1. 1. I
used to have a lot of sex.
I’m not shy about it. I was a woman with many casual sexual
partners, and for a while it was really very fun. I revelled
in it. Played up to the role. I was a good-time gal and
wanted you to know it. I was in control of my sexuality and
unafraid to explore it – and exploit it.
Then it stopped being fun. Somewhere along the way – the way
being several years of drunken promiscuity with more men than
I’ll admit to – my intentions got muddied. Tarnished. I was
using sex as a weapon, a way to keep distance between me and
every bloke I kicked out of my bed at 4am. Hats off to you if
you can enjoy no-strings-attached sex, but me? I was playing
a role, a sort of Samantha-Jones-meets-Russell-Brand
playgirl, and I wasn’t happy. It took me a while to realise
it, but once I did – once it hit me that I was lonely, and a
bit of a phoney – the reality was devastating. So I closed my
legs. For a year I didn’t date. For 12 months I asked myself
who I was, what I wanted, and how I could bridge the gap
between those two things.
2. 2. It’s
lonelier to be in bed beside a stranger than it is to be in
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Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed
The turning point for me was being in bed with a balding
Australian who wouldn’t speak to me on nights out with mutual
friends and yet, somehow, I’d always take home. One lazy
morning I leaned over to him and said, “Make me come…” His
answer was to check his watch, and get up to go shower. He
might’ve known the sound of my orgasm and the taste of my
kiss, but I couldn’t find the words to tell him how
humiliating his treatment of me – our treatment of each
other, to be fair – was, because there was absolutely no
intimacy. Once I was celibate, I saw that the sex had been a
pseudo-surrender: I could pretend to be revealing parts of
myself, but really was using my body to ensure I’d never have
to. It’s the most isolating thing I could’ve done. No wonder
I felt lonely.
Nobody can love you until you love yourself.
It’s almost embarrassing to write that, hackneyed phrase as
it is, and yet it’s the truest thing I know. I reckon on some
level I was after somebody to prove my own worth to me. My
high school sweetheart of almost a decade had dumped me to
marry my best mate, and that affected, so deeply, how I
thought of myself. I think I was looking for parts of myself
in every man who I seduced. I revealed my most unkind, mean
version as if to see who would challenge me and love me
anyway. Some men tried, and I couldn’t respect them for it. I
didn’t trust anyone who wanted to be with me, because what
poor judgment did that demonstrate? I could never date a man
actually interested in such a broken half-woman. It’s because
I didn’t like myself that I couldn’t believe anybody else
did. Nobody can love you until you do.
4. 4. Good
sex is sex with somebody you actually like.
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Sian Butcher/ BuzzFeed
In my most promiscuous years, the sex I was having was
terrible. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but once I
declared my year-long vow of celibacy I allowed myself to
have the kind of fantasies I’d previously denied. I let my
mind wander as to what it would be like to be kissed – every
last inch of me. To have a man take his time, to be explored
deeply, widely, to be looked in the eye. Sex with somebody
you like as expression of intimacy, and not as a substitute
for it, is just about as hot as it gets. Sex acting out what
you think you should do based on some bad porn you’ve
googled? Not so much. Sex with a man who claims not to “know
you well enough” to go down on you? Even worse.
5. 5. A
sexless life isn’t a loveless life.
As soon as I stopped making sex my focus for a night out, or
for parties or work events or any other time I left the
goddamn house, the love in my life increased exponentially.
It was inversely proportional. When I wasn’t trying to sleep
with men, men were suddenly more interested in me. In what I
had to say. I was very honest about my year of celibacy, and
it fascinated them. I had so many conversations about the
pressures they felt to “perform” a certain way in the
bedroom, about how much they, too, wanted real connection, a
partner. It was enlightening. We’re largely sold this idea of
men as single-minded fuckboys, shagging around and not
wanting to be bothered by commitment, that it’s us girls who
pressure them into marriage and babies, and it shouldn’t have
been so shocking to me that actually they wanted to be as
seen and as valued as I did. They want families and
community, too. Plus, boys make really good mates when you’re
not trying to shag them. A revelation.
7. 7. I
will never be ashamed of my history.
My story is one about sex and the body – it’s one about
feelings and the heart. Nobody else gets to decide what my
history is. I got hurt, like a bajillion other people have
been, and I had to figure out my shit, like a bajillion other
people have. That’s not sickening and unworthy. That’s human.
Some men I’ve dated don’t get it – but I’d do it all again,
unapologetically. I continue to date again, in hope.
Unapologetically. I will meet a million different
men at a million different events, and with some of them I
will think, OK, let’s see if there is something here.
I will go out with them and drink with them and
laugh with them and wonder about them. Sometimes, I’ll go
home with them
too. If it feels right. I play fast and easy with my feelings
because the alternative – shutting off my feelings entirely,
as I had done – is just too damned depressing. It’s par for
the course that some men won’t understand that. That some
won’t understand that I’m proud of what I did to become who I
am. Not that I shagged around, but that I got down in the
trenches with every last damned hang-up I have, and shone a
light on the fuckers until I wasn’t scared any more.
I did the work. I did the work, and I will never not reveal
what that work looked
like. I’m still learning, but I have learned enough to
understand that you have
to own what you’re ashamed of or else it owns you. My one
won’t be deterred
by the dirt under my fingernails. My one will thank me for
it. My one will
understand. The blokes who don’t understand, who don’t get
what it took, they
aren’t my one. The ones who don’t understand are another
lesson learned, all
in the name of what will be.