
Growing up, becoming an adolescent male, sex was embarrassing and highly desirable. I was filled with hormones, and those hormones led to loads of embarrassing situations.
Sometimes I was attracted to girls that had a crush on guys that would pick on me. So that sucked, because it enforced the story I had that those guys were better than I was. It ended up just being easier to repress that attraction — so I did, making my sexuality, at least in those areas, wrong.
Sometimes I would be attracted to someone and share it with my Mum, slyly, and she would tease me, gently. There was no harm in it, but it made me embarrassed that she could so easily see through me being coy. So I learned to hide that part of myself – to shut it out and keep myself flat and level.
Sometimes I would be out with my family and we’d be walking through a crowd, and my Dad would laugh, and say to my Mum “Did you see that? That guy just checked that girl out from head to toe. He wasn’t subtle at all!” Other times I would hear girls talking about guys being creepy, or how obvious it was when a guy my age looked at another girl (and sometimes that was also said with a healthy amount of scorn, because they resented the guy looking at that girl instead of themselves). So I learned that it was wrong to consider other women attractive, or even looking at someone I find attractive. It became safer to look at someone attractive with scorn. “Pfft, what a slut”. At least that was acceptable (that was the story I created).
By the time I got to the age and maturity where women were willing to even consider sex with me (it took a while!) I was a big huge ball of wrong, shame, and control.
And this is where Bay entered my life.
My stuff grows more and more clear to me each week as I continue to work on it. Out of all of the lessons that I put together as a child and an adolescent, I reached the point where there were parts of me that were simply unacceptable. It was not acceptable that I found women other than my partner attractive. It was unacceptable that, when watching TV, I would sometimes get turned-on because of what we were watching.
None of those things are actually bad. They come with being a human being. The problem wasn’t that I found other women attractive, or that sometimes I got turned on when there was a naked woman on TV — the problem was that I was not able to own this part of myself.
I had basically fractured myself into two parts. The part of me that felt all of the things that I felt, and the part of me that I was able and willing to own and share with the rest of the world, including my partner.
As a result, intimacy (including but not limited to sex) became impossible. There was no room for me to actually be myself, because I couldn’t even own that. I would carry on the façade as long as I could, but eventually we would inevitably stop having sex, and then intimacy altogether. There was simply no room for me to be both myself, authentic and vulnerable, and intimate.
In some relationships this leads to the situation where one partner cheats on the other partner. For me, I cheated once on a girlfriend when I was much younger, and felt so horrible about it that I vowed never to do it again. So instead I’d just shut out my partner, turn to internet pornography and meet my own needs. It was perhaps less “morally reprehensible” in the eyes of our societal views, but what I can see is that it had no less impact on the health of the intimacy of my relationships, nor the mindset of my partners (“What is wrong with me?”, they would ask, wondering why I had shut them out).
I was shut down everywhere. I couldn’t even admire someone who was beautiful, because that was the part of me that was wrong, and as a result, I learned to stifle the impulse.
But, as I’ve said before, humans are not like a set of plumbing, with multiple valves we can turn on and off. If you cut off your energy in one place, you cut it off in other places.
What there is for me to do now is to start owning these parts of myself. Own them as simply facets of me, wholly and complete. There’s nothing wrong with being lit up by someone who is beautiful — what there is to do is to take that energy and share it with the person I love. It doesn’t mean that she isn’t important, or that I don’t find her attractive; the energy is my own, and I get to choose where I provide it. What has changed is that I’m now choosing to provide it to my partner, instead of miserly guarding it for myself (where it was safe, but ultimately empty).
What does that look like? It means sometimes sharing with Bay when I notice myself following the usual pattern. Oh look, now I’m denying myself any access to anything that might be arousing, because that way I can control myself. Oh look, I just opened up google and typed in “sexy nuns”, and then quickly shut down the page. Oh look, this time I did the same thing, but took a little longer to shut down the page.
It’s not Bay’s responsibility to immediately accept what I share with her. Unconditional love doesn’t mean that we don’t get taken out when our partners share something we don’t like. We may very well struggle to be with a part of themselves that they’ve spent most of their own lives rejecting (after all, they’ve been struggling with it…). Our job as partners is to hear it, notice what it creates in ourselves (and what it reflects in you that you cannot own), and then take that on.
In this way, relationships can be the ultimate ground for personal growth — but it requires stepping into your fear over and over.
I don’t love sharing this with you, because I’m not yet ready to fully own that that is who I am. But I am sharing it because this is the process by which I do begin to own myself, as a powerful leader; one replete with wisdom, arrogance, kindness, judgment, humility, grace, foolishness, wit, defensiveness, and yes, sexuality too.
Thanks for reading and sharing in my process.