No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

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sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

I guess I need to explore more of what saying yes and saying no mean to me. I can definitely think of instances where I've been down to have sex for things like emotional closeness and a genuine curiosity just to see what it might be like this time. That's not necessarily traditional sexual "desire" but that is, I think, a valid desire to have sex. I need to get better at weeding out partnered circumstances like those, where "sure, why not?" feels curious and interesting, from circumstances when I'm simply too exhausted, or feeling too much pressure, or simply feeling too spaced out, to be genuinely curious to feel up to giving it a shot, and "sure, why not" is me convincing myself it's a good idea. I've never really experienced any desire of any kind when it comes to masturbation, whether traditional sexual desire or anything else, so that feels a little more like a clear cut "no" for now.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

More on the other stuff in a second, but first:

What if letting it go IS “getting it done?”

Just consider it. ;)
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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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

I agree with you, that trying to float with the sure-why-nots that feel about curiosity are a way to go, as are trying to steer clear of any that come from places that don't tend to be sources of good stuff: pressure to perform (personally, culturally), obligation, fear of not conforming or of not meeting standards or some kind of sexual deadlines, etc. Following what feels emotionally and intellectually good is for sure the way to go.
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
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Reading more in your first big response, I have another reading suggestion to add to Angela Chen's "Ace," which I still think would be a good one for you.

I still need to get more time with it myself, but I've seen enough to be pretty clear that Devon Price's "Laziness Does Not Exist" might also be a good one for you, and if you do Instagram, following The Nap Ministry might also be a goodie. In fact, one of the things you might add to the menu of the work you're doing here for yourself around pleasure might be seeing if you can't see how incorporating more rest-as-pleasure feels. (I, too, have spent a great deal of my several decades of life working myself to the bone and doing All The Things, so I know the signs all too well!)
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thanks, Heather!

That's a great point- I'm definitely working on reorienting and recognizing that letting go, resting, and giving things time is just as important, valuable and necessary as pushing them. I'd actually just heard of The Nap Ministry the other day but forgotten the name, so thank you for reminding me! I'm on a library hold list for Ace and now for Laziness Does Not Exist (ugh, but it's so much easier to get your hands on unhelpful media from the 70s, haha). I also really, really like the rest-as-pleasure idea as something to explore more. For example, trying to make sleep a more blissful and comfortable experience, just for me to enjoy (as someone who's had lifelong trouble with sleep) seems a whole lot more useful and potentially pleasurable than spending a bitter few hours trying to follow someone else's idea of what might produce solo sexual pleasure.

Thanks so much for helping me untangle this. I'm still working through the setbacks from that whole book experience, but this conversation has gotten me back on the right track and given me some really good ideas to work with.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

It really is my pleasure. I have my own challenges with letting go (as a Buddhist, attachment has definitely been my biggest challenge, even after working on it over decades!), so I can relate.

I really like the sound of this direction for you. “Try less” also sounds really healing to me — so often when you’ve been where you are sexually in our culture, there’s been a lot of toxic trying to force it, so I think anything that nurtures you in any flavor of rest, or literally leaving yourself be, is probably very good. And rest and sleep are very sensual/sensory experiences! What a luxury for our bodies and minds and senses, you know? If that doesn’t conform to someone else’s notions of “sensual” or “sexual” enough, to hell with them. Truly. Their loss!
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank you! I totally agree.

I think I used to think of "letting go" as something easy, because I'm very, very good at distancing myself from a situation. That's good for being calm and composed in every possible emergency, but not so good for having a good worthwhile day-to-day life. Trying less while still being present really is a delicate balance when my most frequently used settings are "push with all I've got" and "mentally float very, very far away". Learning to stay present with sensual pleasure is something I've been working on for a while, but being present and aware of rest, in particular, and watching it happen, sounds like a really good (challenging but fruitful) place for me to go.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Letting go can absolutely be the hardest thing, and for sure, it's a very different thing, letting go and still being present, than say, dissociating or compartmentalizing. Good luck with it! I'll be right there trying with you!
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank you! <3
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Heather (and all the rest of the lovely Scarleteam)!

