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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » Decreased libido and emotionally detatched from own body... should I find therapy? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Decreased libido and emotionally detatched from own body... should I find therapy?
LittleRedWolf
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I hope this is in the right place- I wanted to ask here if people think this is a case for a therapist. I’m sorry about the epic novel length, but I wanted to give helpful background.

I'm a (nearly) 21 year-old university student, and basically, since I was about 15, my libido has been shrinking down out of existence. I've muddled along feeling a bit crap about it all these years, so I'm not sure why it's suddenly now that I feel like things have reached a critical unhappy point where I need to address it, but I do- maybe it's because I've finally got space and an independent life of my own, I can think about this sort of thing without feeling like I'm wrong for thinking on it because I'm in a 'child' role. I am an adult and I want to build my own interpersonal relationships including romantic/sexual ones, but I can no longer realistically see myself in a healthy relationship; I assume that a sexual relationship will lead to depression when I experience little or no desire.

It’s not only a libido issue- I just generally feel like my body and sexuality isn’t… developed, isn’t my own. I never, evere feel attracted to people, I haven’t met anyone I’ve wanted to pursue romantically since I was 17. I’ve sort of lost the ability to fantasize, and my body responds to any kind of touch (from friendly hugs to trying to put a tampon in) by seizing up every muscle. I feel very detached from my body, like it’s my laptop and I’ve just got to periodically wipe the screen round and dust crumbs off the keyboard, but it’s not a part of my idea of ‘me’. I’m starting to feel nauseated by discussions or depictions of partnered sex. Living on a student campus, sometimes lads catcall at women, and when it happens to me it makes me feel disgusting in a way nothing else does. This happened to me a couple of days ago, and I thought to myself out of nowhere as I walked away without any guts to fight back: sexuality is vile. How could anybody enjoy something driven by so much aggression and selfishness? Anybody that would try to initiate it must be out to do harm.

That pulled me up real short, because I’ve always thought of myself as a sex-positive person, even if I didn’t really feel inclined towards it myself. I bicker endlessly with the aggravating slut-shaming and heterosexist peers I have. While that repulsion was what I felt then, I could identify on another level that that wasn’t something I wanted to feel. That was when I decided maybe it would be worth unpacking what has suddenly gotten me so down about all things bodily, with the help of somebody professionally qualified to talk about this kind of thing.

The thing is, there are lots of factors that make me wonder if therapy is going to be any good. I've attempted private talking therapy and NHS (I am UK-based) CBT for low self-esteem and self-hate before (from age 13 to about 16), but my experiences were disastrous (the private therapist scolded me for swearing and talking about sexuality in her sessions, and the NHS therapist tried to force medication on me and declared me 'too difficult for her to help'. It took a while to get to an NHS therapist in my town last time- I don’t know if it’ll be easier or harder now I live in London). And even if I'm now in a mental space where I find therapy easier to deal with- is this even a therapy issue? It's been suggested to me that I'm having a natural slump that I shouldn't question, or that I'm asexual. But I don't feel like either of these are the case. I have asexual friends who are quite content and self-accepting about their orientation; they don’t think their lack of a desire is something missing, they feel like it was never meant to be there in them to begin with. Whereas I feel like I’ve lost something. And the idea that I could have a ‘natural slump’ that starts just as I reach legal adulthood and gets worse the further into my twenties I get is just painfully depressing. I don’t take any medications that might supress my libido; I use the depo-provera shot to control my periods as I have very severe ones and I’m told the shot doesn’t affect your hormones like the Pill might. I feel like it must be a psychological thing because of negative relationship models I’ve grown up around, very bad experiences I’ve had in my previous relationships, chronic past illnesses that have made feel unclean and desexualised, and rejection I’ve had based on my sexuality. But I’m so worried that, like the last NHS therapist said, I’m basically too introspective and messed up to heal myself. (I’m also quietly afraid that the odd feelings of detachment from my body might stem from something I’ve forgotten and would much rather not remember.)

Has anyone had the same experiences? What did you do? Does anyone who knows about this kind of thing think therapy is a good route to go down, or should I just… suck it up and accept I might not be ready for sexuality until I’m deep into my twenties? :/ Again, I’m sorry for the tome, but context is everything; I wanted to explain more than just ‘sex makes me feel threatened. Validate my hangups!’.

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Heather
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It's okay to write a lot, no worries. This is big stuff.

So, I think I'd start by asking if you want to try therapy with this. I certainly think it could be helpful, and that your experiences in therapy don't have to be like they were with those two therapists previously.

And if you want to try and also -- or instead -- talk through some of this here, I think the big question mark I'm left with here, to start anyway, is that you say your libido -- your desire for sexual activity with yourself or others -- has ben shrinking and becoming more negative.

Was there a time things felt differently? If so, can you fill me in about that some? And if you have a sense of when that started to change, can you think of anything around that time that seems like it might have been related at all?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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Hi, Heather. thanks for reading.

I kind of do want to try therapy, I want to believe that it'll be different, but I am concerned about taking so long to get referred that I lose my nerve, or that again my personality will just be so difficult- I know I am determinedly logical and demand too many impossible promises that things will work within a certain time frame- that again, the therapist will just throw up their hands and declare me unhelpable. When I had the depression therapy, it took two or thee referals because I would rush off and ask to be reffered in a fit of bravado, and then weeks later when the appointment came through I'd lost the motivation.

