No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Any questions or discussions that you ONLY want to discuss with our staff or volunteers.
(Users: please do not reply to other users here.)
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Do you have any advice or ideas for how to get better at that? It's something I've recognized and started to try to work on in other parts of life, but it's just hard to keep acting (and remembering to act) in line with what a person who believes themselves might to, when I just... don't. I'm sure it gets better with practice and time and I'm just starting out here (like, it is still so tricky for me to say "I don't need labels but asexuality is one that always has felt right to me and my experiences" or, from today, "my parents and my 9th grade health teacher all expressed dislike of NSAID use and suggested simply eating more turmeric, but that's not something that works for me and I'm going to take an Advil because I am in a ton of pain". As you can see, I'm trying but I'm still in an early place where I'm just starting to recognize this tendency cropping up in places where I hadn't realized it was hurting me.)
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Time, totally time. I know that's a bit of a lousy answer, but I do think that time and practice have a lot to do with it.

I also think doing what you can to keep your eyes on the actual prize, which in your case is really trying to stay focused on YOU and trying to explore and experience and express YOUR sexuality. Like, literally, stay following your bliss, and do what you can to keep trying to learn that when you start to experience these feelings of frustration, resentment, obligation, things feeling rote, perfunctory...learning to turn away from them. Really, all of that turning away from the yuck is what helps keep leading you towards your yum, you know?

I know that it's hard. None of us lives in a world that tells us that our intuition is right, especially when our intuition and gut feelings are telling us the opposite of what culture is telling us, or the opposite of what might seem like would make our lives easier, et cetera. But when you have these reactions to things that are "yuck," you really can trust them, and it serves you best here TO trust them.
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
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank you. I know you're right and I'll get better at this with time. It might have taken me a month here to realize "huh, maybe this particular forced unenjoyable habit is not helpful and maybe this is not for me" but I hope with practice and time I'll get better at recognizing "this feels bad, so this isn't for me" a lot faster. I guess reflecting and checking in more diligently to recognize "this isn't fun" quickly, with staying present and active in my choices as we've discussed (and not just with a partner) goes hand in hand with being able to see that and say "this might be right for someone else, but it isn't right for me". Thank you. <3
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

I am so sorry that it asks for so much patience over so much time. What you're going through isn't something I've been through, but there are other ways I can absolutely relate -- things I've dealt with around ability and disability, around figuring my way around my sexuality or my heart after abuse or as a survivor of abuse, or even just with ways bodies and sexuality change over a lifetime. I think I've perhaps been helped in coming up in the fuck-you punk era of things, which I do think makes what you're talking about a bit easier: I think that for a lot of reasons, kicking off conformity or the messages of conformity really can be a lot harder in this era, and my hat's off to you for fighting this fight for yourself! <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
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thank you!!!!!! :)
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi all!

I've got a quick question about the pelvic floor and how/whether muscles are supposed to be tense or relaxed in response to sexual stimulation. I feel like I'm always walking around either my pelvic muscles in "closed" mode, with a certain tightness that isn't noticeable or at all painful, just the setting they're constantly on, and then when I try to urinate I always have to take several seconds to breathe and focus and try to relax those muscles into more of an "open" mode enough to let urine out. It's never been a major issue or cause of pain in my life, but that having to stop for several seconds to really concentrate and try to relax doesn't match what I've heard from others, and I'm not sure that it's normal.

Thinking about that lately has made me think about how physically clammed and closed the muscles are there during sexual stimulation, especially if it's dragging on and becoming uncomfortable and my body is cringing away from it more. I know people sometimes describe certain parts of their sexual response cycle as "feeling like they have to pee", which I've never understood at all, but now I'm wondering whether those muscles that I'm holding kind of tightly all the time but especially sexually are relaxed for those people / are supposed to be relaxed. When I really concentrate on trying to relax them, yeah, it definitely kind of feels like I have to pee, regardless of touch, and touch just kind of intensifies that odd sensation. I'm not sure whether exploring trying to relax them like this more is a useful direction or something useless or harmful to my body.