I've done a lot more thinking these past few days about the shades of "sure-why-not" that have made me say yes to (solo or partnered) sex, and the difference between times where I feel more up to it and times where, in retrospect, I should have said no and honored that I was feeling sick or tired, but instead I end up feeling resentful and lonely and like I've let myself down by making a mistake. (Those times are consensual, they are no one's fault, and disappointments and mistakes happen to everybody. Adjusting my boundaries and learning when to say no is squarely my responsibility, and I would never blame my partner for my choices.)

I'm getting really uncomfortable reflecting on these things because it's making me look at the current of bitterness and resentment about sex I've got shot through me. I'm seeing my partner for a few days this coming week, and I suspect the mounting internal pressure of worrying about sex for several weeks in advance while planning this trip has drawn out the worst of it. The amount of pressure I feel thinking about sex in any way the past few weeks is in "curl up and want to shrivel and disappear off the planet" territory. I know that actually being in a room with my partner, enjoying their presence and company, I'd feel more at ease, but the constant awful feeling when thinking about it from afar is really getting to me.

What's worse is that I tried to communicate something about this to my partner and he was understanding, but also felt really hurt. I kept reiterating that this was about me and the pressure I put on myself, and that my choices are entirely my responsibility, and that I was just trying to sort out my difficult feelings, but it still felt to him like something *he* had done had hurt me, and it's a particular insecurity for him to feel like no matter how hard he tries he'll be seen as gross and hurtful. It wasn't an argument, no one is mad, but we both feel a lot of hurt right now, and feeling that I've hurt my partner in the way I've tried to sort this out for myself is absolutely awful. I tend to follow the "the best person to talk to about your relationship is the person you're in a relationship with" rule to a T, but maybe I should have untangled this with somebody else.

The thought of sex makes me shrivel up and want to hide. I know that's pressure from trip planning which internally feels like some sort of obligation to me (not because anyone is forcing me to do anything- it just feels like an internal expectation). But thinking about it, and weighing a lot of my past experiences and the way I've been thinking about (or avoiding thinking about them), the really scary uncomfortable truth is that I'm not happy with it.

I have felt annoyed about the sex we have and the way I don't particularly care for it or enjoy it. There's a lot in the mix there that can be fixed: our explorations so far have been 90% focused on him and his pleasure, I guess because I don't get any anyway so what's the point? But I think balancing that out could help and I've already asked for that: more time for figuring me and my pleasure out. He's been very willing, but something in me that I want to repress still feels annoyed and hurt about our past mistakes. There's also facets of the particular acts we've tended to engage in that cause me discomfort (to put it graphically, I involuntarily gag violently every time I swallow) and seeing as it's an act I otherwise feel pretty neutral about, that dread of great unpleasantness probably isn't helping me feel good about sex. It's something we've started to talk about but no steps have been taken besides "we'll work on it," which mostly feels like *I* need to work on not gagging when he finishes. Secretly, I hate how much my experience has been about minimizing discomfort and pain rather than finding enjoyment. There are also a few particular "in retrospect, that should have been a no" experiences that are really getting to me- times when I was simply too sleepy or too sick and should have said no, and engaging in something unpleasant and not feeling adequately appreciated afterwards (for example, when we were in a rush immediately after and he left as I was brushing my teeth) are really sticking to me. All these things are my choices and my responsibility, and mistakes happen. That's how we learn. So how can I stop feeling so bitter and dissatisfied (and so scared of the fact I feel so bitter and dissatisfied) about it?

I don't know, Heather. I feel like I've made mistakes and caused hurt in trying to talk about it. I feel like any revisit to the topic will probably just cause more hurt, and for what benefit? I just feel so much hurt myself, most of all because feeling things like bitterness and resentment towards my favorite person in the world are really, really scary.

How can I clear out all these negative feelings that absolutely terrify me? I've always done my best not to look at them or think about them because they're scary to have but now I'm trying to honor them and give them space. I'm just not sure what I have to do in order to banish them, and they're really causing me a lot of mental anguish.

