I’ve always known that I have a rather salient desire for sex and deriving sexual pleasure. My nightly edge-of-the-bed humping session accompanied by teen pop-star mags in middle school soon turned into porn-watching with the closest thing to a vibrator I could get my hands on, a Neutrogena Wave facial massager, throughout high school. Let’s just say I was a horny, curious teen, and I certainly wasn’t shy about talking about sexuality.
I didn’t, however, have the chance to explore my sexuality with a partner until after high school. Trust me, I had wanted to, the opportunity just hadn’t arisen. I was 19, identifying as a cis-woman at the time when I met my then-partner, a cis guy two years my senior, at a house party. He was already interested in me after a mutual friend showed him my Facebook, and actively dating, and honestly, it didn’t really take that much for me. The combination of decent sexual chemistry, low self-esteem, and desperation for my “first relationship”, had me like putty in his hands. We were dating and having sex within a couple of weeks.
He loved that I was so sexual, and I loved that it excited him and kept him interested in me. In a society that values women based on their ability to please and “keep a man”, It’s easy to fill yourself up with any kind of validation, and have it drive your actions, often at the expense of your own desires, needs, and boundaries. His pleasure was considered the sole priority in the bedroom. Our sex life, and quite honestly, our entire relationship quickly became shaped only by his desires and preferences, and I would convince myself that they were mine too, stifling any conflicting desires or discontents. This dynamic ultimately became the breeding ground for the slow burn of psychosexual abuse I endured over the next few years with him.
I would perform oral on him near-daily, while his face never traveled past my abdomen. Confirming my embarrassment around the way my labia looked, he routinely suggested I undergo expensive labiaplasty, knowing full well the risk factors and potential loss of pleasure. What began as watching silly, pterodactyl porn together for shits n’ giggles, quickly became him pressuring me into watching sexually violent edgelord porn (simulated rape and snuff films) despite my discomfort. I convinced myself that this was fine because he wasn’t actually “getting off” to those videos (except he was), just laughing at them, as if that was better?
Outside of the bedroom, the psychosexual abuse continued. To his friends, I was treated like a trophy and a sex prop. He would call me degrading names in front of them that we had only consented to within the bedroom, non-consensually disclose details of our sex life, touch me sexually in front of them, and eventually would pressure me to into removing items of clothing or try to get me to perform sex acts in front of them.
Whenever there was a conflict of any kind, he would take it out on me, commenting negatively about my body and making comments about other people to make me feel sexually and physically inferior and jealous. He would weaponize my sexuality something he had essentially molded, against me, calling me a “slut” and a “whore” and undeserving of love. He made me feel like I was crazy, but that’s literally what abusers do: make you question your reality, your perceptions, your judgment, and your actions.
These dynamics, the abuse as I know it to be now, went on for over several years. It wasn’t until I began intensive training to become a sexual assault survivor advocate as part of my newly chosen Human Sexuality minor, of which half was spent covering intimate partner abuse, with an emphasis on recognizing forms of subtle abuse. Outlined there in front of me, bullet points and all, was my reality and I could no longer ignore it. I began to recognize the abuse and gaslighting for what it truly was and subsequently realized the sexual person I had become was completely void of autonomy.
Shortly following — and after a few attempts — I was finally able to (somewhat) safely leave that relationship. Slowly, tentatively, I began a real journey of sexual self-discovery. His absence allowed me to reveal and nurture the depths unbound of my authentic sexuality, free from judgment, and performativity.
I prioritized my own pleasure. I intentionally spent time experimenting by myself, figuring out what I liked, learning about my body, and embracing what turned me on. Masturbation became an act of self-love and self-care and allowed me to release the expectation of needing to please anyone but my own damn self.
Through a new, intentional relationship with my body and my pleasure, I started to redefine my definition of “sexy”, rejecting the influence of the way I was desired by others, instead defined by my feelings and emotions of sensuality, passion, softness, and real vulnerability.
I practiced communicating my desires and expectations with partners, and l learned the importance of and liberation in setting clear boundaries around how partners talk about or comment on my body, make judgments of it, or sexualize it, in avoiding potentially harmful interactions, and in creating the safest possible environment for me to be in when engaging in the often vulnerable experience of partnered sex.
It was during this healing process, that I learned what true sexual liberation actually is. Being sexually liberated in a relationship or partnership of any kind, should make you feel safe and celebrated in your authentic sexual self, and doesn’t ever make you feel pressured to perform or act in any way that is counter to your innate. It has nothing to do with how much sex you have, how many partners you have, or the type of sex you have, or if you have sex at all. Sexual liberation is about choice and autonomy, about knowing your body, your pleasure, your needs and boundaries, and being able to safely, and comfortability communicates them and feel affirmed and validated in your sexual identity. And we ALL deserve that.