Holding Myself

I’ve been practicing mindfulness daily for the past three months, largely thanks to accountability provided by my domme. Sometimes, it’s a chore–my mind just whirs and buzzes while I sit there, and I finish the practice feeling frustrated by my lack of focus. Often, it’s a time for me to recognize and tend to my feelings, to remind myself that they’re okay. That’s uncomfortable but valuable, especially now, in the midst of a pandemic that has no clear end. Occasionally, my practice leads to unexpected catharsis and insight. Tuesday’s session was one of those times. It involved a heartfelt conversation with a pillow. That will make sense later. 

You see, I’ve been coping with the stirring of dormant anxieties recently, now that my dominant and I are doing a bit of sexual exploration (remotely). As a queer woman with chronic pelvic pain and perfectionism issues, sex can be a source of anxiety and overanalysis for me. (I’m not alone in that, and I’ll elaborate on it in a future post.) One thing I’m realizing, especially as I grudgingly share my anxieties with my partners, is that I have an old fear that confiding in my partners will ‘infect’ them with my anxiety. In other words, I fear that hearing my worries will make them worry, and then my worries will overwhelm them and become real as they pull away. And then, if they can’t handle my anxiety, it’s my fault for sharing or for not framing it in the [helpful] way possible. Frankly, that’s a lot of pressure. 

I think I know when these beliefs solidified in my psyche. I experienced a lot of anxiety in my first romantic relationship over six years ago, particularly wondering what I was ‘supposed’ to be feeling and not wanting to hurt my partner. As I explained to my therapist this week, I told her about what I was experiencing, and two weeks later, she broke up with me, citing similar anxieties to the ones that I had brought to her (which, incidentally, she had not disclosed until that point). Now, there’s no way of knowing how much I actually influenced her behavior. As my therapist pointed out, I’m not superhuman. I was only twenty, and she wasn’t much older. I’ve learned so much since I was twenty (I can verify that by rereading my old journal entries from that time–such overwrought prose!). But I think that part of me has carried the assumption for years that I somehow turned the breakup that I feared into reality by confiding my worries, that it’ll happen again. 

At times, I’ve assumed that my anxiety isn’t something that my partners can hold without taking it on. I’m learning that that’s an assumption based on incomplete (and frankly, outdated) information. I’ve grown in my ability to notice, understand, and communicate my feelings, and if my partners start to feel like they’re drowning in what I’m saying, they can tell me. I know this. 

But I still need to attend to the younger self who feels ashamed. This week, I did that through mindfulness. In the middle of a practice that invited me to openness, I found myself inspired to talk to and hold my twenty-year-old self, the one who blames herself for so much. So I laid a bed pillow across my lap and imagined that it was a younger version of me. I cradled her like the Virgin Mary cradles Jesus in Michelangelo’s Pietà. Mentally, I felt around for the most tender and wounded places, speaking aloud the affirmations that would be hard for her to hear (and hard for me to believe). 

I told her that she did the [helpful] she could. I told her that she was brave and kind. I told her that I had learned so much from her, that I admired her. The tears started when I said “I’m proud of you.” I held her, marveling at how young and small she seemed in my arms. “You are part of me, and I will always hold you,” I said to her. I whispered these things over and over, letting myself weep for that heartbroken twenty-year-old who just wanted to do the right thing. ‘We’ stayed like that for a while. I wasn’t sure how to wrap it up, but when my stomach started growling, I decided to rise and let her rest in my psyche. The pillow became just a pillow again, and I went about my day. 

I don’t know how this cathartic time will affect the way that I approach my behavior now, but it was much needed. As I move forward, other ‘past selves’ will visit–I’m sure my inner five-year-old will tug at my sleeve one of these days. I will learn from them, affirm them, and hold them.

*Note: Insight Timer is the [helpful] free meditation app.

*Image: Photograph of Michelangelo’s Pietà from Wikimedia Commons

Post linked to the Sex Bloggers for Mental Health blog meme.

Perfectionism Rant

Hoooo boy. 

