Dream Big, Baby: Part 3

DREAM BIG, BABY: PART 3

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Forgive me father for I have sinned.

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I’ve been waiting for a guide to take me by the hand

Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?

New sensations bear the innocence, leave them for another day

I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away

—Joy Division, Disorder, Unknown Pleasures

 

I had wanted my pre-surgery sex to be with Isabel.

A week after the unceremonious canceling of my surgery, I end up at her Birthday party, if only because I don’t trust myself to be alone. Conveniently, around the holiday season it is considered socially acceptable—desirable even—to be sensationally smashed all of the time. And if you spread your wings enough and fly from party to party, no one catches on to the ALL OF THE TIME part. The only catch: since my diagnosis in July, I haven’t been able to wash out my bloody sorrow with alcohol, would require more of a torrent than a sink rinse for delicate underthings. Drinking, my moods range from melancholy to macabre, and dither precariously in between. Opiates flatten the edge, whereas alcohol rolls with the waves and drags me along in the undertow, gasping for air and grasping with tender teeth. Thanks, U.S. Health Care System, for keeping me at bay by spaying me with Big Pharma-produced, politician-endorsed dope. Tonight I am going to keep it crisp, with beverages measured by mixology professionals—the cater waiters of the drunken universe. Cocktails and coattails, here I come!

Sidling up next to her in the booth, my lychee martini sloshing over the side, I can tell she is out of it, too. High? Tired? Withered? Overworked? Her lips gesture at mine, slightly slurry. And I’m not sure. We’re both shaky when she tells me I’m beautiful. Like muscles overexerted—shivering slightly, tense still. “So are you,” I reciprocate, but that’s not the right answer. She tries the question again, “No, you’re really beautiful, ya know?” Our muscles extend and soften into each other. And then I know. Her, a cherub Rosario Dawson, padded lips pressed against mine. My thumb and forefingers latch onto the nape of her neck, her shiny black hair feathers around them like my skimpy silk skirt fluttering around my thighs. Her smooth caramel skin draws a direct line from the crux of her ear to the sweet spot between her legs. I feel myself from afar, dripping wet minus manual stimulation, my raging lady boner swelling against my engorged lips as we inhale each other’s musk, heaving like heavy smokers hungry for more.

That’s why I like BJs almost more than sex: without skin-on-skin stimulation, you can feel what’s happening to you and the guy, separately and simultaneously, the exact progression of your physiological arousal disentangled from your attraction to one another, your bodies pried ajar. With her hand hovering over the lacey piping of my push-up bra, my sex-flushed areola surges over the deliberately just-a-wee-bit-too-small demi-cup encasing my right tit. The force field of an ultraviolet air hockey table electrifies me and I grope-grab the slope between her butt and upper thigh to stabilize myself, a tit for a tat and eye-to-eye at the midline. At the face-off, out comes the LOL of the evening. She draws back to assess me, intuiting almost astrologically, “I didn’t know you liked women more.” It’s half a question. “More than what, men?” I clarify, smugly flattered by my ability to pass for gay. Something about authenticity. Last time I had sex with a woman she called me “very straight” afterwards,” which confounded me on account of believing pussy licking to be an automatic disqualification from superlative straight status. But what do I know. Besides what I want.

just-a-wee-bit-too-small demi-cup

just-a-wee-bit-too-small demi-cup

“Uh huh,” Isabel confirms, hopefully. I brush it off, unfazed, assuming she meant more than I thought which I had assumed was not at all. Though, to be fair, the night we met nearly five years ago culminated in our dancing decadently and drunkenly at Splash Bar (RIP)—venerated gay mega club—with her Baby Bear boyfriend-to-be. For sure, at least I knew she was fun. After all, it was at a wrap-up party for C-Spot: NYU’s unofficial sex-positive magazine that her best college buddy was editing and to which I submitted a version of My Pillow Buddy: Sad But True.

Wanting to validate her without stretching the truth further than I could stretch her spandex, “I like you,” I offer affirmatively. And that is the truest thing I can say at this moment while still staying in the moment. For emphasis, I add something about tiny, curvy girls—like her, like me. It’s the most aroused I’ve been since May: lanky, lithe men; small, sensual girls. If only, only if. I pull her in again and feel my pussy slip-sliding through my lacy underpants, rubbing gleefully against the gossamer layer of my cable-knit tights, inches away from the ruched black leggings hugging her curvaceous contours. Pinching the rumples away from the skin gracing her inner thighs, I inquire as to whether they are leggings or real pants, and estimate the number of layers between us—the fibers of thoughts. They’re chafing thread-bare as I ooze through my tights excitedly. She whispers, hot breath fanning my neck, how beautiful I am; no, that I’m really beautiful. And she progresses as I do, “Ummm, girl, I’d love to eat you out. Ima eat you out sooo good.” The “girl” would be demeaning coming from a guy; from her it’s cutesy, like “hey babe, xoxo.”

It’s then I have an Oh Shit moment, jettisoning me back into unkind reality, harshing my sex haze. First and foremost, under-the-table oral is not gonna happen because we are at a bar/restaurant and I’m already impressed by the other patrons’ restraint in refraining from co-opting female pleasure with the male gaze. Ostensibly no one has noticed us, nevertheless insisted upon making a public spectacle sport out of our private moment. Second, I guess this is an inopportune time to announce that I’m the worst faux lesbian ever—a fraud! Who does not love to be licked no matter how luscious her lips and how dashing her resemblance to Rosario Dawson circa the sex-scary 90’s in all their lurid allure. I know, I know, that’s what strap-ons are for! BUT MY BACK: OUUUCH!!! Seems like a no-no with the back-and-forth thrusting and the shaky spine about to be disassembled and all—more London Bridge than Humpty Dumpty. The truth is, I could make out with her and sniff her forever, feeling my flood accumulate as high tide peaks between our synthetics.

She elucidates the evening, she’s had a rough time and is looking for positive attention from women, a little radiant glow ball flickering and fading. And she tells me I seem scared. Which I deny, quite honestly. Until I panic for real. Because she isn’t going back to my place. Is too exhausted and wants to pass out and can’t make the incomprehensible trek tomorrow from Midtown back to Jersey City where she has just moved. Tonight, she is leaving me high and WET.

Scared, I am. Only if that’s what a leap of faith looks like emanating from me: humility. For the first time in six months, I feel that unique combination of intrigue and contentment. Up until this moment of reckoning, I luxuriate in the feeling that it is juuust right. Andrew may have a Jesus complex but Isabel is my savior, full of grace. When men disappoint me, women elevate. If nothing else, I take solace in pussy, softer and sensual: healing. Alcohol can’t cleanse me, but I can douse my sorrows.

If not in her, in semen. I want to drown.

Drunk logic: The only recourse is sexting Andrew. And I wonder for serious if it will work! Because I’ve never attempted this tactic with him before. Even though it’s the close cousin of the arrangement I wanted all along, excessive alcohol aside. What a careless oversight! And it kinda makes sense, this half-conceived plan, given that we are in the has-been neighborhood of which he thinks he is Mayor—as if he fucking discovered it, gentrified it. He, a transplant to the city. After the trashcan-fire bums had already migrated off of the Bowery. Me, a descendant of the people who actually immigrated there in the idiom of Fievel Mousekewitz.

Mostly I think of him in my girl-sex thirst.

As I reminisce wistfully about Emily—the last pretty girl who threw herself at me haplessly—and try to maneuver plugging the void she pried open with her long lustrous stripper nails before Isabel retires for the evening. For weeks after Emily, I fantasized vividly and prolifically about employing Andrew as our third. An unpaid job I believed he would take on gladly. Or rather, I wanted to be their third, mostly gawking at his pleasuring her—mouth and pussy agape. I longed to watch him finger and fuck her as he did me—wriggling, writhing, and begging for mercy, while I petted her hair and inhaled her beauty and confidence. In my vagina’s eye he was the master of ceremonies, integral to bringing girlsex into fruition, and thus inadvertently positioned as impossible to replace—the set-up too grand and too tailored to my taste. On account of his denying me the opportunity to flesh out my girllust—entirely unbeknownst to him—I was devastated when he started ignoring me, essentially insatiable.

Tonight, perhaps he would fill in for Isabel, make a placeholder out of his penis.

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I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling

I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling

Feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling

—Joy Division, Disorder, Unknown Pleasures

At home, in an order I can no longer recall and probably wouldn’t have been able to at the time, anyway: I finger my sloppy, starved pussy; wonder whether it is even worth it without her here; begin to miss her; surmise that I should probably wank while she is still fresh in my mind to solidify her in my muscle memory; get distracted; go to the bathroom to wash up; look in the mirror and notice a stark hickey planted prominently on my neck; think oh fuck tomorrow is the one day of the year I’m supposed to get up early to go jewelry shopping with my mom, of course I’m wearing conspicuous evidence of my misdeeds; search my bathroom and bedroom for a jar or even a stick of coverup; remember that time in high school when I cheated on my judgmental slut of a boyfriend and threw my back out trying to hide the collage of hickies from my mom as my hair blew in the wind; wonder whether it is really plausible that I am a convincingly feminine woman who owns no make up, tear my bathroom and bedroom apart, get distracted in my efforts, realize that the last time I misplaced something for an endless amount of time it was in my vagina; note that my make up cannot possibly be in my vagina; put my finger back where it belongs; get lost in thoughts; remember that thing Andrew once said about hickeys; get wistful thinking about him; text him again to verify how much I fucking hate him for refusing to be inside my vagina; get distracted again then dissolve into tears when everything seems futile. Give up on getting off and finding coverup to smear over the mess of my life.

Trap myself in my head and bawl my eyes out. For hours, streaming, drowning in sweltering saline, expelling the furnace of feelings, ousting him as the officiant of my gratification, clutching onto the remnants of the evening—her sweet smell, tiny touch, glazed eyes glinting off my dew-laced lashes as they pre-mourn the loss of these stolen sincere moments.

Twinges and pangs don’t morph into tremors and twangs, they mutate into torrential totality, escalating at the slightest trigger or the mere realization of existential emptiness. Lability, erraticism, and full-on meltdowns are states of being you can never grow accustomed to. Part of their nature is its impossible to epistemically endorse uncertainty with certitude. Oh my, this is getting convoluted, and anxiety and depression keep getting entangled, seemingly acting of their own accord. All I can remind myself during an episode is I have gotten through it, or one of comparable volatility, before. As if that is any comfort. It almost ensures I will be stricken again, it amounts to saying don’t worry craziness is nothing out of the ordinary, it is your lot in life: carry on, there’s nothing to see here. I suppose when you should be concerned is when you are no longer. When you don’t have the perspective or willpower to grasp rational fear tenaciously, when you slacken your grip and let it slip. It’s all too bleak blurry nebulous and fatiguing, a half-witted attempt to hold on. The deep-seated then -reclining and finally -lying exhaustion seeps in whether you allow your troubles to drain from you or analyze them. It is no use, this business of being fidgety and flighty, keeping it together forever. Trying to fight something in flux and ineffable only proliferates the purgatory.

Inconsolable, when I get like this. I go from leaky to porous—defenseless. Raw and exposed to the elements, open jacket taunting the wind. Emotions gust out in leaps and bounds and gasps, like I’m hyperventilating into a paper bag, unable to inflate myself. Tumbling down a well of grief propelled by momentum and my own slipperiness. I sprawl out at the bottom, flattened, unable to peel myself from the floor I installed. Weighed down by my protracted misery, the clock dialed back six weeks, adding forty three nights to the pre-surgery countdown. From the new start date on, I was chasing a feeling, a ticking time bomb.

Almost exactly one year ago and half a decade less tattered, when The Explorer asked me quixotically if I had ever loved someone for a night, I thought he was a little nutso. But, then again, I’m a little disgusto. There is a certain equality or parity in girl-on-girl affection that enables mind and body melding. A common cause, a common core. For tonight and tonight only, she was mine and I was me.

Fitful sleep, tenuous future: I wake up a ragged wreck, once again my dreams unrealistic and unfulfilled. Dashed. The inevitable nosedive, our physical connection catapulting me from diffuse and passive aimlessness to palpable and corporeal reality. Clarity. I had felt what it was like to feel once more and it was unbearable. Its impermanence.

No amount of caked on make up can color in the lines of my hangover and damp down the swelling of my puffy, tear-streaked face. Just as well since I’m still not convinced I own adult face paint. At our holiday shopping destination, we circle my brother’s high school over and over, tossing around inertia in the car. My stomach lurching, I beg my mom to drop me on the corner, I’ll meet her there. She knows I can’t handle start-stop driving, start-stop life. Turns out there weren’t even any necklaces to try on at this year’s holiday fair. No neck modesty necessary.

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A few days later I checked my texts, remembering somewhat gleefully that I had drunk texted him on that fateful and foolish night. And I will share with you, dear readers, the most on-point, aggressive thing I said: “I think you’ve taught me what it is like to be a man: to not be able to fuck whomever you want.” Can someone say sexual entitlement!? So there you have it, the difference between being a man and being a woman. So now I know. But there’s more. When I say I checked my texts messages, which is what I intended to do, what I ended up doing could more accurately be described as scrolling through them, stunned. Present participle purposeful; it was an ongoing process. Seldom do I discover such a stashed cache. In fact, since I don’t have a drug problem, the last time anything in my life remotely resembled this was my Ambien addiction-addled blackout blackhole of a senior year in college (once again, thanks a bunch, Big Pharma). Which gives me pause to think about all the meds and physical trauma and memory erasure of the past six months.

There was such a litany of detailed, dramatic messages I had sent him between mid-summer and December, none of which he responded to. The first, and ironically most coherent, being my freak out following my wretched medical diagnosis and even worse prognosis. At which point I was prescribed Neurontin, as a short-term palliative measure, which gave me suicidal ideation, like very distinct plans. Hello, chemo meds lingering in my medicine cabinet. Even though I wasn’t very specific about what was going on with me and even though my message was written in a vaguely coercive manner, I sort of feel like he had a moral obligation to respond if only because it conveyed utter desperation. But that’s besides the point and a drop in the deep end.

I’m not sure whether I should be more concerned by the collective content of the messages (my messages), the sheer volume, or the fact that I honestly do not remember sending most of them a certainly had no recollection of the content. It seems that months of my life are missing. And this directly corresponds to the period of my life when I was trying out all sorts of pharmaceutical drugs (Neurontin, Cymbalta, etc.) out of desperation to defer surgery and get through the fucking day and on with my life. Powerful shit, you guys. This stuff The Man is prescribing to us. I’m not one to send drunken texts (after all, I was sober in terms of alcohol when deploying the majority of these), be unhinged, or unintentionally embarrass myself (this blog, totally intentional). I would be more ashamed of my behavior if I didn’t think his was equally crappy. There were distinct reasons my scream-for-help behavior was directed at him specifically. One of which is that he was enough of a fucking mess that I felt disarmed around him. Similar to how I chose an outpatient part-time mental patient as my first disembowelment sexual connection. Misery loves fucking company.

This recent loss of time or lapse of memory is scary nonetheless. There are gaps and then there are gashes.

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Dream Big, Baby: Part 2

DREAM BIG, BABY: PART 2

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Pre-Surgical Sexing

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Sex trolling commenced as I was composing the Rock Bottom post admitting that I couldn’t go additional months without sex. Mostly exploring my options, like when you open your eyes to the world out there before orchestrating an overdue break up. The first dude I messaged was a beautiful ginger, with a superfluous PhD in science, who created pop music and threw hipster dance parties to complement his bread-winning nine-to-five. Other plus: he peppered his profile with humorous photographs, including him with a ginourmous bucket of KFC, captioned “I will provide for you.” Probably socially competent despite his scientific inclinations. Turns out his personality didn’t matter. In person he was a decrepit ginger who looked halfway in between my mom’s and dad’s ages, and I have elderly parents. A smiling corpse, he resembled. And, look, it’s nice that he has a sense of humor about his crow’s feet (he accurately captioned one of his okcupid photos “crow’s feet”) but that doesn’t mean I want to become a character in a Tim Burton flick. And there’s this: before we met we had this bizarre convo in which he tried to convince me that you can tell before meeting someone whether you want to bone simply based on their pics, which convey more info than physical appearance alone. Okay, well, pheromones aside: either I am really poorly calibrated, have no clue about my physical preferences, or should be banging way more than I am. I miss bar pick-ups where I know veritably within the first two minutes if a guy piques my sexual interest and the other 40-or-so minutes it takes before inviting him back are just a screening to make sure he respects women, respects my boundaries, understands that women are sexual creatures, isn’t a total buffoon, etc. It’s silly to power through all the hoopla of internet introductions and shoddily laid out plans and subway service changes, if there is no way you are going to fuck a corpse in the first place. Call me regressive: I prefer pseudo-pedophilia to necrophilia.

Around the same time, a guy with a 99% match rating messaged me. Unclear whether he was physically attractive or fugly from his pics, but he definitely seemed like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with. Even owned a pink and green snowsuit! Except he listed his relationship type as “open” and mentioned polyamory in the body of his profile, whereas I am strictly monogamous when in a relationship. I responded with a regrettable rejection and explanation. Which he gently refused to accept. Attempted to convince me that polyamory isn’t necessarily his preference and he isn’t currently in a relationship—he just meant to rule out anyone who would find such a situation unfathomable, devious, or distasteful. The small-minded or claustrophobically conservative folks. If polyamory simply isn’t my thing, that’s cool with him: he’d still be down to hang out as friends regardless of my prospective romantic interest. Hmm.

I followed up by futilely attempting to convince him that I’m the worst of the worst: needy AND unavailable. Trust me, he doesn’t want me anyway: my body has been mired in medical monstrosities, my expectations are unrealistic. Buyer beware: I’m a lot to take on!

Below are some excerpts.

Me:

to be honest, i’m not interested in meeting people casually even if it is to be just friends. you mentioned the awful us medical system, and let’s just say that i’ve had personal experiences with it recently. since my body has been so unreliable and since nyc is so scattered, i really need to focus on sticking to a small group of people to be intimate with (as friends or sex partners) and not spreading myself thin.

i guess “seeing someone” might actually cover the kind of situation i’d ideally like to be in, which is to say one where i have sex with the same person regularly but don’t necessarily want to meet their friends or do activities with them and don’t care whether we have an intellectual connection. maybe that sounds kind of soulless. but i suppose after having isolating and debilitating medical problems that’s how i view rehumanization.

i’m trying to teach myself how to deal my life in ways that don’t involve sex. like, quite literally, how to not stuff all my feelings in vagina. but i suppose “easing back in” would be a dishonest way to represent where i am in the process. i’ve been with a disgusting number of men in the last year and a half. not that it’s the number or societal judgment that i’m concerned with. things have finally started feeling icky and viscerally wrong to me.

two things:

1) i’m totally recovered physically from my main medical problem which involved my getting my colon/rectum removed and my lower gi tract reconstructed. in mid-january i’m having spinal surgery which is likely due to all the horrendous medication i was on before the gi surgery.

2) i guess i don’t have much faith that someone who has a preference for a polyamorous situation could really give me what i want even if he doesn’t currently have a primary partner. but maybe what i’m looking for is unrealistic.

I cut myself down, revealed my conflicting desires, and minimized our prospects in all the ways. Yet, somehow my counter offer of being unhinged but honest was too enticing to reject. Can’t say I blame him: recently I discovered the unwitting appeal of vulnerability. Plus there is that whole managing expectations to impress people thing, underhanded as it may be. I’m the best at making people assume I’m slated to be a mess!

Niall:

1) That is heavy…My cousin was here for dinner today, she had her heart, lungs and a kidney transplanted when her body stopped working a few years ago, so I’ve seen some crazy shit.

2). I obviously have no idea what I could give you or vice versa. We’re constantly looking for unrealistic things so let’s take that as a given.

He had a point. Considering no one seems to live up to my expectations! Can’t be worse than the guys I already know.

And that’s when the tables turned…

Niall: In recent non-monogamous relationships I’ve started to realize that there are certain things I require to be happy sexually and emotionally that sometimes I can’t get despite really caring about people.

Me: oooh, do you have weird sexual preferences? if so, please share. i’m just curious as to what being happy sexually and emotionally require. also, i’m kind of a voyeur and like hearing about weird shit.

Niall: What are you in to?

Me: the only weirdish thing i’m into that is a non-negotiable is semen. anywhere but my face. and that gets complicated with the whole casual sex thing because of, ya know, disease risk.

Me: i dont’ care if guys are specifically into that. i’d actually prefer that someone isn’t specif into that. but it has to be something that a partner enjoys because i do or it just doesn’t work.

Me: once upon a time i dated a guy who was terrified of his own semen and he told me he didn’t judge me and could get it on me as long as it didn’t touch him. and just, um, no, sex can’t be partitioned like that.

Niall: Ha! That is very specific and awesome that you can just come out and say it. So you want semen on you…everywhere…but not your face?

Me: yes, and face includes mouth though that’s occasionally exciting for me if i’m really into the person. it’s sooo specific!

Niall: I can relate in that I love to be covered in vaginal fluids (not menstrual) whenever possible. Being used as an object for someone to just rub themself on anywhere until they get off is the best.

Niall: And I hope to get soaked in the process

Too good to be true? If bathing in fluids is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. GAME ON!

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Surrealist Sex

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Two weeks later he invited me to the Neue Galerie to see a terrible art exhibit, a retrospective of portraits by Egon Shiele: child abductor, rapist, impudent prisoner, beneficiary of nepotism. But all was not lost because we established that we have compatibly twisted senses of humor and similar sexual predilections.

As per the 5-minute rule, by the time we checked our coats and ascended the ornate marble and wrought-iron staircase, I suspected I was gonna sleep with him. Rifling through our respective wallets to pay the admissions fee, we both produced NYU IDs, despite no longer being students, and joked about how we should start a fake student ID business for cheap 30-somethings. Obviously the headquarters would be on MacDougal Street because NYC history. We spent ten minutes removing 8 layers of clothing each, and gazing at him without his winter casing I assessed, Yes, a skinny! Sold. To the lowest bidder.

There was a definitive theme to Shiele’s work.

“Wow, he really liked the ginger bush, huh?” I reveled devilishly, not quite sure how I ended up inside an UES mansion with such a prolific display of splayed pussy.

“Who doesn’t,” Niall concurred.

“I guess he liked black bush, too,” he added as we caught sight of the next section.

“Oh yeah, look at that, like Picasso he had a black period.”

Supplementing our German and Austrian art field trip, we shared shameless stories about our own European travels.

Niall inquired whether I had ever been to Germany. I told him about my miserable 24 hours in Berlin spent sick, overtired, and crying profusely into a bathtub so deep I was afraid I’d drown in my own tears, never to be found due to what can only be described as a negligent lack of emergency button in the spacious marble-gilded bathroom of a 5-star geriatric hotel. How I went out to dinner alone that night for a brief reprieve, naively assuming my street-smart vagina did not need a chaperone to sashay two blocks and slurp down spaghetti at a non-descript Italian restaurant. But when I paid my bill and made conversation with the bother-brother waiter and maitre d double team, they informed me otherwise. Apparently because I was traveling unaccompanied, I deserved to be raped. I looked “too young,” whatever that means. I didn’t know what men were like in Berlin. They know because they work at a restaurant. Pressed on the credentials that granted them authority on human behavior and morality, the maitre d considered my question thoughtfully and spit out a mouthful of braggadocio, “I don’t just work at a restaurant. I’m the manager.” Yes, Mr. Manager.

“If he didn’t have work, he’d do the raping himself. But he’s wayyy to important for that. He’s busy managing his breadsticks. Just wait until his shift is over: he’ll teach you a lesson,” Niall caught on.

“Ha, exactly. He knows what creepy men are like because he is one of those men. I told him it wasn’t nice to scare women, that he was being an aggressor.”

“So when I got back to my geriatric hotel,” I continued, “I photographed myself in my flannel shirt, combat boots, glasses, oh and let’s not forget the provocative rock ‘n’ roll hoodie. Then I posted the pic on facebook with a description of his threat and the caption ‘asking for it.’ Obviously he couldn’t help himself; men will be men and I’m irresistible.”

“In your Urban Outfitters rape bait attire.”

That is almost an exact description of what I was wearing. Welll, the leggings were from American Apparel, to be fair.

Niall and I waltzed on to the next politically incorrect topic upon my noticing all of the Jewish-sounding names of Shiele’s commissioned subjects, most well-to-do and likely hoity-toity. I suggested that while Shiele and co. died unfortunate and untimely deaths from assorted medical ailments that would be easily treatable in modern day, given that most were Jews in Austria in the early 1900’s, they were effectively spared fates more grisly than massacre by microorganism.

