Anti-Misogyny / Emotionally Dissociated / Lived Experience/Memoir

Sex, Sexuality, & Sexualizing

I just spent an hour talking about sex while the sun rose this morning. I see a psychotherapist every week, and freely express what’s been on my mind and creeping into my dreams for the six days leading up to each appointment. Today, I started talking about a dream I had in which the issue of body-policing was a theme — what bodies are allowed to look like, how body parts are allowed to fit together, and who is socially permitted to be in command of these experiences. What this really seems to be getting at is a discourse that’s been slowly developing and simmering in my brain for the nearly-three-decades I’ve been alive. A conversation I’ve been having with myself about sex, sexuality, and sexualizing. A conversation I’ve only really been able to have with myself, because I was either too afraid or too silenced to have it with my sexual partners.

I am presently sexually inactive, and have been largely so for a year and a half now (this isn’t the first time). With the exception of a few brief episodes in the now-distant past, in which I gave someone else sexual pleasure without reciprocation, a year and a half ago is when my last sexual relationship ended. In that time, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about my gender, my orientation, my (remarkably low) libido, and my sexual history. I’ve been struggling to identify, definitively, whether I’m asexual or simply sexually inactive for a lack of sexually engaging prospects. I’ve been looking at the people I’ve been sexually attracted to, how that attraction manifests on my end, and facing my demons when I realize this kind of self-dialogue is the reason why psychoanalysis is such a powerful form of discourse.

—-

I look back now at how I knew my parents, and how my relationship to each of them played out. I realize that my mother taught me to be complicit with sexual objectification, and my father taught me to not be sexually autonomous. I occasionally find myself wondering, if they had known this is what they were teaching me, would they be able to separate from their tendencies to be self-centered, for long enough to stop themselves from passing on these crippling messages? But I already know the question is rhetorical and serves no purpose. I’m talking about an adult child of an alcoholic who has learned to be helpless and embraces powerlessness; and she’s married to a two-faced sexual sadist whose hobbies include misogyny, rape, infidelity, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and tyrannical fear-mongering. I wish I was exaggerating.

So eventually I went out into the world, in an adult body with a dysfunctional emotional complex, and an intense fear of my own gender dysphoria. After being bombarded for my entire life to that point with mass media depictions of women as passive sexual objects to gaze at and men as active sexual agents to gaze upon them, I had no idea how to even suggest I had a sexuality of my own, let alone actively involve another person in engaging with it. I was programmed with important lessons in How To Act As A Passive Sexual Object (surrendering all sexuality or agency of my own), but I wouldn’t fully realize this for nearly another 15 years. And what did I do in that 15 years, while I continued to be bombarded with the same domineering messages in pop culture? I had four long-term abusive, exploitative, and dysfunctional relationships; and countless one-night stands, flings, and fuck-buddies, with enough men that I simply stopped keeping track when the number surpassed my chronological age. I also fucked quite a few people who aren’t men, and it was different in some ways, while simultaneously being the same sort of thing all over again. And again. Et cetera. Und so weiter. I picked my partners on the basis of how much they could hurt me, and once sufficiently triggered by a lifetime of prior trauma, I fundamentally changed as a person and lost myself in the abuse. I became the Object I had been so thoroughly indoctrinated to aspire to be, while silently fuming with rage and resentment within.

No matter how many people I fucked or made love with (and no matter what their gender or lack thereof), as long as I was a passive object in their hands — as long as they didn’t hear that I have a sexuality of my own — no pleasure I gained from these encounters was fulfilling. And so, pleasure continued, as it had all my life, to come hand-in-hand with silence and suffering.

Well, through this, I learned to resent myself, my entire biological family, and every one of those former partners. I learned to fully hate myself (and both of my parents, who I still very clearly hate, or I certainly wouldn’t be writing like this) for a long time too, until I hit rock bottom in psychotherapy a couple of years ago. I was handed a flippant wake-up call: I’m living on borrowed time, and spending my whole life waiting to die (making regular attempts to endanger myself and end my life) really isn’t living. Something needs to radically change, or one day, I might just not be so lucky to survive. But I had to be convinced first that my survival was for a purpose. I have since come to believe that my writing is that purpose, but I digress.

Only after climbing out of rock bottom, did I learn to start thinking of my sexuality as valid in and of itself — to think of myself for the first time as deserving of sexual agency. This seemingly liberating self-actualization is coupled with the humbling fact of how long I’ve been denied both sexual autonomy and a valid sexuality; and how many people have contributed to this devastating insight. I began to fully realize the impact of so persistently experiencing a sexualizing of my non-sexual behaviours (e.g., taking a shower or bath; swimming nude at a nude-friendly beach) and being sexually objectified by my sexual partners, as well as those who wanted desperately to be counted among them.