Obviously no one here has seen or felt my pelvic floor and no one here is my medical provider. Beyond that, though, I'm wondering if anyone has any general feedback (or resources) on whether / how much those muscles are supposed to be tight or relaxed during sex, what happens if they're not tight/relaxed enough in terms of feeling, and whether anything here seems abnormal. Thank you! <3
valerie4
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:07 pm
Age: 24
Primary language: English
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: Queer and/or nonbinary lesbian
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by valerie4 »

Hi sandpiper,

Like you said, no one here is a medical provider but I am someone with experience being in pelvic floor physical therapy so maybe I can share some of my own experiences because I have experienced some of the stuff you're dealing with. I think your instict to explore relaxation is a VERY good one. I think starting with breathing exercises just for your whole body is a really good place to start. Practicing getting your body relaxed in a neutral setting (non-sexual and non-pressured) is important for getting your pelvic muscles to feel more relaxed in those settings.

But before even going into the specifics of relaxing those muscles, because its sometimes really difficult to know how to relax those specific muscles, I would recommend some stretching! Your pelvic floor is just like all the other muscles in your body in that you can stretch it to help. Here are some Stretches Recommended For Pelvic Floor problems (do try to ignore the extremely gendered language, these apply to all people with pelvic floor issues!). In addition to that, try stretching the muscles that surround your pelvic floor like your thighs, hamstrings, butt, etc. Muscles surrounding a tight muscle might also be contributing to that tightness.

Now this is not a blanket statement that can be applied to all muscle tightness or pain because sometimes our bodies are just like that BUT in my case, part of the reason I have tightness and pelvic floor pain is because I am tense a lot. I am contracting my muscles when I don't realize it. I have chronic pain, anxiety, and trauma in relation to sex while also being somewhere on the ace spectrum, so there are a lot of things causing me to tense up. The pain is part of it. And I've noticed that when I am uncomfortable around a topic of sex or actually trying something out, I tend to contract the muscles. So some of that is dealt with intentional relaxation exercises or stretching but some of that is also dealt with by removing myself from the situation that is making me uncomfortable.

You mentioned that you've noticed " how physically clammed and closed the muscles are there during sexual stimulation, especially if it's dragging on and becoming uncomfortable and [your] body is cringing away from it more." I think it makes a lot of sense that your body is tensed up in a situation that is not your ideal spot (meaning you're uncomfortable). Your body is letting you know that maybe it might be a could idea to take a break. Unless you are intentionally trying to practice something you want to be more comfortable in, I think its important to listen to the messages your body is sending you. If you are repeatedly in sexual situations that are making you uncomfortable, maybe try taking a break. Don't force it. Especially because if your body is repeatedly responding in this tense manner it might become more of an issue. My body responded to its trauma and that is part of why I have pelvic floor pain. So I think that its important to note that your brain's response to situations 100% impacts your body's response.

This is entirely coming from my personal experience being in a spot you are in right now, but I've noticed a lot of your posts you've mentioned putting yourself out of your comfort zone for the sake of you partner (I know you've talked about this with Heather!). I guess one thing I would like to add to that conversation is, are you considering the impact that has on your mind and your body? You shouldn't have to put yourself in an uncomfortable and possibly upsetting situation to help someone else explore their pleasure desires. I know you know this so I wont go on about it but I just want to highilight, it awesome you noticed this problem in the first place. It means you really are becoming attuned to your body's needs (I didn't know my pelvic floor was tensed until someone told me!). So trust your instincts in trying to take care of yourself.

If you have access to it, I would definitely recommend trying to find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, especially one that is trauma-informed and LGBTQA+ friendly. There's lots of stuff you can do on your own but if you find yourself wanting more assistance this would be the route I would suggest.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Best,
Val
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Val!

Thank you so so much for your response! It really resonated a lot with me, and I'm going to start with trying those stretches.