I did used to feel a LOT different. I had what I think was a very early puberty; I at maybe 9 or 10, got periods at 11, and I was largely done growing by age 14. During that time, I had a really enthusiastic sex drive and fantasised/masturbated a hell of a lot. I was kind of sheltered socially up until I was about 13, so it was always a wierd pride point for me that everyone thought I was so innocent but in my head it was pretty much sex sex sex 24/7. I got an unsupervised internet connection when I was 11, which I guess contributed. I don't believe it harmed me, but I feel like I kind of learned sex backwards- I knew the mechanics of intercourse at 6 and was having sexual feelings over BDSM porn at 12, but I didn't know what a condom was until I was 13, and at 21 I've only just learned that my vagina/uterus/all that stuff is more complex than just a big constantly open tunnel, and I've never had any intimate contact with another person other than kissing. I can look at hardcore porn without batting an eyelid, but I'm wincing and feeling terrible now for acknowledging the fact in writing that I do indeed have sexual organs and sometimes have touched them. It feels very backwards and dissasociative (I may not be using that word correctly).

The one thing I can think of and which I think it may all stem from is a very bad relationship I had at 14 with a 19-year-old. Because of the age-of-consent issue, even though as I said we never did more than kiss, it was fucked up in a lot of ways- he actually had an infant daughter, tried to 'train' me to kiss him in public when people walked by because PDAs made me panicky about being watched, and he was friends with other older guys, some in their late 20s, who were actually committing statutory rape (can't bring myself to call it sex) with my schoolfriends. When I confessed to my mother about what had gone on, we agreed that I should never see him again and it was never spoken of again. I don't think I ever processed what went on completely... but, even now, I don't think I should need to. It's not like I was genuinely abused. It was a negative experience, but the 'suck it up and deal' approach is something I've been brought up with and I feel like something like that shouldn't be causing this kind of thing in me. Especially considering my peers with the worse experiences all seem to be pretty happy and in functioning relationships nowadays when I see them. I did keep very outrageous company in my teen years, my experiences were the least hair-raising of the lot.

[ 06-06-2012, 05:17 PM: Message edited by: LittleRedWolf ]

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Heather
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So, you feel this change for you started happening around what age? And was the change with sexual desire and romantic interest something that happened at the same time, or at different times?

With therapy, I think you need to set aside the idea that you are someone who can't be helped, largely based on what sounds like one bad egg therapist. While not every therapist is the right fit for a given person, on the whole, good therapists can work with a range of personality types and kinds of thinkers/learners.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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I can't honestly give an exact time... I think the decrease started around 14 as I left that very dubious relationship. Aside from two brief resurrections when I was 17, when I met a slightly older woman (21) who rejected me fairly brutally because she was asexual and found my interest threatening, and when I mistakenly thought I was developing feelings for, again, an older (26) male friend, but who I think I just platonically loved and felt bad for because he had health problems. I was very aimless while I was at college and didn't have many friends, so I just stopped thinking about relationships and spent most of my time worrying about my work and my future.
Then, when I was 18, I had a very bad episode of chronic sickness that nobody could quite put a diagnosis to but which was explained to me as a kind of super-IBS. I sort of suddenly became acutely allergic to almost all food. I became malnourished, lost a lot of weight, was in constant pain, and for the worst few months of the illness I was verging on incontinent. I think that was about the time that I just stopped thinking of myself as a sexual person. I had no desire to participate in anything sexual, even alone, while I was in pain and felt dirty and incapable. I took to my bed for about six months and I felt like I regressed in age. I couldn't imagine anybody even seeing me as a functioning adult again, let alone being sexually attracted to me. I was revolted by what my own body did, so I didn't want to look at it or touch it.
When I was nearly 20, it suddenly cleared up mostly. I was able to go out again, and I started university. I seem to have gotten most aspects of my life mostly back on track... but I feel like my sexuality has never really come back. I had a tiny burst of energy in the first couple of weeks after I made a notable recovery, but the novelty wore off. The repulsion at partnered sex... is a new thing that comes and goes. I think because I wasn't in a position to even meet other non-family humans for so long, I'd only known that I wasn't interested in doing or thinking of anything alone; I hadn't even considered how I felt about partnered sex because I assumed it would never be in my life again. Then when I started meeting other people who passed sexual comments at me, I realised I felt extremely threatened by it.

I'm hoping that now I'm in a bigger city I'll find more and better professionals. I'm just worried about how little faith I have in my own ability to ask for/accept what I need. I feel like I'm in one of those adverts where the lad goes into a chemist's for some condoms and asks for everything in the shop BUT the condoms, if that makes sense.

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Heather
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You know, looking just at what you've posted so far, I'm sure seeing a lot of reasons why you might both feel conflicted about sex and sexual relationships and why your sexual desire has been on the wane.

So, what I'd say is that whether or not you seek out therapy around this should probably be based on a couple of things:
• what you want (that's probably obvious)
• if you feel like you can accept that therapy probably isn't going to do any magic with this, but is more likely to just help you resolve some of the outstanding stuff that could be playing a part, help you make peace with wherever you're at now, and perhaps help you find a sexuality that DOES feel like a right fit for you now, if you follow me
• if you can find a therapist who is a sex therapist or pretty darn well-versed in sexuality

I list that last bit because with waiting lists and already being worried this won't help, I'd hate to see you kind of set up for a situation that isn't likely to. And I'd say that a therapist who didn't have some good education and experience working with sexuality and how things like severe illness and disability can have an impact and other complex issues probably wouldn't be able to serve you very well.

..and not because you're so difficult or anything, either. [Smile] Instead, just because this looks to me like some deep stuff around sexuality, not something only the bare basics with doing therapy around sex would probably be a good background for.

Whatever you decide, do you feel pretty certain you'd have a big wait ahead of you per therapy?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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Thank you for looking at it all like that for me. I'm very used to being told that things I worry about like this aren't valid, aren't as bad as other people's problems, so I should be able to just get over it. It feels like a relief to have it confirmed that I wouldn't be wasting a therapist's time to go to them with these feelings.

