At one of the many wine-fueled living room discussions from my old apartment, I remember one of the girls asking whether we thought giving or receiving sex was more intimate. We debated this topic out, and there were mixed responses in the room. My answer didn’t take much thought. For me, receiving has always been more intimate, and, at times, more challenging.
I can bury my mouth or fingers in someone else all day. Seriously. But it’s another level to let someone else pull open the layers of my body and mind and fuck me senseless.
When I first became sexually active, I was always very dominant with men. I liked the feeling of turning someone else on until they lost control, using my own body and mind to elicit an involuntary response. That kind of power was a rush. It’s an undeniably terrifying lesson to learn at such a young age. I have often used my body, my voice, my mind, to push the people around me. Only as an adult has it become increasingly important for me to control my own tendencies to dominate. I try to fall more gracefully now, to reign that urge into becoming a healthy response, not an overwhelming one. I fail sometimes. It’s an ongoing process.
Even at a young age, being on top, being in control, was about more than power. Dominance was a protective measure. Dominance left me with the illusion that I had more agency, more control over how much of my own body and mind I was opening up to someone else. It was a false prophet, leading me to believe I could protect myself.
My attitude and actions changed drastically when I started dating my first girlfriend. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was on even ground with someone. I had nothing to prove, no role to fill – because there wasn’t a prescript for how two women in a relationship thought, acted, fucked. Or at least, I felt like there wasn’t a prescript because I had not yet been socialized into a queer community. I learned much more about giving and taking sexually. More importantly, I learned to let my guard down and expose myself to pleasure, to heartbreak, to infinite possibilities.
But the reality is, I still have a lot of deep-burnt issues about control and agency, consent and release. These concepts are so interwoven that it’s hard to imagine picking them apart.
On most cars, there’s a kill switch that kicks in when you accelerate to 100mph. Sometimes 120mph. Your car can, indeed, go faster. But manufacturers place a safety limit, so that an engine literally will not accelerate more after reaching that speed.
I’m learning that I, too, have a safety kill switch. When I’m fucking someone new for the first time, I often can’t come. The sex can be spectacular. My body can be totally aroused, and I can get so close. But, as if there’s an internal switch I can’t control, I’ll lose my orgasm just as I’m getting there. It’s incredibly frustrating, and often leaves me feeling so many things – guilty, confused, and out of touch with my body. It’s difficult to explain to a partner that it’s not her, it’s me. Really.
I’ve encountered this before, years ago, but the truth is, I had forgotten about it in the four years I was in a relationship. In retrospect, I never could come to full orgasm with a guy. It wasn't not about sexual orientation, because I was attracted to the guys I dated and screwed around with. But I wasn’t comfortable letting go of myself and my body. I faced the same issue with later sex partners (and girls before we dated), but usually I could overcome it. In my memory, this became a few separate incidents, not a pattern. But I'm obviously wrong. It is a pattern.
I’ve met quite a number of girls in my life who’ve experienced the same thing, though often in a slightly different context. Many of them have expressed that they’ve never reached orgasm ever, or never reached orgasm with a partner. I’m not in that boat. But I think there could be correlations.
I definitely think it’s deeply psychological, and it’s a remnant of protection – a way for my body to close off, to keep from sharing my own intimacy. While I love to receive, to submit, there’s a lot of trust required there. Any consensual sexual act requires trust – trust that your partner will respect your choices and request, trust that your partner will listen to your body and your words, trust that you’ll be treated the way you want to be, trust that you’ll be safe from being harmed.
Problem is, this happens even when I'm consciously consenting, even when I trust my partner completely.
(Always a but.)
My body apparently feels differently.
I don’t know if it’s a remnant of being sexually assaulted. I don’t know if it’s the reason many women I know can’t orgasm. But I suspect it has something to do with letting go. I suspect it’s an internal fear – do I look ok? Does my partner judge my body? Is she/he enjoying it? Or even a more deep set, less obvious fear – one of relinquishing control of your body, your reactions. I’ve met many women who were embarrassed by the sounds or the faces they make during orgasm, the way their right leg shakes, the fact that they ejaculate, the chance that they might queef, or really, any involuntary bodily response.
Sex is messy and personal. These things are going to happen! And while I’ve apologized for many of my own reactions at different points with different partners, the truth is, those fears hold us back.
But even when I’m not caught up with these thoughts consciously, my body still cuts off. I can be completely committed and engaged in sex... and yet, nothing. This ridiculously frustrating motor kill switch is holding me back, not really protecting me. It’s hurting my ability to enjoy sex and my ability to respond to a partner. It’s fucking with my sex life, and it’s got to go.
So while I don’t really have an answer yet on how I’m going to overcome whatever is holding me back in this situation – hell, I don’t even really know for certain what or why my body responds like this – I do hope that naming the problem is step one.
In truth, I love to have my boundaries challenged. I still love to be dominant, but I equally love to submit, to be restrained, to be pushed to a grey area between pleasure and pain. I like to play with power in consensual ways, and I like to have my ideas of agency and control discussed and challenged. Sex can be as psychological as it can be physical, and I like to fuck with both – pardon the pun.
I'd even go so far as to say that at times, my own protective instinct closes me off to the point of being borderline stone -- open and willing to fuck someone else, but not to be fucked. The truth is, I don't like it there. I like to be fucked. I like my layers and complexities to be picked apart until I'm engaged in every part of sex, even the most raw and intimate and scary acts of exposing myself to someone else. That, in itself, is a turn on. Protective shields don't protect me -- they limit me from experience, exposure, opportunity.
But right now, my body is really fucking with me, in a not-so-fun way. I’m hoping this is something I can work on in Albany, as it’s definitely something I want to get to the bottom of soon.