“Let’s call this exhibit ‘The Lucky Ones,’” Niall declared ruthlessly.

“Was that too much? Too soon?” he backtracked.

No. You are hilarious.

From the get-go it was obvious that the tone of this museum visit was going to diverge vastly from that of my last, an after-hours tour led by an outrageously genteel curator and graduate of my frou-frou, elitist UES private school. Caught off guard by a question about Otto Dix’s ‘A Memory of the Glass House in Brussels’—a painting depicting an off-duty soldier fucking a prostitute, surrounded by mirrors that reflected a kaleidoscope of pussy-pumping, tit-honking, champagne-certified good times—she blushed, referred to the act in question as “love making,” and discreetly directed the asker to a book in the gift shop with a more comprehensive description. Relaying this story to Niall, I summed up my righteous indignation, “Quite frankly, I was offended by her perverse misrepresentation of the act.” “There was no love exchanged?” “None, whatsoever. Only money and syphilis.”

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Our low-stakes first meeting went so well that we agreed to extend, relocating to a bar. Except bars aren’t open at 3pm on the Upper East, so we kept it classy and settled on Blockheads where we split guac and sipped studiously on spring break concoctions meant to be guzzled savagely with a side of sizzurp.

Half a drink in, he shared some story, apropos of my book-to-be, about a friend who is a dominatrix and pimp and also writing a book. Slyly, I propositioned, “Can I tell you something gross? Like 10th date material, at least. Seriously, it’s super disgusting,” narrowing my eyes as if to hold back the classified information with my eyelids aflutter. Not that I thought he wouldn’t want to hear, but I stalled and asked permission as a social signaling technique: mitigating the inappropriateness that was about to ensue by performing self-awareness. My countenance belied the illicit intrigue of a ten-year-old boy concealing a frog clasped in his closed fists. Niall obliged, eagerly. “Okay, so, now that I’ve had all this surgery,” I waxed poetic, “my dream is to become a dominatrix who specializes in brown showers. Turning my disability into a sexual SUPER power. Other women have to drink coffee first; my shit is liquid, permanently. How great would that be! Banking on shitting with a vengeance on gross, sad men.” Seriously, after all of my medical torture, concomitant financial expenses, and life limitations that have arisen therefrom, profiting off of my new anatomy would be the ultimate act of sublimation: a path to liberation. He acted as if I had just proposed a brilliant, actionable get-rich-quick scheme, like he was Leo Bloom in The Producers and we were going to go into show business! “Well, if that’s what you want to do, I can hook you up with my friend; she’ll show you the ropes.” “So to speak.”

The afternoon crashed into early evening and despite being thoroughly enamored with him, I was exhausted. My poor sleeping habits had finally caught up to me. Or else I would have invited him over then and there. Before we parted ways, I asked what he was doing the following night; I wanted to see him again before my surgery, although my schedule would be tight so I couldn’t offer him an exact time in advance. He said no worries, he wasn’t busy. And I added, so there was no confusion as to expectations, “The thing is, if we hang tomorrow night, it has to be in Williamsburg, because if I invite you over, my mom will be in and out of my apartment bothering me with last minute things. So it was settled: I was invited to Williamsburg. And implicitly: he was getting fucked. We were getting fucked. Praise the lord, amen!

He texted to confirm my invitation, lest I think he was being polite in-person only to brush me off later. I affirmed, “Hooray! I liked you way more than I expected, which I know is a weird neg.” “Ha, that’s perfect actually,” he kvelled, “I like surprises and underhanded compliments.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The next night, I kept pushing the time back. Like, “Talk to the hand, time!” When I finally arrived, I admitted that I still had to collect a few items for my hospital stay (earplugs to match my eyeshade escapism, Neutrogena make-up remover wipes for bedridden bathing), pack my trusty L.L. Bean Deluxe Book Pack, and make good on my standing appointment to watch the season premier of Girls with my parents. Our visit would be a short one, and I could not wait until we relocated from the bar to his storefront apartment. The problem with traveling to someone else’s neighborhood is they have control over when they invite you over. The trade-off: your retaining the right to leave whenever.

Our make out sesh on his couch was decently hot, and I suspected we should get a room: his. It went downhill from there. He was cute naked, except it was one of those situations where everything took way too long initially. I rubbed our genitals on each other forever before he got a hand between my legs. By the time he touched me, I was already growing bored and inpatient. Little did I know, that would be the least of my concerns. The fingering was so traumatic I’m not even sure “fingering” is the correct term for the action, nor did I know how to model better form. It’s as if he shoved his fingers inside me, kind of left them there, failed to move them in the traditional in-and-out trajectory, yet managed to stab me with his nails. There was no back-and-forth friction, no petting with finger pads—only jabbing! It was jarring! The fingering equivalent of an amateur kisser darting his tongue in and out of one’s mouth or an amateur fucker jackhammering one’s pussy. Which seriously puzzled me because his nails weren’t even long. That’s something I usually check for before allowing someone to stick their talons in my tender lady bits. The eating out wasn’t much better. Nothing grosser than a bristly beard ShamWow! sweeping my crevices like a basket of bread sopping the savory meat juices off a drenched dinner plate. Maybe I could have forgotten about the scratchy, whisker-brushing sensation if I didn’t have to keep a vigilant eye open in my slumber to protect myself from his Edward Scissorfingers.

Couldn’t take it any longer. Time to switch to sex!! Asked him to take out a condom. But by that time he was barely hard. Square one. I fluffed him a little hoping things would improve, and then gave up a little more and told him to put the condom on. Squishing him into me, it crumpled. Could not be slid in. Politely, I asked if he wanted to get on top. He declined. Except it was intended as an imperative, a rhetorical question: Get. On. Top. Of. Me., I meant. The misunderstanding reminded me of a conference presentation Steven Pinker gives on the utility of indirect language in building social rapport. His most memorable example: If you are at a dinner party and want someone to pass something without making your request sound like a brusque order, you ask, “Can you pass the guac?” Everyone gets that you are instructing them to pass the guac and not questioning whether they are capable of passing a condiment or dip or however guacamole is categorized. Phrasing my request a hair less ambiguously, though still rhetorically: “Can you be on top?” “You want me to?” Niall estimated, apprehensively. “Yes,” we shifted places. It’s not that I have a preference for missionary, by any means, just that if someone is having trouble staying aroused it’s usually easier for them to be in a physical position of power. Because people know how to get themselves off. After another lackluster thrust or two or three,  of glorified engastration or stuffing a carcass with a carcass, I suggested going back to what we were doing pre failed sex. Seemed slightly less fail? Figured I might just finger myself and call it a night. He gathered me up into fetus position, my back pressed up against his chest and my knees approaching my own. Even though I interjected ouch, as a fetus is wont to blurt out while being scraped with a coathanger, a finger or fuck from behind really does it for me. So he stabbed my way to orgasm, and while I was coming I thought, Fuck, I can’t believe I’m blowing my last pre surgery lady load on this that is only mildly more pleasant than being cut open. Probably I should have saved myself the trip and fucked myself gently in my soft, sweet shower. Still remember my final pre colon surgery wank, and it was lovely.

Turning the attention to Niall, I feebly pet his penis and asked if he could help. Which only seemed fair considering I didn’t make him start from nothing. Clasping his spare hand around his balls and squeezing to inflate, his cock stood taut and bore an uncanny resemblance to Martian Popping Thing. My eyes, blowjob bulgey, bugged out at his white-knuckled grip. Time for me to take over. I tried the best I could with my mouth, then my hand, then my mouth—again. What number time of give up on life is this? I don’t know, I lost count, reneged on my responsibility, embodied learned helplessness, and transferred his penis back to its rightful owner: his right hand.

martian-popping-thing squueze-unsqueezeReunited at last, an epic struggle ensued between his masterful hand and unruly penis. If I could have worn a visor and averted my eyes completely I would have, but there are only so many places you can look. Unless you close your eyes. Which is my M.O. only in serious escapist situations. Like if a literal bear attempts to steal your literal jam or if your cultural-Christian roommate walks in on you under-blanket masturbating. And you have to pretend that you were asleep the entire time and your face is radiating red sheerly due to shock from being awakened unceremoniously. Not that that has ever happened to me! This current clusterfuck is classified as a casual sexual calamity, one at which I was relieved of my pitching duties and downgraded to spectator for sport or moral support. Assuming my role of apathetic and disengaged consumer, I let my sight fade to out-of-focus and ignored my inclination to stay tuned. That’s when forms emerged from the mulch, convoking my character reference game—the license plate game of sexual entertainment—for a special session. Niall is mostly covered in tattoos, and as far as I can tell all of those tattoos can themselves be covered with a long-sleeved shirt, making him marginally employable beyond art and the academy. The lone exception: a tiny bicycle mounting the nook between thumb and pointer, his homage to hipsterdom. With my eyes on autopilot, I turned all Marc from Empire Records tweaking out to Gwar music videos on special brownies. The mounted hand bicycle morphed into a cartoonish face, its spokey wheels into spooky animated eyes and its handlebars into off-kilter expressive eyebrows. With every pump of Niall’s cock, a surrealist nose protruded then retreated menacingly, daring me to acknowledge its pained plight. Mostly it reminded me of Baby Animal honking Gonzo’s crooked nose. And, in my mind, Gonzo accepted his appointment as front-runner in the form and spirit categories of the character congruence game. Meanwhile, I freaked out on my own distorted, “You play a mean guitar, man; it’s really a shame that you must DIE!” moment.

gonzo's nose squeezed

It took infinity time, like in all of the scenarios where I’ve begrudgingly forced an orgasm out of myself because I felt like it was expected. Because an orgasm is easier to have than a conversation.

 I think, Oh fuck, I’m not nearly there and I don’t think I can get there. He expects me to orgasm and I don’t give a shit either way. What to do, what to do… I wish he would just cum already; this, sir, is a sinking ship. Somehow I manage to get myself closeish with my hands even though my clit is barely hard. I put him back inside me, hope he’s almost done, and finish. As much as I appreciate his generosity, there are no high fives for forced orgasms.

—Me, The 13th Step: Descent

I wondered whether I could orgasm with a sad, limp clit. I put his hands on my tits, as an excuse to straddle his body so I could almost straddle his face. Because nothing gets me off like being in a dominant position. When I orgasmed, he finally got a little bit hard. Like his penis was actually pointing in the right direction without any help. A shame considering I was done before I was even done. I had hoped we could put the pained production behind us.

—Me, It’s a Flop

On the other side of it, it felt silly and sad. But I guess neither of us knew how to call it off. And I didn’t want to be rude by indicating my blatant boredom. If it was anything short of tedious for him. “Do you like to watch?” he jolted me back into consciousness, reincorporating me into the scene. Blerggh, the answer to any sentence that starts with that construction is inevitably no. It’s a forced-choice test. And I demand sexual agency. I’m not here to fucking fluff someone’s ego. I like it even less now that you asked me. “Mmmhmm,” I demurred, hoping it would get me off the hook.

“Sometimes, I feel like I am totally anti-porn,” I say.

I say that when I’ve gone to tube sites or whatever, I feel this sort of empty sick in my stomach that it’s always the same image, always a woman demeaned and submitting. Teen anal gang bang, Japanese girl submits, black slut with two cocks projected into the retinas of twelve year old boys, images of women getting pleasure solely by being demeaned, being told, “You like that don’t you.” The male viewer rewarded with orgasm, as the women answer “U-huh, I do,” every time.

I can’t be pro-porn if this is 95% of porn…

“How am I supposed to call myself pro-porn when it’s a handful of male-owned LA companies that have a global monopoly?” I say.

—Rachel R. White, Want Me To Cum 4 U?

I can’t be pro-sex if this is 70% of sex. How am I supposed to call myself pro-sex when I spend so much of my sexy time acting, feigning enthusiasm, and fulfilling sexist male fantasies?

He looms over me and keeps whacking, like he’s about to cum. And I think, yess, this is gonna be over soon. But I also think, this is consensual yet unwanted. Cum is the great amplifier: boring, gross, or unpleasant sex becomes infinitely more so, cemented in semen. Guess I’m none other than a drop cloth at this point. Oh well, it could get worse. And it does.

“Touch yourself,” he instructs. Rather than outright reject him with a deserved, “Ew, I’m not gonna fake wank for you,” I tacitly decline, staying silent and still. Until he pushes, “Touch yourself,” as if I misunderstood the first time. “I’m not going to do that,” I state coolly. Matter-of-factly? Frigidly? “C’mon,” he commandeers, registering annoyance in his elevated tone.

What the fuck is this, a casting couch porno? I’m not gonna fake wank for you! That’s what prostitutes are for.

He leans in closer and squeezes the nozzle conservatively like he’s decorating a tasteful cake, drizzling it on me delicately and gloating in frosting evenly dispersed. It’s all over my neck, chest, stomach, and shoulders, and it’s fucking disgusting. I can smell it—the cum constellation. That part really isn’t his fault, though.

Niall: So you want semen on you…everywhere…but not your face?

Eagerly agreeing, I suppose I failed to specify that everywhere doesn’t mean EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE! So, now I know.

All of this sexual failure reminds me of a conversation from the past. And how I should probably just have guys read my blog before misunderstanding  and hilarity inevitably ensue.

April 14th, 2009

me: have you gotten to the part of my blog where i talk about how i am obsessed with cum and how i am very particular about it?

Josh: im aware of it

youve mentioned

me: okay, well you transferred your dick from my hand to your hand which caused the cum to spatter all over you chest in separate drops and while it was happening i was thinking “fuck, i will have to file this under my list entitled ‘things i will never be able to get off to.'”

so disappointing

gross, huh?

Josh: what, a guy coming on himself?

me: no, how it landed. i’m telling you, i am very particular.

i like it to land in pools, not separate drops.

guys cumming on themselves are hot

Josh: you just want a torrent

me: i mean, that would be ideal, just not so much shaking

Josh: i see

noted

me: i’m sure this is not what you expect to disappoint girls

Josh: no

it’s the pattern youre concerned with

You got it!

I’m such a lunatic. Why does anyone put up with me? Now that, friends, was a rhetorical question.

Post-coitally, Niall might have felt cuddly if I wasn’t feeling so stiff and edgy to leave, biting my lower lip and biding my time until moving on felt appropriate. Or maybe he’s too skinny for that, anyway. “You are beautiful as expected,” he offers as a counterpoint to my earlier neg. And it might have meant something if words meant anything without sex. If it wasn’t an empty gesture to nowhere, a consolation directed at a cold body.

“Wait, I think I left something at your place,” I do a double take as he shuts the door behind us on the way to walk me to the subway station. Not that I need my bow barrette before surgery, just that I’m not sure I’ll be back. Not that I necessarily wanted to make a point of it. Something about the catch of the door reminded me of its metal strips snapping shut.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Arriving at the green-and-white MTA globe designating my impending descent underground, we say our parting words. Me first.

“Twelve hours from now I’m gonna be propofoled: Heaven!”

“Huh, I don’t know what that means.”

“Propofol. Anaesthesia. It’s the drug that killed Michael Jackson.”

“Well, I hope you don’t die tomorrow. Because I’d like to see you again.”

We kiss, lightly—affectionately, I’d say—and I think, Oh fuck, I’m not sure if I want to see you. I mean, I do. I just don’t know if I can endure a sex number two. And with that, I burrow underground, anxiously awaiting my emergence one hour closer to propofol on the other side.

As I pace back and forth on the uptown union square platform—long awaiting my transfer from the L to the 6 and thereby my transformation from self-hating hipster to unabashed yuppie—I laugh inside to keep myself warm and curse fate: Of course this is my life. It is two thirty a.m. the night before my spinal surgery, which I discovered I needed after repeated sex injury. The train isn’t arriving for another 22 minutes, except a minute ago it said 20. This is some fucked up downloading bad internet connection shit. Spattered in semen from surrealist sex after a final weekend out and about and museum hopping because me so cultured. Homebound to watch the season premiere of Girls with my parents before I wake up around noon to be anesthetized. There is no more suitably predictable way to watch Girls except on your laptop or iPad via your parents’ HBO GO account.

Was tonight an exercise in endless youth one-upmanship? I wonder, with barely enough separation for self-reflection. Pre-gaming for propofol! I answer my own question.

Why does every sexual experience I have seem to have that Sorry About Last Night vibe? the train rolls into the station. And that’s the quandary that rides with me. How can I be pro-sex if this is 70% of sex?

Half an hour later, I saunter off the subway and stride down Lex to the nearest Duane Reade to collect my earplugs, Neutrogena grime wipes, and a single-serving container of vanilla Haagen Dazs to indulge in at our Girls premiere party. Hi, mom: I’m home!

Posted in dream big baby: part 2 | Leave a comment

Dream Big, Baby: Part 1

DREAM BIG, BABY: PART 1

But when we wake

It’s all been erased

And so it seems

Only in dreams

—Weezer, Only in Dreams

Every six months or so I dream about masturbating. From the first-person perspect. Oh gosh, how bizarre would it be if it were from the second- or third-person? Usually I only spectate myself from that angle in shower knob mirror distortion—a slippery, slithery sexual kaleidoscope. Not the normal lens through which a dream non-sequitor is viewed. Instead of waking and wanking, I wake up wondering, “Is this rock bottom?” Dreams are supposed to be aspirational. Shooting for the stars with my soft, supple hand is the ultimate lack of ambition. Even in my dreams, I’m an underachiever. Perhaps my nocturnal musings belie my pragmatism about sex: Aim for that which you can obtain, aim for the drain! A vagina in the hand is worth two bushels of bullshit! Not romantic, exactly. But practical makes practice makes perfect. Dreaming about masturbating is wish fulfillment manifest—in its most immediate, corporeal form. Means nothing more than you should have taken care of this simple simulation before you attempted the sacred sacrament of sleep, dumbass!

Last night I dreamed about sexually frustrating sex, which is even worse than dreaming about gratuitous or gratifying sex with oneself! Predictably, it was with Andrew who has been ghoulishly haunting my sleeping life on-and-off since my surgery was postponed. His sickeningly schmaltzy Tinder tagline—which I resolved to overlook in favor of his world-weary waifishness, long lean lady legs, and achingly attentive gaze—was “Dream big, daydream bigger.” Oh, the irony! Here is the setting and the apropos content of the dream: I was flying on a bike (not literally flying, just riding especially fast) under a series of romantic arches a la Central Park with duck pond sentiment (more Blair Waldorf than Holden Caulfield), weaving in and out of a dense dormitory-like setting which happened to be an extension of the outdoors. Like in real life, I didn’t actually know how to ride a bike (nor drive a car, for that matter) and I was on some kind of drug, exogenous or endogenous, that made it a shot in the dark, except the visual images of my path still existed. In its essence, the drug made me feel invincible; I got wherever I was going full of adrenaline and miraculously without injuring anyone, but I knew this was due to sheer luck not competence nor confidence. The destination was Andrew and that part of the dream was especially graphic, though I never got to interact with his pretty penis out of its plastic wrap packaging. It was like a Boca grandma’s tropical brocade couch covered in protective casing and served with a side of noodle kugel casserole sprinkled with crackled eggshells. Not even glitzy, flaming coral nail polish could save the glimmer of an era faded and glamour gone.

Everything was so circumscribed and stilted—by Saran Wrap, by history. It was supposed to take place in the present, not during the brief period when we were fucking nor the prolonged period during which he still extended the diplomacy of false hope. The use-by date had long since passed and he had already expired as masturbatory material in my mind and matter. “Separation” was the encapsulating word. I wish our encounter could have been embodied by wreckage, a confrontational head-on collision or even an impersonal rear-entry ravish where he could spit nasty nothings into my grubby ear. I wish we could have touched each other robustly, our breathy bodies working in concert. Instead we labored as disaffected and disconnected human objects: our constituent parts barely beating alone, together summoning palpitations of pallor. His sallow Irish skin dimming then decaying before my bleary, bloodshot eye sockets. Sucked dry by freeloading fame whore in his hollow heart, he metamorphosed from wannabe to has-been in a matter of lackluster pumps—before his 15-minute self-promo tour de Genie was up—registering that all I had ever wanted was him in flesh, blood and brains, not his dumbed-down, magazine-manicured, PR-packaged image.

As the sex went, it was very standard. He came inside a condom. I didn’t cum at all. My biggest complaint being that I didn’t get to feel him throbbing, bursting, and gushing out of me. Whereas once I had high hopes for him, now he offered me less than nothing. There wasn’t much chemistry to speak of. Except it was unlike the boredom I experienced with Jonah in real life, where I had to feign excitement to please him because I wasn’t eager enough to care about getting off. It wasn’t a hellscape lack of resolution that left me ravenous and clawing for more; it was expectation unfulfilled. The death of expectation. Resignation. Learned helplessness engendering depression.

Not surprising considering I had taken the nap that bred the dream to avoid occupying my bleak waking life. During the period when I still longed for him lasciviously in real life, my simple warm affectionate feelings were replaced with ambivalence and anguish. Opportunistically, I convinced myself that new sex would be even better—it would usher in a coterie of mental fuckery that would fuck me more exactingly—cut me deeper and more devastatingly. I had set up a situation that was guaranteed to be fulfilling or at least filling; as my psychological cavern turned into a gaping wound and the connective tunnels twisted, the chasm between how he found me and how he left me begged to be plugged with penis and its fissures sealed with semen.

How cruel of a dream when he entirety of our relationship is epitomized by the phrase coitus interruptus: his tempting me, toying with me, stringing me along, then enacting an impressive disappearing act that defied logic and trajectory.

Max: Sex so good the dude just evaporated

Me: Pretty much, he was like a vagician!

Me: Who has come back as a ghost.

We texted nearly all day every day for a month and a half; I doubted we would ever meet; when we finally did, against all odds, the sex was spectacular—so proficient and persistently arousing that I didn’t even get sore; he continued texting me with mundane life updates while we were in separate locations for Memorial Day week and I assumed things would pick up where they left off when we reconvened; instead he slowly and silently fluttered away until I cornered him into admitting that we didn’t have a “big future.” But I held on to the illusion that we would resume fucking furiously then ferociously—if only because he played with tenses, I was sexually tense, and word games are so much sexier than mind games. He said, suggestively, “we have great sex” (present tense!) And, less subtly, “we are not currently boning because…” (future implied!) In response to a joke about religion and thank you notes that he told me his mom liked, I decided to indulge the New England WASP in him by sending a formal sex invitation. He replied enthusiastically, inquiring about scheduling but failing to follow through. His disappearance inconveniently corresponded to my reincorporating myself into the thankless world of adult productivity and being punitively pummeled by schoolwork. The whole situation was one big tease. I wanted to yell, Now I’m twice as horny and twice as anxious, someone put me out of my fucking misery!!!

Eight months later I’m no longer horny, yet just as miserable! If only there were any tension left to relieve.

My vagina awoke in the exact same condition in which I kissed it goodnight: aching and longing. Dull, drawn-out grief. Not flushed, pulsating, and electrified by touch. What good is that? I lamented. If you insist upon invading my vagina in my dreams, babe, at least get me off or get me going.

About the bike.

Recently I had lunch with an author I admire; a few years ago she broke her spine while biking absentmindedly. After more conservative and highly unpleasant interventions failed, she had to have vertebrates in her neck fused. The surgery I’m currently awaiting is a fusion of one level of my lumbar spine (L5-S1). So not a long shot if we are unimaginative and need to connect motifs in dreams with events in waking life. Metaphorically speaking, flying on a bike is all about seizing risks and letting go. Eschewing fear in favor of pursuing desire. Which is what got me into this whole fucking mess in the first place. Except at least the mess was satisfying. Until it was frustrating. Unlike the dream which was similar to the mediocre sex I’ve been having recently, only with higher expectations and thus space for disappointment.

About the condom sex.

The hallmark of our weeklong sexual relationship: no condoms, copious amounts of spontaneous sex, high-volume semen every single round. Even after he told me he had spent the entire day jerking off—show-off! Bottomless brunches of semen! I’d like to think that if I chuckled with it in my mouth it would spew out of my nose into my breakfast smoothie. And that’s why I’m still obsessed with him. How vulgar is that? The life juice thing is so literal it’s grotesque. Once every last drop dribbled out of my pussy and I no longer had all of his fluids inside me, ennui crept in and took hold like a tick latching on, embedding itself, and draining me of my lifeblood.