I'm honestly not sure about the wait. When I've waited for NHS therapy before each referral has taken a month minimum, 4 months maximum. But that was fairly basic CBT. I don't know if it'd be a longer wait to find someone so specialised because there'll be less of them for a bigger population area, or if it'll be quicker exactly because it's a more specialised problem and less people will be seeking the service anyway.

I am a little nervous about asking directly for a sex therapist- I can see myself not being taken seriously over it, being a single student who is down on all the records as never sexually active; I have not been taken seriously by doctors before due to being a 'hypochondriac teenage girl'- but I do agree it would be no good to just get another person who just says 'that's not my area' to 90% of what I want to tackle.

It's a bit of a wide question, I know, but... what does a sex therapist actually do? Obviously from your suggestion I guess they tackle the kind of things I've spoken about, but how? My image of sex therapy is a sort of grossout-comedy vision of an awkward, middle-class, middle-aged, white, straight couple being made to explicitly describe their sexual fantasies and do yoga by an older woman in a kaftan. I'm sure that's not at all what it's like, but I have this stereotypical image.

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Heather
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Of course, I'm glad to help. Really, our issues, traumas, things we carry and the weight they have, it's all relative. We can't really compare one person to another that way, nor one kind of problem or event, even, that way, since different people will be impacted by the same or similar things in different ways.

Sex therapy is usually just talk therapy with someone who is well-versed in human sexuality -- with a far deeper education than people who study psych more generally will have -- and also has the skills and education to to talk therapy.

Unless you seek out yoga, chances are awfully good there won't be any yoga involved. [Razz]

But like with any therapist, what methods or approaches a sex therapist uses will vary, so like with any therapist, you can always ask them to tell you how they do things before you get into therapy with them.

That said, I understand your concerns about asking for one. You know, if you like, I'd be happy to talk with a professional or two in my network in and around London to see if they've any suggestions when it comes to being a young person asking for sex therapy through the NHS. Would you like me to do that?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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Okay, that makes sense. In the past I've rejected talk therapy because it hasn't felt like I've gotten anywhere very fast, and the standard hour a week only leaves me feeling more churned up, not resolved- you can see here how much I talk in one sitting. But I know most of that is about my own patience and unrealistic expectations.

That would actually be fantastic, thank you! I do have a GP here on my student campus, but I will be moving off-campus soon so it'll be harder to get there and I haven't developed much of an open-ness with her as I did with my old family doctor. Docs on uni campuses tend to hear the word 'sex' and decide everything can be cleared up with a chlamydia test, some free condoms, and an assurance that you're probably totally normal. Not that these are at all bad things! But mostly not that useful for where I'm at.

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Heather
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Well, for sure, talk therapy will churn things up, and getting to resolutions with things isn't something that tends to happen in a given session, but over extended periods of time. Maybe this time you can be sure to talk about how to manage those churned up feelings better when they happen, because they totally can feel tough to hold and cope with sometimes.

And you got it: I'll toss a couple notes out first thing tomorrow and let you know what I hear back.

In the meantime, I can think of a couple books that might help you get started on some of this on your own. I'd be happy to write up a little list for you if you'd like.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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The books would be really good, I am a big reader and I process stuff better in written chunks. Thank you so much for all this help!
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Heather
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You got it.

So, some of what I'm suggesting I am because I'm getting the feeling that some of what's going on with you might be about certain sexual dynamics or frameworks or presentations really putting you off, and maybe being stuck on those things being How Sex Is, rather than only some ways it can be.

In other words, I think perhaps having some help exploring what YOUR sexuality or sex life could be, one you DO feel good about and that does feel like a good fit might benefit you a lot. And if you can get a therapist for this, having a better sense of what you'd want it to be might help you go into therapy further along than you would be otherwise, which might help with your patience with it.

One biggie I can think of is my friend Jaclyn Friedman's new book, "What You Really Really Want." I know amazon.uk has it, not sure about libraries or other bookshops. I did a thorough read of it when the galley was all done, and I think it's excellent and really ideal for someone in the space you're in at the moment.

I was thinking of suggesting a couple other books, but I realized I first wanted to check in with you around your gender identity and orientation. Obviously, sex and sexuality can feel way uncomfortable and ooky if we're being identified as a person or role that doesn't feel right: so, can you scoop me in on you in that regard?

I also wonder if you have previously read any books that talk about the theories of porn being problematic for some people's sexuality. Well, they usually say all people, which I don't agree with, and I often disagree with a lot of what those approaches posit, period.

But what I don't know is where YOU land with it, and how you feel about it. It might well be that some of that helps you out in terms of places where, again, it sounds like you had a lot of sexual exposition in sexual entertainment media before any of your own sexual comfort and ed could come in, so it's possible some of this did impact you negatively. That given, whether I agree with some of that theory or not, I think it might be worth looking into for you if you haven't before. If you want to, I can suggest some titles, even if, again, they're not typically books I'd tell folks to go read per my own politics and opinions. [Smile]

One other thing I'd suggest, since it sounds like you've been exposed to a lot of sexual scripts in your life that came to you very externally -- from porn early, from that dude, etc. -- is maybe some journaling on your own, seeing if you can't write out a framework of sex and sexuality (and it might help to even step away from that and towards a more general framework of physical and emotional pleasure) that doesn't feel repulsive and that you don't feel left out of; that you don't lack desire for. Do you know what I'm getting at with all of that?

If so, while I wasn't able to look at it before it got published or since, I know Susie Bright, who does great work, made a helper-journal that might come in handy, and that's "Love and Lust: A Sex Journal."

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LittleRedWolf
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My gender identity is female, as is my biology, but because of the whole 'feeling unbonded with my own body' thing, I couldn't really say what makes my gender female. It's just the default because that's what my biology is and I don't have any feelings counter to that. I don't understand what people mean when they describe 'feeling' masculine or feminine. Some people describe almost spiritual feelings around their female-ness, but that's never happened for me. I don't know if this is tied up in bad body image and feeling ugly and underdeveloped in feminine clothes, or resenting femininity because so many people read it as weak.