Thank you. <3
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

I guess I don't know for sure that I'm entirely bitter and resentful with my partner specifically or about those mistakes specifically. Maybe it's just with the way things are. I talk to friends who are having fun in their sex lives and I envy them and I wish I were different. It makes me feel sick even though I know it's immature, because I want the things that just exist easily for some and not for me. I resent myself and the way I don't know how to enjoy anything sexually or create any kind of enjoyment for myself. Not knowing how to pleasure myself feels like a big thing to be missing, and one that makes me reliant on other people (not that I know how to do much better with other people). It makes me feel like I'm just not trying even though I know I've been trying my whole life. I don't really know. It's a consistent thread of stuff that makes me feel bad that I've been tuning out whenever I can, and now I'm tuning in and forcing myself to pay attention to it, and I'm just feeling a lot of hurt and I'm having a hard time untangling it all.
Siân
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Siân »

Hi sandpiper,

Learning what "no" feels like for us can definitely be a process, and it's definitely tricky to come to terms with realising that we've not always acted in line with what we *actually* want. In general, I find that understanding "no" is easier when we know what "yes" feels like for us - can you think of any times where you were feeling a "yes" being sexual with your boyfriend, and what was present there then that you can use as a benchmark to check against?

It sounds like you need something other than "we'll work on it" from your boyfriend, since YOU are clearly doing a lot of work here and by the sounds of it not getting a huge amount of reward from it. What if going into this trip you agree to take certain things off the table? What WOULD you enjoy doing with your time together? What happens if you focus on that? Perhaps you don't want to be sexual at all, perhaps you want to cook and dance and shower together, perhaps you'd like to exchange massages and other touch without anyone's orgasm on the table. You get to look for the things that make you feel "yes" and skip the ones that bring out a "no" for you.

One small example: if you don't like it when your boyfriend comes in your mouth then ask him not to. It's perfectly reasonable (and common!) to give someone oral sex and ask for a warning when they are about to come so you can decide where to direct their ejaculation - whether it's your mouth, a tissue, or just letting it go where it feels like and cleaning up after.

I get that it's more than that one small act, and that this is confusing and painful for both of you, but you don't need to make yourself feel awful (and keep building up resentment) to spare your boyfriend's feelings.

There's a lot more in here, and perhaps others will chime in, but before going further into it I'd like you to take a moment to reflect on what "yes" feels like, and what you DO want from your trip.

You've done a good job of spotting a lot of the hurt and feelings you've been repressing, and we can talk about them some more too if you like.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

I think Siân got you started with some good stuff here, but I want to add one more thing.

It sounds like a LOT of your sexual life has been focused on your partner's wants and needs. It also sounds like a lot of it has centered his pleasure more than yours, it really does. So, it may well be that he is feeling some hurt and hard feelings about this because what he may be feeling somewhere is wither some of that continued entitlement (which is what, let's just be real about it, men centering themselves sexually in relationships with women, nonbinary people or bottoms is), or in fact some GUILT about it, or a combination of both.

You're not responsible for your partner's feelings or for processing them: he is. You're only responsible for your feelings. I also wouldn't try and get rid of his feelings! He needs to have them and sort them out. And here's hoping that he does! No matter what, the dynamics of your sexual relationship need to change to better fit your sexuality -- it has clearly not worked in that regard from the start, and I doubt it would have for any partner of your partner from the sound of things, because it just won't when one person centers themselves and their sexuality so much. But too, he needs to take some responsibility for that entitlement, and needs to realize the way that his actions have had a poor effect on your sexual life and sexuality the way that you've been accounting for how your choices and actions have been, you know? That's a healthy and important process for him and your relationship, not something to avoid, make sense?
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank you, Heather and Siân! You've both made a lot of really helpful points, and talking about this has helped clear my mind a little. I definitely plan to have another conversation with my boyfriend (in person this week) about the adjustments that need to happen.

Thank you both as always for your help and your support! <3
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Glad to be here for you in this!
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi all! It's been a couple more weeks and I thought I would stop by and give an update.

The trip went really well. It was my first time being back with my partner since I started posting here and digging deep into learning about my sexuality. Through the day of the trip, I was still feeling really anxious, nauseous, and resentful. As soon as we were back together, though, we cuddled to reconnect and talked about everything that's been bothering me, including some of his reactions to our most recent text conversation on the matter. We talked about how the societal scripts that encourage us to center men's pleasure by default have shaped the way our sexual life has been, and that that needs to change. I told him everything I had been feeling, and he listened and was understanding and kind. We talked about how he had been feeling too.

Since this is the first time we've seen each other in a while, this trip was also our first chance to implement months of observations (like things we've noted that I like and that make me feel particularly comfortable, and vice versa).