In the dream I didn’t get to interact with his cum at all, its absence noted in my mind. I didn’t even get to see it bulge and bubble through the condom; it was wasted entirely. Not a punishment, per se, just a selfish withholding on his part—an understated lack of interest in sharing. I yearned to treat his cock as a living, breathing, expressive being; to feel it grow inside and grip me; to revel in his slender body, which I was crazy about and craved in real life. His self-involvement and inaccessibility rendered him no better than a human dildo, hardened and stale. Instead of you can look but you can’t touch, it was you can touch but you can’t enjoy.

Condom sex: yikes! A literal and metaphorical separation, shielding me and sealing me off from any element of fantasy that once was. The ultimate cautionary tale as I’m fretting about losing my last layer of skin: the separation between my public and private lives, my ability to be self-conscious, to be shrouded in disclaimers. The blaring message: You. Will. Never. Be. Satisfied. If. You. Don’t. Fuck. Raw.

Unification is a New Year’s goal of sorts. Fusing my identities and not being so fragmented and fragile. Which corresponds to taking more risks. The ultimate risk is coming into one’s self, being a cohesive and consistent human being across social settings. I don’t care if my desire to have unprotected sex ruins my image as smart academic and I don’t care if my writing a trashy book ruins my image as shy and circumspect. Most of the boundaries I have are ones I’ve created for myself and all they’ve given me is anxiety. The thing about risks is you have to own them. I didn’t fuck as many men as I did by second guessing myself. Part of creating a character is becoming that character. It can feel artificial until you agree to accept the social feedback. Act as you want to be and you shall become. That’s what identity unity is: being fearless and seamless. Not protecting your self-image with condoms, not protecting your social image with impression-management tactics. Disaster preparedness is its own kind of tragedy. It is pre-dwelling. Inhabiting a state of fear in lieu of desire. You can touch but you can’t enjoy.

 

Other nightmares.

About a week prior I had a dream about ALL THE MEN. The setting was half suburban half sleep away camp. Andrew was on the arm of this writer he knows whose blog and book are even more pathologically narcissistic and self-aggrandizing than his book. And a large portion of his book is his bragging about his pretty girlfriends whom he treats like conquests and accessories to his ailing ego. His and his girlfriends’ credentials are substantiated by passages about how jealous men are of his sexual prowess, how his girlfriends live in perpetual fear that he will leave them for the next pretty young thang, and how incredulous everyone is that a skinny literary nerd like him can land such hot chicks. It’s the ultimate exercise in overcompensating for being an adolescent outsider by simultaneously name-dropping the philosophers he is impressive enough to have read and casually referencing how huge his cock is. What a painfully contrived and insecure attempt for him to convince himself that he is worthy of the sexual attention he receives and the commensurate status climb. Of course the book is hideously objectifying to the women involved, whom he raises on a pedestal with epithets like “goddess” and “angel.”

I’ve been thinking about his sociopath writer friend because the author I recently met with who had broken her spine also happens to know her. Moreover, I’m plagued by this piece she wrote about transforming from a dorky teenager who was ignored by boys to a hot bitch who allegedly has high-status men chasing her. Sounds like the plot to every teen movie from the ‘90s. This, in combination with Andrew’s book, are concerning to me. Am I one of them? Does the entirety of my blog come across as a brag rag? Is everyone who blossomed from wallflower to sex object as heinously obnoxious and conceited as we are? Do people who don’t know me think I’m being serious when I joke about being hot shit? Am I using humans as accessories in a desperate attempt to convince myself that I’m not an imposter? Or is it possible for pretty nerds to be legit confident, to grown into themselves? Of course this whole thing is complicated by the dissonance I feel about the contrast between my body’s appearance and its functioning, the fact that I have convinced men to lust after a cripple.

In any event, I don’t think Andrew and Arden really had speaking parts in my dream, though they acknowledged my presence and I theirs.

I’ll briefly explain the other identifiable players. Let’s call them face characters. The first one is Neil, a member of the gilded trio. We fucked about a year and a half ago, he’s still in my sex queue, we text every so often, and I’ve been thinking about him recently because I bumped into a mutual acquaintance and showed him a screenshot of Neil’s tinder profile in which he lies to make himself appear approximately 5 years younger than he is (in real life he is approximately 5 years older than I am and made a point of his chronological maturity). Neil is a sex writer, we bonded over career stuff, had a mix of social and intellectual convos about sex, and when we fucked he had notes for his book spread out on the wall above his bed. Sort of how I’d study for a test on amino acids or functional groups, only my post-its would be affixed to my bathroom door. Whatever portion of his book he was spatially arranging included sexual pitfalls, such as “the shopping mentality.” Ya know, all the things I’m an expert at. Quite the visual backdrop for coitus.

The second face character is Soaring Eagle. And, no, he’s not Native American. If you went to Reed college around the same era that I did, you know exactly whom I’m talking about, because he and his brother are legends. Soar and I fucked a few times during and directly after college and it was absolutely divine, but I haven’t seen him in 8ish years because of geographical obstacles (I think he lives in China?). We got into an epically preposterous fight during one of our fucks, and I’m trying to recreate the dialogue for the first chapter of my book—which I’ve had trouble writing because it basically portrays a month-long orgy and the sequencing of intertwined stories is confusing. Here is a preview: “Fine! But I’m doing this in protest!” I protested demonstratively, inserting Thomas my husband dildo into my willing but unenthused vagina.

At some point in the dream I separately interacted with Andrew & Arden, Neil, and Soar. The climax took place on a tennis court or lawn of some place where kids casually convene at camp or in college. Except it was essentially an assembly of penises past. Before my arrival some of the guys discovered that they had slept with the same girl: me. Upon my arrival it was clear that they had been speaking of this, giggling, what a fucking whore. Not accusingly. Just like, that girl has acquired quite the collection: us. When I approached, seeing them all together, I had a moment like I did in real life when I walked past a guy on the street and couldn’t figure out whether he was Danny from “On Demand” or a guy my close friend Jeannie had been with. They were both novelty fucks in the same Midwestern, average Joe way (Yes, Jeannie’s man was, in fact, named Joe). The more guys you’ve been with, the more you have to get used to penis oversaturation—to past partners pervading your life. Easily I loafed with the group and began gossiping with one of my past partners, either Neil or Soar, about sleeping with the other one. Obliviously engaged in conversation, I didn’t notice when the one I was speaking of approached me from behind, overhearing everything. There wasn’t a scene made, exactly; it was just like, Ha ha, another one who’s slept with Genie. I guess we all need to get used to this.

And so we have to. In real life, too. The dream was slightly reminiscent of the ALL THE PENISES ARE POINTED AT ME dayterror of this past summer. But I’d like to think the tone was more that of a reunion episode of a sitcom where everybody knows my name: congenial. Make new friends and keep the old. That’s what friends are for. Camp songs, kids. Sing along with me!

 

Private browsing.

Then there was the bout of nightmares I experienced around the time my surgery was indefinitely delayed, surely triggered by my medical misfortunes. I woke up feeling hallow and frightened and somehow knew I had dreamed about Andrew even though I couldn’t compile a storyline. I used to assume that once he expired as masturbatory material (which happened sometime in August, around the time I was contemplating retroactive interference), he would disappear from my mind like he had disappeared from my life. Now that I’ve shaken him from my skin but can’t seem to shake him from my thoughts, I would almost welcome him as fodder. At least there would be utility in that.

Recent body horrors aside, I realized a large part of his recurrent presence is due to technological blunders. Exorcizing him from my search history has been a fiasco with my browser acting as Big Brother. This is going to sound like the silliest of modern day dating problems. Because it is. At some point during the summer I decided I would read everything there was about him on the internets and never ever wonder about him again. So I rummaged through his twitter, instagram, etc. in all of their banality and mundanity. Stuff I was never interested in while we were still communicating. As it turns out, the way instagram is programmed, every time you open a picture it registers as a new page view, and when you press the back button you have to go back through every single thing you’ve opened instead of immediately arriving at the person’s profile page. More page views. Here is where it gets super silly. Since then, every time I’ve checked my blog, his instagram has popped up in my dropdown menu. Just because “instagram” and “indefense” happen to have the same first two letters. I know, I know, such a trivial coincidence! And sometimes I’m tempted to click on his instagram feed, which only affirms to my computer that his life is something I want to check in on periodically. I knew I should clear my search history, but wasn’t sure how to clear only one website or only one person’s name or whatever. That would require a google search. Which I totally know how to do because I’m medium smart at computers!

The problem: It would be too humiliating to admit my lack of self-control to my computer. In an instant, an alleged fluke of browser history would reveal itself to be a malfunction of neural networks. Typing the words into my search engine would serve as material evidence of my moral failings. Articulation adding another item to the offending queue, ironically. In other words, I’M AN IDIOT!

After the bout of body horror nightmares, I scoured my search history with steel wool: follies erased! So when I had that dream about ALL THE MEN, a.k.a, the assembly of penises past, I thought, Hooray, an improvement! Until my extremely graphic sexually frustrating nightmare ruined my winning streak. If only I had sexually frustrating sex with ALL THE MEN.

Private browsing, you suggest? Well, of course, that would have solved the problem, the technological side of it. But it honestly never occurred to me because I’ve never been in such a situation before. Where I was tempted to sneak a little peek. Just this once. Because I am addicted to your peen.

 

Other technological telltales.

The only reference point I have for this situation is what unfolded after I broke up with my college boyfriend. Contemplating the break up, I realized intellectually that it was a final decision, that I no longer had any claim to him. Once I let him slip out of my hands, he could shatter and it might invalidate everything we once had. But when it came time, I didn’t know how to let him go. I couldn’t comprehend that someone could play such a prominent role in my daily life over the course of two years, reshaping my self-perception, then suddenly cease to exist. To me, exclusively. No matter how easy you let someone down, how gently and sparsely you break the news, it feels like peeling off your protective layer of skin with the bandaid of a boy that you’ve kept on for too long. Native, with no compass to navigate your surroundings, nevertheless your new self, you are left.

It wasn’t like I was looking to unearth anything in particular. Nor had I ever snooped during our relationship. Never felt the need to. Suddenly what I needed was just a little bit more of him. To stay connected. To feel like I hadn’t cut a gaping two-year hole into my life, inserting myself into the void. I got it on the second try, after erroneously inputting the name of his parents’ Yorkie with a Jennifer Aniston haircut circa ‘94. It wasn’t so far off from that in obviousness. By the time we broke up, he still had no social media presence. Two years of unprotected sex and we never managed to make it to Facebook friendship. So Gmail, it was. It wasn’t as if I wished to check up on him in the sneaky, dishonest way. Without another viable inlet, I was left with no choice. That’s how it feels when you have a compulsion, anyway. And it was a chemical one long before that point.

Eventually I confessed. Not because I desired moral absolution: I don’t believe it is right to dump unsettling info on someone else to unburden oneself. But because I couldn’t foresee myself stopping otherwise, and I hated what I was doing. Not only was it covertly intrusive and overtly immoral; worse yet, it made me feel entirely unlike myself. I had never imagined becoming the type of person who would do something of this despicable nature. As dumpers declare from mountaintops and basements alike, I never thought it would come to this. I wanted him to change his password, to forcibly save me from myself. He felt violated. Rightfully so. But what are you going to do? It wasn’t as if I was searching in bad faith, only loneliness. It’s difficult to begrudge loneliness and the desperation that arises therefrom.

Obviously these two situations are not nearly comparable: one involved the dissolution of a two-year relationship, i.e., real loss, the other the end of a fucktastic week. Here is what they have in common: both devolved into my feeling utterly out of control. Something I do not feel often. I felt that way when I was a teenager because my mom controlled me. I felt that way when my OCD compulsions took hold. Until I got out of my childhood household and headspace. And that’s exactly what the situation with Andrew felt like—a relatively innocuous OCD obsession gaining traction as a versatile elixir by transmogrifying opportunistically, intensifying in morbidness and violence to match the extremity of my circumstances. Toward the end of the summer, when my body and life spun out of control, it took every ounce of energy to scrape my flattened self off the floor so I could get through my obligations, rote task by rote task. Each day was an exercise in live through this shit, and by the time I decided to surrender my waking life to my dreams, I was so overtaxed that I was compelled to check and check and overcheck the one thing that still symbolized and had recently actualized escapism. The only person who could get me back into my body, in one fell swoop and one “thick” thrust.

I knew how shitty I’d feel each and every time I snuck a peek. That the initial fresh breath of allowing myself to misbehave would swirl a cool tornado inside me, battering the filthiest debris around the lining of my lungs like the outer orbits of a circle pit at a punk show picking up particles and ricocheting off the walls. I could hear the turbulent wind whistling through my ears before it deafened me, beat down my cilia, ceased to be sensed. And the less sensation is transduced into perception, the more stimulation one needs. I felt dead enough that I need a reminder of what it was like when I once felt, even if those feelings were awful and suffocating and sucked the life out of me. It was that initial jab I sought. Validation that I deserved to feel bad. That it was something, not nothing.

So I persisted indefinitely, until it became an actual problem that revealed itself in my text message history. The kind of problem that he now has a material record of and is, therefore, quite literally out of my hands. Apparently my mind, too.

 

Posted in dream big baby: part 1 | Leave a comment

The 13th Step: Rock Bottom

THE 13th STEP: ROCK BOTTOM

Oh, hai, thanks for stopping by. Guys, I have a problem. I’ve been through so many guys, yet had sooo little sex. It’s demoralizing. I think my count at this juncture in the space-time continuum is 16 in the past year-and-a-halfish, though, whatever, time isn’t linear, exactly. Kidding, that isn’t my real problem. I mean, it is. I’m lonely. I lack human contact. It isn’t even sexual desperation or horniness or whatever, anymore. I mean, I could take care of that, easily, if that were actually the problem. But maybe not. Because I’m picky and according to the events of this past May I have needs of which I wasn’t aware. I think this is the time when you welcome me to the well of affected typeface that represents human remains, whatever abstraction remains of what was once considered human cognition, “Hi, Genie, welcome to the internets.”

 

1) SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

I spent the days following our encounter debating about whether or not I wanted to see Jonah again. On one hand, the sex was kind of torture. On the other hand,

a) VAG ISSUES

Whatever vaginal issues were ailing me must be temporary. I also experienced random internal pain with The Explorer So much so that after a few thrusts, a position change, and a few more thrusts, I told him that we had to switch back to oral. After we were done, he asked me if his dick was weird, like an unusual size or shape. Nope. I can’t explain it, but it’s only happened those two times, so I’m unconcerned.

b) PENIS SIZE

Big penises are bad news for me. I’m not sure how accurate I am at estimating relative penis sizes, but he can’t be bigger than Clyde He just can’t. What is bigger than an elephant? The internet tells me a big whale and giant squid. And now I’m thinking about tentacle porn. Here’s the thing, even though Clyde’s body broke my back, my vagina was unharmed. Now that I have fewer internal organs, I can totally accommodate elephant cock. Therefore, Jonah’s relatively smaller penis must be able to fit inside me without doing any serious damage.

c) ATTRACTION

Whatever we had seemed to have fizzled out. But the guy had also fallen asleep on me on the subway ride back to my place. Attraction is so context-dependent. Maybe we couldn’t recreate the party pick-up vibe. But to some extent our attraction could be rekindled.

d) THE 50 BEFORE 30 CLUB

16 penises in a year-and-a-half is too many! Let’s be honest: It’s not them; it’s me. Granted, three of them disposed of me and a few were so morally reprehensible that there was no way I was seeing them again. The others I probably could have given second chances.

 

2) SECOND TIMES

I’m very sexually picky and once I’m grossed out I’m grossed out. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. I have to remind myself that second times are usually better than firsts; I need to leave room for improvement.

I thought back to my experience in Amsterdam. On my first date with The Dutch Man, we went to two bars, then a sex show, and finally he asked me if I wanted to get another drink and I said I was done drinking for the night. We had dilated time well with all of the location changes and I enjoyed our conversation but it seemed like it was dwindling. Plus, I’m not so into alcohol. He walked me part of the way back to my hotel and when we were about to part I stalled, wait, I’m not tired yet. So, he asked again if I wanted to get another drink. If there was any possibility that we were going to have sex, I really didn’t want another drink. However, it didn’t seem like he was angling to go back to my hotel with me. I invited him over as an alternative to drinking more. My odds seemed 50-50. Kinda a long shot for a sex invitation. If I didn’t invite him back I was going home alone, so it didn’t have anything to lose. He accepted.

The truth was, I didn’t especially want to have sex with him. He had everything going for him and we had a pleasant time together, but I can’t say I felt a ton of physical chemistry or drive. Here was my thought process: I like sex more than alcohol. He’s offering me alcohol and I think I can do better. It sounds silly because I like sex more than most things and when people offer me most things I don’t counter, “Let’s have sex instead!” It’s the same logic I used when I decided to vomit for sex. Even though the timing was less than ideal, I was like I’d rather have ginger sex than masturbate! Ergo, ginger sex. Ergo, vomit. When we pit choices against each other like that, the decision-making process becomes distorted. And the Dutch and ginger situation aren’t actually analogous to one another because I was crazy about the ginger—crazy! Only the timing was positively preposterous. With The Dutch Man, it was more like I was living life according to my mantra: if you don’t know what to do with it, put it in your vagina! Bottoms up!

Over the next few days The Dutch Man made it abundantly clear that he wanted to see me again. The sex was okay and afterwards we had a mature chat about my blog that made me gain a lot of respect for him. But I still had an overwhelming feeling of indifference. Which turned into ambivalence when I realized how few days I had left in Amsterdam and how many options there were. A guy I found far more intriguing sent me a message on okcupid. While objectively guy number one was more of a catch, guy number two was more my type. He was skinny and pretty; had ear piercings, highly stylized hair, paisley bow-ties, and pocket squares; had a hard-on for Nietzsche and Foucault; and fancied taking it up the butt. HERE IS THE BEST PART. Okcupid Q: Would you like to have someone strap on a dildo and put it inside you? A: Yes. It’s very exciting play-wise, plus men have tons of hot spots there, so get over the homophobic/gender tosh of male ass-play being gay or not manly. I wasn’t sure I was ready to lick a stranger’s asshole (Q: Under the right circumstances, would you allow a partner to lick your anus? A: Yes. Allow? Love it.) but fucking a guy with a strap-on has always been my dream! And it seemed safer in Amsterdam where people are less diseased. I fantasized about simultaneously being a geographical and sexual tourist. Considered how I could rearrange my life to squeeze him into my schedule and squeeze myself into him. Is it wrong to have buttsex after one cleanses herself literally and figuratively in a floatation tank? Before she hops on an airplane for the final leg of her trip? Will being the insertive partner require more vigorous thrusting and thus break my fucking back? Couldn’t work it out.

I opted to overlook bowtie butt’s message and reunite with the original Dutch man. Here is how I worked that out: I spent my summer lamenting pitiful prospects and actively abstaining. Let’s say there is a 1 in 4 chance that I wanna bone some dude I go on a blind date with, and out of the dudes I bone there is a 1 in 3 chance that it will be mindblowing. 1/4×1/3=1/12. There is only a 1/12 chance that this new dude will be better than the original Dutch man. Better stick to what I have. Look, I’m not such a frigid bitch that I actually did the math at the time. It just became obvious that I should not fix what was not broken and at very worst I would have a nice time with a lovely and worthy man.

My decision was a sound one. If decisions are outcome-dependent.

He led me all over town, wanted to give me a taste of nightlife he thought I’d enjoy. Even took me to an Art Deco theater because we had spoken about my interest in modern art and he figured I’d appreciate the architecture. Though it was closed for a private event, I found the gesture to be incredibly thoughtful; I appreciated him. He walked me back toward my hotel and the night ended much like our first night together. He didn’t seem especially inclined to have sex with me. I had to explicitly invite him over and once we were back in my room, he didn’t act receptive to my advances of orienting my body towards his, touching his leg, looking up with longing eyes. I wasn’t sure I wanted sex until we were making out and he pulled back with soupy eyes, “Glad to be back.” I returned the smile and affirmation, “Glad to have you back.” Women like enthusiastic consent, too. Perhaps he was just shy or didn’t want to come across as pushy.

Things progressed so much more naturally and effortlessly than the first time. He was a quick study, remembering all of my preferences and orchestrating them masterfully. With a destination in mind, we got to skip past most of the boring formality of kissing and feeling each other out. Against my better judgment, alas, I let go.

As he was fingering me, I dissolved into his hand, crumbled like a stoic statue losing her footing. Normally when I cum into my hand my hand becomes a cup of cum, but I overshot his, went out of bounds, and I couldn’t feel or see but I knew I was spraying all over my bed, the right-hand one. I thought, thank god for Ernie and Bert bedding, I will be sleeping on the left-hand side tonight. Letting the steam whistle out from my hollow heart and sing a simple melody, I slipped away before finding myself. Just as I suspected I wouldn’t be able to glue the pieces together and might drown to death in my own lake, I stopped him. We switched to sex. After a few minutes of riding him I announced I was close, assuming he had enough time to get himself there. He looked at me in awe and told me to make myself come. I leaned back on his cock and looked into his eyes, two more thrusts and oh shit closer became coming. It rushed through me unexpectedly. I was a windsock flapping in a gust, falling backward and then forward. He caught me with his firm wrists and as we leveled into free-fall together, I continued to contract around his cock. Make yourself cum, baby.

Let’s call that moral luck, baby. Bad decisions are outcome-independent. We had two days in between our first and second encounters. During the first day, I debated about whether I wanted him or bowtie buttsex. During the second day, I did mushrooms and when I was coming down I tried to summarize all of the not-so profound things I learned during my trip. The insights pertaining to him, though intended more generally: 1) Just because you’d rather have sex than do anything else doesn’t mean that’s a good reason to have sex, 2) Maybe it speaks more about the lack of stimulation in your surroundings than of the enticement of sex, and 3) It isn’t exactly a compliment if someone decides to have sex with you because how bad can it be. Clearly I’m telling myself to quit it with all this stupid sex. But the very next day I go for round number two. Which I don’t even know that I want until we are already back at my place making out. I like to analyze decision making using the paradigm that Tom Nagel proposes in his paper Moral Luck. Which I haven’t read since summer 2005 but I think I still remember the gist. There are 4 possible decision-outcome combinations:

1) Someone drives safely. Hits nobody.

2) Someone drives safely. Hits someone accidentally.

3) Someone drives drunk. Hits nobody.

4) Someone drives drunk. Hits someone accidentally.

I think we’d all agree that person number 4 is the worst of the worst. And it’s best to be person number 1. Person number 2 we feel sort of sorry for. Even though he/she had a more unfortunate outcome than person number 3, he/she is less at fault. Person number 3 has moral luck.

Sex isn’t as polarized as these dichotomous actions and outcomes. Usually I feel sort of indifferent about my sexual partners at the onset and the sex ends up being sort of meh. But I think it’s still useful to consider which role I take on in various sexual scenarios. Since I had sex that I wasn’t enthused about but it ended up pretty awesome, I’m going to label myself person number 3. Obviously it is better to be person number 1 regardless of equivalent outcome. But it’s hard to never get fucked, man! And you can never truly predict an outcome until you are already naked together.

This paradigm does not even account for the aftermath, which you cannot assess until it arrives. Andrew would have been a category 1, my decision felt so right at the time and the sex was mindblowing. YES, I exclaimed. I can finally guzzle massive loads of cum forever and leave a river of swimmers behind wherever I go. I have been reincarnated as a cum dump!!! Except I crashed hard when he disposed of me. What is a dried cum dump, anyway? A drought? A brushfire? The aftermath was undoubtedly worse because of how good both the decision and outcome felt. The higher you fly on dopamine the harder you crash. Sex is complicated and brutal. Deeep sigh.

 

3) UNWANTED SEX

I’ve had so much unwanted sex recently, and when I say unwanted I don’t intend to imply through coercion or even convincing. The guys are almost mystified that I want to sleep with them so soon. Almost. No one argues; they enable me. As I pursue my compulsive need to scratch the seedy underbelly, sniff all the crotches, explore every crevice and crack. An endless quest to expose nothing in particular. To unearth. Out of curiosity or boredom. For better or worse. In the words of Elizabeth Wurtzel, I am the bad crowd.

Remember that blog Reasons My Son Is Crying, featuring reasons that sound absurd to functional adults? I should compile an analog called Reasons Genie Put Something In Her Vagina. And by something I mean either men or objects. If those are distinct categories. Kidding! For sure, it would sound absurd to anyone who has any inner resources. The only thing I have inside me are grippy, toned muscles. Winning!