I realized through this process that the sexual objectification of a person is a refusal to engage with their sexuality, while treating them as merely a body to put one’s body parts into. Entirely self-serving sexual gratification, without regard for the sexual gratification of the other person involved. A compartmentalizing of emotions and experiences involving the Other, so that mixed emotional context doesn’t interfere with the Self Serving Self. I realized that to get through these experiences with my lovers, I had to conduct this same compartmentalization in my Self. To push away all my resentment towards my lover for denying my sexuality and sexual autonomy, to fulfill the role I was programmed for: The Passive Sexual Object.

I realized what sex should be (i.e., finding a sexual partner whose sexuality is compatible with one’s own, and engaging each others’ sexualities simultaneously and/or reciprocally), as a negation of what I had been suffering through my whole life.

In the process of untangling all these ideas of sexualizing, sexual objectification, sexual agency, and sexuality, I learned to want sex on a theoretical level, and to fully resent people who persistently refused to engage with what I want at the same time. I realized this is one of the roots of my continued resentment and hatred toward so many people, and simultaneously started to question how I have always approached sex. Suddenly, I no longer understood how I want sex on a practical level. I’m still struggling with this now.

I am also still learning to love myself despite all of what’s happened (and perhaps, even more so because of what’s happened). In the immortal words of Otep, “my first act of treason was picking up a pen; my first act of love was finding myself again.”

—-

As much as I would love for an honest, hour-long conversation about sex to be exciting, I learned today that it’s actually enraging. The act of talking about sex is tapping into a well of hatred, resentment, and deep-seated anger. Not to mention grief as well.

It’s important for me at this point to state that my primary source of anger is incest. I have lived with the legacy of this trauma all my life, whether I’ve denied that it ever happened, accepted it as a distinct possibility, or accepted it as fact. I cannot remember a time prior to it. It is where I received my most intense and foundational instruction in being sexually objectified, and sexualizing behaviours that are not even remotely sexual. It is where I learned to be silent — where I learned that someone who loves me, who I depend on, does not need to engage my sexuality in order to engage his own. It is where I learned a preconscious need for humiliation, shame, and degradation. It is why that need has been so intimately wrapped up with my sexuality for as long as I’ve known of one to speak of. It is why I am now aware that I have long been a textbook sexual masochist — it was cognitive and behavioural programming, for How To Be A Self-Abasing Sex Object.

When my primary caregiver failed to be my parent, and failed to stand up against my perpetrator, and failed to advocate for my right as a child with medical needs beyond antibiotics for my frequent and persistent bladder infections; I learned that I neither deserve to be spoken for, nor to speak. I learned that I don’t deserve to be heard. I learned that I don’t deserve to be loved. I learned to be complicit. To be obedient. To not ask questions. To turn the hatred projected onto me, into myself, instead of turning to someone else for help.

When the family breadwinner failed to be my parent, and failed to put my most basic needs before his paraphilia, I learned that I deserve to be hated. I learned that I deserve to be abused, to be objectified, to be battered and berated, and to be silenced. I learned that complacence is survival. I learned to compartmentalize my emotions, to disappear within my own home as much as possible. I learned to deny my own sexuality. I learned to deny my entire identity and to think of myself as not autonomous. I learned that when someone says one thing and does the opposite, that this is what I deserve. I learned to expect hatred when someone tells me they love me. I learned to feel obligated to someone when they tell me they love me — like I owe them my Self.

This was a part of my daily existence, from infancy until I was 10 years old. The memories have always been cloaked in darkness. But the memories are slowly returning, and now they will be a conscious part of my daily existence. As I work to understand how my life and everything I do with it is rooted in my history, I am only beginning to come to terms with it.

—-

Ultimately, my programming led me into the arms of all the lovers I have sought out, and into the arms of multiple rapists who sought me out as well. Ironically, the very programming that made me uniquely vulnerable to sexual abuse and sexual assault as an adult, also made me uniquely resilient. These experiences, as a collective, are yet another source of anger. I find myself struggling to navigate through it all. I find myself losing sleep over it. I find myself without words to work through it, because it just keeps going back to my roots. Over and over again, I keep going back to my roots. To my grief.

4 thoughts on “Sex, Sexuality, & Sexualizing

  1. Pingback: On Sexual Attraction « HaifischGeweint

  2. Pingback: A Memoir On Homelessness & Vulnerability « HaifischGeweint

  3. Pingback: Dissociative Identity Disorder « HaifischGeweint

  4. Pingback: How To Have Hot Sex | HaifischGeweint

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