And through that entire week, that talk DID manifest in action! There was a lot of cuddling and a lot of full body touch. We slowed down a lot more. I got some practice saying "no" and "not yet" and "how about this way instead". I initiated a lot more. In the past, I knew presence and connection were important, but I understood these in a rather passive way, like: cool, I'm present, this is happening to me, now what? But this time I felt much more aware of my responsibility to be an active party, not someone things just happen to. During that first kiss I had the thought "I am my tongue", which was honestly a really transformative revelation. I don't just exist up here in my brain: I exist in all the parts of me, and I can move "me" down from my brain into my mouth and the rest of my body to act and to feel. I'm here to do things, not just to be passively present and aware of what is done to me.

We did a lot more things that were my idea, and made changes to eliminate things I don't love. To revisit one gritty example, I swallowed only once- out of my own curiosity as to how it might feel this time, which turned out to still be a violent gagging experience, and we both laughed it off- and he finished in other places the other times, which was great. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, we spent time working and eating together, we slept together, we watched a movie, we went bowling, we tried kohlrabi. We were still both working from home full-time, but I've never gotten to spend so much time with my partner, and all of that quality time felt really, really good. I felt so enormously happy and comfortable to be spending so much quality time with my favorite person and to feel like my pleasure and experience are centered too. We also made time to discuss the past experiences that shape both of us in these spheres.

One other interesting thing about that week is that a close friend gifted me a bullet vibrator. We broke into it together. THAT has certainly been a new experience. My experience with it so far has involved a lot of "hmm, I'm not feeling very much" and then finding the teeny tiny spot or angle that feels like a LOT, and in a few seconds it slips away somehow or I can't stay on it anymore, like a hand in boiling water. I've also noticed that I enjoyed it MUCH more when trying it with my partner. Trying it on my own is pretty boring, I rarely find one of those spots, and I just don't feel super into it, which I think tracks to my experience of just not having desire for solo sex. So that has been really interesting, and I think it will be a useful tool to have in the box (hah) going forward.

It's really interesting to me to see my total transformation in mindset and interest in sex and sexuality when I'm with my partner and I feel comfortable and centered. Spending the week with him, not even just in sexually intimate moments, but just in quality time, I could feel that all my anxieties and resentment and worry about sex were on another planet. I felt happy and cared for. It's only when I've been alone for a while that my mind gets back to worrying, since I just don't feel any desire or arousal at all by myself, and that starts to feel like that's the way it always is and will be, even though intellectually, I know now that my environment and who I'm with makes a big difference for me. It's like when I'm alone my brain gets bored and gets to ruminating about things like "you're not enjoying it ENOUGH" or "you've never had an orgasm" or "you don't remember what feeling up to sex feels like so you must not be able to feel it ever again". But I know that I felt really good last week, and this is just my anxious brain, and that there is nothing wrong with feeling good about sex in particular settings and not being interested elsewhere, even if that means I'm just not super into masturbation.

I've been apart from my partner for five days now and I miss him like hell. I don't know if I've ever felt this way before; I'm not someone who ever really "misses" people emotionally, even if intellectually I know I would enjoy being with them. I feel really attracted to him on several levels and really happy about how things are between us, and I miss him.

I'm also about halfway through Angela Chen's Ace! I've really enjoyed it and found it validating. I identify with the narrator, who's not sex repulsed, and does like to engage in sex with loving partners, but who doesn't understand or relate to the way non-ace people talk about sexual attraction and desire. Something that feels particularly good to read about: there is no pure "gold star" asexual experience. It's okay if I resonate with asexual experiences even if I'm always worrying that something like my particular mental health or my past experiences might have "caused" it, making it invalid somehow. All of our experiences interact to create all of our preferences and proclivities, and that doesn't make them any less valid. As someone who's always identified with asexuality but always shied away from the label because I'm scared my experiences don't fit one narrow definition, or that I'll change someday so this will be invalid, or that I "caused" my asexuality somehow, so it isn't real... this has been a really good read. Thanks, Heather, for the recommendation! It's something I've discussed with my partner, which has felt really supportive and interesting to talk about.