I definitely carry around a lot of body tension everywhere all the time. I was raised to always be sucking in my stomach, by glutes are near always tensed when standing for some reason, and I just feel a lot of tense muscles in my body day-to-day. Even just sitting here writing this I can feel random tension through my glutes and legs, which every few seconds I notice and try to let go of and then I get distracted and it comes back. It's the thing I just fundamentally can't get right with dancing even with years of trying: it is so hard for me to loosen up, and my instinct is to try to "perform looseness" in trying to move with more bounce and ease and musicality while still fundamentally being so very stiff and not knowing how to naturally just "get there". I don't really know how to not be stiff! For a handful of years I did a lot of yoga/meditation, but I'm someone who really does not appreciate being made to focus on my breath, as I have tendencies that make me really easily slip into "manually" breathing/blinking/swallowing/walking and getting super fixated on and uncomfortable with my bodily functions. After a while I found mindfulness-based practices really don't work for me, because I just get so caught up in awarness of my bodily processes it makes me miserable. I still do a good amount of stretching, but I've never really found a good relationship with any effective practice for physical relaxation. Does anyone have any suggestions? (Whether pelvic floor centered or just general!)

Thanks for bringing more of my awareness to this and how it relates to my comfort and potential for pleasure! <3

I still feel like I don't really 100% know of how tensed during day-to-day life or during sex the pelvic floor "should" be- obviously something has to be tensed at least a little to keep people from urinating all over themselves, right? Or am I misunderstanding or conflating muscle groups? It's just hard to know what the right sweet spot is to aim for! :D
Marisha
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2020 5:30 pm
Age: 22
Awesomeness Quotient: Aspiring sex educator
Primary language: English
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity and orientation: Bi
Location: USA

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Marisha »

Hi Sandpiper!

I'm glad Valerie was able to share their experience with you. We get a lot of people on the boards who have similar issues, so it's great that you were able to find that connection.

In terms of how the pelvic muscles are supposed to function, your thought process is on the right track. As Nicole puts it in this article about pelvic pain, "The muscles of the pelvic floor are some of our hardest working muscles: they barely ever get a break. While you can sit down and rest your legs, your pelvic floor is still holding you upright and holding your organs in place, pretty much never fully at rest." This includes the muscles that keep you from soiling yourself. That being said, they shouldn't necessarily be lifted and fully engaged all the time. My experience with my pelvic muscles is that they have 3 'modes': completely relaxed (if I had to pee, it would flow freely), minimal engagement (if I had to pee, I would need to 'hold it' to keep from leaking, but it wouldn't completely flow freely), and 'holding it' (full squeeze!). Are you able to consciously engage your pelvic muscles? Do you find that 'holding it' is easy or difficult to do?

I toootally relate to your struggles with yoga. Every time I've tried it, I've felt so uncomfortable. I'm easily distracted, plus, as a person who gets insecure about doing physical exercise, I tend to feel kind of inadequate on top of, like, bored. An idea occurred to me while reading your latest post that I want to pitch to you: if prolonged mindfulness exercises aren't for you, I wonder if using timed reminders to practice loosening your muscles might make for a less stressful practice. In the same way people set alarms to remember to take their medications, maybe you can set alarms that remind you to practice muscle relaxation? The alarm goes off and you think "oh yeah, let me focus on this for a second", and then go on with the rest of your day. Continuing this practice over time might help you start to develop that "muscle memory." :) Even if this particular exercise isn't right for you, I think forming practices that give you total control over personal goals will make the plan you come up with seem less daunting. How does all that sound?
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Marisha!!

Thank you so much! I totally agree- I think I've demonstrated that I have a tendency to resolutely keep trying practices that work for others even when they don't work for me, so planning around and respecting what has and hasn't worked for me and letting myself control and own those choices is really big for me.

Your explanation of 3 "modes" makes a lot of sense! I've never had any problems "holding it" and I can engage those muscles pretty easily. I think the main connection I'm seeing here is between:
1. Needing to consciously focus for at least 10-20 seconds (more when nervous/stressed/aroused) to get from "minimally engaged" to completely relaxed pelvic muscles in order to pee, and
2. Realizing my approach of "jackhammer away with as much stimulation as possible/bearable, vaguely hoping to feel something good" while all those muscles are in full-on clench mode in response, closing up and hiding from my touch, probably isn't efficient or useful.