Similarly, I don't really know what my orientation is at the moment, I guess. I have experienced sexual attraction to all genders when I was younger. The way I have described my orientation in the past is that it is not so much that I'm attracted to specific genders, but that I'm so rarely attracted to anyone that when I am, things like their gender are just chance factors like what colour hair they have. It really feels like my identities are less about active identity and things I feel like, and more about negative space in between things I know I'm not.

I know the basic arguments of 'porn is evil/porn cures all evils'. I don't agree with any absolutist viewpoint. I don't really feel like the porn I did view harmed me, as if I saw something I didn't like, I stopped viewing it, and went looking for something I did like. Nowadays I rarely seek it out, mostly I think beause I can no longer identify with it and that makes me feel insecure and lacking. I don't feel attracted to the people in it, I don't feel any interest in doing the things depicted- whether it's visual or written. I have found that it's actually non-explicit sex in films and TV that bothers me more than porn. Perhaps because I know porn is porn, unrealistic and contrived, not meant to reflect life- but I feel like stories with plot are meant to be identifiable to the viewer and reflect real life, and I never feel like the decisions I see in mainstream media around sex are logical, or that the experiences look unenjoyable. It always seems shrouded in some kind of angst or secrecy or mixed feelings. Seeing a story heading towards a sex scene makes me feel sad, because I know that from here on in there are going to be choices made that I don't understand and miserable situations walked into, and that seems to be what the majority of people expect and experience from sex. If there's a dynamic putting me off, it's that, but how do I un-learn something that's so thoroughly accepted and, in my experience, true?

I honestly wouldn't know where to begin with the idea of journalling. It's not just that I don't know what I want, I don't know what things I possibly COULD want. I don't feel any targeted desire. Would that book be something I could sort of copy the model of?

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Robin Lee
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HI LittleRedWolf,


Yes, there are lots of people who feel a strong kinship with femininity, but there are lots who do not. I hear that you feel disconnected from your body, and that this is something you want to work on, but this lack of feminine feeling is not a sign that you're lacking or broken in any way. Being biologically female can, for many people, be just that, being biologically female.

I haven't read the journalling book that Heather suggested, but I've seen descriptions and reviews of it. It sounds, from what I've read, as if it includes a lot of questions to guide the person journaling through the process of thinking about their sexuality.

--------------------
Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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Hi Robin, that's interesting to read. I find that the majority of women I ever hear speak about that kind of thing make a big push about how 'proper' women feel so in touch with their bodies and love menstruating, being fertile, and their bodies- all stuff which actually either repulses me or is a complete non-feeling in me. Maybe there's a bias in favour of this enthusiasm that's just making me feel like the only one who disagrees, because the people with strong positive feelings are going to be the people more inclined to speak about it anyway.

Re: the books: I'm not really sure about Bright's journal book, mostly because having looked it up on Amazon it's described as being aimed at 'mature' women with previous partnered experience to build on. A lot of my problem in trying to think 'what do I want' is that I have no experiences- certainly no positive experiences- to draw on. I can't really imagine what I COULD want. (It also mentions emulating Sex And The City, a show which pings my 'ew contrived unhappy sexuality and poor choices' feelings hard, but that might just be blurb copywritten by somebody who may not even have read the book.) The writeup does mention a similar book aimed at teen/younger women, but the 'teen' label makes me think of unrealistic romance. I'm not sure if the journaling idea is maybe a step ahead of where I'm at, given that I can't even muster up an idea of what I might find physically attractive on a person, let alone an involved sexual fantasy.

'What You Really Really Want' sounds like it might be more in tune with me, and I have decided to pick up a copy soon (I'm sort of in the process of moving into my first property now which is a bit chaotic, so I'm changing adress). Again based only on the Amazon blurb I'm not really sure how much of it will be news to me, but I'm interested in the creative exercise parts. I fee like my problem is not so much that I don't know about things like double standards and negative messages- in fact my peers come to me sometimes if they're worried that they're getting a dose of sexism from partners, classmates, or anywhere they might get controling messages from- but that I have trouble working with them myself. It's kind of like 'nobody should have to abide by these double standards, everybody should feel confident and have agency! Well, except me. Because I'm useless. So I'd better run rings round myself trying to keep everyone else happy.' I know that's not good and not logical, but that is really bad self-esteem for you.

One book I have read Caitin Moran's How To Be A Woman, which I loved and much more often agreed with than disagreed with, but that's more of a whole-life feminism book than a sexual book. Most people here seem to be American; I'm not sure if the book has been promoted there? I know it's definately been big in Europe.

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Robin Lee
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I'm not sure if it will be helpful for you to hear this right now, but one thing that strikes me reading your last post is how marvelously self-aware you are. Yes, some of the things you think about yourself are negative, and it sounds like they're things you want to change. YOu are, from where I sit, in a remarkably good place to make those changes if you can find the resources that will be the most helpful to you.

YOu know what, if you don't get a good vibe from the Bright journalling book, then follow your gut. [Smile] I'm wondering, with journalling, if it might be something as simple as just writing down your feelings and thoughts in general, including, but not limited to sex...even writing down for yourself how it feels to be having this conversation with us about sexuality.

re whether anything in the Friedman book will be news: sometimes the way things are expressed can reach out and touch us, even if the content is something we're already familiar with.

I haven't heard of the How To Be a Woman book, but that's likely because I just find it impossible to keep up with all the books. I'll definitely be checking it out though.

Do you want to talk a little more about why you exclude yourself from the right of all people to have confidence and agency and feel free from double standards?