Classes (and new jobs) have started in earnest this week, and they’re going pretty well overall. That said, I’m a recovering perfectionist–my perfectionism is manageable, like a low staticy hum in my life most of the time, about a three out of ten. Today, it was dialed up to about a seven, sometimes blaring over the information I wanted to take in. I think that’s mainly because I’m trying so many new things this week. I know I won’t be immediately good at all of them, and they all require shifts between different modes of thinking throughout the day (from a more intellectual ‘class space,’ for example, to the practical and pastoral headspaces of my new jobs). 

Some of it’s the intimidation of the mundane. For example, I’ve never made coffee in my life (it’s just never been necessary to). I’m sure I’ll learn, but I have a feeling that I’ll do it wrong at least once–I already cringe thinking that I’ll forget to fit the lid properly. And I am writing this post in part because I don’t like the number of days that have gone by without writing anything non-academic. I don’t want to lose my commitment to this blog. Are queer, sexy, kinky things happening in my life? Yes. Do I have the energy to write about them right now? No. That will return when my schedule lulls. In the meantime, I’m going to attempt to adjust the dial by chatting with people about impractical things, sharing my anxiety here, and singing along with Steven Universe songs. Those are ways that I treat myself like a beloved friend. I don’t have any major nuggets of wisdom to offer, but I hope that anyone who feels perfectionism creeping up, like I do right now, can treat themselves with kindness (and when that’s hard, reach out to kind people). Be of good courage!

Sex Dreams – A Grumble

You know, I can see a variety of reasons to cultivate a ‘lucid dreaming practice’. Not automatically dropping out of the air mid-flight when I realize I’m dreaming is one of them. Another reason? I would love to have a good sex dream. My sex dreams, like most dreams, usually end up mixed-up and stressful. Oftentimes, there’s some obstacle to sex, overwhelming desire thwarted by lack of privacy or another problem. I’ll keep looking for places to have sex, only to find that my partner isn’t who I thought they were (or, alternatively, scorpions come out of nowhere).

Last night’s sex dream had all kinds of obstacles. In the dream, I had some serious sexually submissive feelings toward a cis man (I almost never have such feelings toward men in real life). And this was the worst possible man–he was ‘the Reverend’ from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (honestly, couldn’t it have at least been Gretchen?). Having somehow decided that kidnapping and fundamentalist cult leadership weren’t deal-breakers, I threw myself at him. He responded favorably. And then he uncapped his dick, which was like a set of Russian nesting dolls. I didn’t like the new shape he revealed. I then realized we didn’t have any condoms or dams and backed away from the encounter. Well, at least dream-Perpetua had some sense. I wish I could lucid dream my way into a positive, safe experience or let go of reality entirely. Yes, maybe I will cultivate that lucid dreaming practice. It’s on my to-do list. 

A Brief PSA – Men’s Consent Matters Too

Content warning: discussion and description of consent violation 

Greetings, Beloved. I’ll be posting more sporadically than usual over the next couple of days because I’m getting ready to travel and start a new divinity school semester, but I just want to say this: men’s consent matters just as much as anyone else’s. Asking for consent is not optional, no matter how strong, tough, or manly you perceive someone to be. That goes for sexual encounters and other kinds of touch and intense interaction. Men’s consent gets violated in multiple ways each day, and people have a tendency to make light of it. 

This is what made me think of this topic: a viral video has been circulating around my Facebook feed recently, a (straight) wedding reception video that looks like it belongs in a BDSM dungeon. In the video, the groom, blindfolded, kneels in front of someone that he thinks is the bride to pull the garter off with his teeth (viewers realize that it’s actually another man, a co-conspirator with the bride). The groom, still blindfolded, proceeds to grind sensually against the other man. When he pulls the blindfold off, he realizes the deception. 

Now, in fantasy, that’s kinda hot. In reality, I’m troubled. Here’s what I see happening: the bride engineered a situation in which the groom had sensual and sexual contact with another man without his knowledge…which was then played for laughs; I don’t even know how the other guy felt. There’s a homophobic element to that–I’ve noticed that conservative Christians sometimes like to go “Teehee It’s two men! That makes this funny!” Even if the three participants were somehow all in on the game (if it’s some fantasy they’ve had for a while, perhaps), the viewers don’t know that. As far as we know, it’s a real deception. We see a consent violation played for laughs and circulated as a hot prank. Blah. You can’t give consent if you don’t have basic background knowledge. Like who your partner is. Anyway, in conclusion, men get to have boundaries, their consent is important, and viewer consent is important in play. Thanks for reading my rant!