So it's not something that causes pain for me or any big lifestyle problems (I can hold it just fine, I don't leak urine, etc) but those two facts combined with the general muscle tension I know I carry in a lot of surrounding groups (glutes, legs, abdomen) all the time makes me think it might be good for me to invest more in practicing actively relaxing those muscles.

The timed reminders idea is a good one, thank you! Often I catch myself and take a moment to try to release tension through a lot of muscles, only to catch it creeping back a few seconds later as I get back to whatever I was doing. I'll have to find some better ways of dealing with that.

In the specific case of sexual stimulation, trying to do that without clenching up like that feels..... really difficult and vulnerable! It's hard to be soft. It's like not putting up walls I'd usually be putting up, and it's really tricky to keep doing. My body's default is kind of to internally cringe and clench up (and I guess that month of frustrated vibratoring hasn't helped, huh :D ) and so I just keep adding more stimulation instead of listening to the way it's shutting down from feeling uncomfortable/scared of discomfort coming. I know certain amounts and types of tension can be good (?) and pleasurable (?) responses to sexual stimulation, but I have no idea where that balance is for me right now, and I'm guessing getting rid of tensions that feel, from the beginning, like clamming up and putting up walls, or feel just plain uncomfortable, is probably a good start.
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey, sandpiper! Just poking my nose in, but looks like Val and Marisha have got you well taken care of right now! I agree with you about doing what you can around this held muscle tension, btw! Whether or not it winds up having anything to do with your sexual/sensual experiences or not, any ongoing or repetitive muscle tension doesn't tend to leave us feelings great over time, so doing what we can to try and relax is always a good thing. Plus, I think that these kinds of practices and focus on your body -- things that are about a focus on self-care, self-love, self-soothing -- are a good way to go for you (for everyone!), period. :)
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
valerie4
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:07 pm
Age: 24
Primary language: English
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: Queer and/or nonbinary lesbian
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by valerie4 »

Hi sandpiper,

As I have been sitting with this, I am worried that I haven't mentioned something important in my previous response. Throughout your posts on here it seems pretty consistent that you have not been enjoying or wanting sex and seem to be engaging in it for the sake of pleasing your partner. You further mentioned you really are feeling your body clench up all the time during sex-related activities. All of those things indicate to me that you don't want to be participating in that activity and are doing it out of a desire to please your partner but even if your intention is to pleasure your partner that experience could end up being traumatizing over time because you don't want it. Feeling pressure to engage in a sexual act makes that experience inherently not consensual. These types of situations can sometimes end up being about trauma. Trauma can come from places we don't expect it to. It also sounds like you've expressed your feelings on this to your partner and they are not being respected very well. Even if in general he gets it, any pressure or guilt he might give you is ultimately not respecting those boundaries and your needs. Sex isn't something that needs to be compromised on. It's not like one of you likes to watch sports and the other wants to watch reality TV so you agree to watch a little bit of both. If one party does not want to engage in sex, then it ends. If someone indicates discomfort or hesitation, then it ends.

With all this in mind, how are you feeling about all this? If you genuinely sat with your feelings right now, not in any way thinking about your partner, would you actually want to be having sex? Or is there a component of pressure from him and pressure from the non-asexual community that makes you feel like you SHOULD? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I do understand this is a bit of an overwhelming post but I really wanted to check in because I have been thinking about this for a while especially as an educator who is on the ace spectrum.

Best,
Valerie
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hey Val.

That's a really important (and complicated) question, thank you.