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LittleRedWolf
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I'm glad you think so. It is nice to hear I come across as self-aware, for me. [Smile]

I have tried keeping an in-depth general journal before, but I've often felt- or been told by laypeople I've convinced to read it- that all I'm doing is dwelling on negatives, or overreacting to things I shouldn't need to analyse. I don't gain much closure from simply writing something out; I feel a need to have it read by people that know a lot about what I'm saying, and to have it validated.

I'm not sure why I think that, really. I just feel like everyone else has got it all figured out and has their independence, while I'm paralysed. I think this is linked to feeling regressed into childhood while I was sick, to coming out as bisexual at 11 and being told I was 'not allowed' to be queer, and to being told when I started birth control pills for painful periods that I 'shouldn't think this means you're allowed to have sex now'. Now I think I have trouble allowing myself to feel sexual or be sexually attracted to someone because in my mind I'm still 'not allowed' to be like that, and certainly not with certain kinds of people. I have the same intense need to be clearly told it's 'okay' for me to do things in other arenas, too; I spend whole days with my best friend talking over whether it's 'okay' to spend money on clothes not, and when I choose food in a restaurant or supermarket it can take me an hour to get down certain aisles or pick a dish (though this is also about my restricted diet and being scared of reigniting my illness with certain foods). I have been told a lot that the choices I've made alone have been bad, and that I don't know my own mind because of depression, and I've come to not trust my own wants.

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LittleRedWolf
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Also, in terms of journalling, I just had an idea- apparently insights strikes me best at 2am. What about if I collected images that had the overtones of interpersonal relationships (not necissarily just sexual ones) I find comfortable? With my aversions and sort of mental blocks I have now I can't necissarily come up with scenarios and dynamics I like on my own, but I can still respond to being shown other people's. I have artistic training, so I am very quick and assertive about what imagery I like. I do actually have a collection of mostly sexual images that I feel positive about. I may no longer (or, thinking positively, may not currently) feel aroused by them in any prolonged way, but looking at them now I do feel positively about them in a vague way and believe the people in them are happy about what's happening. (I still feel a faint sense of 'I shouldn't' and 'but how can you trust they're genuinely happy? Are you sure you like them?' and 'you won't find that in reality', but I know I should address negatives later, once I have found positives to keep me motivated.)

I'm really a writer by trade now (in case it didn't already show!), so I could possibly write accompanying bits about why I feel okay about those images. But first I could just organise the pictures on gut instinct, as I know sometimes less can be more with words and analysis, even when I want to put them all over everything.
Do those sound like good ideas?

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Robin Lee
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Though are some pretty powerful, and negative, messages you've received.

You mention that feeling of helplesness sticking around from when you were sick. I think it's pretty common for people who have been ill for a long time, or disabled in some way, to feel as if their power has been taken away from them. Often, in this situation, family members, doctors, friends, are doing things for you and deciding things for you. It's not automatic to take that power back, especially if this has happened during childhood or adolescence.

You mentioned a few posts above that you're moving into a place of your own. Did I understand that right? Have you been able to make decisions around that that feel good to you?

I'm wondering about ways you can get back in touch with your wants, and act on them, even if they just seem like small things at first.

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Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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The sickness I had is still a big influence on a lot of things, like how I eat and how I manage unrelated illnesses/medications. It's also left me with concerns that even though I am fertile my body would not be able to support a pregnancy due to my inability to process a lot of foods and absorb some nutrients, but I have a lot of problems around pregnancy which predate the illness and are far more about severe phobic issues I'd like to get addressed in conjunction with sex therapy. I don't think it would be a stretch at all to imagine that if I can't let go of some things I learned from the illness, like how to fear a lot of foods and feeling shame when not being able to manage toileting alone, then I also can't currently let go of secondary messages, like still feeling also afraid of not coping with things like finance and housekeeping alone, or not trusting when my body tells me it's feeling good because what if it's just going wrong again.

Tomorrow I am moving into a flatshare on the 'student housing' model (own bed and bath, shared kitchen, don't know who'll be in with me) which I'll be living in for three months over the summer, and then in September I will be moving again into a house share with 2 or 3 (depending on whether the third party gets a local job by the end of this month) uni classmates. It's not the first time I've lived alone, as I've been in regulated campus housing since last September, but it will be my first home paying rent to/provided by a singular landlord rather than a university organisation.
I have technically made my own decisions around this but every time I have made them it has been with a lot of questioning from family that sounds like they don't trust my abilities to read through tenancy agreements, judge a good living space etc. and makes me doubt myself. Before my friends decided to put together a houseshare I was going to put down on a contract for the place for the whole of the next academic year. I don't mind being there for 3 months but I was not happy with the thought of being there longer because it is a small place without a direct public transport route to my uni- I had been ready to choose it based mostly on a) fear of not finding anywhere else in time for my second uni year because of the bad housing situation here and b) my mother seemed very keen for me to take it as it fulfilled what she wanted for me (all bills included, not near shops/pubs). So again, I don't feel like that was a choice based on my own wants to much as urgency to get anything compatible and placate others' approval, and it frustrates me that when I HAVE decided what arrangement I am happy about, people suggest that yet again I cannot make good judgements alone and don't know my own mind. I am hoping that I will feel better about organising a houseshare with friends, because discussing compromises and personal safety needs is less loaded than discussing them with a parent (though I'll still have that aspect when we are organised and my mother knows our decision).

I think part of the problem with just starting that is that I'm not letting myself just want stuff. Maybe, again as a result of having to control my diet strictly, I feel I must control myself down to the bare minimum of everything or I will suffer. I often see material things that I briefly want, but then shame myself about the materialism of having things I don't need to survive, and how I'm not being cautious enough about money, until I don't want them any more. I think I do this sexually as well. I don't NEED that kind of enjoyment by myself or with others to stay alive, and it'll only open me up to being manipulated and disappointed, so I feel like I should be fine with not feeling it. But I'm obviously not, or why would I be here?