You don’t have to. – An Epistle for “Low Drive Wives”

[Image description: Photo is of clusters of bright red and purple flowers.]

Content Notice: Abstract discussion of rape culture and sexual coercion. This post is just a start to discussing a very complicated issue. Bear with me.  

Beloved, I don’t know about you, but when I try to want something more, I usually end up wanting it less. “How can I learn to like sex more?” is a question that I see all the time on Christian sex and marriage blogs, usually posed by married women whose interest in sex doesn’t seem to match their husbands’. The usual answers have some helpful information. Among Christian sex bloggers easily found on Google (which I won’t name specifically here), answers like “Check with your doctor” or “Get more in touch with your body” or “Reframe sex as good and holy” are common. 

They’re not wrong; sexual desire can absolutely be affected by factors like hormonal changes, past trauma, relationship issues, and regular old stress. I want to stress that I respect the work that these bloggers do to make sex a ‘speakable’ topic in heterosexual Christian marriages. 

That said, posts for low drive wives tend to make me really uncomfortable. Because these Christian sex bloggers sometimes believe that spouses owe each other sex, pointing to Paul’s epistles for evidence. This notion of ‘owing’ underpins the rest of their advice.

One blogger states that “Biblically, we are not to withhold sex from our spouse.” Another writes, “Let me clear that while I believe that 1 Corinthians 7:5 instructs spouses that they have a sexual duty to one another, God doesn’t want you to approach sex in your marriage as a chore.” 

What does this mean, “a sexual duty”? As a Christian, I believe that we do have certain duties in life, to show care for one another and to promote justice (because life isn’t just about us as individuals; we’re supposed to be a team). Sex should be a caring activity, rooted in respect and concern for the well-being of everyone involved. I enjoy sex. I enjoy helping partners feel pleasure. But do I ever have a divinely decreed “duty” to have sex with anyone? Hell no. 

I’m troubled by the apparent attitudes of the spouses in these posts who want more sex, especially husbands. Describing a conversation about how much her sex life had improved, another Christian sex blogger recalls that her husband’s “face showed a surprising look of disgust as he said, ‘Yeah, even when we did it back then, it was like you couldn’t wait to get it over with.’” I have to wonder, if he thought his wife wasn’t enjoying the sex, why did he keep going? Did they really have to “get it over with”? Or did they just think that they had to? 

These bloggers sometimes use language and concepts reminiscent of the Sex Positive Movement, rhapsodizing about how wonderful and sacred married sex is. They promote pleasure and object to rape. Yet, they treat it as a given that married people should have sex and that low desire, even hatred of sexual activity, is an obstacle to be overcome. Sex is ultimately a duty that we must learn to like, or else we are not following God’s plan for marriage. That’s not sex-positive. That’s rape culture. And it disturbs me. 

So how would I respond to a ‘low drive’ wife who asks how she can learn to enjoy sex with a ‘higher drive’ husband? 

First, here’s what I’m NOT saying: 

  • I am Not saying that mismatched sexual desire isn’t a frustrating or even painful issue.
  • I am Not saying that sex isn’t a valued part of many relationships. 
  • I am Not saying that people shouldn’t seek answers if they want to enjoy sex more. 

In fact, I encourage people to discuss sexual issues with their partners, medical professionals, therapists, and coaches. Sex is meant to be a mutual activity that you and your partner(s) choose together. You need support and good information to make that choice (here’s where I recommend my Resources page again). 

Here’s what I AM saying: 

Christians, we don’t have to apply the Apostle Paul’s marital standards directly to modern relationships. I will say more on dear Paul in future posts (long story short, I read and appreciate him, but I can safely say that his take is oft misinterpreted, irrelevant on some issues, and dead wrong on others).

Wives, if your husbands know that you don’t enjoy sex but keep initiating it anyway, you are not frigid or “withholding.” They are trying to get you to do something you dislike for their pleasure. That is selfish, not patient or kind. If you are trying to get your partner to have sex when they don’t want to, you need to STOP immediately. 

People of every gender, if sex feels like a chore or a pain, it’s okay not to have it. I will have more to say about how to have great sex soon, but I can’t say any of that without first saying that you don’t have to.