If I were single right now, would I be desiring sex in any manner? No. I've been trying to cultivate "think about sex and how fun it could be" desire in the context of my relationship, but it's just not something that's ever come naturally to me. I try to fantasize and my mind draws a blank, or pictures one or both of us rolling over and going to sleep. I feel like I'm a little better at it now than a few months ago because I have better ideas of things I *don't* want, which is helpful, but I still don't have a ton of motivation forward from active wanting. Would I be so anxious about not having masturbation at all figured out if I were single? Also no. No one outright told me to do it, but it's suggested everywhere from every sex resource ever to my partner and friends as the way to get to discover one's own pleasure and desire, so despite it literally never having turned up anything for me it's something I've tried really hard with (and honestly not listened to my own body saying it's bored/uncomfortable/anxious). But single, I never even thought about it and wasn't really concerned with the fact it hasn't worked for me. It just wasn't something I thought about, but now I've been steeped in it from all directions and it's hard *not* to feel frustrated with myself, you know?

I've been thinking a lot about some of the things you touched on lately because there are swathes of time I just don't love to think about. Like, common fantasy/desire advice is to think about sexual experiences you've had in the past, but I honestly really don't want to or like to think about most of them (which all unfolded in the last 3 weeks or so of this spring semester). To put it bluntly, the routine was "silently do homework independently until midnight, blowjob, sleep, wake up, blowjob, immediately part ways" and I really was not informed enough or in tune enough to recognize it as a problem worth addressing that I wasn't into it and was approaching every night with a "get it over with as fast as possible" mindset. Strictly speaking, that's not an act I particularly enjoy, and the environment of feeling sneaky, rushed, braindead and absolutely exhausted, and the weird abandonment feeling of doing it and immediately going to sleep or parting ways, all the walking home alone in the cold some early weekday morning before class, all creates a vibe I'm just not fond of going back to.

Things are better now, with a ton of communication and learning this summer (and getting to see each other for that week in June, that is legitimately translating into good change). I've learned more about what sorts of feelings are a problem and the way they bubble up as awful resentment if I try to put them aside over and over. I've realized and communicated some good "as a rule" sorts of boundaries. For example, we used to have sex first thing in the morning every time, which I don't love because I feel way too sleepy/groggy/gross/hungry/thirsty/etc and I'm learning I need a few hours of actively being awake and doing things together (like cooking or talking or laughing, not like individual homework in silence) to feel more up to sex, more favorable and less tense. Another is realizing that I really need time cuddling and reconnecting afterwards to feel valued and not abandoned, and another is "hey, I gag violently literally every time I swallow, so let's try some other things for that maybe".

The June trip was really good because we got to put all those and more new boundaries and knowledge in practice, there was more cuddling and quality time and less sex generally, and the sex we did have felt much more balanced with me getting equal attention and time. I'm not sure why that was a thing that was so unbalanced for the first few weeks; he's my best friend and genuinely cares about my comfort and pleasure, but I guess I just wasn't asking for anything more because I was still learning that feeling that way was a problem and I'm allowed to ask for more attention and well, the few times we've tried I haven't particularly physically enjoyed it, which is frustrating and emotionally exhausting for everyone, so what's the point?

It's really hard for me to remember that 1. even if I'm not having any remotely orgasmic sort of response, it is important to put in energy and attention that makes me feel equally centered and like I'm worth the time, and 2. exploring what might make me feel good is a worthy goal even if I make it enormously difficult and frustrating for everyone. Especially that second one. It's so easy for me to put it away as "well, nothing's really felt good physically so what's the point, I won't bother and so I'll be easier to deal with and less demanding!" the way women are sort of socialized to shrink themselves, you know? But after a lot of thinking this summer I'm more aware of what "this feels bad and I don't want it" feels like, and also what "I want to know I'm worth the attention, time, and care, physical pleasure be damned" feels like. Does that make sense? In a more equally centered space, with certain boundaries ruling out things I know I dislike, sex feels like a fine option for spending my time, an opportunity for intimacy and quality time together. There's no particular craving or draw to it any more than say, playing board games (which is to say, I never *want* to play board games, but sometimes someone suggests it and it's a good enough way to spend time), and I don't particularly desire it for anticipated pleasure, but I can appreciate the opportunity it presents for expressing mutual attention and care, and I want to have more experiences of emotional intimacy and care generally, and sex seems like as fine an avenue as any.