As a side note, thank you guys for sticking with me here, because this thread really feels like it's doing me good. I know at the moment it just looks like I'm an endless fountain of bad feelings but believe it or not it is actually making me feel quite calm to gradually write up the whole thing in Q&A chunks. I'm still planning on therapy aimed at moving on with it later, but right now this is really good for actually just getting down in words what the problem even is. I have never had a two-way discussion in writing or verbally about this.

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Robin Lee
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I'm really glad that this conversation is feeling good for you. From where I sit, it doesn't just look like a mountain of bad feelings from you. It looks like you thinking, working through things.

I wonder if there's another way to look at this idea of self-denial as survival. Yes, there are a lot of things you can't have or do because of your health. What if, instead of that translating to you not being able to have or do anything "extra" that isn't related to survival, that instead means that you've been through a lot and should have the things that will make you happy?

It's pretty tough, and I know this from experience, to break down that all-or-nothing thinking. What do you think?

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Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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My concern with it is always not just are the things I want unneccissary, but they might actually be detrimental. That £25 jacket might look nice on me, but that's half my week's budget gone. I don't trust what I want, because doing what I think I want has been a terrible idea before (eating food that makes me ill, dating creepy men while underage). I can't seem to compartmentalise different wants. I can only binge on everything I want, or refuse everything. :/
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Robin Lee
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Sending you a virtual hug if you want it; if you don't want it, it's just hanging out there in the ether. (not sure how folks feel about hugs so always like to ask first) [Smile]


It's a tough thing to accept sometimes, and society doesn't seem to say that this is okay, but the reality is that we all make mistakes sometimes. Yeah, sometimes they're big mistakes and they hurt us a lot. But sometimes they're just mistakes. It's pretty easy to see, for example, why a fourteen-year-old girl would be attracted to someone older--lots of reasons actually, depending on the girl's personality.

Do you think you can forgive yourself for some of the mistakes you feel you've made?

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Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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Honestly? No. Somewhere along the line, I've gotten the message that 'forgiveness' is floaty self-indulgent nonsense for people who recycled before it was mandatory and meditate all day and drink too much herbal tea*. If you mess up, it hurts, you should remember it forever, and always be sorry. Most of my life's focus has been very academic and being in 'gifted' classes I was taught to be very competative and push for 100% scores, so maybe I'm too invested in the idea of every decision getting a 'tick' or a 'cross'.

Actually, when I think about it, I do approach tasks with the idea of passing or failing them. For example, going shopping and sticking exactly to a list and a budget is a 'pass', but stuttering in an appointment-booking phonecall is a 'fail'. Maybe this is linked to needing to be explicitly told 'that's okay/you've passed some universal standard of quality' before I feel like I've achieved anything. I always thought this was a good, certain way of going about things, but maybe it's destructive.

*I'm not knocking any of these things! They're actually good things, in my opinion, if you're in a position to do them. I'm talking from the point of view of a certain kind of person, you know the kind. I like herbal tea.

--

Editing to add I just read the article here about 'the baseball/pizza models' and my mind is a tiny bit blown. The baseball model is used here in the UK by young people a lot- I think if you asked people here about bases, they'd have no idea how baseball is played, but they'd totally understand it through the lens of sex. This article just laid down a whole lot about what makes sex unappealing to me- the pursuit/defense, a heirarchy of acts that get closer to being 'real', there being no going back to other acts once intercourse has been 'gotten', the idea of sex being performed for external comparison and judgement rather than enjoyed by the self/self and partner/s. This is all stuff I kind of already knew, but the comparisons and the wording just really clicked with me.

By the way, I feel like I'm veering a bit off the beaten track here with adding my food problems and task-management into the mix. I feel like most of my anxieties are intertwined and should be addressed holistically, but is it a bit off-topic?

[ 06-09-2012, 06:40 PM: Message edited by: LittleRedWolf ]

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toomanywords
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Hi, so, you do not know me, and I hope it is okay to jump in, but I keep seeing this thread come up. Quite a lot of the things you are saying resonate with me in some way or another and I wanted to let you know that you're really not alone. Also, I agree that the baseball/pizza model article is amazing. I recommend having a look at Is intercourse a violence or a violation? as well if you haven't seen that one.

(I may have longer / more helpful things to add when I am more awake.)

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Robin Lee
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I'm headed out for the evening soon, but I just wanted to answer your last question, LittleRedWolf. No, it's not off topic. We know that people's concerns don't exist in a vacuum. We're having a conversation here. Now, if you asked us for medical advice about your food allergies, that would be off topic and out of our area of expertise. [Smile]

...but it seems to me that looking at your life as a hwhle has helped you draw some connections between all these things. IN short, it's all good! [Smile]

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Robin

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Robin Lee
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Hi LittleRedWolf,

Just wanted to check in with you. How are you doing?

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Robin

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by LittleRedWolf:
I think part of the problem with just starting that is that I'm not letting myself just want stuff. Maybe, again as a result of having to control my diet strictly, I feel I must control myself down to the bare minimum of everything or I will suffer. I often see material things that I briefly want, but then shame myself about the materialism of having things I don't need to survive, and how I'm not being cautious enough about money, until I don't want them any more. I think I do this sexually as well. I don't NEED that kind of enjoyment by myself or with others to stay alive, and it'll only open me up to being manipulated and disappointed, so I feel like I should be fine with not feeling it. But I'm obviously not, or why would I be here?

