This is not a normal edition of Been There, Shouldn't Have Done That, but the joy of being my own editor/boss means that it doesn't matter! I just wanted to write about where my head is at right now, because it feels relevant to the advice I will give in the future. But don't worry, there's still advice sprinkled in here! This edition I'm focusing on desire! Knowing it, having it, advocating for it, taking it seriously.
In news that is honestly still shocking to myself, I’ve been slowly but surely getting my shit together. What does that look like? Well it means that I’m voluntarily celibate for the first time ever in my adult life. As of today, it’s been 81 days since I last had sex. To a person who has not spent the best part of the last decade furiously engaged in the negation of the self through the bodies of others, this might not sound very long. For me, it’s a revelation.
What prompted this paradigm shift? Well it was a glowing realisation that in seeking pleasure to the detriment of everything else, I had not stopped to consider that nothing I was doing or feeling…actually…felt….pleasurable?
As a person, I take sex seriously, even as someone who thinks sex can have a myriad of meanings beyond romance and monogamy. For me, sex and the rituals surrounding it are things that express a carefree version of myself who is usually repressed and beaten down by the drudgery of late capitalist life.
When I date someone, when I fuck someone, I want to be reminded of my human capacity for joy and unseriousness and unproductivity. I want to be reminded of who I am as a person (curious! empathetic! ridiculous! relentlessly interested in the erotic potential of everything! hopeful! always looking for moments of relatability and connection!). I do not want to be confronted with the fact that as humans we are fundamentally isolated within our own spheres of existence and finding moments in which you feel your own sphere of existence merge with someone else’s is a rare and precious thing.
For too long I had been having sex with people thinking that my own ideas about what I needed and wanted from intimacy could somehow be strong enough to make manifest those desires, even if the other person wasn’t approaching things from the same angle as me, even if the other person was incompatible with me in ways that go beyond clashing top + bottom configurations. I am guilty of not being upfront enough about how the sex I’ve had has been lacking for me. More sinfully, I am guilty of continuing to have said sex, instead of a) confronting this lack or b) moving on.
I had such belief in my utopian ideas of what sex can mean and do for me that I had lost sight of the fact that it really takes two to tango. The escapism I was looking for through sex couldn’t just be generated by me. I needed the other person to also wholeheartedly wish for sex to be a portal to freedom that goes beyond coming. It's not that the sex I was having was bad, or unenjoyable. (Shout out to the people reading this who I’ve slept with!!) It was just...not everything that I wanted, and that’s on me, not on them. I should have had the integrity to only have sex with people who I thought had the potential to feel the same way as me. And most importantly to only sleep with people who I thought could feel the same way WITH me. Not everyone is compatible! That’s just a fat ass fact of life. I know that I personally struggle with understanding that even if I’m drawn to a person and enjoy their company and think they’re beautiful and hot it doesn’t mean that we will automatically be able to have sex that sets us both alight.
You know, until 81 days ago I had never seriously considered the fact that I could simply stop having sex and wait until I found someone who I believed could give me everything I desired. And who, more importantly, was interested in not just the practice of having sex, but in critically reflecting on what the fuck sex is, will be, should be and can be in the same way as I am. I know that when I HAVE had this kind of sex, it has been so painfully obvious that everything else pales in comparison.
But everytime I’d briefly considered a break from sex and dating in the past I had immediately dismissed it as soon as I met someone who I was interested in, without reflecting on whether I was realllllly ready to dive into another person. Again. I had never been an adult without having sex, I didn't know who or what I could be outside of the version of myself who was always someone's girlfriend, hook up, friend with benefits etc. So I was afraid to get off the sex wheel, to stop running with my little hamster paws, and just take a break.
I saw a tweet the other day that implied that many queers do not know what they desire and they want the people they sleep with to do their desiring for them. I read this tweet so many times! I screenshotted it and sent it to my ex slash best friend. They told me that something they were really struck by when we were together was my certainty about what I wanted. This tweet hit me where it hurts because it spoke to something I honestly believe to be true. As a culture (queers included!) we don't know what we want, and even when we do, we're no good at advocating for it. Too many people come to their sexual encounters expecting the other person to obliterate them without considering what they can bring to the table to facilitate said obliteration. For straight people this is inextricably wrapped up in gender expectations, for queers I imagine that this reticence to own one's sexual fantasies is a product of a sanitised queer culture which seeks to position queers as 'just like everyone else'. When the fact is that we are perverts with imaginations that shouldn't be limited by the heteronormative matrix :))))
Contemporary queers would do well to kill the cop inside them that implores them to disparage flagrant expressions of queer sexuality, including their own. I will also say, as a pointed message to the bottoms out there. Bottom is not synonymous with passive. As a bottom you have just as much responsibility for bringing direction to your sexual encounters as tops. If you are unsure about your desires and you are identifying as a bottom in order to sidestep responsibility for the terms of your sexual engagements then you are a) denying yourself true pleasure and b) undoubtedly pissing off the tops/switches you sleep with. If you recognise yourself in this description (no shame if so! I have definitely been this bitch!) then you need to think about what it is during/about sex that actually turns you on. Lie down in a quiet place and try and imagine your most satisfying sexual encounter. What happens? Where does it happen? What do you say? What do they say? How does it start? Where do you touch them? Where do they touch you? How will you know when you're satisfied? Is it when you come? Is it when they come? Is it when you're so exhausted from getting fucked that you feel like a cloud and you just want to curl up and sleep? Run the fantasy through your mind a few times. Write it down. Practice describing it to someone else. Next time you have sex, be clear that you have ideas about what you want and need. Know that you can write your own sexual narratives.
Anyway, it's been 81 days. In the beginning it was almost unbearable. The boundaries of my body felt too solid. I missed my sexual self so much I wanted to throw myself on the floor and weep dramatically. Now I've settled into new routines. I go to therapy on Zoom and meticulously write down the smart things my therapist says. I go upstairs and teach myself how to play the drums from YouTube videos. I write and rewrite a short story which started out being about an ex-lover and turned into a story about all the lies I've told myself over the years. I take walks with my friends and remember how good it feels to breathe air that I'm not afraid of. I rewatch the L Word and marvel at the lengths dykes will go to to utterly ruin themselves. I stare at the club and party scenes with a shocked look of heartbreak on my face and push my fingers up against the screen and fantasise about when I will be a body amongst bodies again.
My friends call me up and they tell me about their problems with their girlfriends and I feel like I can give better advice than I ever could before. Before, I knew what was smart, but I didn't know how it FELT to do what was smart. My friend tells me she feels torn between her wants and the wants of the people she loves. I advise her as best I can. I reflect on the fact that even though I'm lonely, I am infinitely lucky to have only my own needs to consider at this point in time. No one needs anything from me to the detriment of myself. I am the only person who makes decisions about the path of my life, and I'm finally making decisions which benefit every part of me.
I'm ready to take my own advice.
If any of what I’ve written feels relatable for you then please get in touch here because I want to talk about it! Talking about what pleasure can do for us is one of my biggest...pleasures?? And if you have a question for the next edition then please submit questions via the submission form on my website: https://kesienaboom.journoportfolio.com/contact-me-or-submit-a-question-to-my-advice-column/
Thanks for reading <3
(and for the love of god stop going on vacations and to parties, gatherings, restaurants etc because the plague is very much not over)