So that week in June felt quite a bit closer to a sexual relationship that is ideal for me: more equal in time and attention and care, certain new boundaries in place, a better environment with less of a time rush, and a LOT more time for cuddling and just spending time together, laughing or showering or trying new vegetables or watching a bad movie. I'd like to get my brain to a place where that's what I consistently imagine and feel when I think about sex: a nice, safe-feeling, more relaxed place that provides the opportunity to express equal attention and care. The trouble is I still have a hard time thinking of sex at large that way; my default in terms of feelings is the feeling frustrated, sad, kind of abandoned and without a part of my humanity (and trying to force solo sex over the last few months that I genuinely don't want for any reason and which feels boring or very unpleasant definitely doesn't help). I know that just time and experience will probably take care of it; I'm weighing dozens of instances I don't love thinking about against a few days together, and more time in that better space will help me feel better.

But for now, it's hard to be patient with myself sometimes, and the way my brain and body still kind of cringe away from the idea of sex as a whole as a place to feel frustrated about the way I am, uncomfortable or bored, and potentially pretty grossed out and alone. I know I didn't come into this sexual relationship with a particularly good attitude around sex- it was just kind of "this isn't a thing I want or enjoy but I'll get through it for you"- and certain early uninformed experiences probably didn't help. I think I'll feel a lot better with time, and (I hope) slowly come around to feeling positively about the concept of sex generally, instead of it by default making me feel frustrated, clammed-up, anxious, broken, and unworthy of the attention and care I want.

I don't know whether that answered your question, Val, but it makes me feel really seen and valued to have you come back here to ask me about this, and I'm looking forward to any new insight I may get here. Thank you again. <3
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

(That picture of our sexual relationship for a few weeks is over-simplified: he did try giving orally to me, four times in those three weeks, although two of those ended in a few seconds because I was feeling too uncomfortable and spaced out. I was giving orally around 5-6x a week. I knew it's no good to mentally keep score like that and that reciprocity and satisfaction are complicated and not about counting particular acts at a 50/50 balance, but it felt safe to rack up that number privately in my head, like a high score in a video game, because feeling like I was way, way "ahead" protected me from ever feeling like I'm behind and obliged in some societal way to do something in return. Does that make sense? It's like when your mom tells you to do something you were going to do anyway; now there's an extra level of resentment about a new kind of "should". So I kept that game going for a long while without ever questioning it, because I came in with an idea of sex as a thing to grit and get through and not something I could ever really enjoy, and I lacked certain information and perspective that I have now. Not that he would ever pressure me in a your turn/my turn way, but I guess I was feeling a lot of internal pressure of all kinds and doing all I could to run away from at least one of them to make the idea of getting through it less dreadful, instead of running towards things that seemed fun. I feel better about this now; I'm not keeping a mental tally anymore, and things feel more balanced based on the last time we saw each other, but I guess my emotions about sex as a whole are still lagging behind the shift.)
Sam W
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 7448
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:06 am
Age: 30
Awesomeness Quotient: I raise carnivorous plants
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity and orientation: queer
Location: Desert

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Sandpiper,

I think it's really sound to recognize where that urge to keep score was coming from, and how it was tied into your bigger feelings about sex. It also seems like it's a useful contrast to that period of time in June; you weren't keeping score, you didn't feel the need to get out ahead of something, you could just enjoy being with your partner.

That differentiation between the times where you feel "I don't want this" and "I want to feel worthy of care and closeness" absolutely makes sense to me. Too, you mention wanting that in as moment of "physical pleasure be damned;" but when you describe the time in June, it sounds like you two found a way to create moments of mutual care and desire that were physically pleasurable for you, even if the pleasure wasn't strictly sexual. Things like cuddling or even just casually touching each other during things like watching T.V can be incredibly physically pleasurable.

You mention struggling with the idea that taking time to explore what feels good to you is a worthy goal (understandable, given how much frustration you've dealt with). With that week in June, it sounds to me like you and your partner created a whole context in which you felt good both mentally and physically much of the time. Does it feel worthwhile to you to explore how you could create similar environments going forward, either on your own or with the two of you?
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Sam!