Honestly? No. Somewhere along the line, I've gotten the message that 'forgiveness' is floaty self-indulgent nonsense for people who recycled before it was mandatory and meditate all day and drink too much herbal tea*. If you mess up, it hurts, you should remember it forever, and always be sorry. Most of my life's focus has been very academic and being in 'gifted' classes I was taught to be very competative and push for 100% scores, so maybe I'm too invested in the idea of every decision getting a 'tick' or a 'cross'.[/QUOTE]

I can really relate to this, it's like I feel like I always have to be in control of my feelings, in my case I think it's maybe because I've been given the message that if I let myself feel something that means I'll act on my feelings even when there genuinely is a good reason not to, maybe it's because I have ADHD, I got a lot of messages about how I was some sort of uncontrollable force of nature as a kid, that I was dangerous somehow (of course my behaviour was actually a response to the unjust controlling behaviour of adults and the emotionally abusive household I grew up in, along with all the bullying from other kids and the failure of the adults to put a stop to it, but they told me it was all my fault and I was a bad child), and that really stuck with me subconciously.

That kind of all-or-nothing thinking is a very effective social control tool, I think a big part of the way abstinence-only propagandists work is to play up people's belief that rape is the result of uncontrollable lust, so if you control your lust by not having sex until marriage and not masturbating then no rape! Which I hope illustrates how illogical this kind of thinking is, because rape is no less common amongst people who advocate this kind of thinking, and in fact they discourage healthy sexual communication and encourage the idea that women owe their husbands sex. Same thing with hating on fat people: eat the cake and next you'll EAT THE WORLD/BECOME A CANNIBAL!...

... Except not really, actually you'll just carry on with life feeling somewhat less hollow.

--------------------
Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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LittleRedWolf
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Robin: Hi! So sorry, I've had a friend staying in my flat all week as she's just got a job in my city and needs a temporary base while she relocates, and what with celebrating that and the madness of just generally getting someone settled in London I've not had a moment to check in.

toomanywords: Thanks, I'll give that article a look now.

Jill: Wow, I had completely not made the link between all the other 'control' problems and the "do one sexual thing and you open the floodgates to having everything done to you all the time and it being your miserable duty" stuff before now! I sat back and blinked at that for a good couple of minutes before I wrote this. I always see this huge nebulous cloud of 'you can never go back' around the 'excessive' options when I make a choice, and I can easily now see that being linked to 'impurites'- impurities in the body if I eat the wrong thing, impurities in morality if I spend money on non-survival things, impurities in the... I don't know, in the mind or the (sub)consciousness, perhaps, if I allow myself to be intimate with people. It's shocking me a little bit because this is all stuff I tell other people not to believe in and I can't understand how I've internalised it so much...
I think I got very similar messages as a child as you talk about. I was never diagnosed with anything, but I was very much the 'problematic' child at school. Somehow before I even started a class, people seemed to get this pre-emptive idea that I was sneaky, disruptive, 'too' dry or clever or whatever and and manipulative with my intelligence, prone to fits of temper- which I wasn't, really, but when that was the only social role I was allowed to have, I acted up to it. By the time I started high school my reputation really preceeded me. Now I have this distrust of not just my own body, but my own mental judgements of what is safe or sane or even just desirable.

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LittleRedWolf
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Okay, I've had a read of toomanywords' article and it's made me feel a bit, I don't know, just bothered.

1) I honestly have a hard time believing that there are more than a tiny fractional amount of men out there that don't expect intercourse as the point of a relationship. I just can't buy it. Every media relationship model, every real relationship I've seen has had PIV as the centrepoint- it's presented as what is worked towards, as what makes a relationship 'real', it's the given standard of What You Do from then on. Refuse a guy the headline act and placate him with a handjob, every sexual script I know warns, and you'd better not want him to stick around. It had better be PIV every time as soon as possible, or you are wasting everyone involved's time. It is just a huge stretch of belief for me to believe that most men are going around thinking that they'd be totally okay with PIV not being a frequent, and indeed *the* most frequent, act in a sexual relationship.
2) I don't *like* penetration. I have managed it by myself three times in my life, with one finger, about two years ago. It was boring. It was *work*. The payoff was out of nowhere and good, but it took 45 minutes which felt uncomfortable, and made my arm hurt. The third time I actually dozed off during, and hastily stopped and just went to bed, as that was hardly a position I wanted to be wiggling around in my sleep in. Nowadays I can't go near it with so much as a tampon. I barely have to scratch my hip to close up like a ziploc bag. It seemed so boarded-over down there last time I checked, for a moment I wondered if I could just have a centimetre-deep dead end nobody spotted at birth. Except that I have periods, so erm, no, self, calm down.
3) Ergo, if I want any kind of sex, I will be obliged- if I ever want a relationship spanning more than the industry-standardised one date, two date, three date, bed- to do something I find frankly depressing, and probably quite painful.
4) Ergo, I stop wanting any kind of sex.

Then I feel bad because I'm upholding the caricature of prudish repressed little object-women that get 'done to', AND apparently oops, I've repressed again the fact that half of the actual genuine relationships I've had in my life were with women. What's up with that? Oh, a whole world of things, that's what.

So, I still don't understand my sexuality, have no idea what I'm just denial-ing over or what I genuinely don't like, AND it's a two-for one deal today on sexual repression and horrible self-hating heterosexism! Yaaaaaaay! I feel like a huge dysfunctional moron.


Quick edit: I'm just feeling particularly bruised tonight for whatever reason, so I'm sorry if I'm suddenly abrupt and using snappy/otherwise agressive language. I'm having basically a period in the middle of my depo shot, which is worrying me, and I'm feeling horribly guilty about blocking an online acquaintance who has dug up and befriended all my social networking profiles (even after I asked him not to as I like 'online' and 'in-person' stuff seperate), and is always making passive-aggressive references to how much he hates the (really inconsequential) things I like to post about. Yeah, he makes snide comments about me liking things I write about despite him being the one who read them when I wanted to keep them private, and him being totally free to un-add me on all these sites if he finds it that irritating, and *I* feel like the bad guy. Yup. That's how it works.