If I have a creative talent, it is misusing sex (upcycling feelings!). This blog should actually be called How to Expel Your Feelings from Your Vagina. Or, more accurately, How to Stuff Your Feelings in Your Deep, Dark Vagina Hole. (If only they could escape!) The sexual equivalent of gluttony. Well, call me morbidly obese!

 

4) CATASTROPHIZING

 I have always eaten what I wanted, which has amounted to not all that much food, because when you satisfy your desires, they turn out to be surprisingly slight, or at least reasonable. It’s deprivation that creates hunger. My only understanding of this idea when it come to nutrition is in relation to my own feelings about love: if some man gave me precisely what I needed, it would probably not be all that much, but the famine of feelings make me needy and desperate.

—Elizabeth Wurtzel, More. Now. Again., pg. 316

After careful consideration, I decided to text Jonah, given that the a) vag issues, b) penis size, and c) attraction all seemed like manageable hurdles to surmount. My decision was heavily weighted toward the realization that I’d be in the 100 before 35 club if I kept dismissing guys after just one time. So text him I did, and I didn’t hear back right away. While waiting, I worked myself up over nothing. Is he gonna text me, is he gonna text me not? Does he love me, does he love me not? I spent hours eyeing my phone every few minutes, checking my phone even though I turned the volume on so I would be notified immediately if and when he did respond. After a few hours of this nonsense, when it was still within reasonable timeframe that he might actually respond and just hadn’t received my text yet or was busy, I was like, HOLY SHIT, what the fuck is wrong with me? A few hours earlier I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see him again. I had to rationally convince myself I should give him another shot. He was mostly a novelty fuck, anyway. Now here I am panicking that he may not want me.

I have so little in my life that sex has become a game to me. And it’s a mentally exhausting game because it seems personal like so much is hinged upon a guy liking me, though the actual sex I’m having is pretty much as impersonal as it gets. And maybe rejection wouldn’t be so rough if anyone ever wanted me, but you can only be thrown to the ground so many times before it is confirmed that you are piece of trash with scuff marks rife for stomping on. Then it occurred to me that the last few guys I’ve been with have contacted me past the time period when I was interested in communicating, and I felt a sense of revulsion. As in, I was annoyed that they assumed I had any responsibility toward them once our physical communion was over, and I couldn’t understand what they wanted from me beyond my body. One lives overseas, for Christ’s sake! I only gave him my contact info so he knew how to find me if he ever decided to visit the city or I ended up in Amsterdam again or whatever.

When they don’t text, I wonder, “Why don’t they want me?” When they do, I get exasperated, “Why would they want me?” I can’t win—when it comes to balancing abstractions of feelings in a famine of feelings. Meta data about our interactions. Always a critic, never a participant—I can never just be present. I become anxious about the game aspect, not the people involved, and work myself up into a frenzy until it becomes so unmanageable that I push them away so I can discontinue engaging with my own feelings. Content falls by the wayside when to text or not to text becomes the question. I’m playing my own game, I’ve created my own rules, and I’ve finally learned how to suspend my disbelief!

“So you overreact to nothing, but that overreacting is not feeling—it’s reacting. If you just sat there and said to yourself that it hurts and there’s nothing you can do, you’d get through it. Instead you drive yourself crazy wishing these things didn’t hurt. You feel stupid and bad about yourself for being bothered and then you drive yourself crazy. The feelings come out in strange ways.” She pauses. “That’s what’s inappropriate. Before you even know a guy well enough to be attached to him, you feel deeply, because you are so desperate to feel something, and then you sabotage it. You don’t give it a chance to get to the point where real feelings would be appropriate.”

“I never get that far.”

“Because you are too busy getting worked up about all kinds of things that don’t matter so that you don’t get to the point where it does.”

—Elizabeth Wurtzel, More. Now. Again., pg. 192

Working myself up, waiting, catastrophizing the self-created, plotting the demise of only me.

Before he even has the opportunity to not text me back, I want to rescind everything we’ve done together. I want to beg him to start over, to retract the sex, to wait until the third date like conscientious human beings who are not so jaded as to pound away their feelings immediately. To get to know each other first, whatever that means. I vow to apologize for rushing things, if only he texts me back. It will be my first act of vulnerability. After ascending and descending the 13th step, I think I’m ready for at least that.

Though I’m normally unable to flip a switch and change how I feel, once I realize how disproportionate and misplaced my freak out is, I cut it out immediately. I accept the situation as a lesson learned.

 

5) SHIPWRECK SHORES

I think of how Paul told me my blog is a shipwreck and I’m the rock; he can’t imagine why guys knowingly continue to sleep with me. Or, as Andrew put it, Why then bother dating at all if we know how it ends? I take sensible situations and annihilate them with my murderous mind. Genie’s vagina: where dicks go to die. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

It’s true that the stories I share here are fucking disasters because there is comedy in tragedy. But those accidents are crash and burn. Actual tragedy is sullen and infinite. It’s too expansive to be quantified and explained in tidy narrative form; it smolders and simmers holes in places you’d least expect them. And you don’t realize you are lacking points of reinforcement until you try to stand and it comes crashing down in thunderous waves. The real shipwreck is the one that leaves you forever adrift. That can’t be set ablaze and compounded into a box of ashes to put on a mantelpiece with framed family photographs. Instead of marinating, I let my feelings fester.

I’ve begun to feel as if my readers and real-world friends are dependent on me for laughs. Comic relief. When I should just be like, Get. A. Life. To destroy.

Once upon a time a guy referred to my blog as an “outlet.” At this point I conceive of it as a way to create something out of the rubble of my life, and I suspect that which I feel the most emotional resistance to is the most critical to share. It wasn’t always like this. In fact, I never consciously decided to have a sex blog—to publicly mock people with penises. I was simply the resident storyteller among my peers and they thought my misadventures should be recorded. Then distributed. I had very little control between steps one two of the process. I wrote for them. And then them became their friends and friends-of-friends. I’m not trying to recuse myself from responsibility. Just trying to say that this whole project became larger than me, larger than my initial intentions which were actually other people’s intentions to begin with. After a year or so of writing, my sex life and writing became hopelessly entangled, in part because the clowns with whom I consorted totally encouraged my nonsense and I felt like I had to perform for them. Of course they had stake in watching me make a fool out of myself, and I suffered myself as a fool gladly because I felt a definitive dissociation from the character we created. Best of all, I got to fuck haplessly and be praised for it! How many women can say that?

I quit my blog for a few years when things started spinning out of control and I wanted space to explore without being critiqued. I needed to eliminate the social motivation without throwing out the baby in the bathwater. And here I am years later, estranged from the group of friends who were once my primary enablers, still fucking away—fucking my life away. Now that my external motivation to fuck has decreased, I do feel like I’ve gained insight about myself that I wouldn’t have if my social and sexual desirability were inextricably entwined. But I still can’t help but think of my life in narrative form, and I don’t think this is a problem most people experience. Maybe other people aren’t ridiculous enough to engage with the absurd and stage their lives as Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes. Maybe they think of adventuring as an occupational hazard. Those people don’t know how much sex you can have and how much havoc you can wreak without actual, permanent consequences.

It’s silly to think that art is about what is depicted rather than a projection of the artist herself. I realize I’m especially prone to overstepping the life-art divide and sometimes I’m conscious of it in real-time. For example, when I feel the need to own a room that probably means I’m playing a character. Or maybe I’m coming into myself. Who knows.

After all has been said and done, I wish I had taken MORE risks, not fewer. But I also know it’s time to drop the sexual affectation. The world of casual sex is something I conquered long ago and I’ve been stagnating for a long time now. There is nothing brave about that. Plus my friends think I’m an asshole. And I think I’m an asshole. One of them, Parker, has explicitly stated that he prefers me when we’re alone and I’m being for real, even though we met when I was steeped in my sex blogger persona. Whenever I’m out and about with my friends or orate old school-style stories, I think I feel judgment from them, like they believe I’m pathetic yet continue to humor me. And I realize I’m projecting self-judgment. Plus Parker’s. With which I don’t always agree. But in this case he’s right: it’s time to grow up and move on.

I was always able to reduce whatever craziness I’d experienced into the perfect anecdote, the ideal cocktail party monologue… Even at my worst… I would try to keep the atmosphere light by saying something like, So, did I tell you about the accidental blowjob?

Anyway, I thought this ability, to tell away my personal life as if it didn’t belong to me, to be queerly chatty and energetic at moments that most people found inappropriate, was what my friends liked about me… most of them let me know, one by one, that while they didn’t mind that I said things that were thoughtless and out of line, they excused this behavior as a sad flaw… I was actually just good to talk to, even a good friend… They’d be just as happy to see the affectation go.

—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation, pgs. 326-327

I pretend I don’t know what will come of me if I drop the act. What am I good for if not sex?

Here’s the secret: With The Dutch Man I was on my best behavior. We didn’t talk about sex at all. I mean, I talked about public health policies and outcomes and my volunteer job and job aspirations. And after the first time we fucked we had that earnest conversation about how writing about people you know alters the course of your life and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. But I didn’t shock him with stories of sexual shenanigans; that’s sort of an aggressive conversational control tactic, anyway. I turned it off and still managed to be engaging.

And, like, this whole ‘I have nothing else going for me’ thing is silly. People I work with like me. My classmates like me. My family likes me. And not just because everyone’s family tolerates them and everyone thinks their own baby is the most beautiful. But because I’m actually funny in real life without employing cringeworthy frame-controlling techniques. Without telling away my personal life to disown the embarrassment, to make it not mine. Time to discontinue the humane fuck-and-release program. I can cease entangling myself in these ridiculous situations if I wish not to be associated with them. Sex for me is just a nervous tic. Tick, tick, tick…

 

6) ROCK BOTTOM

I was forever puzzled by the okcupid question “Is there such a thing as having had too many sex partners?” What do they mean by too many? Too many to fit in the 365 days of the year? Too many to fit in your orifices simultaneously? So many that you are constantly sore? If only.

How about so many that you are eternally dissatisfied by and so distracted by cock and the commensurate bullshit that you don’t have the breathing room to step back and see over the trenches. You are measuring one mediocre experience against the next with blinders on. Everything becomes dim and indistinguishable. Iterations of anguish.

There is a price for 16. My sexuality has become performative. And by now I am the only audience member. How many partners are too many partners? At a certain point your soul fractures from the stress and strain of stuffing them all in. It doesn’t matter if individually they were insignificant experiences, some lovely some icky. It doesn’t matter if you achieve a balance such that collectively in theory they should cancel one another out. There is a psychic price. Eventually. The balance strikes you.

I’ve been through so many guys and gotten so little. It is demoralizing. I always though rock bottom was an extreme you hit, a zenith or trough. Not an eternal hover in purgatory. Here is what rock bottom is: when you’ve been at the bottom of a canyon stuck spinning your wheels for six months consciously, waiting helplessly for help. Which is where I’ve been dwelling since around the time of my 30th birthday in May. In fact, leading up to the infernal thirty, I began writing about this very topic. But I absolutely could not get myself to post it. I couldn’t accept it nevertheless admit it out loud.

Until I experienced it firsthand and for a prolonged period, I figured loneliness was silence. Much how I figured depression was flatness than neither included emotionality nor lability. Instead loneliness has proven to be a void excavated from an inverted scream. It is my ability to fend for myself sucked out of me until I’m left lying deflated and limp.

These guys are numbers to me, not people. I’m thirty years old and my life has amounted to nothing. I have spent my twenties collecting samples and failing to make a purchase.

At first, after my series of surgeries, I wanted to be fuckable. Now I just want to get fucked. It’s like, YES WE CAN, now where are the fruits of my labor? The messiah never cometh.

 

7) RANDO SEX

I’ve outgrown sex with randos; once it served a purpose. Recently I’ve begun to feel like my life is a series of disconnected events. I’m afraid I’m falling into the trappings of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s one-night stand of a life.

Drawn in by its instant gratification allure and lack of complications; disabled by my failure to decide on flawed constancy. As she asks, “[H]ow many lost connections make up a life?” Only thirty, and most of my friends have already moved on, moved away, moved period. In constantly rotating an ensemble cast of characters, I’ve lost any semblance of a narrative and made way for the haphazard. Which is part and parcel of living in New York—a city in flux—but mostly due to my failure to accept my and others’ imperfections. To work through the tough times in order to experience the good ones as a unified team. To abandon my fierce independence in favor of composed connection.

I’ve spent so long relying on myself. I’m not sure how to trust. To take a leap of faith. To believe in the good intentions of others. If even my own body has failed me, how can I depend on an entirely separate being to reinforce my weak spots?

Ignorant people have the misconception that because I’ve been with a lot of guys (more than Ophira Eisenberg!) promiscuity is my preference. This could not be further from the truth. It’s easier for girls to get laid and easier for guys to find relationships. Because I am especially candid and laidback about sex, guys throw themselves at me. Making choices is an exercise in self-restraint, though an imperfect process. You can never accurately predict what you’re getting yourself into until you’re already naked. So, yes, I’ve disposed of a lot of men. But I far prefer the familiar.

Here is the saddest thing you’ll hear me say, and I say a lot of sad things: I miss being 24 and fucking all my guy friends. Sure, you can describe them as mutual pity fucks. At least there was a certain permanence. And I wasn’t expendable. The guys accepted my flaws. We joked about failed sex with other people together. And then we had failed sex. Together. They helped me contextualize where I had been and provided a narrative arc, connecting my past to my future. Though not an aspirational destination, they offered a resting place for my weary head and not-yet worn out vagina. Sex was restorative and recentering. In fact, wasn’t having much more sex then than I am now, but friendsex interspersed with randosex was significantly more fulfilling. Between my active sex life, social life, and work life, I never felt abject loneliness.

I used to LOVE being single in the city, the freedom it granted me, the colorful palate of experiences to which it exposed me. I thought people in relationships were fools. Women could have it all. I had my cake and got eaten out too! I got the best of my dude friends without the worst of them. I milked them for what they were worth and moved on to the next one whenever they exceeded my annoyance ceiling. The girls they dated were stuck with them, flaws and all. Joke’s on you, dumb bitch! I fucked yo’ boyfriend and jumped fences with him and his dumb friends, and don’t have to sleep next to his slimy ass!

Finally, I’ve realized not dealing with people’s bullshit means no one is there to absorb mine. So much of why I’ve been fucking randos as of late is because it’s harder to disclose real shit to my actual friends. It’s been easier to spread myself over the city, distribute the burden. Once upon a time, I didn’t have emotional needs and could simply filter my feelings through my vagina.

When I began laying down the tracks for my book, I planned on mostly including stories from my blog, only transforming my blog into narrative form with the progression of my digestive troubles and my gradual “coming out” process as the thread. Really, though, Allister is my narrative thread. If he isn’t an actor in each story, he is a commentator in most. To some extent, he has been with me throughout this all. There was an element of connection, caring, and intimacy in our casual relationship, an unspoken commitment. He always followed up and apologized if insincerely. Essentially, that’s what I’m missing in my life now—commitment, implicit or explicit. I’m not going to air our dirty laundry; there is some. Not a hamper full, a few stray pieces strewn across the bathroom floor. I always knew this would happen at thirty. Guys get into relationships—guys even less qualified than I—and I’m left to languish as a banged-up, once-loved doll forgotten at the bottom of a toy chest. I’m not sure whether I’ve outgrown rando sex or I’ve been outgrown. Either way, it’s time to move on. Or to learn how to grapple with life as a series of disconnected events, to accept other women’s chewed-up leftovers. I know I don’t want that. Because I’m not an insane person. I need to make sense of things. I need to make decisions. As a twenty-something horny coed, I believed decisions narrowed outcomes; now I understand that possibilities open up when you don’t exclusively deal with the world on a superficial level. I had that adolescent defect where I wanted to FEEL IT ALL, and as a result I’ve felt nothing.

After my conscious celibacy of summer, by September I felt sad and desperate. And could not even fathom how much sex I would have to have with my hand to approximate a perky penis. So I was like, I SURRENDER. And texted Davey, duh. For one pity fuck. I believe he was genuinely confused by the intent of my text because we are adults now so it was sent substantially before 2 a.m. when I was stone cold sober. This is Genie’s vagina speaking, not alcohol. What, you don’t recognize its husky voice? Er, cracking voice?

Me at 7:44 p.m.: Hey, what are you up to?

Davey: Hey. Just sat down to dinner. What up?

Me: Not much. Just having one of those days where I feel like I’m going through puberty again and was in your neighborhoodish.

[“ish” is right. “neighborhood” would be a very liberal description of the radius. What I really meant is, I can land on your cock in 15 minutes.]

Davey: Haha. Got it. The old rent-a-dick. He’s not currently available. Sorry

Me: Aw, too bad.

Like, gross. I mean that type of objectifying language is par for the course with us, but sometimes I even gross myself out.

By the way, for contrast, here is our tinder exchange from last December, a mere ten months prior. Obvs we’ve bumped into each other on every social media dating platform.

Davey at 7:20 a.m.: I want to be inside you

Me: That’s charming

Davey: I thought so

Me: 🙂

Fuck, dude, I think this guy just single-handedly confirmed my suspish that for girls it’s all over AT 30.

In my old age, I have delusions about how I could totally live with an Allister. Not Allister himself, because I’m not really attracted to him, but an Allister. One of my shittiest guy friends. A serial cheater, a white liar. You know, the kind I choose for sex so I don’t get attached. When it comes down to it, I’m no better than they are or we wouldn’t be in cahoots, and besides they are not so bad. I don’t even really care if the guy sleeps around and lies to my face. As long as he gives me the attention, affection, and acceptance I crave. Lowering my standards one penis at a time.

 

8) PREMATURELY DISMISSING

When you’re in trouble and disgusted and disengaged, sometimes only the comfort of strangers is available. The only confidant you can handle is someone peripheral to your life… I can’t bear to have a conversation with someone I am really close with…

—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Once. More. Again., pg. 101

I have this nasty little habit of prematurely dismissing guys instead of letting them decide for themselves whether they’re too good for me. Same goes for letting friends decide if I’m a burden. By not giving them enough of me, I never let myself become too much. Swiftly I’m off to the next one before things have a chance to go wrong. I stay on top of my game by being flighty and self-sufficient. On top if the name of the game is being alone but not unwanted.

Briefly I had two separate blogs, one for sex stories and one for shit stories. But I merged them when I started to feel like my life was fragmenting. I’ve essentially fallen into the same trap with my dating life, though I’ve been transparent with guys about my shitting problems from the very beginning. Over the past year and a half, since “coming out,” I’ve sprayed my figurative shit all over the city. I gave everyone the same graphic story, the same brave-faced image, then moved on. No one got the whole picture, just that little suggestive piece. That’s one way to hide your inadequacies, to never let it get to the point where they’d become visible. Most of the guys were left thinking, if I could only get a little bit more of her. Never, she’s too much for me to handle. Or even worse, she’s too emotionally deficient and will never be enough. Unfortunately it’s also a good way to spread yourself thin, by giving yourself to know one and everyone all at once. By becoming the flimsy, outer shell of your self. A picture-perfect editorial. I managed to bite my own bait, to entice myself with the lure of my outer layer. Which is so much more glamorous than the guts and gore that lurk beneath.

Classic low self-esteem: feeling resistance to pursuing things with a lovely man. Because you wonder why he even bothers to like you. It’s too good to be true, too uncomplicated, and thus unsubstantial. And without allowing myself any affirmation, my feelings of inadequacy persisted.

Let’s not pretend I’m actually functioning and not just passing. Because I’m thirty and have not been in a real relationship since college. Which was voluntary for a while and partially due to having lived with a serious and invisible illness from a young and tender age. But let’s not fool ourselves: I’m a fucking mess. And manage to pass for normal only because, despite my deteriorating body, I’m ostensibly a hot girl who has maintained the illusion of a social life and an active sex life.

I get fucked for realz. It is unsatisfying for realz. I’ve liked like two boys this year and they both disposed of me swiftly before shit had the opportunity to hit the fan. Before I got to express my feelz. Before anything really developed. Not-so-secretly, I don’t believe that anyone could ever really want me. Because I don’t want myself. How can I annihilate myself without killing myself? Unclear. Nebulous. Complicated. It’s kind of silly to talk about being unwanted, though, because the truth is: more often than not I dispose of the guy first. Ignore his advances. Politely extricate myself from the situation. At a certain point I realized I might be plotting my own death and blaming others for my assassination. And here is that point.

 

9) GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK

I was having a conversation with my social worker friend who facilitates the medical support group I attend monthly.

Carmen: Do you ever feel like you put a lot of pressure on yourself? Like you spend a lot of time sitting around and feel like you should be doing more. Then you realize you have a serious disease and other people who have to deal with way less are far less productive than you are?

Me: Yeah, all the time. I feel that way about sex. Like I’m thirty and I force myself to go out and charm new guys because I should want to have sex. But I don’t really.

Carmen: I know what you mean. Sex. Sometimes with our diseases you just feel so unsexy, anyway. It’s hard to believe that the guys even want it. It feels ridiculous. Like when my boyfriend sees me walk out in my diaper and he makes jokes about it and he’s so sweet.

Me: I know. And I just go through the motions. I want to do what people my age are supposed to want to do. But I feel like an imposter. And it isn’t like the guys even know. Men are so stupid. When we part they ask me when we’re gonna see each other again, and it’s like…

Carmen: On the twelfth… of never!

Me: Exactly! Never. I’m a figment of their imagination. A sexy dream. This charade can’t last much longer.

Carmen: Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break.

 

Here’s why I feel like I should be having sex:

*I’m thirty and a cute girl. This should be the prime of my sex life. Despite my apparent disinterest in rando sex, I’ve gotten awfully good at orgasming with strangers. I feel like squandering this body is a tragedy! I’ve worked so hard to get back to where I am physically. I’ve been through so much. I deserve this! Yet I cannot seem to find someone I enjoy having sex with who feels the same way.

*I’m specifically not on anti-depressants because I CAN’T FUCKING HANDLE NOT BEING ABLE TO ORGASM! Whoops, I didn’t mean to yell that. It’s just that that’s how ragey it feels when you are pounding away at your cervix and an orgasm doesn’t fall out.

*For years I was so physically ill that I was unable to experience pleasure. Nothing kills your sex drive like steroids, nothing makes you feel more unsexy than having Cushing’s syndrome from prolonged steroid use, and nothing makes it more unpleasant to get off than bleeding out of your ass then subsequently having your rectum cut out of your body. I’ve overcome all of these enormous challenges! I’ve had some wonderful sex since recovering! It is suffocatingly sad to think that after all of this, I no longer want sex. How could I now voluntarily abstain after experiencing the perils of forced abstinence?

*My life for the past few years has been all about delaying gratification. Taking degrading, irrelevant undergrad science classes so I can get into med school. Having a series of major surgeries to remove my colon and rearrange my lower GI tract so I don’t have to be on corticosteroids and chemo meds for the rest of my life. And for what? My life is still shit. When you’ve been really, really sick you realize the present moment is all you have for certain. Instant gratification becomes increasingly appealing.

*When I was sick but not so sick that I knew I wouldn’t get better and when I was recovering from my surgery, I used sex as social proof that I was okay. If guys still wanted me, if I could pass for normal, than I was normal. How can I tell I’m well without social proof of my desirability?

*Living in small-town Vermont, for the first time in my life I experienced loneliness as a crushing, gnawing feeling. It became an active sensation rather than an absence. I realized how much sex is about acquiring physical affection and not just about getting off. That was what I was missing in my rural isolation and this persisted when I was home in NYC and isolated by illness. I talk in this post about how being handled medically is the height of dehumanization. It’s amazing how powerful even holding a patient’s hand affectionately or giving a friend a real hug can be when they’ve been physically designated a science project. Touch is healing. Even Jesus is on board! As my medical struggles continue, I fear for the lack of physical affection I am about to be saddled with. I think of alternative sources like physical therapy and even mani-pedis.

 

However, I’ve been struggling with sex because:

*Sex has become a contrast filter or an illuminator. It accentuates what I don’t have: real intimacy.

 

10) …BUT NOT QUITE YET!

A week after I had sex with Jonah, I interviewed the fourth and final spinal surgeon and scheduled surgery with him for two weeks later. Phewww. My back will finally be fixed. Phewww. I get a medically-imposed break from sex to sort my head out. Three days before my surgery date, after I had gone through all the pre-surgical questioning and blood-letting, I received a phone call saying surgery was cancelled until payment was worked out with my insurance company who kept requesting additional info to indefinitely delay the process.