Thank you! You're totally right- things like cuddling are incredibly physically pleasurable. Writing my previous post I'd meant not caring so much about whether I'm experiencing strictly "sexual" physical pleasure, but it's definitely true that I really enjoy comforting and loving touch in an atmosphere that feels relaxed and unpressured. Language is tricky :D

I definitely really enjoyed and appreciated the way we could create a better, more relaxed environment like that, where I felt valued and cared for and not pressured or constrained. As we've continued talking about it all summer, I'm optimistic it'll be more of the same when we see each other in the fall (and if it isn't, now I have a better understanding of where my personal boundaries should be and how to express I don't like something). I think the big points for me in creating that better environment are: not feeling pressed for time and/or like I'm sneaking around somewhere I'm not supposed to be, taking a LOT of time to decompress and relax together and do things like cook/cuddle/talk instead of just work straight into sex, slowing way down and making time for both of us and for caring touch before, during, and after, making some life changes I'm working on to be less exhausted and stressed generally, and expressing a handful of general "as a rule" type boundaries about what I don't like, which makes me feel more comfortable in knowing I don't need to dread dealing with certain things because they're just off the table. Talking about it here has really helped me refine all of those points, and I'm really, really grateful for that!

Another really big thing that helped me feel so much more comfortable, open, and attracted to my partner then was just feeling understood in a way I wasn't before, you know? Through dozens and dozens of conversations and sharing things I've learned here and from half a dozen books, I just feel so much more comfortable and safe in my sexuality knowing my partner is on the same page on a deeper level than just "I'm not really into sex". He knows about the feelings and mental traps I fall into, he's learning to keep me feeling grounded and focused and cared for, and we're both learning about things we've learned culturally that haven't been right. I don't really know how to explain it, but I just feel so much safer and warmer and more open when it comes to sex when I know my partner is learning all the ins and outs of how I feel about it and what I need, you know? It makes me feel less like sex is a place to lose some abstract piece of my humanity and feel entirely alone and un-understandable, and more like it's a place to be genuinely connected with someone I love, who cares about understanding all of me.

I'm kind of at a loss as to how to create that sort of environment for myself. I think step 1 is putting aside practices like genital masturbation that simply have never made me feel anything except frustrated and mad at myself, and honoring the fact that over years of trying all kinds of things, that just doesn't make me feel good in any worthwhile way right now. Maybe I should explore self massage or something else that puts touch as solo pleasure without pressure on the table. I'd love some ideas!
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there sandpiper -- I'm just passing through today, but I will be back tomorrow with some thoughts for 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
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Personally -- and I say this as someone who hasn't had the kinds of issues you have -- I really prefer to put all of this stuff under the umbrella of pleasure and connection rather than sex or genitals. I just feel like that larger umbrella makes it so much easier for so many more people to get our needs met, to figure out what our needs and wants even are, to have experiences with all of this that are really widely fulfilling and frequently fulfilling over time (rather than just one-offs, or only good during one phase of life, or only good when all our bodies work in certain ways). Might what we want and/or need under that umbrella wind up being some kind of sex some of the time? Sure! But it also might not be. And sometimes even when it isn't, it might kind of meet the same needs, and sometimes even when it is it might meet other needs. All this business of trying to fit big things into tiny boxes, or meet giant needs with one one small group of things both always strike me as really foolish, and the sooner we can dump those ways of thinking, the better.

So, I think one good big starting place for the semi-conundrum you're looking for solutions for in your last paragraph there is to think about this instead as time and space you make for pleasure for yourself: for whatever it is brings you pleasure. What kind? Whatever kind you want. Whatever kind or kinds feels like the right kind, and what you can access, on a given day, at a given time. Maybe that's something very physical, like dance or massage or sex or a long shower. Or maybe it's something like journaling outside on a beautiful day or listening to music or daydreaming or playing with a pet or falling into a rabbit hole of nerditude. Just something that feels good in some way and connects you with yourself in some way. Those are the ONLY criteria: what do you think?
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
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Heather!!