I don't have any questions right now, I just wanted to stop by with an update, because I'm really incredibly grateful for all the guidance and help I've been receiving here and I guess all the readers of this thread might be invested ;). I very well may come back to this thread with more questions at some point, but right now I feel like I'm in a place that's so much better than it was just a month ago, and that it's only going to get better from here.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Sandpiper! I am just now reading this, and I am so thrilled and delighted for you! I know there are still some anxieties and some confusions and ups and downs, but there is so much good stuff in here, and on the whole, this all sounds so good, and so much like things are set on a better direction for you both on your own and in your relationship! This just made my whole day. I'm also so glad that book has been a good fit for you. I had an inkling it might be. :)

I don't know what else to say, because I'm just grinning ear to ear over here, so full of joy for you at the sound of how LIGHTENED you sound compared to how you came in, where this, your sexuality, all of it was clearly such a burden to you. This is just wonderful, and I'm so grateful you generously shared all of this with us. Thank you. <3
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank YOU, Heather! (And everyone else who has pitched in here!) Sorry, this post slipped through the cracks for a few days for me, but I'm so beyond grateful for all the support I've found here, and I hope you're having a lovely week!

<3
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Heather (and everyone else)! Happy 69th post in this thread, haha!

It's been a couple more weeks and I'm realizing now as I write this post that I'm afraid I may have strayed away from the ethos of "try less".

You see, a month ago I was gifted a bullet vibrator. I've made time to practice with it about 1-2x per week since then, in 50-60 minute sessions- cumulatively about 8 hours over a month, per the battery charge time.

It's certainly more interesting than masturbating without equipment. Whereas with just my hands I can put in hours on hours and feel absolutely nothing, like stroking an ankle or elbow, an hour with a vibrator definitely yields a cumulative few minutes of feeling something more. The problem is it goes like this: long swathes of feeling bored and feeling not much at all, just the physical feeling of vibrating but nothing pleasurable or intense, and then once every 5 or 10 minutes I might hit the tiny head of my clitoris at just the right angle to feel really intense mounting discomfort. It's never been explicitly pleasurable more than uncomfortable, except once for about one or two mild seconds. It's not comfortable. It feels unbearably tense. It ends either with me jerking my hand away or clamming shut like someone yanking their hand out of boiling water, or occasionally it just disappears back to boredom, maybe due to small involuntary movements I'm not noticing that change the placement a little. Sometimes it feels like there might be a hint of pleasure in there somewhere with the discomfort but I'm unsure, and much of the time I'm pretty sure it's just plain unpleasant. I don't have a reliable technique to get there, and as the hour wears on my body cringes away from my touch more and more as it fears the unpleasant intensity to come, so they get spaced farther apart. By the end of the hour every touch is often unpleasant, even the lightest finger touch, things are numb, I'm angry with myself, and so on.

I talked with the friend who gifted me the vibrator lately to ask her how many weeks of practice it took her to get the hang of the thing. She said it was definitely pleasurable from the first use, no practice required, and that a whole hour is madness, and she never takes more than 10-15 minutes.

I've been thinking about it and I'm inclined to admit she has a point. I guess I internalized an hour as a good amount of time since I don't have any clue of how much I might need, and I really want to give it my best shot and give myself plenty of time, and also I have a tendency to keep going and going with things even as marginal returns diminish to oblivion because I don't really know when to stop. It's like scraping the oatmeal off a burnt pot, you know? You never really know when to stop scraping and start soaking it or try something else. Maybe some people's saucepans have an orgasm or some other indicator of satisfaction that lets them stop, but yours doesn't, so you just sort of keep going. This metaphor is silly, but I think you see what I mean: I put in a lot of time because I hope that will let me get more out, but really I just get more worn out and nauseous and uncomfortable.

I inadvertently ended up trying with the vibrator for just 15 minutes today. I was pleased with the way that I had way less of an hours-long "masturbation hangover" than all the times I've gone for an hour; all those times I'll spend at least an hour or two afterwards headachey and dissociated, brain foggy and vaguely bitter and annoyed with myself. I'm still feeling frustrated and annoyed for hours after with the sheer nothing of those rather boring 15 minutes, but it's a smaller chunk of time to be mad about losing, and I can recognize that a practice-this-skill-often, goal-oriented mindset that leaves me angry about not getting enough out of a session isn't great.

But it's also just... so annoying. It's something I want to be good at and it seems like it happens naturally to everybody and that they're enjoying it and here I am, putting in hours of equipment-assisted poking around that always leaves me feeling "that wasn't worth the time and now my head hurts".

