Tuesday, 24 September 2019

SEXPECTATION V REALITY


There are plenty of different attitudes toward sex. It might be your favourite hobby; you might have sex with men or women or both or none; you might exclusively associate it with love or relationships or you might sleep with someone new each weekend. Frankly, it's no one else's business what you get up to in the bedsheets, and your attitude is not invalid just because it differs from someone else's (within reason, but we won't go into that). That said, however liberal your attitude, we are all part of a culture where the gap between what we see online or TV versus what is realistically plausible is ever blurred.

Porn is one of the biggest culprits for instigating unrealistic expectations about sex. We mention this a lot in relation to female body image, but it is certainly not just women who are idealised. Male sex icons all tend to have rock-solid abs, mega penises and most impressively, the ability to provide their partner with repeated mind-blowing orgasms every single time.
I don’t doubt that people like this exist. These scenarios must occur. But meanwhile, I’m interested in the situations that we don’t see in the media. 
Like, how often, sex is awkward.
Or messy.
Or, sometimes, it literally just doesn’t work.
And this can be for a variety of things: stress, tiredness, intoxication, past experiences (or lack of them), pain, confidence issues, anxiety…
I’m not claiming to be a sexpert. If anything, I’m an expert in the above factors, which we don’t really talk about. They aren’t always fun to talk about. But here we go.
When I was younger, I went to the doctors because I felt a stinging pain when I went for a wee or when I had sex. The nurse easily detected a fissure - a small split, sort of like a paper-cut - on my labia. I have particularly dry skin, so she was unconcerned and simply advised me to keep the fissure clean and dry. Oh, and not to wear any cheese-wire thongs (I’m still waiting for the VPL to become a look).

It was nothing serious. Just a teeny tiny cut.
Alas, keeping a cut on your vulva dry is sort of like trying to stop an umbrella from getting wet on a rainy day in Blackpool.

Six years later and I’ve been to the gynaecologist, received sex therapy, spent way too much money on prescriptions, seen a sex psychologist, been offered surgery, continuously changed contraception and even used anaesthetic gel - that’s right, to numb my vagina (wouldn’t recommend). 
It's tricky to comprehend. Normally cuts heal within a few days and we forget about them, but because of where mine is, it never could. A few years ago, I suffered from it every single day and it certainly impacted my sexual experiences. You know the frustration when you have an ulcer or a toothache and you want to eat because you're hungry but are reluctant because you know it will hurt? And sometimes you start eating, but can't finish it all? Or sometimes you do because you've worked out how to chew without it hurting, but you can't seem to find that spot again the next time? And sometimes, the ulcer just seems to be having a day off, and you forget about it completely? I would look at people with envy and think about them having uncomplicated sex with their uncomplicated vaginas. How could a 2mm cut cause me so much grief that I couldn’t even have normal sex?

But then, what is normal?
For me, it was suddenly stopping if the cut was stinging, only wearing Sloggi pants (so breathable, fully recommend) and not being able to shave properly. It was buying endless supplies of lube because my body had essentially trained itself to keep my cut dry, so I would never ‘get wet’ even if I was sexually excited. It was not being able to have sex at all because I was in so much pain, and my partner respecting it. It was carrying Aqueous cream with me wherever I went. It was feeling constantly drained and ashamed because I wasn’t able to do what everyone else was doing.
That was my normal, and they certainly don’t show that on TV. They rarely show anyone’s normal.
They don’t show the awkward condom fumble and the sweat and the creaky bed and the ‘can’t get it in’ and the leg cramps and the redness and the sweat and the pubes and the smudged mascara and the SWEAT and the accidentally-already-finished and the loo roll mop-up and the sticky sheets. And they don’t show anyone ever communicating but how is anyone supposed to know what you like if you don’t show/tell them, and how are you supposed to know what THEY like if you don't ask?

I’m not saying this would be a good watch. But it would certainly have saved me years of hideous shame because I thought when people said sex, they meant porn. 

Humans are complicated. Just as people have different dietary requirements, people have different sexual requirements. Whatever the reason, remember, it's absolutely a thousand per cent okay to have needs that aren't explored when we think about 'normal ' sex. There is no normal. If you read Georgie's last post (if you haven't, get on it here), sex isn't about party tricks. It's about feeling safe, engaged and comfortable, which includes not feeling ashamed to speak up when you need something, however unconventional that may be.

And actually, I can have sex, even with a fissure. As cliché as it sounds, the far bigger obstacle was my feeling of insufficiency, which I think is something a lot of young people, men and women, experience. Nobody I’ve ever slept with cared about my fissure-related problems. As George mentioned, when someone wants to sleep with you, they want to enjoy you and please you, not judge you.

So instead of worrying about whether they will care that you need to stop and go for a wee, or if you need to grab some lube, make it normal. Reality is sexy. And then, as they enjoy you, you might just enjoy yourself, too.




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