I’ve been “teaching” and proclaiming consent as part of my cuddling profession for a long time. It’s been the basis of my relationships since leaving D. It’s been really important to me since having consent violated. I think relationships should be built on a foundation of “fuck yes’s,” not maybe’s, not “Okay, sure”’s. And though I still believe in that, I’m realizing both the nuances and complications of consent and admittedly my difficulty with holding up my end of consent if it’s someone else rejecting something I want from them.
It is starting to put some pieces together for me. What the stereotypical male-bodied person goes through. Having strong desires and sexual urges and after hearing no, having to stifle and repress those urges for the sake of the other person’s needs above their own. I’m not saying they shouldn’t or that it’s justified to violate someone else’s body. I’m not saying that it’s okay to go past someone else’s boundaries for your own desires at all. It isn’t. But it’s not as easy as I think I’ve made it out to be in my language.
So let’s backtrack to my own sexual history – because that is often where consent is most imperative and most often broken. Despite the sexual abuse and assaults I’ve encountered, I still crave sex. I still want it every day – at least once. And though I am female, you’d be surprised that it’s actually just not feasible to get that. For a number of reasons.
1) Most people – not just females – don’t want sex all the time. Though I have a male sexual partner and he knows I would accept sex all the time (unless I’m angry with him…sometimes), he still doesn’t want it with me all the time. He’s tired, he’s not in the mood, etc.
2) You might think that since I’m poly, I could just go out and find other partners on the nights my partner doesn’t want sex or to “fill in the holes” (literally and metaphorically :)). But I don’t just want sex with anyone and it turns out that when I have multiple partners (all of whom I desire sex with), my desire for sex increases even more and I’m even more insatiable.
Believe it or not, I still get a lot more sex now than when I was married. Despite wanting sex all the time (with my husband – or not), I was in a mostly sex-less marriage for almost 11 years. Yeah, *he* was the one that didn’t want sex. A lot of people think I’m lying about this. I even suggested we have a threesome or other partners, to which he always argued against. So I was wanting for sex pretty much constantly. And I couldn’t initiate – because that felt like “pressure” to him. I just had to wait – for him to decide he wanted sex. And now, I’m finding myself in the same position, though to a much much less extreme degree.
In the beginning of my current relationship, he wanted sex as much as I did. We’d see each other for a night and have sex four times. He was as insatiable as me. And for 2 and a half years, we’ve had sex almost every day. I’m spoiled compared to the average person, I know. And as ridiculous as it sounds and even though it’s rather rare, it’s still sometimes hard for me on those days I don’t have sex with him. He is still (even if rarely) the bottleneck and I often feel like I am waiting for him to “push the button.”
For example, this morning, we were waking up and cuddling and I started kissing him and he firmly said “I’m just cuddling still.” This was really the first time he had made such a definitive statement in this regard. Immediately, I felt a lot of strong emotions well up. Instead of withdrawing, leaving the room, curling up in a ball, or using some other subtle/subconscious manipulative tactic to convince him into wanting sex, I stopped and thought about it and asked myself what those feelings were. (This has been something that doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s been practice. A lot of practice.) I identified that the emotions were a bit of hurt and anger, embarrassment, and mostly…shame. I had come back full circle to the shame I felt during my marriage and in life for wanting a lot of sex (as a female or as a human) and also that I wasn’t perfect at the skills I teach and preach. I immediately felt like I needed to close myself off, deny my desires, detach, put up walls. It wasn’t as much about not feeling desired – I handled those feelings for 11 years and in general, I do feel desired by him and others. It was mostly shame that I wanted something with him that he didn’t and I was suddenly being hypocritical. Because it wasn’t so easy to just turn off those desires and to not try to convince him into what I wanted.
And yet, I realize I’ve expected others to do that. Implicitly or explicitly. To say to them “No, I’m sorry. I know you want me, but I don’t want you. I’m fine with hearing about those desires, but not fine with acting on them.” And then being upset when those desires came out in ways that felt violating to me. It’s not that that’s okay or that I deserved that behavior (the violation)..it’s not that I “asked for it.” It’s not that I’m not valid for being upset in those situations. But in some ways, maybe I haven’t been compassionate enough to the push and pull and hurt that comes along with having feelings and desires that aren’t reciprocated. Because, mostly, though I want sex all the time, I deny it with most everybody. I make logical choices over emotional ones. I deny myself something I want, at times, for the greater good of my mental health. And I just don’t honestly find myself attracted to that many people sexually. So, in general, I recognize that puts *me* in the place of making the choice to say “yes” or “no” initially because I know the other person is a “yes.” It’s easy to be that person in some ways (minus hurting the other person’s feelings).
But when I do want someone sexually, I want them a lot. More than they can ever give. This also applies to time with them and all kinds of other things too. And so I know the other side of the fence too. And I know that this position fucking sucks- to be the person who is always a “yes” and waiting for the “yes” back…even if you appreciate when you do get that “yes” or what you do have a “yes” for is still awesome. It feels like being a puppet sometimes, the lingering answer to the ever-lingering question being entirely out of your control. And it feels, for me, shameful too – it feels like I’m being ungrateful and like anyone else looking into the situation from the outside would say “Why can’t you be happy with what you have?” The thing is I am grateful for what I have. But matters of the heart just aren’t that simple. Matters of the heart aren’t something you can think your way out of.
It’s made me extend this question to the situation when I continue to be close (including platonic affection) to those people who want me sexually and I don’t want them (even if they still consent to spending time with me). I’m clear about where I stand with them and in the past, I’ve believed that took me off the hook. And yet, I understand that they feel a pull to me in a way that isn’t the way I feel about them and so it’s likely harder for them to make lines with me. They want what I’m giving them – even if it isn’t everything they want. And deep down, even if I’ve said a definitive “no,” there is likely a hope for that to change in them. They are a “yes” and I know it and I know that at any time, I could probably offer a kiss or bring out a condom and they’d jump on the chance. Maybe it’s like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit and it always being out of their reach. Maybe it’s like torture, torture that I inflict unknowingly. It’s, of course, still their choice to make lines around it and say “No, I can’t handle this anymore.” It’s, of course, still their choice to hold out hope for change or not despite my clear statements of desire or lack thereof. But maybe it’s my responsibility too – to try to understand how to handle their heart with care, even if that means making a hard choice for both of us. And in saying that, I realize I’d like the same compassion back when the tables are turned.