Does anyone have any advice or similar experiences? I was thinking maybe I'm just not thinking about it right or being grateful or paying attention or something and maybe that mounting discomfort is supposed to be pleasure and I'm just not accepting it somehow, but I just don't like it. I have to give myself little pep talks to gear up to moving into more sensitive zones and trying to feel something more than "alright, I'm vibrating". In the moment, my body feels dread and cringes away. I'm using the lowest setting of a cheap CVS bullet vibrator. I've tried through cloth, direct contact, hours of all sorts of points and angles. It just hasn't been any good. I'm bored and uninterested and occasionally there's discomfort. I never feel any physical desire for stimulation getting started, besides "well, I haven't done that in a while, I forget what it feels like". That's why I can't really make myself do it more than once every 5-7 days: any more frequent and I just remember it and my body cringes and says no thank you.

Any way I write this post it feels like I'm asking permission to stop doing something that seems like it isn't developing towards a point where the time feels worthwhile. But I don't want to give up on it because I want to give it a shot and I want it to work well for me. I never enjoyed or desired equipment-less masturbation. I guess simply adding more stimulation to my usual "bored with no independent desire for masturbation" state doesn't really help anything. I guess I want guidance, practical advice (maybe there are just better toys?), and advice on whether and how to keep this up. I definitely think shorter sessions are much more manageable: they cost me less time in the practice and FAR less time in the headache and brain fog and discomfort afterwards, so I think, at the very least, I might work on stopping myself earlier. It's just so hard to accept and stop when it feels like it hasn't been worth my time yet, you know? Like gambling: alright, the time and money I've spent here so far haven't been worth it, but if I go just a little longer...

What do you think? I know I had a lot of fun seeing my partner, and the vibrator was an interesting tool to try and experiment with together, so I suspect maybe I should just let it go and come back to it in that context where I feel loved and cared for and appreciated and relaxed, and see if I like it better. I just feel a duty to be "working on" masturbation, as a way of exploring my own sexuality and giving myself pleasure and learning how I can experience physical pleasure and convey those instructions to a partner. Masturbation is the cornerstone of any "how to learn to like sex" sort of resource out there, but I guess trying to carry it out without genuine motivation and desire for it, more just for "practice" to try to make things happen that I know won't happen, probably isn't productive.

I remember from last month that there are so many things about being with my partner that are infinitely better than anything I could do alone, especially with adjustments we've discussed. Even without one specific type of physical pleasure leading to orgasm, I have fun with him. He makes me feel special and loved. I like to spend time sharing attention and touch with him. I know I don't need to "work on" this to make that fulfilling, and also that his touch with the right context that feels caring and safe, which we've worked on cultivating, is so many more times more fun than my own touch, in my solo nervous and annoyed context, on my own. I just can't help but want to get more out of it physically like it seems so many people do, and I feel like I'm not putting in the work if I'm not putting in the time on my own in this specific form.

I know there are other things I'm doing this summer in exploring my sexuality that VERY much feel worth the time: having conversations with my partner and here, doing lots of thinking and reading, and so on. I'm just frustrated I haven't gotten masturbation to work for me and feel at all worth the time when it's made out to be the necessary path to improvement everywhere I look.
Urna
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Urna »

Hello sandpiper!

Happy 70th post in this thread! I read through it, and I'm so happy for you and your progress, and all the wonderful exploring-sexuality things that await you this summer.

I'm sorry that solo masturbation has become a task more than anything, for you. You wrote out your thoughts about the whole frustrating process so beautifully, and I think the saucepan metaphor is just brilliant. I hear you about how sex ed resources everywhere emphasize masturbation as the path to improvement, I know how irritating (at best) and demoralizing (at worst) it can be to hear that when it isn't going the same way for you. Like you've said in a previous post on this thread, this is most often a result of putting too much pressure on oneself, which leaks all the joy and spontaneity out of masturbation and turns it into a perfunctory thing that we do to get from point A to point B. Bodies are also super diverse, and genital pleasure is just as diverse.