 

PROMISES

You better hold on to your promises

Because you bet you’ll get what you deserve

—The Cranberries, Promises

One reason I’m upset about surgery postponement is because of an easy promise I made to self: I CAN TOTALLY MAKE IT TWO WEEKS WITHOUT TROLLING FOR SEX!!! Yes. We. Can. Now that there are an additional six weeks tacked on to the beginning, I wonder how I will make it to the end. Two weeks plus six weeks plus four to six weeks of recovery is a lot of fucking time to go without sexytimes.

It would be so irksome if I clocked in more hours after sending my letter of resignation to HR The 13th step was the consummate pre-retirement fuck—a serendipitous narrative flourish! Someone give me a fucking gold watch so I can count my days and nights sans sex! Tick, tick tick…

 

DESPERATION

The truth is, I’ve gone through this sexual restriction bootcamp before and failed miserably. The year between grad school and Vermont, when I stopped blogging, I was not nearly as disgusted and disenchanted with my sex life as I am now. But I felt like I was getting caught up in all the ego bullshit associated with casual sex, the gamification aspect as discussed above. Not that casual sex precludes people from pursuing more meaningful sex, just that I am easily distracted by dick at the expense of connecting with people. So I promised myself that I wouldn’t have sex with someone if there were no chance we could ever be in a relationship. This seemed like a realistic downgrade from promising myself that I would only have sex with someone if I thought it was likely we’d end up in a relationship. It eliminated approximately seventy-five percent of prospective partners. Sounds like a reasonable criterion, right? Well, not exactly. First of all, it left me open to pursuing things with men to whom I wasn’t physically attracted but who seemed like they’d be good long-term partners to somebody—not me. Sex is a substantial part of what makes romantic relationships work for me, so this was ultimately misguided. I guess I figured if the sex was good enough, that attraction would build. Without any chemistry, it’s difficult to have good sex. Second, I don’t think I actually ended up having sex with fewer people over the course of that six-month span; I just rationalized worse situations because I was so fucking desperate to play with penises. Jaclyn Friedman says it best in her essay My Sluthood, Myself:

I’m thinking of one particular instance in which I had what was for me a very painful dry spell: a year and a half in which I barely got to kiss anyone, and didn’t get to do anything other than that at all, sexually speaking, with anyone. It… yeah. Didn’t feel too good. Made me feel like I would never be touched or loved again. Made me feel, in a word, desperate. You know what’s not a great emotional state for making important life decisions? Desperation.

—Jaclyn Friedman, My Sluthood, Myself

I definitely considered being in relationships with guys who were all sorts of wrong. For example, Jake Douchebagg, J.D.—that guy who threatened to sue me for intellectual property infringement and horribly patronized me—was the guy I ended up dating for longest during that time span. Sure, I couldn’t tell in advance how cruel and spiteful he’d turn out to be before I initiated the “I’m not sure if this is working” conversation. However, it was clear early on that we were at least incompatible. He had no friends, was a total homebody, had only had sex with a few girls because he had no sexual self-confidence, was extremely rigid and regimented, etc. If I hadn’t become dependent on him for sex, out of denying myself casual encounters even though we never had any exclusivity chat, it is unlikely we would have made it so far or that I would have felt as broken when things ended badly. When I’m in a casual sex mindset I don’t get caught in the trap of trying to make things work if they obviously aren’t meant to be. Sleeping around protects me from making legit poor decisions, ones that have implications beyond one night. Once again, Jaclyn Friedman captures this sentiment perfectly:

Even now… when I am actually ready for and wanting a more emotional connection, sluthood keeps me centered. It keeps me from confusing desire and affection with something deeper. It means I have another choice besides celibacy and settling. It means I won’t enter another committed relationship just to satisfy my basic need for sex and affection. It gives me more choices, it makes room for relationships to evolve organically, to take the shape they will before anyone defines them.

—Jaclyn Friedman, My Sluthood, Myself

 

RATIONALIZATION

It’s easy to rationalize things you want to do! Once I started fucking up the no casual sex thing, I began negotiating with myself! And I’m so gullible when it comes to people I trust.

My first line of bargaining was granting myself exceptions, or failing to assimilate the situations presented to me into the concept of what kind of sex I had consciously eliminated: It’s fingering on a dance floor; it’s not sex. He has a girlfriend; it’s not sex. He lives in California; it’s not sex. It’s Halloween; it’s not sex. Thanks, President Clinton, for granting me semantic flexibility in defining sex sex. They all seemed to me like situations that wouldn’t interfere with my ability to pursue meaningful sex because they were momentary and isolated incidences. You can’t get distracted by a dash of dick!

My second line of bargaining was it’s so much easier to make the same mistake twice. What is one more dick in light of sixty plus? I’m already in penis plus sizes. Might as well enjoy a fleshy Big Mac, juice dripping down my chin. It’s analogous to how Sam Irby, a self-proclaimed fat person, justifies eating more junk food:

There’s freedom in a double-digit elastic waistband. It’s like, what’s a handful of Milk Duds if you’re already fat? Who cares whether or not this Coke is diet if you’re already at the far end of the BMI?… I’m already wearing maternity yoga pants, let’s see how far these bitches stretch!

—Samantha Irby of BitchesGottaEat, The Tapeworm Diet, Meaty

Awwww, yesss, the impunity with which ruined women get to fuck. How many more pathetic penises can I stuff into this loose vagina? Thank gawd for elastin!

In the self-effacing words of Pee-wee Herman, I meant to do that!

 

IMPLEMENTATION

Besides being hesitant about restricting myself sexually because of past failure, I’m afraid that even if I do successfully restrict myself I’m not sure how to implement what I actually want. Reckless sex isn’t the problem; lack of intimate and consistent connection is. Just like how in the TRAJECTORIES section of the “Rape Rape” story I didn’t know what a guy caring about me would look like, I’m not sure what a guy liking me would look like. What constitutes a situation with romantic potential? What steps do I have to take to turn that potential into actuality? How much of my inability to enter into a relationship stems from my personal inadequacies and how much of it is guys being fickle, unsure of what they want, and poisoned by societal expectations that I don’t agree with? There have been so many false starts this year. Guys who appear to be pursing me more fervently or equally. And then just fucking disappear. Suddenly. Except not suddenly enough. The result is discontinuous with the trajectory we’ve been coasting on, but they drag out the end, phase me out. As if that somehow softens the blow rather than introducing confusion. No one ever offers a useful explanation even if I explicitly ask. I’m thrown back into the sea with no life preserver, swarmed by ambiguity and self-doubt. Better luck next time! Play again!

 

RESOLUTION

I’ve felt more emotional resistance writing this post than most. It’s taken an entire month and required index cards arranged in physical space. Putting my misgivings about my behavior on public paper substantiates them. Holds me accountable. Saturday night I stated my intentions to a casual friend. His response, “Genie, are you going to be able to do this? Your sex drive is too high.” Not exactly the encouragement I was seeking but just the permission I needed: the permission to fuck up. It reminded me of when I was in high school and bulimic. I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions or resolutions at all. That year I felt I needed to. I’d only throw up once a week, I proposed. Or maybe only on weekends. Because on weekends I had to maintain the façade to my mother that I was eating normally whereas on weekdays I only had to get through one meal a day of feigned normality—normality theater. I revealed my intentions to my best friend for accountability. And it seemed to me like a realistic goal. Later that week I confessed that I had already slipped. She said, “I knew you would.” I heard: I love you in spite of your faults. Not: You’re pathetic. It was a statement of support and solidarity. Not disappointment. When you give yourself a cushion to land on, you slightly truncate your shame spiral. Beating yourself up less gives you less of an incentive to indulge in bad coping mechanisms. It’s so easy for me to drown my sorrows in sex. It’s so self-justifying and self-perpetuating. I can always narrow the cognitive dissonance gap by saying my intentions were misguided in the first place. It’s easier than admitting to a small failure.

A few years ago Annie told me her New Year’s resolution was no sex on first dates, and I found this vaguely hilarious. The truth is, no sex on first dates is tricky. Whenever I go out with a new man, I tune out and concentrate on the blurry outline of his head and the gestures he makes while talking, like when a newborn who can’t yet focus makes out her mommy’s hairline and scent before latching onto her nipple. I orient myself toward the one part of him I believe I can latch on to, penis: mine. And the rest of the date revolves around strengthening my grasp. It isn’t that I don’t think I can get second or third dates without putting out; I can. Once you’re physically separated, though, it’s hard to rally for someone to whom you’re largely indifferent. While they’re still in front of you, it’s like: What the fuck else am I going to do with the rest of my night. Can either impale myself on my dildo or him. Let’s seal this before we run out of conversation and incentive. Sexual yeses have an exaggerated appeal when you plot them against their immediate alternatives. And it’s hard to say no to sex with cute guys. I like sex and I like cute guys. So judge away.

I want so badly to say to the next guy: Even if it isn’t that good and even if nothing will come of this, I want to continue having sex with you. For the constancy. Which is not nothing. In a sexual landscape where I’ve gone missing—suspended in space between guys—it is the narrative thread that will hold my broken body together.

 

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Every Guy’s Nightmare: Rape Rape

EVERY GUY’S NIGHTMARE: RAPE RAPE

 

THE INCIDENT

Summer 2004. I tell him he can sleep over if it gets late. We’re old friends from high school. I haven’t seen him in a few years. He lives in the Bronx which is a long hall from the East Village where we are hanging out at a friend of a friend’s place. Especially temporally distant late at night with the after hours weekend subway schedule. It gets late. As it does when you are young and drinking.

In my bedroom I point to the respective beds where we are sleeping: he in the bed bed along the long wall, me on the mattress on the floor against the sliding door wall. He asks if we can sleep together. I say separately. I check if he needs anything, say goodnight, crawl onto my mattress, and fall soundly asleep. An undisclosed amount of time later, he shoves me over into my wall and asks if he can sleep in me bed, “Is this okay?” I grunt, which he takes as a yes, and I am too out of it to protest. An undisclosed amount of time after that, I wake up to a sharp pain. I look up and see my limp limbs. Except I’m not sure I see them with my eyes because it is dark. He’s shoving himself inside me. I fall in and out of consciousness. It’s hard to string a complete thought together. I know only this: This. Is. Rape. I’m not sure where I am. In my living room? Someone else’s apartment? Like I said, it is dark. I don’t think he’s holding me down but my body is limp. I might be able to leave if I knew where I was but as is I have no idea where to escape to. I have to pee but am uncertain if I could locate the bathroom. And the biggest problem is that I can’t seem to figure out how to stand up. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had a surreal experience where you are walking through the snow or some other uncharted terrain and temporarily forget how physics work because the mechanics of doing ordinary things are suddenly so different. Hiking up a snowy hill through the crunch of the woods when you are storybook high? Well, I am hopelessly confused by the fact that I’m lying on something soft that I appear to be sinking into, yet I have to push down to get myself up. It seems counterintuitive. With all the confusion, I keep fading in and out. In retrospect, I’m not sure if it is because I’m drunk or because I’m being raped: I freeze in place, as people do when they are raped. Except that I don’t tune out more and more, I gradually gain consciousness and usage of my limbs. By that time he is done. Has removed himself from me. I guess he’s back in the bed I directed him to at the beginning of the evening. Because I don’t remember any more contact that night. I don’t remember much. Whether he came, whether he used a condom. I only remember the sharp pain when he entered me, seeing myself as a pile of limp limbs from a distance like I was in a movie hovering over myself. Speaking of which, Larry Clark’s movie Kids was hard to watch for years afterwards. I mean, that movie is fucking hard for anyone to watch, irrespective of personal history. It’s no feel good summer flick. But I see myself in that girl as she’s getting raped. I am that girl except for the HIV. I could be that girl. I don’t know whether he used a condom. I looked in the garbage can afterwards, as part of my rape post-mortem, and there was nary a wrapper in sight.

I remember the rest of the summer in snipbits, much like the rape itself. The next morning he was still there. I told him I was meeting my best guy friend Danny for pizza. Which was true. Also an attempt to get rid of him. But he wouldn’t budge. Invited himself. I know a lot of people analyze what happens directly following an alleged rape to determine whether rape occurred. Before I ever watched Madmen, I read comments on feminist fora about whether Joan could have been raped by her husband. First of all, because she voluntarily had sex with him most of the time. Second, because she went out to dinner with him directly afterwards. I’m not a spokesperson for rape and I don’t think I represent every female or male victim’s experience, but I will say this: What happened subsequent to the depiction of Joan’s rape seems very prototypical to me. When people are raped, they go about their daily lives. It isn’t like attending a funeral. The world doesn’t stop for you. So the next day, I had pizza with my rapist and my best guy friend. It was like any pizza eating when you are a little hungover but not so hungover because you are only 20 and can bounce back easily. Resilience. What else was I supposed to do? Accuse him of rape and tell him to get the fuck out of my apartment? It seemed like that could only escalate an already awful situation. He was unpredictable and I didn’t trust him. My feelings about the situation were fledgling and already confused. I didn’t need his input to influence me. You know the old phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Though I’m not one for misplaced politeness, I figured anything I could possibly say would only make things contentious, and then I might say anything to get the awfulness to stop. I might even end up apologizing.

Either later that day or the next day I took a shower. Woah, a shower. Exactly what you are told not to do after you get raped. I’ve had the all-girls school, liberal, privileged, pseudo-feminist education. I know the protocol. I’m also not a social justice hermit and know that you don’t report rape to get someone convicted. You report rape only if you are brave or and idealist and you believe telling your story will make you feel more powerful or righteous regardless of outcome. You report rape only if you believe it will not destroy you to be socially ostracized, called a liar, a slut. In the best case scenario kind people might call you naïve. I did not want to be one of these people. I did not feel there was any benefit to telling a traumatic story that would not be heard. It was he-said she-said. I was not a credible witness. I was a slut and intoxicated. Who would believe me?

Even worse, I was living with my parents at the time. I had no money, no institutionalized power. I was certain that my mother would be concerned, as she should have been, but that her maternal instincts would manifest in her telling me I should be more careful, not get so drunk. Which is true. Like many people, female or male, when I was 20 I got dangerously drunk. I should not have drank that much because it is unsafe for your body, not because I should have assumed a friend would violate me while I was incapacitated. Maybe I’m underestimating my mom. It’s unfair for me to assume. After all, soon after she graduated from law school she threw a house party and invited a fellow lawyer; he asked took two of the women he met that night out on dates and raped them both. I doubt my mother would have said, “You should have known better.” But my reticence does go to show that we live in a society where women are afraid enough that they will be held responsible for their rapes that they do not even feel safe telling their liberal, Second Wave Feminist mothers. There is another strange dimension to my rape that I feel uncomfortable sharing. He is Black. Anyone who has taken a Women’s Studies class (or dropped one and read all the books in her free time) has been exposed to the travesty that is Katie Roiphe’s The Morning After. Let me summarize it for you: women cry rape when they have regrettable sex. Moreover, anyone who has graduated from middle school has read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I didn’t think I’d be believed because he was Black. I mean, not exactly. I knew it wasn’t Alabama in the 1930’s. I think what I mean is I didn’t want to accuse a Black man because it is already so horrible that Black men are considered sexual predators and criminals in general. Also, my mother knew and liked the guy. She thought he was bright and charismatic (he was) and would make a great politician. Though it made her uncomfortable that he addressed her as “ma’am,” as if she were a librarian in the Old South. A few years after the incident she inquired as to what ever happened to him. I said I didn’t know. Which is not a lie. Never have I ever been tempted to look him up. He’s dead to me.

Back to the shower. I can visualize it. The location and the instance. The toy I usually fucked in it: a royal blue Fun Factory dildo that I still own. For about a year I lived in the apartment across for where I currently live, on the other side of my parents’ apartment. The cord to the detachable showerhead was a little too short, the pulse not quite right. I felt like I couldn’t request another showerhead without an explanation. So I used to make excuses to masturbate in my parents’ shower, my childhood refuge. Not verbal excuses. I would do a bunch of unrelated things in my parents’ apartment—like buying a bottle of Coca Cola to disguise a box of condoms—then would casually announce that I was taking a shower. No one ever questioned me. Even though I had my own ostensibly functional shower right next door. Which isn’t to say that they didn’t know. Only that if they did, they did parenting right. And deserve high fives, with non-cummy hands! So the shower in my apartment was mostly a disappointment. And also where I washed off rape. So it has some significance. Here is what a post-rape shower feels like: excruciating. It’s bizarre to run your hands over a body that is no longer yours, doesn’t belong to you, has been places of which you are not aware. Your body, the stranger. My body, the stranger. See how I put that in the second-person, the first time?

 

DISCLOSURE

It wasn’t a secret, exactly. Sexual assault for college-aged women is ubiquitous to the point of being a cliché: a rite of passage. Later that summer, I told my best guy friend Danny. Asked him if he remembered that guy we had pizza with. It’s like September 11th if you are my age or JFK’s assassination if you are an Old: I’ll always remember where I was when I told him about my rape. Wandering around in my neighborhood, near Blockbuster when VHS still existed as the viewing medium de jour for commonfolk and not some hipster delicacy. He did the right thing: he listened. Which might sound obvious. But it shouldn’t be. Or, at least, it isn’t. In 2010 when I got raped again, I shared with my close guy friend Parker, and he got all machismo on me. I’m not trying to hate on Parker. I know he cares about me and just reacted viscerally. I can imagine feeling defensive when you are a big dude and your little, pretty, usually kick-ass lady friend tells you about being violated by some disgusting skinny long-haired shit who follows Phish around, makes a living selling wire jewelry and whatever you mechanically do to pot to make it saleable, has profound revelations at Shamanic ceremonies that he should eat raw, and feels emotionally unbalanced (feng shui?) when paintings aren’t hung exactly even. But it wasn’t very helpful when he inquired about sending his people in San Francisco to fuck that guy up. It made the experience about the guy and not how it fucked me up, when I really needed to be attended to. I needed to vent about how scary and shocking it is to be raped. How it shatters your worldview, specifically your trust in people and ownership over your body. How you feel feeble and defenseless. How you feel like a woman. For the first time. Since the last time you walked down the street and were treated like a walking vagina. We made out on my cousin’s porch later that evening, Parker and I.

There were other revelations around the time of my first rape (that sounds like a Fischer Price toy, somehow). First, when my best female friend got home from a summer abroad. I have no recollection of that conversation, whether it took place in person or over the phone. Then, there was college. I played Truth or Dare with a group of people I had recently met, a girl who eventually got involved in Women’s Studies initiatives around campus and two guys. I was asked how many guys I had had sex with. Not how many penises had entered my vagina. But I clarified whether rape counted. They were nice about it. Later I made out with one of the guys; he had lesbian mothers and was the sweet silent type. Since then I have never included my rapist in my number because I feel like having sex is an active thing and I was certainly not an active participant. Lastly, mid-year I went to the campus health care center to get tested. Which I had done routinely numerous times over the course of my sexual history, to very little hoopla. The precipitating factor was that I was involved with a man and I didn’t want to put him at risk, even though he refused to get tested so we continued using protection against either of our wishes. It’s sort of fucked up that I wouldn’t take precautions for my own health, but when something like that happens you’d rather not know. It wasn’t like there was anything I could do about it anyway (this is before PEP became available to the public). Besides, HIV can take 3 months to seroconvert and show up on antibody tests so it seemed kind of pointless to get tested immediately. The nurse or nurse practitioner or whoever did my intake interview asked me why I wanted to get tested. I could have said anything. Because I was unsafe (which would have been untrue). For peace of mind (which would have been true). Because I think every sexually active, non-monogamous person should get tested periodically (also true, though too moralistic for my taste). Instead, I told the truth: Because I got raped and I’m not sure if he used protection.

A decade later, I’m not sure who did my interview. I don’t remember her name or title or face. But I’d like to give her a long-distance, digital hug. She dealt with me so calmly. Not that I expected her to freak. After all, I’ve visited Santa and told him I wanted my parents to get divorced. I’ve visited Santa and told him I wanted to get a breast reduction. These people are well trained. Or jaded. Going to a campus health center and saying you got raped is probably less scandalous than saying you had Chinese food for lunch. There are women lined up at campus health centers for this very reason. And that might be the one place they are uniformly believed. Because we have nothing to gain with disclosure. No social desirability, that’s for sure. There are no high fives for rape, and for the most part nurses don’t give a shit about the whereabouts of your vagina nor your vagina’s intentions. The year before I arrived at Reed College, there was an outbreak of crabs on one floor of a dorm. They’ve seen it all. Besides remaining very calm, the medical professional asked me some routine questions. Mostly logistical. Whether I currently felt unsafe or threatened. Whether I had gotten counseling. Whether I wanted counseling. And that is the part for which I think she deserves a hug. I told her I didn’t think I needed it: I had been with many guys voluntarily; I had good guy friends; I didn’t think guys were creeps; I was okay. And she believed me. She shouldn’t have. Because I was wrong. I wasn’t okay. But she treated me like a rational adult who was capable of making decisions. Rape is at its core a wholly disempowering experience, and if there was one thing that empowered me it was that medical professional treated me like I was a competent, functional human being. Like I wasn’t irrevocably ruined. Could you imagine how much worse it would have been if she told me I didn’t know what I needed?

 

THOUGHTS V. FEELINGS

When I think of the ravages of abuse, I think of my best friend growing up: Tina. I give her that name because of Thora Birch’s character in Now and Then. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and everybody knew but there was so little we could do. Like many people who are physically abused, she was additionally broken down mentally. He told her she had provoked him, she was an embarrassment, the ultimate disrespect was talking about your family matters in public. She was made to cook and clean as if she was the hired help (which they had), yet nothing she did was ever good enough. When I came over, he praised me in front of her, said he wished she could have been more like me: I had good grades and good posture. It wasn’t flattering or edifying; it was humiliating. The worst part: she depended on him for affection and approval. It was hard being in her 7th grade English class when we read The House on Mango Street, aloud: “Sally was going to get permission to stay with us… And would’ve stayed too except when the dark came her father, whose eyes were little from crying, knocked on the door and said please come back, this is the last time. And she said daddy and went home.” It was hard when her father came home with glazed, bloodshot, mosaic shards of eyes and broken English slurred out of his quivering, dictatorial lips. He thanked me for keeping his daughter company, told me it was time to go home. I wanted to tell him I refused to leave her alone with him like that; I wasn’t the dutiful daughter he thought I was. What are you gonna do, punch me? I wanted to tell him how lucky he was to have her; that he was the embarrassment. I wanted to tell him that we all knew. But I was afraid that he’d take her away from me. I wanted to take one punch for her to show her it wasn’t her. It was hard when we whispered truths at sleepovers, only in the literal dark. Her bravado inverted and she shrank from a radiant beam into a sullen, sad girl. She didn’t like for us to see her like that. She preferred to craft an elaborate fantasy life that others would call lies. To mastermind our reactions by making up appalling and shocking stories: “Once I blew a heroin addict without protection.” Like when Roberta in Now and Then pretends to be unconscious in the lake. She dared us to jump in after her, to be scared for her but never sad for her. Who knows if acknowledging her pain enabled her to act out, enabled her to act. She was mesmerizing. I remember the way she pulled her silky hair back into a hair tie, the scent of the soap her housekeeper placed in her stacks of Bonpoint shirts, how doll-like she looked when she slept, what her hot breath felt like against me, and her precocious fascination with makeup. He was smart enough never to hit her porcelain face, and by the time we were in high school it became murky. As the ultimate fuck you to her parents, she ran off from the marble floors of luxury to the grimy alleyways of the UES with low class delivery boys, and then the origins of her bruises were unknown.

When I think of how we couldn’t resuscitate her, no matter how far we jumped in after her, I think of the movie Good Will Hunting. From my memory, Robin Williams’s character tells Matt Damon’s character, “It’s not your fault.” And Matt keeps brushing it off curtly, “I know,” not really internalizing it. After a bunch of repetitions there is an emotional breakthough and they hug it out. As a young kid, Tina didn’t intellectually understand that she was being abused. In fact, that’s how we first found out. She made some offhand comment in art class (I wasn’t there; this is a second- or even third-hand account): “You know that look your dad gets in his eyes before he hits you?” And my classmates didn’t know because we were too old to still be spanked. So another kid reported it. After a while, she realized her family was not like everyone else’s, and not just because they were foreign and she was adopted. But as much as she intellectually knew that she had been dealt a shitty hand and had to deal with shit that other kids didn’t, she was never able to internalize that it wasn’t her fault. When the people you depend on for basic confidence as well as physical survival constantly undermine you, you start acting out and giving them a real reason to think you are a bad seed, and by then it is obfuscated who I no good. To anyone outside the situation, accountability is obvious; adults should be adults. But like Sally, she still said “Daddy.”