[ 06-16-2012, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: LittleRedWolf ]

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Robin Lee
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Hi LIttleRedWolf,

Glad to hear you're having a good time with your friend. No need to apologize for not checking back in here. [Smile]

I have a few thoughts based on what you've said here about the dominant view of heterosexuality.

Yes, media portrayals of heterosexual sex revolve around PIV. Yes, the there's way too much emphasis in popular discourse on PIV sex being the goal of the sexual part of a heterosexual relationship. You doubt that there are men out there who don't subscribe to this view. Let's think about it this way though: The emphasis on PIV sex puts just as much pressure to perform appropriately on people with penises as it does to those of us with vulvas. What we know about human sexuality is that it's incredibly diverse. Often, we talk about that diversity in relation to the sexuality of people with vulvas, but people with penises aren't exempt from it by any means. I would venture to say that there are plenty of peole with penises who find PIV sex either uninteresting, uncomfortable, or, just not as important as all sorts of other things, such as the joy and comfort of their partner.

Why don't we know about these folks? Because they're just as silenced by the dominant discourse as folks with vulvas who just aren't fans of penetration.

It's absolutely okay that you aren't a fan of penetration. Many women aren't, and I'd also venture to say that many of them have worked this out in their heterosexual relationships just fine. Again, it's hard to speak against the dominant discourse, and even a group of friends chatting casually amongst themselves may not always be truthful about their sexual lives.

I realize that your thoughts and feelings encompass a lot more than this, but I wanted to put the alternative viewpoint out there.

As to you feeling guilty about blocking that online acquaintance: It sounds like you clearly know that that was your right to do. How about using this as a small, easy way to give yourself permission to make a choice? Would it help to write down a pros and cons list of blocking him versus continuing to allow him access (too much access from the sounds of it) to your online life? Sometimes it helps people to see things written out clearly.

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Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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Hi Robin. It does make sense to me that if one group with a viewpoint is silenced, a different group with the same viewpoint will also be silenced. But it makes me wonder, where are all the male-bodied sex bloggers and educators that don't like or at least don't want PIV to dominate? Is it just that all the response to prescribed sexual scripts has so far been female-led, and there's a 'second wave' of diverse male sexualities waiting for their moment to shine?

(Sorry if I'm messing up with my 'women' 'men' terminology- I do try and be really aware of what I'm saying in those areas, but when I'm writing it can be a race to pin down all of a thought before I get caught up in the next one, and I kind of go to a less inclusive shorthand. I should go back once I'm done and think about it more.)

This morning I'm feeling too terrible about the 'choosing who to engage and not engage with' debate to think about it too hard... It's Father's Day here, it's only 11am and I've already recieved a whiny text from my dad's fiancee about how 'sad' it is that I won't contact him today, and my mother has rung his household up and given everyone that cares to listen an earful. I can't be bothered to type out the story, but I have a very bad relationship with my father, and he's been amazingly good at picking out girlfriends that do things like 'hate me forever the moment they see me' and 'smash glass ashtrays into his face when he tries to break up with them' (that second issue not done by the current one, fortunately). It's been acknowledged by my mother that he's been a poor father to me especially since the divorce, so I know for once it's not me being paranoid. (Also, I've blocked said 'friend' on some platforms and not others, and on one he's not blocked on he's comiserating with me about bad dads. So now I feel bad about still wanting him blocked.)

Now I'm wondering yet again how the hell I can manage to be such an awful little bitch when I've tried so hard to get on with everyone, and I'm worried about the fact that all my family live close together, and now when I visit, if I go out I'm going to be afraid of running into his family in public or worse, them coming round to hassle me. This is exactly how I felt when I was 13 and scared of going down to the shops in case I got beaten up for being... whatever it was people didn't like about me. I thought I left this behind when I finally got to London, but I just keep being dragged back, pushed into this child-shaped hole even though I've grown out of it.

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Robin Lee
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HI LittleRedWolf,

It's okay for you to use whatever language works for you. So long as it isn't insulting, of course. [Smile] After all, you're talking about yourself (and I think you identify as a woman).

Where are the vocal sexually empowered men? I'm not really sure. I can understand how it would be reassuring to know that they're out there rather than just knowing at a theoretical level that they probably are.

Father's Day is a tough day for many people. I'm sorry to hear that it's brought up so much for you. You're right, that child sized hole doesn't fit you anymore. [Smile] Family can be a pain in the butt to deal with, and while you may not always be able to control what they do, you can control what you do or how you react. Easier said than done, I know, but I thought I'd put it out there.

What can you do for yourself today that's nice, and just for you? Even something as simple as sitting down to read a favourite book?

--------------------
Robin

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LittleRedWolf
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The thing is, I don't react. I've just given up arguing or seeing them. They tend to find me when I'm in my hometown, or contact me to start arguments over the phone. I've made it really clear that I'm not interested in fighting about it all any more, but my dad will bring up to my mother things I did literally six years ago in order to try and show her what a horrible person I am. I honestly don't know what to do, because if I argue back I cause a huge blowup and they get to point out how it's all my fault, and if I don't, I get trampled all over, and I can't fight back against this reputation I have for being this selfish, heartless little wildcat. I really hoped I had left that behind when I moved, and I don't want it following me up to London.

I can't really just sit and do anything for myself today. I've got guests coming, a flat to clean, food to make and research for work to do.

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LittleRedWolf
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Also, yeah, I really really wish there were more examples of male writers/educators that held the same views as places like Scarleteen offer. If anybody knows of anywhere I could find that, that would be great. I don't think I have any straight male peers significantly in my life at the moment, and haven't for a long time, having gone to an all-female high school and choosing almost exclusively arts subjects in further education, which still all seem to have a 5:1 female:male ratio.
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