Since there's a lot of annoyance tied to the whole process for you, I think it may just be best to lay off of masturbation for a little while, and look forward to sessions with your partner instead, because you said that those are super fulfilling. It makes complete sense that sexual response comes easier in the loving, exciting atmosphere that you build together with your partner. At those times, you don't bother about calculating the amount of pleasure you're feeling and whether that's equivalent to the stimulation you're giving yourself. Would you agree?
<3333
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Urna!

Thanks for reading and empathizing and for your advice! Yes, I agree. "Perfunctory" is exactly it. It's just not something I ever really want or feel up to. Yesterday I was spontaneously curious to give it a try, and it felt a little more relaxed and low-key in being spontaneous until about 30 seconds in, when it returned to the usual "ugh, alright, I'm doing this now even though it doesn't feel interesting or fun, the usual, what an ordeal". Maybe even a benchmark way shorter than 15 minutes- maybe at first "ugh"- would be a useful stopping point here. That being within the first minute, I agree that maybe I should just give up on this specific front for the next month or until I'm particularly inclined to pick it up again.

I guess I just feel a little odd and pathetic that I just can't make this thing- masturbation- work that seems to work for most everyone out there and is prescribed as a good, healthy, useful way to learn about oneself and have interesting and fun experiences, you know? My impulse is "I must not be trying hard enough" even though I am realizing now that I guess many other people's experiences (like just "getting it" with a vibrator immediately with no practice) really do line up with "try less" being the only way to do it rather than "try as hard as I can for as long as doesn't make me super sick". Giving that up, though, is just a frustrating powerless thing.
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, sandpiper. It's good to see you, though I'm sorry that we're largely seeing you because you're feeling frustrated.

I gotta tell you, I am not at all here for the framework of "learning to like sex." Same goes for the idea that masturbation is something anyone has to do, or that is ever required in any way.

Here's the thing: expressing our sexualities -- physically or in any other way -- is OPTIONAL. It's supposed to be a choice. It's also supposed to be an expression of something that comes from us, rather than something we learn to do for someone else, from some other script, to please or perform, or to meet any kind of external standard or expectation. If it doesn't feel like it's coming from us in some way, then it just isn't ours, it isn't about us, and it isn't going to be right for us.

By all means, sometimes figuring out what our sexuality is and how to express it -- and how to enjoy doing that alone and/or with others -- comes easier for some folks than others, for sure, and if and when any or all of those things aligns with culturally normative frameworks and expectations...well, it's obviously easier. But IMHO, even when figuring any or all of this out involves effort and experimentation, none of it should feel like labor and it shouldn't be something that makes you feel sick, or is a chore, or a drag or ordeal. It also shouldn't feel like something you are doing because you HAVE to.

You describe some times when you are exploring things -- be that about dance and movement, or touch with your partner or this vibrator -- from places of curiosity, joy, pleasure, intimacy. Those are motivations that come from and can lead you to the good stuff. If ever those subside, that's the time to change things up or stop: again, none of this is required, so when we stop feeling the good ways, that can be a cue to stop engaging in sexual things, that's all. There's no "right" amount of time to be sexual, after all, nor is it required everyone is sexual until orgasm (this, too, is an external cultural standard). Ultimately, what we want to go for is to be sexual for as long as it feels good and as long as we want to: that's it. If that's an hour, cool. If that's two minutes, cool.

I also feel like something getting in your way is comparing your experience to what you think the experiences of others are like. Not only does a lot get lost in translation (it really does), but I just don't think that's helpful, and tends to be one of those things that inclines us to try and be like other people instead of trying to find out what our unique sexuality is like, you know?

How is all of this landing with you?
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hey Heather!

You're totally right. This does feel like a step back for me with all the frustration and getting annoyed with myself for how I am.

I think I certainly have plenty of "It's been a few days, I wonder what this might be like" curiosity that gets me started in these solo practices, but since within a few minutes or less it feels like a familiar and disappointing ordeal, I should probably cut it off at that point or sooner. Because I'm curious and I want it to be a fun thing, you know? And then I get started and it just isn't so it becomes annoying and discouraging.

I do often try to be cognizant with comparison since I know it's not really helpful. Here, though, I think it was actually kind of a helpful check to stop myself and think, "do I REALLY need to be trying this hard and for this long" to hear others' experiences and how they're focused on ease rather than labor.