As overbearing as my mother was and as absent as my father was, they never physically or sexually abused me. Up until at least age ten, I had a firm foundation. My sexual education was flawed in many ways and my mom instilled some bad messages in me, but she did teach me the difference between a good touch and a bad touch. So when I was raped I knew it was not my fault. I knew I didn’t provoke it. I knew I didn’t deserve it. Because of my firm foundation, I believed that, unlike Tina, I both intellectually and emotionally understood these things. I thought I was better. I thought I was smarter. I thought I was stronger. I thought that the assault wouldn’t alter me because it had nothing to do with me.

I credit the feminism movement for my sexual development: my values helped me grow into a well-adjusted, confident, and resilient woman in a society that does everything to rob women of their sexual agency. Feminism taught me to set my boundaries and express my desires (sadly, in that order). Unfortunately, it furnished me with unreasonable expectations that ended up being of disservice when it came to coping with my rape. I believed that my values would insulate me from the effects of rape; that rape is only traumatic if you believe a woman’s value is her body and the debasement of her body renders her irrevocably ruined. After being raped, I felt helpless, filthy, scared, and foolish. Worst of all, I felt silly for feeling all these things when all I should feel was anger. I wondered why all these years I had been taught to distrust strangers when it happened in my own apartment at the hands of someone even my mother liked. In my own bed that I did not recognize before I did not recognize my defiled body disembodied. I thought of all the what ifs: What if I didn’t get so drunk? What if I told him to stop once I was conscious of what was transpiring? What if my friend we were hanging out with earlier that night let me sleep on his friend’s floor when I told him I was too drunk to go home? I wondered, Why me? I wondered, Why him? I’ve been drunk and alone with other male friends and they have not raped me. I wondered how someone I trusted could do this to me. HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME? I considered how I could naively assume that we were equals when in fact he had power over me on account of having a penis and being physically larger.

I guess what I’m saying is that I needed someone to tell me that it’s okay to feel fucked up about rape. That you are entitled to feel helpless, filthy, scared, foolish, and anything else. Because even if you are strong and even if your head is screwed on straight, rape is a profoundly disorienting experience. And it isn’t something you can ever make sense of. It isn’t an intellectual concept.

 

TRAJECTORIES

In discussing casual sex, Clarisse Thorn reposted an image with the quotation “I sleep around because I WANT to devalue sex. That way, I can devalue being raped.”

Like Clarisse, I experienced reading that as a punch to the stomach. It makes me sad and nauseated to think that someone would fuck everything to make rape mean less in comparison, but maybe it’s not as sad as how I coped: by withdrawing. By becoming protective of my body and staving off pleasure. Which sounds obvious. Common, even. But it takes a lot to make me lose interest in my vagina. Pro-tip: chemo and steroids also work wonders. Maybe rape is a wake-up call no matter who you are, and the automatic reaction is to do the opposite of whatever you’ve been doing. As if what you’ve been doing is the problem and pretending it is gives you s semblance of control. The thing is, I couldn’t fuck everything to prove that sex was meaningless; I had already fucked everything. Suddenly sex had a meaning. And I didn’t know how to manage it.

As if there was no reason to be overly careful or sensitive—sex was just a game I cold play, like a sport—where the worst that could happen if I screwed up was a skinned knee. I wish that there had been acknowledgment of the fact that we can really hurt ourselves, and others, when we’re cavalier about sex…

—Clarisse Thorn, Liberal, Sex-Positive Sex Education: What’s Missing, The S&M Feminist

For the rest of the summer, I made sure I didn’t have any sexual encounters while drunk. One night I let my ex-boyfriend’s best friend sleep over because he lived far out in Queens. I explained to him that I would be interested under ordinary circumstances but I was being careful with my body while drunk because of something bad that had happened. He was respectful and we stayed up all night talking. When we finally tucked ourselves into separate beds, he jerked off under the covers. Which TOTALLY turned me on and I contemplated reneging on my resistance, “Just kidding, let’s fuck!” Instead, I joined him in the illicit blanket masturbation racket. Quite suddenly I saw him cup his spare hand over his dick and I jutted my head forward with wide eyes and mouth agape to catch the cock confetti show. Even more suddenly I inadvertently put an end to the proceedings. He played dead. Surreptitious sexytimes over. I was devastated.

That year I vowed to not have casual sex. I wanted a relationship. Specifically, I wanted a man who cared about my body but had no idea how to bring by desire to fruition. I naively believed commitment in the form of monogamy to be the cornerstone of care; as a result, intimacy, affection, and selflessness fell by the wayside.

I wasted my junior year of college chasing after a man who was gay and additionally a bad person. He treated me terribly, refusing to acknowledge me in public or let me meet his friends, who, as it turns out, believed he was gay. He found my objectively attractive body uncompelling, touched me only begrudgingly, was unable to put his penis inside my vagina, and acted as if my sexual needs were grotesque in both type and proportion. It was the ultimate I don’t care about your body. I felt undesirable, he felt inadequate, he blamed me for pressuring him, I implored him to take the initiative, and in sum it was a shame spiral of resentment. Every attempted encounter became a referendum on masculinity. I didn’t want to encroach upon his; I just wanted to touch his manhood. Quite literally I did not want to wear the pants in the relationship. He insisted I keep them on as he bent me over and envisioned me as someone I was not. I’ve always wondered whether my large labia look like balls when I’m bent over! I think of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece On Sex & Compromise when I recall that relationship and realize that I could never be in a libido-mismatched relationship again. Maybe it takes an extremely secure woman to concede being an object of desire in a society that prescribed that role; maybe it takes someone who craves sex less. While I believe in coincidence and don’t think everything happens for a reason in a religious sense, I think it’s no accident that during the year I was seeking to protect my body, I found a guy who was wholly uninterested in it and unable to protect me emotionally. It taught me that caring about someone sexually goes beyond not violating her; it encompasses attending to her needs and stepping down if you are unable to attend to them and actually care about her well-being. Moreover, it includes not shaming her for wanting what you can’t give her. The way I was treated inhibited me from seeking someone who could please me; he played on gender stereotypes, rejecting me for being overly “needy.” I assumed anyone else would find me equally demanding and repulsive. Worried I might be insatiable, I felt increasingly alienated from my body. This is going to sound like SUCH a liberal arts college cliché but I don’t think I really experienced pleasure again and felt good about my sexuality until I was with a woman.

While my immediate response to rape was to close for business, the cumulative effect was to make me more sexually careless or carefree. It wasn’t that I wanted to fuck haplessly to devalue sex. Just that being raped by friends made it easier to fuck strangers. It erased my fear of physical harm and scruples about societal judgment. It’s like an extreme version of that Gossip Girl exchange:

Dan: You’ll really go out with some guy you don’t know.

Serena: Well, you can’t be worse than the guys I do know.

Ironically, through rape came liberation. When there’s nothing left to lose, anything’s possible. And some of the strangers were instrumental to restoring my faith in humanity.

I think I explain it best in this message to a guy I had been corresponding with for a while and hadn’t yet met:

I was kidding about being cut into person-pie pieces. My fears about strange men being violent are minimal. 1) on a academic level, I understand that almost all male-on-woman violence (rape, assault, murder) is perpetrated by an intimate partner or someone the woman trusted. 2) on a personal level, I’ve invited numerous strangers or loose acquaintances over with casual expectations, and for the most part they’ve been polite, respectful of my physical boundaries, and interested in pleasing me. experiences where people have offended, pressured, or violated me are an aberration not the norm. 3) I generally assume that men and women want the same thing (sex and companionship). So I don’t go into dating situations assuming things will be adversarial and I will have to be manipulative or defensive.

 

RECLAMATION

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Prepare to drop your jaws but not your drawers.

That fateful summer I lost an interest in touching myself. My body seemed like such fraught territory. It seemed like territory, something someone could stick a flag in; not a living, breathing, dynamic part of me. When I was in the shower, I had flashbacks to THE shower.

Over the preceding few months I had developed a fascination with clit (hood) piercings. Spent evenings searching for pictures of them. I wouldn’t say I got off to them, per se, because I don’t really masturbate to photographs. But my interest was sexual, not aesthetic. I figured if looking at pictures could turn me on so much, perhaps having my very own would be even more exciting. For my 18th birthday I did a sex tour of Alphabet City and the LES: got my left nipple pierced at Venus Body Arts and bought baby’s first toys at Toys in Babeland (now Babeland). I knew I could handle the piercing, yet was hesitant for obvious reasons. If you are grabbing your genitals in sympathy pains reading this, that is how I felt. I want to be a gynecologist and I almost passed out watching the How Babies Are Born video in human sexuality class in college. Plus, clit seemed more extreme than nipple in terms of functionality. Masturbating happens whether you like it or not, and I couldn’t figure out how I’d hold off while my very fun, novel, built-in toy healed.

With my newfound repulsion toward my body, I figured now was the time to go for it. I viewed getting the piercing—approximately a month after my rape—as an act of reclamation. I was reclaiming my desecrated body as a site of desire and pleasure.

I lasted just under two weeks before I played with it. I got stupid stoned with a guy friend and locked myself in the bathroom for so long that he knocked on the door to ask if I was okay. I’m doing awesome! A week later, I masturbated to orgasm for the first time. When I’m stoned, I can touch myself basically forever without getting off—which is sort of a problem. Of course, the more you play with it during the healing process, the longer it takes to heal. It was such a shiny new toy and fuck impulse control! I’ll pre-empt all the questions about what it felt like. No, I did not walk around aroused all the time. Though walking up the hill from class to my dorm was something! I’d say that with the piercing in my clit got harder faster or I was more aware of it being engorged, but when it was time to orgasm it sort of got in the way. This is going to sound like a movie plot: I finally removed it years later when I had a boyfriend who deeply cared about my body. He was the first man who ever truly satisfied me.

 

LETTING IT DEFINE YOU

In fall 2011, my postbac classmate Patrick picked me up in his car and drove me to class. We weren’t friends, exactly, but I certainly respected him intellectually and ethically. On our drive, he told me he was interested in rape. I think he might have phrased it that clumsily, though I knew what he meant. I was considered an authority on sex and gender issues: even if my expertise in a particular area was lacking, I was enough of a dilettante to direct people to useful resources. He asked if I had any reading recommendations and I said I didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but I had written two papers in grad school covering certain factors that contribute to rape and he was welcome to either read my papers or look at the bibliographies. He said, actually, he wasn’t interested in studies about rapists so much as first-person accounts of survivors. Oh. I recalibrated and suggested Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape—a diverse compilation of personal essays edited by two of my favorite feminist writers, Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman. If he was interested, he should remind me to pick up my copy next time I went home to New York. We reached our destination and our conversation concluded.

Until a few weeks later when we and other postbacs were scattered throughout a house where some of us lived. The topic resurfaced and I elaborated some more on the book. After giving it general accolades I added: “I read it after I was raped [for the second time, in December 2010]. It really helped me process my feelings and put things into perspective.” Patrick was surprised by my admission and thanked me for sharing. I think I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, I’ve internalized the perspective of “Don’t show it, but don’t hide it,” which originated from my middle school classmate’s sage advice on how to display self-mutilation cuts at inter-school dances, but which applies to many situations that one might encounter beyond middle school. This was a don’t show it but don’t hide it moment because my postbac classmates were on the periphery and while I wasn’t especially interested in having a campfire moment and sharing my rape story with an audience, it didn’t seem quite right to tell Patrick that I’d prefer to talk in private because I’m not ashamed of what happened and anyone who wants to listen respectfully is welcome to. My classmate Jenny overheard and chimed in, “I’m sorry to hear that happened; I didn’t know that about you.” I think it’s always appropriate to express condolences when someone tells you something indisputably bad happened to them. But the second part kind of irked me. Because why would you know that about me? I don’t go around with a red R on my head. There is no one way a rape victim looks. The first time it happened was nearly a decade ago. I’ve had numerous other sexual experiences that have contributed to my development, some good some bad. It isn’t something that I think about every day. Or even every time I get naked with a guy. In fact I doubt I’ve ever actively thought about it during a consensual sexual experience. Except maybe directly after the incident.

I told Patrick it wasn’t meant to be a secret, though there were reasons to conceal besides fear of social ostracism or vindication. By way of the third paragraph of the following story, I explained a good reason to avoid disclosure.

During my year in between grad school and postbac, I spent a lot of time partying with the Burning Man community. In case you are wondering why, I was lonely and lost and at any given time I could always find someone from the scene who was down to hang and turn the evening into the morning. I like staying up late, dancing, and bright colors. Also, at that point I was trying desperately not to have random sex. It might seem counterintuitive that I would immerse myself in a group that is obnoxiously emphatic about sex, but I actually found the performative aspect so repellent that it kept me at bay. Mostly, though, the scene is so overtly sexual that you can get casually fingered on a dance floor, run away when you can no longer handle it, and dance it off or wank at home. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous, but it kept me afloat while reducing my risk for making what I perceived to be a mistake. It was a safe place to dance, safe place to share physical affection, and safe place to explore limited sexual stimulation. In case you put two and two together, this is approximately the time period during which I discontinued blogging. There are various explanations, one being that I was embarrassed because I felt like I was cheating. Getting fingered while you are trying not to fuck is like going to an NA meeting and claiming sobriety because heroin is your drug of choice but you are only doing cocaine.

The thing with subcultures is that norms tend to be enforced more stringently than in the mainstream culture. It’s like that pin they used to sell at Ricky’s in the ‘90s: “Why do all the non-conformists look the same?” To pledge your allegiance to the underworld, you must be promiscuous and/or polyamorous. Otherwise you are a member of the default world, woefully repressed, and leading a life unexamined. Seriously, members of the community use snobbish, condescending terms like “default world” to distinguish themselves as enlightened individuals who are where they are as a result of conscious choices they made. To me, they are sparkly sheep. To them, anyone not spreading the herps is a total dweeb. Bring on the pocket protector! For once, I get to be a prissy, prude, pretty princess! I found their ignorance hopelessly amusing and did not do anything to correct their outlandish assumptions about me. In fact, one of the first girls I met took me under her wing as a sexual charity case—a project. I tried to explain that I was actively abstaining from random sex. I think she believed I did not know how to get laid but was embarrassed to admit my incompetence. Who’s naïve, now?

One weekend I had the misfortune of being stuck with two idiots on a long car ride home from camping. They took great pleasure in mocking and analyzing my super boring sexual preferences. When the topic of face fucking came up, I responded with aversion. They asked me if I had ever been sexually assaulted. Yes, why? Is that relevant? According to them, it is. Apparently girls LOVE being face fucked. The gaggier the better. I wondered whether they had been misinformed by porn. They said, no, they had both been with the same girl who loved having cock shoved down her throat. Now, I don’t doubt their accounts. Especially since years later I met this girl and she confirmed; she talked about the throat lube that comes up when something is forcibly shoved down. Look, people are allowed to like what they like and I don’t care. But violent sexual acts should not be presumed the default preference. I have to hand it to those boys, though. Because in mainstream society if a woman expressed interest in violent sexual acts, people would likely undermine her preferences by asking her if she had a history of sexual assault. For members of the underworld, the desire to explore deviant sexual acts is considered the default as nature made us. Therefore, harboring standard sexual preferences is considered evidence of internalizing puritanical ideals that have alienated you from your desire or evidence of sexual assault that has led to inhibitory defenses. I think it’s preposterous to claim that I hate being face fucked because sexual assault. I hate being face fucked because it is physically brutal; gagging is an unpleasant reflex. Most people have an aversion to having objects shoved down their throats. Nevertheless, I’m looked at differently.

Ryan interjected and asked thoughtfully, “How do you want people to view you when you tell them you’ve been raped.”

“I wish people realized that rape isn’t this all-encompassing thing and didn’t determine all of my sexual preferences; that’s so revictimizing. Like, once a victim, always a victim. I had sexual experiences and preferences before I got raped. Explaining everything in terms of it robs me of any agency and individuality.”

He clarified, “You don’t want it to define you?”

“Yes, exactly. That’s the PERFECT way to phrase it. It’s one aspect of me, not the definitive one. I don’t want people to look at me and see it.”

Part of gives a pop star or artist longevity is the ability to capture and express universal or common sentiments. Mostly Lady Gaga provokes for attention-seeky soundbytes; occasionally she does an interview that is thought-provoking and I’m blown away. What she said to Howard Stern recently was so spot-on:

The singer said… that she’s been fearful about talking about the incident publicly. “I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ll be damned if somebody’s going to say that every creatively intelligent thing I’ve ever done is all boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me.”

—Anna Merlan, Lady Gaga Tells Howard Stern She was Raped at 19

I wish this mindset that women are defined by their experiences instead of their desires were limited to rape, but I think it is endemic in how we view deviant female sexuality: with suspicion and mistrust. As something that has to be justified and defended. Because sex in general is viewed as something that happens to women, not something we enact ourselves.

Women may choose to stay silent about rape out of fear that anything divergent about their sexuality will be explained away or dismissed as an instantiation or expression of trauma. Saying “because rape” is reductive, misses the complexities of the human experience, and robs people of their capacity to have cognition in between stimulus and response. We undoubtedly arrived at rape with different preferences and experiences under our belts, processed our rapes differently, and proceeded on different trajectories. Rape isn’t monolithic because people aren’t prototypes rolling off the same mass-manufacturing conveyor belt.

It sounds bizarre, but I’m thankful that my slutiness long proceeded my rape. Partly because—as a guy I was friends with junior year of college astutely noted—rape didn’t have the power to spoil my pre-existing notions of men or sex. But mostly because my prior experiences lent credibility to my current ones. It is hard to dismiss me with “because rape” when I had a long track record preceding rape. It is hard to claim rape as deterministic.

Restrictively and nonsensically, women’s sexual preferences aren’t considered valid if the argument can be made that they are influenced by personal encounters or societal expectations. As if it is possible for us to be raised in bubbles such that preferences can ever be independent of past experiences. People seem to think men’s sexuality is hardwired, while women blow in the wind. Which is in accordance with Hugo Schwyzer’s Paris Paradox wherein men are socialized to desire and women are socialized as the objects of desire.

 [W]e currently conceptualize sexuality through “orientations”: we have built a cultural “orientation model” focused on the idea that “acceptable” sexuality is “built-in,” or “innate.”… [O]ne thing I don’t like about the orientation model now is that it makes us sound like we’re apologizing. “Poor little me! It’s not my fault I’m straight! Or a domme! Whatever!” Why would any of these things be faults in the first place? Our bodies are our own, our experiences are our own, and our consent is our own to give.

—Clarisse Thorn, BDSM “versus” Sex, The S&M Feminist

The most noxious instantiation of this attitude in my life is when people— almost always men—ask me the very dumb question: “Why do you like porn?” Sometimes I turn the question on them. Often I answer with an equally dumb, utilitarian response, “Because it gets me off.” If they continue looking at me quizzically as if I’m an extraterrestrial being beamed down to Earth from planet Ork, I elaborate, “Because it gets me off. And I like to get off.” Duhhh? I’m not sure whether they expect me to give a reason that I am different from (their conception of) normal women, e.g., because I was molested by aliens when I was an impressionable ladychild. Or whether they expect me to tell them I watch porn for another reason entirely, e.g., because I appreciate its aesthetic, narrative, and cultural value—women are so high-brow and highly evolved! Well-meaning, clueless men do not bother me nearly as much as evil anti-porn feminists who would like nothing more than to pathologize and punish me for my desires. I’m thinking specifically of people like Ariel Levy who would argue that I like what I like because I’ve internalized the patriarchy; i.e., my preferences are not my own. Even worse, I’m colluding with the enemy, supporting the subjugation of women, and in denial. Well, okay, my vagina is acting under the influence and I’m an aggressor. But orgasms. Do I really care why I have them? I like them. Is it impossible for me to own my sexuality because of society? That seems unfair. Not to mention convoluted. I’m into viewing naked bodies because of the patriarchy? No, ma’am, I believe that’s called biology. And you are THE MAN embodied. As Jane Ward pointedly asked Ariel Levy during a discussion about what constitutes authentic female sexuality and who determines whether desire is genuine as opposed to socially constructed, “what do you want women to find sexy?” i.e., what are we allowed to claim as our own? (See: Jane Ward’s Essay “Queer Feminist Pigs” in The Feminist Porn Book).

Male sexuality is considered biological and thus taken at face value. Women are considered relational creatures and so female sexuality that diverges from accepted norms, feminist or mainstream, must be justified. Explain your unwillingness to accept your sexual lot in life in 500 words or less! One male college classmate of mine requested the link to my blog and—when he didn’t find whatever he was looking for—asked flippantly whether getting off needed to be defended then probed skeptically, “What’s your mission statement?” WHAT? My vagina, the missionary? I need to support my sexual escapades with a mission? Can I get crowdfunded for that? This would never be expected of a man. No one has ever solicited Tucker Max for his fucking mission. Marginalized voices are thrust into the realm of tokenism, becoming unwitting representatives of vast and heterogeneous groups. This is why I feel for Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling and other voices from the fringes who aren’t allowed to depict experiences they personally relate to without getting flak for having a narrow or skewed perspective. Asking a woman to speak for all can be even worse than asking her not to speak at all.

 

SILENCING

I feel uncomfortable writing this section in part because there is no way to obscure the guy’s identity. Even though he ultimately couldn’t be what I wanted him to be and even though he has mostly been a shit ex-boyfriend, I’d like to respect what we had at the time. He was good to me while we were together, I am grateful to him in many ways and I genuinely wish him well. I think this particular situation is too important not to talk about, though, and it feels horribly ironic to remain silent on the topic of silencing. I also feel uncomfortable writing this section because I feel conflicted about my position. Here goes…

For a few years after we broke up, he was unable to talk to me at all. He believed that because I broke up with him, I single-handedly annihilated all we had built together—which entitled him to be as mean as he wanted to be. And I accepted some of the abuse; truthfully I really missed him and just wanted to hear his voice, even his angry fanatical one. Eventually he came to realize that he had vilified me as a defense mechanism and that he played an instrumental role in the dissolution of our relationship. Over the course of a few phone calls, we apologized for things we had done and made amends. With the distance that time grants, we could acknowledge each other’s perspectives and there was a sense of reconciliation and relief. At the end of one of our conversations, however, he said something I will never get over. So much for making amends.

He told me there were two things I should have never told him about. One was my rape. I’m choosing my words deliberately here. I don’t mean to say that he wishes he didn’t know about it. I mean to say that he thought I was wrong to tell him. That by telling him a story about my assault, which he declined to hear, I was in effect assaulting him. As if my disclosure was an attempt to punish him for the wrongdoing of another man just because he had the misfortune of also having a penis. I suppose I need to add some context.

In this post I discuss a situation where he stopped a consensual sexual encounter to-be that involved physical restraint, because it reminded him of my rape. It made me feel like he was robbing me of my agency, like he didn’t think I was competent to set my own limits. It also didn’t make a lot of sense given that it didn’t remind me of my own rape, which I have little recollection of and which I assume did not involve physical restraint; there is no need to restrain someone who doesn’t have control over her own limbs. I decided we needed to have a conversation so there would be no future misunderstandings. In order to be heard, I needed to detail what I knew had happened to me. He declined to hear the details. I told him it wouldn’t be hard to hear because I had very little visual memory of it, and I proceeded despite his protests. In other words, he was a non-consensual recipient of the story. And that is the part I feel conflicted about to this day. The rest of the evening was tense, but eventually we worked it out and came back together physically and psychologically. As far as I remember, it wasn’t something that came up again. Like all couples, we had recurring fights. This was not among them.

So fast forward three years and this is the last bit of resentment that is lingering. He just wants me to know so I don’t ruin another relationship with my inappropriate disclosure. I feel sick to my stomach when I hear him saying this—that my story isn’t mine to tell. That to protect the propriety of innocent men I must stay silent. We went through so much together, made real mistakes. And when all was said and done the worst (the most worstest, if I can get away with using the extra super superlative) thing I had done was describing to him what it was like and what it wasn’t like to get raped?

Every time I leave my apt, regardless of how I’m dressed or what my plans are, my errands are interrupted by being reminded that I’m a walking vagina and the streets don’t belong to people like me. And if I speak out online about my disgust for being treated like a piece of meat and my lack of physical safety, I’m told I’m misinterpreting things—I should be grateful for the compliments. By being uptight and bitchy, I’m oppressing men who just want to offer a friendly hello, who are entitled to my time because women are put on this goddamn earth to affirm men. So now I need to add to that: if the guy to whom I gave free reign of my body is made uncomfortable by the reality of what my body has been through, of what my body goes through to some degree every single day, I need to shut the fuck up about it. Wouldn’t want to offend the sensitive mens. Wouldn’t want them to share the lived reality.

