I’ve never felt the need to examine my relationship with sex. The truth is, we all have one. The way we have relationships with our mothers, our coworkers, our preachers—we have relationships with sex. The thought didn’t occur to me until today, when an uncomfortable memory was triggered for me.
I thought, “Why does the thought of that encounter upset me so much?”
I was thinking of a particular time I had sex with a guy shortly after breaking up with another one. I had such high expectations for this man. I believed him to be different than his comrades. I thought he’d kiss the floor before I even entered the room. I was so excited to bring him into my home, to get to know him in a new light.
None of that happened. He shut the lights off, he put on a movie, and the next thing I know my clothes were off. Let’s be clear, he did not force me to do that. It was one-hundred-and-ten-percent consensual. But I still didn’t want it. It was like he walked into the room with an assumption of what was to come, and I decided it was my fault for instilling it in him.
I should never have invited him in. A male and female? Sitting down in a room? Having a conversation five feet apart about real things, without genitals being involved? How stupid of me to think this was a realistic probability. And when he left, he blended in with the rest. And I changed my sheets and cried in the shower, while trying to scrub off what was left of our friendship.
I had officially lost control.
I had been a twice victim of sexual assault prior to this encounter, by two different men. Just out of an abusive relationship, I was so desperately trying to grab onto anything or anyone that would allow me to have a say in my life. And for some reason, when my friend walked into my home that night, he took away my voice. I spent the rest of that summer trying to find it in between my bed sheets. I had forfeited my control but I was demanding it back.
I joined every dating site you can imagine. Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish. You name it, I was on it. I wasn’t looking for love, I was looking for dick. The power I felt in swiping right and left, saying yes and no, going home with a free meal and giving nothing but a wave in return! It was invigorating. I was impressive, I was intelligent, I was independent, I was fucking hot. I was engaging in behavior I would normally be shamed for, and I was given a pass. I had just had my heart broken, I could rebound and get my revenge. Not a soul was telling me to calm down. But eventually I did.
I had to.
Any night spent next to a stranger was restless and regretful. I was trying to fill the spaces in my rib cage with affection, in any form. One day, it just stopped working. Or maybe it never did, I don’t know. I just remember thinking, “I don’t think this is what control feels like.” At least not for me.
So, I deleted all of my profiles and made peace with myself. I didn’t have to engage in copious amounts of sex to prove I had control over my life or my body. I just had to trust that I did. I was trying so hard to get back what had been taken from me; to prove to my abusers that I was stronger than they made me feel. But in doing all of this, I wasn’t living for me. I was living for them, again.
It wasn’t until I decided to give up my former version of control, that the real kind came along. The kind that doesn’t leave you feeling empty. The kind that lasts longer than the guy I brought home. The kind that matters to me.