I guess you're right it's something I'm trying to learn to fulfill some external script, and not something I ever worried about while single. (But then, I simply never thought about sexuality and I didn't realize how much it's an important facet of life for so many people, didn't really realize or think about how it was a source of pleasure and connection and good things for many people, etc. So this isn't necessarily about feeling the need to be a certain way within a certain relationship, as much as that was a catalyst to actually thinking about and paying attention to sexuality in society at large and feeling like I'm missing something that could be fun, meaningful, and so on.)

How do I stop feeling like I'm missing something?
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

You know, the thing that feels the closest to my version of what you're experiencing with this is my choosing not to parent. So, I'm going to talk about that for a minute in this vein.

I actually really like kids and young people, more than a lot of people, even. More than a lot of parents! And I know that because I've actually spent a really tremendous amount of time in my life *with* kids and young people: teaching them, advocating for them, just hanging out with them. I like being in other kinds of relationship with them, and those kinds of relationships have felt right, and like a good fit.

I have had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me I should parent. Mind, most of those people don't realize my body doesn't like to complete that process and makes me very sick trying, AND that I have trauma around that and parents AND that my socioeconomics have always been such that that would be an issue, period, PLUS no one should just say that shit to people, period, because this stuff is loaded and private for so many people, but I digress. I know that a lot of people want to parent, and that a lot of people ARE parents. I know that many of those people consider it something that is integral to life, and something you are massively missing out on if you don't do, even to the point they consider you an incomplete person. Truly. Our culture certainly does. (Sound familiar?)

All this given, even though I'm smart and know my own mind, my own abilities and limitations, my own heart, my own nature, as well as knowing what's about cultural pressures and norms, of course I've still worried sometimes I *am* missing out, and have spent time thinking about all this being sure I'm not, rethinking my choices, the whole thing. But every time I do that, I come around to the same place, which is that I am myself. Plain and simple. And I can't be missing out on expressions of self or life choices or ways of being that are about who a person is that aren't me.

I am honestly very, very glad that I have trusted myself with this and just worked to find my own way with it, creating the kinds of relationships and interactions with kids and young people that have felt right for me, and have felt...about me, right for the person I am. I don't think I'm missing out on someone else's life, because I feel like...I wouldn't be able to be myself in that life, you know?

I really do feel confident that whatever your sexuality is, it's the right thing for you and who you are, and is going to be the sexuality that is more likely to bring you pleasure and joy than what is working for other people with THEIR sexualities, much in the same way. Flatly, some of those folks for whom things are working now are likely to find themselves in the spot you are later because some of them probably are still not even *at* finding out what their own sexualities are yet, and are still just going through the motions, but just feeling enough adrenaline and other things to still have fun with that for now. That's pretty common when people are younger, just like it's common for that to wear off for folks after a handful of years and for them to come to a place like this and ask why things stopped getting exciting and then I'm suggesting exactly the same kinds of things for them I have been for you.

Catching my drift here?
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
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Yes!

Thank you for sharing about your experiences with not being a parent and the things people and culture have to say about it. I know that's something very personal and I really appreciate you sharing it with me to help me understand an experience with parallels. It really is helpful. <3

I do definitely see what you're saying.

It does make me feel better to view this such that many other young people might seem to have it "figured out" not because I'm not working as hard as they are, or I did something wrong that they didn't do, but just because they simply happen to be naturally posited in a place where this feels more exciting for them by default without any self-knowledge (for now) than it does for me. In a way, that makes me more thankful and appreciative that I'm starting to actively sort this out now instead of gliding along feeling satisfied until things break down.

I tend to have a hard time confidently defending that things are and aren't for me, and trusting my experience enough to identify with. I definitely have always put too much stock in what others have to say (wanting validation and asking for permission, internalizing things from seeming authorities like parents/teachers/authors/bosses even when they feel wrong for me) and it's something I really need to work on: stepping into and owning my experiences as unapologetically truthful because they happen to me and I'm here to know it. Does that make sense? I guess I have a really hard time dismissing others' experiences that are different from mine, and not feeling like I'm missing something, and even just a hard time dismissing advice that isn't right for me, because I don't trust myself to be right and be doing things in the way that's right for me. Thank you for guiding me towards this connection. The problem isn't that I'm unlike the others I'm comparing myself to: it's the way I can't shake the feeling that they're right (for me) and I'm wrong (for me).
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