All he sees me as is someone with a red R emblazoned across my forehead. I’m not a complex human being. I’m not someone with agency and preference and god forbid kinks. R is for raped. R is for ruined. S is for silence and shut the fuck up. Be a supple, willing twat. But don’t be site of conflict and strife, a singed battleground. Think of only pretty things. Be pretty for me, baby. Smile!

He gave me so much sexually. Genuinely loved and cared for my body. Introduced me to a level of satisfaction that exceeded orgasms. But I cannot help feeling like someone who requires you to erase your body’s history is not worthy of becoming part of it.

 

PRIVILEGE

Just like I think partners are entitled to maintain privacy on certain matters, I think partners are entitled to decline becoming privy to certain information. For example, if you were to cheat on your partner and they’ve expressed that in that event they’d rather not know, you should probably keep it to yourself. Even though I think people are entitled to a basic white lie level of interpersonal ignorance, I’m not sure this extends to systematic oppression.

Part of privilege is feeling like you are entitled to ignore problems that don’t directly harm you. Often my black friends post articles that make me uncomfortable because white guilt. Some friends consistently post informative and thought-provoking things and I often feel like the greatest indicator of how important something is for me to read is how uncomfortable it makes me. The more emotional resistance I feel, the more I’m confronting and breaking down pre-existing assumptions, prejudices, and complacency. Not everyone feels this way.

Ilana: I swear privilege is the funniest thing. The fact that ppl honestly think calling attention to racism is “dividing” or generalizing would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. You are missing the point… because you can… Your delusional mindset is actually a danger to others.

Lynn: Racism is dividing. Ending racism is unifying. Duh smh

During this period of racial unrest in our country I’ve read many comments by people who feel that in calling attention to and fighting oppression, victims are causing unrest—they are the aggressors. Because they are inconveniencing people who did not personally cause the systematic injustices. The night of the Ferguson verdict, my facebook feed was flooded with people furious about the complaints that Dancing With The Stars was interrupted by the news. I cringed when my own mother complained not about the breaking news interruption, but that it was on every single channel; it was inescapable. Well, here’s the thing. When black people leave their apartments they can’t switch the channel and avoid being black to make sure they aren’t hassled by the police. Just like I can’t go incognito and hide my femaleness to make sure I’m not harassed by men. These are injustices oppressed groups deal with all the time whether they like it or not. There is no changing the channel until everyone is forced to watch and confront how members of those groups are being disproportionately victimized. I’m pretty sure that when black people are killed by the police for non-violent crimes and when black people are jailed by the police for non-violent crimes for which white neighborhoods aren’t under surveillance, their families are more than inconvenienced.

Jeremy: I will never understand people who call for less disruptive protests. Like, the folks who get angry at protestors who block traffic because “some people just want to go about their day.” WE KNOW THAT. It’s literally the reason we’re trying to get in the way—to stop you from being able to “just go about your day”. Because people just going about their day is what allows tis shit to keep happening. It’s not gonna stop happening until we stop going about out days as we have been and work to make something different happen.

So do I feel guilty for telling my then-boyfriend about my sexual assault when he wished to remain ignorant and did not personally violate me? No, until boyfriends and brothers and sons and fathers are confronted with the harm that has been done to the women in their lives, until they bear part of the burden, nothing will change. Even if they personally don’t assault and oppress women, they benefit from a system that does. And the ultimate oppression is silence. Confronting systematic oppression is not meant to feel comfortable. Comfort is complacency and complacency is complicity.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Every Guy’s Nightmare: Intro

EVERY GUY’S NIGHTMARE: INTRO

December 4th, 2014

It’s every guy’s nightmare: learning that sex meant something different to a woman than it meant to him. Feeling that he had a nice, mutual, consensual, pleasurable experience that somewhere along the line went terribly wrong. It’s my nightmare: feeling used. Feeling feelings. This isn’t a post about sexual assault or even getting taken advantage of. This is about what it feels like to get hurt after the fact. To experience something so wonderful it is life-changing, then to have it taken away. This is about how memories aren’t static. They aren’t neat and can’t be compartmentalized. They change meaning as they are put into perspective by future events. Mostly this is a post about how I am lost and embarrassed and don’t know how to file away feelings I never expected to have. I don’t want to be a decent guy’s worst nightmare. I don’t want to be an unstable mess. I don’t want to be a thirty-year-old who can’t handle sex, who requires aftercare for an experience that was likely insignificant and routine for the guy no-longer involved. For a guy who should be one-in-sixteen of the past year-and-a-half, nothing but a number, a frivolity, a diversion. A hose teeming with semen.

There are a lot of things I don’t want to be and a lot of things I wish never happened. But here I am. An embarrassment to sex writers. A downer to my friends who always counted on me for fun times and good stories—sexual shenanigans.

This week has been enormously rough. Friday someone from my doctor’s office called me from home to tell me my surgery on Monday had been cancelled. Insurance assholery. Monday when I was supposed to have my surgery I got a sweet card from my cousin saying “The Ordeal Is Over.” Too perfect. Only it wasn’t. Today I slipped into my mother’s apartment to take a new box of cat food and I hoped to go undetected. We don’t talk face-to-face about my medical problems anymore. It’s too overwhelming. Mostly it’s texts from nextdoor. Like I’m a modern day Cher Horowitz. Except less perky. Before I escaped, she said, “Don’t think I forgot about you.” And added some logistical things about where we were in the insurance process, as I averted my eyes and edged toward the door. Forgotten is how I feel every day. The world has turned and left me here.

I was supposed to write the finale to my The 13th Step series. It was the “Rock Bottom” section. It has been outlined for a few days. But I can’t. I just can’t. I don’t have the emotional energy for it. Or anything. I’ve been waking up crying. Alternating between waking and shaking. I rock myself back and forth, like an autistic kid, to soothe myself. I touch myself in a non-sexual way because orgasms are traumatizing, though inevitable. I can’t handle all the catharsis so long as I am trapped in my body; ejaculation is in retrograde. The best I can do is sniff my fingers like I am Mary Katherine Gallagher in Superstar. Except, I’m inhaling my vagina instead of my armpits. My life would be funny, like an SNL skit, if it weren’t so devastating.

Here is a post that has been pending since early summer. My feelings have gotten increasing overwhelming as the recent medical setback has forced me to take time to consider my body, where it’s been in the past and how it’s transformed over the last year. As dealing with the medical and insurance industrial complex has made me feel, once again, like I’m a fucking science experiment when I just want to drown in sperm and feel like a real live human. An animal, not an instrument.

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The 13th Step: Descent

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: DESCENT

 

I stay out too late

Got nothing in my brain

That’s what people say

That’s what people say

I go on too many dates

But I can’t make them stay

At least that’s what people say

That’s what people say

But I keep cruising

Can’t stop, wont stop moving

—Taylor Swift, Shake it Off

 

We’re supposed to meet at Dumbo’s Festival of Lights, but one of his friends is already there and has inside information that it’s body-to-body crowded.  We agree that a crowded subway is never an excuse for sexual harassment, buckle up it’s the law, and we will keep our hands to ourselves until we meet up. Our alternative destination is Hank’s Saloon in Downtown Brooklyn, which he warns me is Halloween scary. He’s already there with some friends but we can break off and not do the group thing because that would be rude on his part. When I show up he praises me for being cool and meeting his friends. And I think, well, at least one of us has friends. But, mostly, this bar is New Jersey scary. It’s a cash-only dive you would encounter near an NJ transit stop, it looks like a converted corner store in the idiom of Quick Stop from Clerks, buck hunter machines abound, and a hardcore band is playing to a crowd of white men wearing baseball hats and bandanas with redundant hoodies. I think the band is called Yuppicide, judging from the audience’s patches and the singer’s (screamer’s?) beanie. We hang back and finish our drinks as his friends move on to their next location, a much more civilized pizza shop slash bar slash all-purpose event space in Boerum Hill. Eventually we follow. On the way over, he inquires about what I’m doing with my life: about to have surgery, applying to med school, writing a book. And, if nothing else, I amuse a middle school English teacher with a punctuation joke: There is a colon in the working title of my book about losing my colon. Thus far it is entitled “Flushed: Stories About Sex and Shit.”  (Alternative suggestions welcomed!) This is not nearly as clever as my friend’s boyfriend’s joke: “My brother has Crohn’s and had part of his colon removed; now he has a semi-colon.” Geek life!

It’s half group hang, half date. And I totally bomb the date portion of the evening. Not like we have a bad time or I don’t get laid, assuming that is the goal. But like I am my worst self. Super schticky. It is an award winning performance for sure. But he probably ordered a person not a stand-up routine. Out of nowhere he asks me if I’m happy. And I think I answer honestly, “I don’t think I’m, like, a categorically unhappy person. But I’ve been through a lot of shitty things recently.” “Pun intended,” he adds. You know it’s bad when all you have to talk about on a date is farcically tragic dates: a premature ejaculator with a surprise baby, an impotent old who insisted upon incorporating kitchen utensils into a failed family role-play. At the end of the evening his friends disband and we are left alone. The energy is dying down. We agree that it is time to move on. But don’t agree on a next location until we are outside in the freezing cold and are forced to hold on to each other and shiver in a doorway. I want him to invite me back to his place. I expect him to invite me back to his place. He lives in Brooklyn. I tell him no matter what the destination, we should walk toward the subway and when we are there I lay out the options: another bar, his place, my place. We are going to my place, strangely, so I alert him to the mess. And he tells me I’ve already mentioned it. As in, stop preemptively apologizing. I attempt to attenuate my redundancy by adding the quippy, “My cat (whom I introduced to him earlier when he inquired about roommates) is no help.” “She doesn’t observe the chore wheel?” “No, today was her day to vacuum and instead she coughed up a hairball on my rug.” He falls asleep on me during the nonsensical 40-minute cross-borough after-hours subway journey. Despite multiple warnings, I think he is slightly shocked by the state of disarray of my apartment and to top it off he’s still half asleep. Welcome to my nightmare! My living quarters have crossed the line from ‘creative people are messy’ to a physical manifestation of my dilapidated life—my self-neglect externalized and inflicted upon my physical environment. I fix myself a drink as he awaits my company on the flamboyant floral couch on which he is half passed out—teachers are on early schedules. I talk nervously while I am fixing and finishing my appletini-ale, which at least methodically matches my pink and green decor. By the time I join him, it is clear that whatever we had last weekend has fizzled out. Or at least flattened. As I climb over him and settle side-by-side in my matchy-matchy leafy print leggings, he exclaims, “Aaaaah, you are going to disappear!” It must be a metaphor for something, now nothing.

I want to make it crystal clear when I say I don’t think he’s bad in bed: he had skills, privileged my pleasure over his own, and was receptive to whatever I wanted to do. Not to mention, he has a banging bod, according to my very specific standards. Nevertheless, the sex was torture at worst, unpleasant at best.

I would like being eaten out a lot more if I didn’t spend half the time plotting my eventual escape. He does an excellent job, really burrows his face in my pussy and goes at it like he’s a racoon in a Skippy container, but it’s time to move on to the next activity and his course beard hair is giving me raucous rug burn. I have trouble wriggling out from under him because he’s so buried that he isn’t monitoring my face. By the time he gets the point, my level of arousal is back to where it was before he started. He pops up on his knees, junk towering over me, and I think, Holy sweet Jesus his cock is huge and so, so hard. This guy loves pussy: YES! And I love putting it in my mouth. But when it is time to put it inside me, it is a repeat of my experience with elephant cock: consensual vaginal assault. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? Can’t guys just wear nametags: Hello, my name is Jonah. Please refer me to a larger friend. Missionary is not happening. I ask him if we can switch positions, tell him it hurts, he’s bigger than I expected. I don’t mean to phrase it as a neg. I meant “Your cock is huge,” not “I expected you to have a smaller penis,” but he looks more appalled than flattered. Oh well. I swing one leg around so my thighs are pressed together on one side of me and he can’t get all the way inside. The vag torture persists.

We switch positions one or two more times until I give up and take it. Jammed in a physically and mentally defensive posture, I focus on protecting my cervix instead of achieving pleasure. To tell you the truth, physically speaking, I wasn’t that aroused to begin with, so maybe my vagina hasn’t fully expanded. I chalk up the pain to this, his oversized penis, and whatever vagina ailment I was contending with earlier in the day. Sometimes things are extra sensitive inside with no external explanation—my ovaries are sore or my cervix is tilted down because of the time of month, making it extra susceptible to a jostling. The non-menstrual bleeding and pain must be related. The penis an exacerbating factor. Woe is me. I can’t take it any longer; I ask to switch back to oral for a while, straddle his face and lean forward. He verifies that I have another condom before unsheathing his penis and informing me that I can instruct him to cum whenever I want him to. He can cum on command. It’s this “neat trick.” I think, Good boy, want a treat? Just kidding. I think, Oh fuck, I’m not nearly there and I don’t think I can get there. He expects me to orgasm and I don’t give a shit either way. What to do, what to do. When I’m at least reasonably aroused, I reach under my bed for a Magnum, flip around, and start riding him. He stops me before he cums. I wish he would just cum already; this, sir, is a sinking ship. Somehow I manage to get myself closeish with my hands even though my clit is barely hard. I put him back inside me, hope he’s almost done, and finish. As much as I appreciate his generosity, there are no high fives for forced orgasms. I think, Goddamn it, I just had an orgasm I didn’t want, he still isn’t done, and now I’m going to have to work on him. He’s been so attentive and accommodating. Time to feign enthusiasm! All aboard? He rips the condom off and straddles me: YES! This guy is the best! What a life of leisure I lead. I tell him to cum anyplace but my eyes. He laughs. Because who am I!? For sure he was just going to go for my stomach or tits. He says he’ll be polite about it. Obviously. And he gives himself a penis polishing. Brandishes it. Sometimes watching a guy jerk off is just like watching someone shine a candlestick. Not that I’ve ever watched that, per se, but his trophy penis and pile of semen are so decorative. Almost ceremonial. He looks around lost and I direct him to the towel hanging over my desk chair. Pretty sure it’s crusty from me, myself, and I. He tells me a buffing comes with the service, and wipes me down rhythmically and thoroughly like I’m a car being wrung through the rollers at a Wash and Lube. Inspecting me, he takes turns the towel into a hand rag and touches up my belly button. This man takes pride in his work. “You are better at cleaning up than I am,” I compliment. “Facts.”

The next morning, when he wakes up and gets ready to go, I pretend to be asleep. Which is how I feel about mornings in general. Nothing personal. But it’s a futile act and eventually I act like a sleepy human being and ask if he needs directions home. We do some formal combination of hug-kiss goodbye and I have no clear perception of whether we will see each other ever again; I’m not quite sure I care either way. Men’s follow-ups in similar situations range from “Morning! Had a great time, and you are cute 🙂 Try not to destroy too many paintings while you’re tripping today, and let me know if you want to meet later this weekend. (I’m free tomorrow. Just saying ;))” to “You fucked my brains out. Woohoo! FRIDAY NIGHT!! -Sent from in bed” to radio silence.

Posted in 13th step: descent | Leave a comment

The 13th Step: Ascent

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: ASCENT

 

Some will die in hot pursuit in fiery auto crashes

Some will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes

Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountain

That is pouring like an avalanche coming down the mountain

—Butthole Surfers, Pepper

 

Allister is having a party at his place. It will be all comedy people and he will be fluttering around like a social butterfly, but I am always invited. Emily is going to some fetish party sponsored by FetLife with her stripper friends. She can get me in for cheap and it happens to be three blocks from Allister’s. So it’s settled: pregame with the comedians; end evening with the fetishists. I show up at Allister’s with a 6-pack to exchange for drinks that I can drink. And they have whiskey and ginger ale, which seems like a fair trade, though I’m a little intimidated by the lack of cups. Seems like an egregious omission at a perennial party house. But whatevs, I settle for a Tupperware container. Which is a good talking piece. GKF: classy broad. Secretly, I’m also intimidated by the swarms of strangers in costumes. Until I remember the last time I went to one of Allister’s official house parties: May 2009, the night after I nearly broke my tailbone rollerblading.

Incorrigible and undefeated, I asked Allister to introduce me to the guy I deemed the hottest, and he said he’d be happy to even though he didn’t know him himself. So I said, don’t worry about it, and the cold approach worked better than expected. That night Lee invited me over to smoke pot and I told him I could barely walk nevertheless make it to the next location, and he told me nice innuendo but he was strictly inviting me over for pot smoking. Which was such an effective neg. Two weeks later, I was slung over the arm of his couch and discovered that doggystyle is not a wise position for someone with a freshly injured tailbone. But I stuck it out anyway, because I had pregamed with Tylenol rather than narcotics as to not ruin the presumed sex, and because I had given myself a pep talk about how I refused to leave his place without orgasming first—if I had to go home and masturbate I would literally cry. Sex endorphins are nice bandaids that eventually wear out. And then you are left with your freshly injured, recently banged up tailbone. But you don’t have to go home and commit crimes against nature, alone! Winnn! Later that week I bent over once again, and had a verry awkward doctor’s examination followed by a set of x-rays conducted through the paper gown equivalent of Bermuda shorts. Bruised but not broken. Another win!

I scan the room of people in costumes. Cold approaches are even easier on Halloween: you can always inquire about what people are or tell them in your jappiest accent how much you love their Mike Myers in Cawfee Twalk. Hard, though, to discern who is superficially worthy of your attention. I spot two guys I decide to work on: a mad professor Andy Warhol and a Jewish Liberace—slim and skinny, respectively.

Liberace is up first, if only because of his physical position in the room. His name is Jonah. Because Jew. He primarily knows some guy who used to be a roommate in the party house and secondarily knows Allister and Julian, Allister’s first friend whose penis I touched. (For clarification: Allister and I went to college together and met when I hooked up with two of his friends, in succession, while they were in town for the campus-wide end-of-year drug and fuck festie). He doesn’t know what he is dressed as, just threw on a bunch of crazy shit he owns from all the dress-up parties he goes to. I tell him I dig his vest, run the lace between my thumb and forefinger, and peer up at him. Pretty soon it escalates from glances and light touches to tantalizing and tactile. He runs his fingers through my untamed mane and tells me how fascinated he is by all of my hair, which seems to have a life of its own, unrelated to my pumpkin costume and competing with its ambiguous plant stem hat. I take a risk, a calculated one with a disclaimer as padding, “This is going to sound weird… Lllike something you wouldn’t say when you first meet a person…” He nods, signaling me to go on. “A few years ago I was on chemo drugs. I didn’t have cancer. They were for another disease. But I lost a lot of hair. And when it grew back, it was a completely different texture. All my life until then I had straight hair, and now this,” I comb my fingers through my curls demonstratively. “So… I’m fascinated with my hair, too,” I conclude, pausing for puzzlement, shock, disgust, incredulity, anything? Instead he one-ups me. Matter-of-factly, “I’m on chemo drugs.” Which throws me for a loop. I furrow my brow suspiciously, “Which one?” “Mercaptopurine.” “6-MP? Umm, that’s the one that made me lose my hair.” Then I lean in conspiratorially, “What Jewish inflammatory bowel disease do you have?” We exchange short stories. I tell him about my lack of colon and sympathize, “Wow, Crohn’s disease, cancer medication: you’re in even worse shape than I am.” He counters, “I still have my colon.” “Touche.” Or, as the Jewish moms put it: “Tushy.”

We dance it off and he’s surprisingly good for a jewboy. He’s a teacher so he knows all the top 40 hits. I offer him the last drops of my whiskey-ale, encouraging him to drink from the same container, to share my mutated DNA. Once we get the Tupperware out of the way, we get down to business. He pulls me against him, up against the wall and we swap spit for serious. Tactile turns handsy. He squeezes my tits, the only globular part of my just-passing-for-pumpkin outfit, and strokes forth like he’s summoning my nipples. I wrap my leg around his waist and tilt my pelvis forward as he reaches up my skirt and rubs my clit through my tights. It almost happens too fast, like I had planned on stopping by, chatting him up a bit, moving on, working the room—simultaneously exploring my options and exhibiting social proof—then sweeping back in for the kill. Instead our grubby paws are sweeping each other’s bodies and I’m cumming all over myself, breathy. I wonder what the wetness pressed up between my legs is going to feel like when I get back outside and the breeze rushes through it. It’s the first time I’ve been sexually excited in six months. The transformative kind of arousal where you are completely outside of your head and can think nothing but the monomaniacal, How do I push this further? If we were on the street, I would have let him finish me under my skirt, it’s that pressing and imminent. Instead, I think, Fuck, I can’t blow my proverbial load on this. So we break. Whew, air. And dance that off a little bit. We go back and forth between dancing to Dancing on My Own and humping against walls.

During one of our breaks in action Andy Warhol approaches and speaks. With the addition of his voice to his face, his identity finally registers to me: “Oh my god I didn’t recognize you!” His eyes widen to meet mine, and he matches my voice to my face. He didn’t recognize me either. And we have an “Oh my god I haven’t seen you in sooo long” moment. Except now I’m puzzled that he didn’t recognize me, because, sure, I’m wearing a pumpkin hat, but my face is my own, I think? I guess it is sort of out of context. With all of these comedy people. Instead of just us. It’s Julian, Allister’s first friend whose penis I touched. Back in May 2005. That’s right, kids: it’s almost our tenth anniversary! Olds, we are. We establish the last time we saw each other: May 2011, when Allister called me (yes, he still uses a phone as a phone) and requested my presence on Juliann’s rooftop in Bushwick. Weeks before I moved to Vermont. Since then, Julian’s lived at three addresses, gone through two girlfriends. Which makes me remember what a good person I am, only I tell him the half story.

The whole story: I’m at some impromptu housewarming party on his JMZ Bushwick rooftop and this girl, Allegra, whom they know through comedy, is really into me. Not in a sexual way, just I charm her with stories about my gynecologist. And she asks me if I do stand-up. Clearly no. Because I botch this comedic moment badly. I say, “Hey, I just went to my gyno and he called with my results. I’m totally clean.” I’ve been waiting for this moment forever: to prove that I’m a safe slut. Wait for it… So I play my voicemail, which is quite full because I’ve been communicating with landlord in Vermont. Messages range from, “Yes, the unit will be vacant by blah blah blah date, the rent is 750…” to “Of course it’s okay that you have a cat. Do you have multiples? I absolutely love cats. Aren’t they the sweetest creatures! Is it a male or female? I have two males and they pee all over the place. Isn’t that precious?” We get through literally 15 messages and Allegra and the boys are still leaning in waiting patiently for my test results, from when I was a patient. And, shit, I must have erased that to make room for my new life of fresh air and celibacy. Somehow, Allegra forgives me for my comedic flub and pulls me aside toward the end of the night. It’s girltalk time. We are the only girls there. So I’ll do. She confides that Julian wants her, she used to date his friend Noah. Wants to know what she should do. Should she stay over and take the JMZ home during working hours. I recalibrate and say, “This is awkward. I actually slept with him years ago. And I’ve also been with your ex. I say go for it. You won’t regret it. He’s totally cute and sweet and doesn’t last long, but he’ll put in the effort to please you once he’s done. Even if it isn’t great physically—I’m not saying it won’t be—he’ll be a total gentleman tomorrow and thereafter. It will never be weird. And that’s almost the most important thing.” While I’m in Vermont, Julian moves in with Allister, and Allegra and her adorbs bichon soon follow. Allister tells me Allegra is their grossest roommate in their adult dormitory, because she’s a verrry pretty girl and no one has ever told her that she’s had to clean up after herself before. I’ve done a good deed.

Every year since I’ve saved my voicemail from my gynecologist, in hopes that one day I’ll have the opportunity to redeem myself publicly. We all have aspirations.

The half where I help set him up with his ex girlfriend. And thus deserve karma points. I’ll scratch your back if your friend pets my vagina! Jonah disappears for a sec and we are left alone discussing what we’ve been doing since three years ago. I say, “Hey, I’m writing a book. Don’t worry, you don’t have a scene in it. Though Allister does. If you are mentioned in passing, what would you like your name to be?” His only stipulation is nothing ethnic; IRL he has a rather distinctive name. Understood: Julian, it is.

