“I tend to agree that celibacy for a time is worth considering, for sex is dirty if all it means is winning a man, conquering a woman, beating someone out of something, abusing each other’s dignity in order to prove that I am a man, I am a woman.”
—Toni Cade Bambara, author
Today I’m scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when something one of my friend’s posted catches my attention.
It’s a clip from My Mad Fat Diary, a British television series about a young girl named Rae who is released from a psychiatric ward. I haven’t watched it recently, but I do consider it one of the best teen shows I’ve ever been introduced to. It touches upon everything from Rae’s going through: self-harming, body issues, fitting into a society and a time period that doesn’t discuss certain issues openly (the show is set in the 90s—the year of Brownstreet and Oasis).
And then there’s her relationship with her boyfriend, Finn Nelson.
Well, speaking of him, he’s lying on Rae’s bed in the clip. While Rae herself is mentally agonizing over whether Finn is even able to pleasure her sexually, he seems to do by massaging her clitoris with this thumb. Not only is Rae’s surprised by the fact that he could pleasure her, but she describes the moment with a comedic, yet genuine innocence as dubs Finn a Sex Wizard.
After watching the clip, I think about it the majority of the day. If anything, I think about Rae’s reaction to her boyfriend’s touch, her words, the look on her face as she imagines the universe as she enjoys as describes their experience with the act. Correction: her experience. I witness her genuine connection with Finn—one that is proves to be important to her regardless of the nature of their interactions.
It’s also something that I wish I’ve been granted when I was her age.
At the age of five, my aunt Joyce introduces me to porn she somehow steals from my uncle Tony. As she closes the door, I’d plop down on her bed and follow her every move when she slides the tape into the VCR. Soon we would both watch these adults, these complete strangers do things to one another my young mind cannot comprehend. I remember feeling the thrill of doing something secretive, forbidden despite the fear of being caught. But we never are; by age eight, I begin watching Joyce and my cousin Chuckie having sex after I ask if I could. By the age of ten, she would have sex with me because I too wish to do what those strangers in the videos have done.
I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest. I just know that it feels good and it’s the first time I am not beaten, ridiculed or yelled at for little to no reason. It’s shameful, but it’s quiet. And I feel something else: beautiful. I’ve been called and perceived as ugly throughout my entire childhood and into my adult years. So whenever I have sex, I feel that I can finally consider myself physically attractive enough to catch someone’s attention.
I chase that feeling for many years, engaging in unhealthy sexual relationships—sometimes using little to no protection. I would meet complete strangers online or bring them back to my apartment to have sex. I’d travel long distances just to be with partners who would emotionally harm me in the long run. I’d use sex in order to maintain “intimate” relationships with people I wish to actually be with and would become next to suicidal when things fall apart. I’m not completely innocent in any of this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve harassed, cursed out and even verbally assaulted someone I’ve been with—especially if they moved on to someone else.
The worst of my behavior has occurred in my early 20s.
Fast forward to 2016. I decide to become celibate after growing tired of the emotional and mental stress that comes with being sexual for all the wrong reasons. I’ve tried it before in my 20s, but my fear of never having sex again prevents me from going longer than a month. But after not seeing my sexual partner for about a month and constantly feeling as if I’m trying to mold him into the monogamist he could never be, I tell him that I don’t want to be with him—or anyone else—until further notice.
Since becoming celibate two months ago, I notice a trend: the mere thought of having sex with another person causes me anxiety and depression. Even cuddling with someone is very much out of the question and the most I can do these days is a hug. When I had been sexually active, I would use sex as a means to connect, feel disconnected from my body. In my mind, it has never belonged to me, but to the person (or people) I am “with.” But because I’m becoming more protective of my body, I find that I don’t trust my intentions or that of the other person when it comes to touching. When people hug me for long periods, I wonder if they are doing so to sexualize me or take possession of my body…of me.
At the same time, I feel and recognize the power of having a choice. And my choice is to find out who I am without this need to connect through sexual contact. It is only when I watch the clip featuring Rae and Finn that I’m further reminded that all I wish to do is experience love making with someone I love and on my own terms once I’ve healed from the sexual trauma.
I’m sharing all the gory details, Readers, not only for therapeutic reasons but because you too deserve and have the right to experience sex your way and at your own volition. You have every right to not give someone access to your body, mind and your very core unless you feel comfortable—regardless of your gender and that of those who wish to have your time.