Jonah reappears and we head to the sink area to suck the last few drops out of the whiskey bottle. Enter: his sleepaway camp friend Justin and Justin’s live-in girlfriend. This is truly the Jewiest party I’ve been to since Bar Mitzvah season. Jonah stands squarely behind me, embracing me with one arm and sliding his spare hand under my skirt. I’m impressed by how good he is at locating my clit, through my tights, from behind. This is the funnest game ever: trying to maintain a conversation with two friendly strangers and not break into a ceaseless sex grimace while I’m being fondled. Heaven! What did I do to deserve this? How did he know that I’m this kind of girl? Granted, we did just hump against the wall for twenty minutes (in imaginary sex time; IRL it was probably more like three). Allister’s friends are the best! I recall that video of Stoya reading that necrophilia book staidly as she’s being worked on under the table. Only, I never crack! The girlfriend cannot get enough of how cute Jonah and I are together, asks how long we’ve lived together. Umm, we’ve just met tonight! But I’ll take it. She insists on taking a picture of us, as if to commemorate the inception of a long romance. As if she’s doing for us what I did for Julian and Allegra.

Finally Emily texts to tell me where to meet her, and Jonah and I wait on the bathroom line before I bail. As I slip into the bathroom, I hand him my phone and instruct, “Put your number in my phone while I’m in there.” Not a feeble, Can I have your number? An authoritative, Give me your number.

The next morning I wake up to a text from Allister: “Glad you stopped by! Seemed like you had fun.” HAAA, it was a variation on his traditional sex follow-up message. A by-proxy pre-sexual encounter follow-up message. I like to think of him as my pimp. Or whatever the cute, non-scary, Jewy version of that is. My sex broker? He’s such a substantial portion of my sexual history if you consider his posse. Or whatever the cute, non-scary Jewy version of that is. His gaggle of gangly Jews? Yes, our friendship is based on sex. No, he doesn’t only hang out with me because I’m loose. In fact, it was a few years before my vagina’s admissions committee offered him a warm welcome.

At the time of Allister’s observation, I wasn’t conscious of his presence in the room. After the fact, I love knowing that he was tracking me, watching me with another guy. It is beneficial for both of us. He feels like he’s been with a desirable girl, has maintained a firm grip on her across the great divide that is time. I provide the social proof that I’m a hot bitch. After all, we haven’t fucked since my series of surgeries. No more deafening way to yell, I still got it! I respond with the most insincere, superficial message possible, “Me too. Ha, I always do!” Not that it is untrue, per se; just that something feels viscerally wrong as I’m typing it. Which is weird, because with Allister I don’t have to paint on my game face. Demonstrating sexual desirability is important; demonstrating social desirability is not. With him, I can be for real.

Over the next few days Jonah texts me and we make plans for the following Saturday.

Thursday night I attend my monthly digestive disease support group and I can’t wait to tell them the story about meeting this guy at a party, the hair playing, the cancer meds. One of the girls around my age interjects, “He’s a Crohnie!” I affirm, “Yup, and he’s just my type: skinny! Probably from not being able to absorb food properly.” Twisted laughs. On my walk home, feverish thoughts flare in my head. I’m going to ascend the thirteenth step—THE THIRTEENTH STEP! I’ve been waiting forevs for this! It is finally going to come full circle! What an occasion! My excitement dissipates when the gruesome and troubling logistics come into focus: What of semen and cancer meds? My life goal is to have somebody cum inside me regularly, but I lost my hair when I was on that medication. It’s serious medication. Do I want it inside me in any form? What are the metabolites of mercaptopurine? Is this boy a walking biohazard? Gosh, what a very weird, specific dilemma. Not to mention the fact that IBD couples can’t make babies because the effect of both parents having an IBD on the probability of passing on one of the diseases is interactive not additive (If one parent has an IBD, the chance of any given child getting either UC or Crohn’s is only about 5%, but if both parents have an IBD, the chance skyrockets to about 30%). UCers fucking Crohnies: the ultimate taboo. Well, this summer I did commit incest’s kissing cousin. GKF: breaking boundaries with my broken body!

Friday night I go to my harm reduction street outreach volunteer job. It’s the first cold night of the year, so frigid that the junkies have fled Thompson Square Park like cockroaches scattering at the flicker of a street lamp. My body is so numb by the end of my shift that I decide to stride home forty blocks, and even though I’m impervious to my frozen appendages, I can hear the staccato of my thoughts racing. Oh my god, what if it’s actually good this time, what if it turns into something? I’m thankful for Allister and his bounty of male compatriots but thus far all the sex I’ve had has been middling. Fifth guy’s the charm! Wonder when I can tell him that I’ve been with our two mutual friends— separately and together! Ha, I think the answer to that is never. Or at least not until after I’ve caught him in my sticky vagina trap. Is that coercion or just tactical planning? Allister would never sell me out and tell Jonah about our history, would he?

The sex part I am a master of. Mine, he is already. But I start thinking about how this night is different from every other night, like it’s fucking Passover, and suddenly I’m nervous about this date. Usually I play the ‘Once upon a time in recent history I used to shit out of my abdomen, do you want to fuck me now?’ game. And this has worked well enough to ensure me a steady stream of penises. BUT, HOLY SHIT, WHAT WILL WE TALK ABOUT IF NOT SHIT? There’s no reason to dare him to reject me because his body is just as gross as mine. With shit off the table, that leaves sex, but not sex with his friends? My mind flips back to Jake Douchebag J.D., how when I suggested that things might not be working he told me I was just upset to discover that I was not very good at the one thing that defined me. Are sex and shit all that define me? Am I not that special or charming now that the latter topic has been downgraded from taboo to humdrum? What am I if not a spectacle?

Arriving home, I draw and thaw out in a nice, hot bath. Queen of the chillaxing multitask, I get wasted on half a bottle of rose, eat snacks in lieu of dinner, switch from bath to shower mode, and wank to oblivion. Friday night: Woo! This. Is. Thirty. I am drowning in tears and wine in lieu of semen. I wonder, Is there any way to preemptively be like, “Hey, let’s say we hang and aren’t so into each other, can we continue fucking anyway?” Of course I don’t want him to get the wrong idea—that I expect not to like him. It’s just that I know for sure we have awesome physical chemistry regardless of how much else we do or don’t have in common. The truth is, I could really use the sex. I’m not actively fucking anyone else and for the first time in my life, I don’t have aged reserves. I gave this lifestyle up years ago. I guess it’s like how when you start doing coke, you meet people who do coke: when you smell like sex, people smell sex on you.

The next morning I wipe when I pee, and encounter non-menstrual bleeding. Not, like, dripping blood. But, like, spotting. Tinted ladycum. I wonder, Did I get so drunk last night that I missed a birth control pill? Don’t need no no-baby pills when I’m only fucking myself! Except I check the pack and the slots are empty up to Saturday night—tonight. So there is only one possible explanation left, Did I fuck myself so hard that I made myself bleed? Jesus Christ, I’ve become a bloody, bloody massacre investigator. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? I’m not friction sore, so whatever I knocked out of myself came from deep inside. This is deeply disturbing. I remember what Annie told me when she served as my de facto herpes coach, Sometimes shit just gets weird and it’s nothing serious.

I reduce this disaster to a Philosophy of Mind puzzle: What percentage of ladycum must be replaced by red blood cells before the substance takes on the identity of blood instead of blood-tinted ladycum? I don’t have to tell him I’m bleeding, I decide. This is small time in the grand scheme of things proximal to our date, which includes ass bleeding, after all.

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The 13th Step: Intro

THE THIRTEENTH STEP: INTRO

Two days before Halloween I’m lying in bed at 3pm (I’ve started waking up, eating, and crawling back into bed) despairing about how I have no friends. Which is sort of true. I moved out of New York for a year and when I came back, I immediately incarcerated myself in the hospital to undergo IV chemo. By the time I got out, two and a half weeks later—weaker, sicker, and with fewer hairs—I couldn’t leave my apartment to walk around my neighborhood without my mom in tow just in case. Then there was the series of surgeries, after which I was even weaker from being home- and hospital-bound for so long. Then add to that the dehydration from being colonless, which prevented me from taking the subway by myself for fear of fainting. And eventually people kind of forget about you. Especially when you consider that I reemerged briefly and had a coming out of sorts before my back crapped out on me. So one possibility is that my friends are insensitive assholes who don’t care about me. And the more likely one is they just don’t know. It’s easy to get lost in New York—urban isolation. When people don’t see you for a while they assume you are with other people—distracted, overextended, and self-absorbed like all able-bodied New Yorkers. It isn’t exactly like I’ve reached out. In general, I’m not so great at keeping in touch. Even worse when I assume I’m nothing but a burden.

This seems extreme, though. Not only do I sit at home alone on weekends. But I don’t even have plans on the holidays. Is this thirty? Should I give up now? And then it occurs to me: I could just text my friends and see what they are up to. I guess I feel dumb tagging along, instead of inviting them. I have nothing to invite them to. I am never included anymore, not even on anyone’s radar. Announcement: Genie is sad and lonely and has nothing to do on a Friday night that is also Halloween.

I think about the people who have been good to me while I’ve been sick, those who have gone out of their way: Emily and Allister come to mind. By sheer happenstance, Emily was the first I told about my deteriorating back. Weeks later she really came through when I frantically canceled on EFB and her the night before we were supposed to go camping. Even though I had texted EFB, not her, she contacted me directly to say if I couldn’t make it because I was drowning in work, she understood, but if I couldn’t figure out how to carry my stuff with my broken back, she’d help. The next morning, Emily showed up at my place bright and early, without having gone to sleep after being out all night stripping (she’s living the NYC dream: daytime student, nighttime stripper). She arranged for us to travel in a way that wouldn’t involve climbing up and down stairs and helped me lug my many pounds worth of pillows in a granny cart (I’m living the crippled dream). And then there’s Allister, my old standby. When I was still at home recovering from surgery number one, he came over and brought me lunch, unsolicited. I showed him my bag of shit while we were eating. Told him I was consuming salt pills and potato chips to raise my blood pressure and was afraid that someday some guy would eat me out and feel like he was gargling salt water or had just done a backflip in the ocean. He reciprocated with a gross story about a comedian who ate lots of salt and sampled his semen everyday and didn’t realize how salty it had become because he was so desensitized from all the salt. Allister knows how to be there when he needs to be. FRIENDS!

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Whorified

September, 2014

I clock in at two thirty am, well two thirty army—I mean European—time. Eight hours before it’s ten thirty and I have rise and shine to check out of my hotel room in Amsterdam—three stories above from where I could have jumped to when I was on mushrooms and unsteady. Half an hour after Banenenbar and its attached strip club have closed for the evening. So it’s sort of an oh shit, I couldn’t accomplish everything I planned on this trip, I don’t quite qualify as Jonathan Ames. But mostly an oh well, getting to touch real live penis trumps spending monies to watch fake-titted women shimmy, shake and tease. And my orgasm was immaculately orchestrated—the crescendo to my week of lucid lunacy, followed by a gentle fade out to next destination Germany. Anyway tomorrow after lunch I have my sensory deprivation tank Jonathan Ames literary excursion scheduled. Need to rest up my mind and asshole. Remember to Vaseline it. Them. My brain begs for balm.

As I sum up my gains and loses, take inventory of the stay and recalibrate, I stuff my clothes into my suitcase, mentally and physically preparing for the next leg of my drug, sex, and fine artwork jaunt. I finger the crevice between my Ernie and Bert side-by-side not-so-platonic single beds and when nothing surfaces, I separate them. Parting the white sea, I make way for Moses: a bra is wedged in the cleavage and a condom is tangled in the sheets—stuck to them, flailing. So I wrangle the bra and toss it in my suitcase, folding one cup into the other to reinforce the underwire and maximize space. And I unpeel the condom, which I’m sure is a common thing cleaning staff have to contend with. A simple courtesy for me to remove it, a gesture. And.

PANIC. Strikes my face. Then settles, freezing it in place. Like when you are kid and your parents tell you if you keep stretching your skin it will stay that way. Which is true, wrinkles considered. All things considered, whatever is happening is likely to age me considerably.

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide no escape from reality…

The slate grey sky opens up and the seedy memories come rushing in. My fluorescent-lit life flashes before my eyes, those two fucking terrible months when I had to deal with Allister and his willful denial. When it got complicated. When I became Lena Dunham, an OCD investigator. What about the stuff that gets up around the side of the condom? Orange semen. Blood in semen. Bloody semen…

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 December, 2009

Allister and I had been fucking casually on-again off-again for a few years by the time of my landmark investigation—which generated data so remarkable it was immediately inducted into the annals of semen science. The sex was mediocre but consistently so: it always got the job done. Most importantly, we got along swimmingly: never had I ever left his place thinking, I had a bad time, or the more somber cousin, I regret this. I admired his reliability. He was always down to fuck. I knew what to expect.

 Except for that one time when I got more than I bargained for. An orgasm with a bonus gift! Look, we were both huge whores. Even though I made him use protection each and every time, I guess somewhere not-so-deep down I figured WE would get a minor communicable disease, eventually. The herps, hopefully. And then we’d spread ointment on each other and have a good giggle and make a mock Valtrex commercial and fuck some more. Because herps is mostly a laughing matter and ointment makes good lube so I’ve heard. Plus I’ve always aspired to be the Bob Dole of mock Valtrex. We had gotten our money’s worth and you know how Jews feel about a good deal. It behooved both of us to maintain the façade of friendship. Friends we were, and still are.

 Ultimately sex is a numbers game, and our combined number: extraordinary. By that time, fiveish years ago, I’d say we had sixtyish partners among us, buried and intermittently surfacing in our joint graveyard of sexual partners past. If you are only counting penis-in-vagina sex. At this point, it’s probably more like one hundredish. Hey, we’re friendly peoples! We’re sexual socialists. We get around. Allister has the glib superficial charm and cheesy handsomeness of a door-to-door salesman. He’s brilliant, not indiscriminate. He knows how to pitch it, how to make you want it and keep wanting it. So I wasn’t surprised that it happened; I was just surprised HOW it happened. I suppose these things always materialize after-the-fact, the incubation period. Once you’ve long since forgotten. Because the sex itself is inconsequential. Which isn’t synonymous with consequence-free. Blrlrgh (shakes head side-to-side), I get the heebie jeebies even thinking about it.

 Once upon a time Allister came over and we fucked and I forgot about it. Because move along, there’s nothing to see here! Nothing out of the ordinary. Anyway, I never got off to him. Prior to not having seen a penis in SIX MONTHS (a sight that cannot be unseen). So let’s say I wasn’t running through the series of events, combing my mind for clues—wank-worthy hair flippings or whatever the male equivalent.

 Until I planned on inviting another gentleman over for a gentle fucking. An old friend was in town for the weekend and I presumed we would end up back at my place. We had consummated our friendship on his previous trip to the city. Like a sexy Girl Scout I vowed to be prepared and wipe dry all traces of testosterone; no man should ever be subjected to a non-consensual encounter with another man’s semen. I am a woman of principle, after all. So I took special care that there was no evidence that another penis had sputtered in my presence, penetrating my virginal aura and rendering me no longer a nun.

 Out of the swarming goodness of my smarmy heart, I reached down into my garbage can. The one in my bedroom which is perennially empty due to lack of trash produced in my bedroom. A 3ish-week old condom lay alone, a nostalgic reminder of Allister and my routine. GONE HORRIBY WRONG. WHAT THE FUCKITTY FUCK!?! 3ish weeks later and the semen was tinted ORANGE. Because I believe in semen, not magic, I believed that what was in the condom three weeks earlier lingered and festered there still. Unless evaporation. Due to the condom’s isolation, the likelihood of contamination was slim-to-none. How had this fate befallen me? I mean, I had mentally prepared for the spread of herpes. Now, instead of arranging a spread of rosé and brie for my forthcoming date, I was Lady Macbething my biohazard bin. But like, I figured it was on Allister’s side of the condom. So I went ahead with the bougie planned fucking of my out-of-town friend (who eventually raped me, talk about a blemish on a relationship that cannot be smoothed over with ointment).

 I pull a Lena Dunham, before Lena Dunham is a thing, and google ALL THE THINGS: orange semen, bloody semen. I speculate about how if left long enough a tiny drop of blood might infuse into a load of cum causing orangeness, the quality of being orange. Like that demo you are given in Intro Bio about diffusion, specifically osmosis, where the teacher puts of drop of dye into a tank of water. My mind is simultaneously buzzing with thoughts and empty. All I am left with is Allister (we are the sexual cockroaches of the nuclear apocalypse) and the realization that I must go to the source.

 I invite myself over and we have a strained, stunted conversation where he denies having orange semen, he sees it almost every day. Fair point, but do you think I’m making this up, how could I possibly benefit from that? And he says he doesn’t think I’m lying, but I must be mistaken about what I saw. There must be some other explanation. Uhh, divine intervention? I assure him that I had looked at it in many lights, literal. That it was the only thing in my garbage, untouched. An uncontaminated sample! I tell him I’m sorry, I can’t touch his penis again until he gets tested. It was on his side of the condom. I am confident about the physical separation. Sex, a separatist act. I leave defeated. On my way out, he tells me the girl he is about to bone is making her way up the stairwell. He had warned me in advance that he had limited time but wanted to see me. Had another engagement booked. Am I going to bump into her on my way down? He asks if it matters, will it be weird for me? Umm, on a scale from what to what—touching all your friends’ penises to orange semen?! A five, I give it.

 A couple weeks later I’m having brunch with my friend Ian, who is an environmental-friendly biologist, and he’s drinking a bloody Mary. That’s not some symbolic detail I’m slipping in to paint the story; for real, that’s what he’s drinking. And I’m like, Not to ruin your brunch, but I had this really fucked up thing happened to me and I’m kinda concerned. So I tell him my story, play-by-play, and he’s like, Genie it’s the condom. And I’m like, I know it’s the condom. And he’s like, No, I mean the material. You told me you used some new kinda condom. There was a chemical reaction.

 Oh shit, that was a detail I had glossed over. Mid-play Allister was like, Wanna try something new. And I was like, Sure, I guess. Didn’t know what he had in mind but we had been hooking up for long enough that I trusted him to do whatever. As long as it didn’t involve an undue amount of pain, or any amount of piss, shit, or vomit. That’s where I draw the line. And I didn’t think he was into werid shit anyway. Because if he were, he woulda told me, proudly. He’s a stand-up comic. A self-sabotager like I am. Self-satirist? Same difference. His idea of something new and exciting was a new brand of condoms, Skin condoms, made out of polisoprene. His “friend” swears by them.

 A couple weeks after my brunch with Ian, I get my hands on my next victim, I mean partner. And the next day when I’m recounting the sordid deets to my best friend, I’m like, Oh shit, I have a used condom in my bedroom garbage. A fresh sample. So I excuse myself to Duane Reade where I buy a box of Skin condoms. I remove the specimen from my garbage can and pour half of the semen from the regular latex condom to the weird and wild polyisoprene condom. I lay them side-by-side in my otherwise empty garbage can, approximating the conditions of the Allister fiasco. A very scientific experiment! A few weeks later when I fetch them, the semen in the latex condom looks the same and the semen in the polyisoprene condom is tinted orange. Eureka!, I exclaim.

 I text Allister. He is pleased with my findings and wants to know when we can fuck again. That one, he doesn’t skip a beat. Our relationship: unblemished.

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September, 2014

Here’s a new one: Blood but no semen.

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On mushrooms I thought I was the ugliest ever. If only. THIS is the grittiest. The most sidewalk trash. Yuppiecrustpunkscum. Not even a fashion statement. Give. Up. Now.

I vacillate from despondent to scientific. There has to be some other explanation, I repeat to make it true. What would Allister do? I can’t believe I’m culling wisdom from that situation. Letting him guide me. But surely, there is something I’m missing. Some chemical equation. Some sleight of hand.

First hypothesis: non-menstrual bleeding. That would have been a welcome visitor according to my emergency management rubric. More slow burn than bloodbath. Wouldn’t be the first time in recent history, either! It always feels good while it’s happening, when you’re teeming with endorphins and oriented toward excess. Theoretical line of investigation: I flashback to my bathroom wank a few hours earlier, The Most Bourgeois Wank. In an elite, well-lit, high-ceilinged location. But I was fast and neat, wiped my fingers and vagina thoroughly with toilet paper afterwards. Even washed my hands before I fondled food! Class act. No way I wouldn’t have noticed blood. Empirical line of investigation: I reach into my vagina, hold two fingers up like I’m hailing a cab and fresh lady cum glistens in the harsh light. No dice. In my vagina. I eliminate myself as the culprit.

WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I MADE OF MY LIFE? HOW IS THIS REAL!?!

He is such a sophisticated, pristine Dutch man.

I feel filthy, hygienically speaking. Contaminated.

I thought I managed to escape my life of medical misery to Amsterdam to do mushrooms in my hotel room alone, spectate a live sex show in a traditional theater, have a few decent fucks with one righteous dude, and visit fine art museums and a science museum for redemption. I thought I struck the perfect balance between absurdity and adulthood. Revelry and responsibility. Frivolity and significance. Becoming Jonathan Ames has a pricetag, I suppose. In broken epidermii. Shattered dreams!

In the flash mob of current events, I assess what should be in the condom v. what is in it. And here is a fun fact for you: I came first. Finished him with my mouth/hand. It should be EMPTY. Except for maybe a tiny trace of precum.

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Here is where it becomes technical, a physical examination. I place the condom on the white-washed surface of the wooden bedside table which serves as a neutral background, if we are going to privilege white as neutrality. If nothing else, it is a baseline. Visually sterile. Pure. I try to line it up with waves in the wood, like height marks in a police line up. Because, really, this whole ordeal is beginning to feel like a criminal matter. Unrolling and smoothing it down like a tube of toothpaste holding on to the last drop, it hits me: the peculiar pattern. The smudge isn’t concentrated at the tip; it’s smeared across the middle portion. When I pinch it between my fingertips, it doesn’t move much; it’s affixed to the latex. I realize it’s on the interior. The condom must have reversed when I removed it, like a sock turned inside out. The dirty parts are now in the interior.

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I flip the condom inside out, which is how my mind feels. Inverted one too many times.

And it hits me again: the smudge isn’t floating around with the spit bubbles. Or precum. Or whatever the viscous, runny fluid. It doesn’t budge.

Someone text Cat Marnell, innovator of beauty product reviews for the snorting, smoking, and sexing lifestyle. Modernizing the makeup game for women who want to look put together as they get sloppy. She conceived of the imaginative and humorous “Lipstick That Won’t Come Off on a Dick.” My inadvertent foray into lipstick that won’t come off of a condom is eerily reminiscent of her ploy. And that rainbow party hysteria that permeated middle school PTAs in the mid-90s, leading clueless helicopter moms to offer, “If you are ever at a party and you feel uncomfortable…” Made gullible by the concern-trolling trope of The Secret Lives of Teenage Girls—popularized in books such as Reviving Ophelia and School Girls as well as daytime TV—mothers bought into an urban legend that their impressionable daughters were being invited to parties where they and their friends would be expected to apply various shades of lipstick and line up to wrap their adorned lips around a tiny prick, leaving behind a rainbow trail. If only. Rainbows and penises are two things I like a lot. One could only imagine how this one lucky pubescent boy got chosen as the canvas. One could only imagine because I doubt such a party has ever occurred.

Vice Magazine, hire me for a blow job expose! Does Revlon’s ColorStay lipstick live up to its trademark? Or must one splurge for Laura Mercier’s Healthy Lips Sheer Lip Colour, the culprit of my crime scene, if she aims to paint the town red?! Obviously I should be paid to perform this important cultural duty—product tester, dick sucker, secret tweeker. Not that men care if lipstick stays affixed or becomes askew mid-bj. With tears dripping from my eyes, snot dripping from my nose, and drool rolling down my face, seldom has a man pulled back my bj ponytail and cooed, Mmm, baby, your pouty lips look positively radiant wrapped around my bulging cock.

Laura Mercier Healthy Lips

Flipping through mental frames, I’m left wondering: how is it possible that my lipstick remained on the condom throughout a vigorous fucking? Granted I didn’t last long—but still. For sure I rolled the condom on with my mouth. I couldn’t have also removed it with my mouth, could I have? Even then it is remarkable that lipstick remained on my lips for so long, through so much! Durable. That’s how I’d like to be viewed by men. I’m that kind of girl.

Laura Mercier Healthy Lips Blot

Laura Mercier, I applaud you: brava! If I could smooch your geeky chemists for elevating the art of blow jobs, they would be marked with my enduring praise.

Happy Halloween, kids. And, as goes Cat Marnell’s motto: LET IT BLEED!

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