Thanks! That's really helpful. There was a similar sentiment in the last chapter of Ace that I really liked: as asexuality and/or the choice not to have sex not as some gaping hole, or am experience all about being without something, but an opportunity to fill that space with other things that take up time and energy and bring us development and pleasure and meaning. The framing of "making time consistently for any pleasure is just as good as this arbitrary activity that brings some people pleasure" actually feels really liberating to me.

I've been getting better at identifying things that bring me pleasure and incorporating more of them into every day; I used to not really be able to point to anything but now I have a number of different go-tos to try, like exercise, or dance, or sunshine, or playing the piano, or gardening and tending to my plants, or memorizing poetry (I know the whole Lorax too, by the way! Learned it in middle school!) or sampling bad department store perfumes and reviewing them on the internet. It's probably really obvious in some way but I kept operating under a framework of those pursuits of pleasure as something far away and separate from the *labor* of navigating sex and sexuality. Play for its own sake vs. work I need to be doing and/or work I need to do to figure out how to better enjoy the other work I need to do. Does that make sense?
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

It absolutely makes sense! (Btw, I have just recently acquired a digital piano because my last move made anything else impossible, given narrow curvy stairwells, and I am so amazed at the improvements in technology since I last tried electronic versions!)

Play is absolutely also a great framework for this, and one of my favorites. In fact, something I hate is that this weird thing happens in human development where sex and play have to be so separated, or intimacy and play, or love and play. But really, the way we played as kids was also about pleasure and connection and creativity, and bringing all of that to our sex lives -- if we choose those, and whatever that looks like, including if it doesn't look like what some people would recognize as sex at all -- is so important. If we leave that behind, then for sure, it's all very likely to be obligation and drudgery and social scripts with the odd bright spot, and it won't look like...well, us. And if our sensual/sexual/pleasure lives don't look and feel like us, then they're not actually ours at all, and that's no good, obviously!
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
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

You're absolutely right, thank you! That's a really great and helpful framework and I'll have to give it a lot more thought (and share it with my boyfriend!) <3

(My piano growing up was the most awful Cassio digital keyboard that lacked a couple octaves and would sporadically turn off. I tried a really good digital piano recently and now it's my favorite piano I've ever played! I was blown away.)
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Here's a quick question.

I've never really felt able to fantasize (sexually, but I also haven't daydreamed anything at all since I was little; it just doesn't happen for me, and I can't think of anything that would feel good to think about). What I can do, however, is either intentionally or unintentionally stumble into thinking about sex that is physically painful and/or feels isolating or dehumanizing.

Particularly if I'm already upset about something else, it's easy to get hung up on these sorts of thoughts and not feel able to shake them off. Whether I start out intentionally trying to ~do fantasy~ or I'm just reminded of it out of nowhere, I go through periods of unwanted mental imagery of, for example, unbearably painful penetration (I've never had PIV largely for this reason, but I've always been so tensed up and tight, only recently getting tampons or one finger in, that it's hard not to expect pain, realistically). Or, even if physical pain isn't a part of it, images of sex that makes me feel really disconnected, isolated, and misunderstood, like images of my partner really enjoying something and not noticing how out of it and dissociated I am, and then immediately going to sleep.

I guess now that I think about it and frame it this way, I have had these some sorts of thoughts for years before this relationship, they were just less specific; there wasn't a face to it, and I could more easily push them out entirely because I wasn't actively trying to think about sex and how it might be good the way I have been the last few months, but there were still plenty of fleeting images of extreme pain and loneliness, and never a single one of anything pleasurable.

Usually when people talk about intrusive sexual thoughts, they're talking about thoughts of acts they would never want to actually take part in, or hurting or disrespecting other people, etc. What about the inverse experience? Is this something common? I guess it probably reinforced over the many years the strong feeling of "in the abstract, sex is something frightening, not something fun" that I can't get past now. Any time I try to think about sex and how it could be fun, I always end up going down this same path. I can't imagine anything good, and I get stuck in the familiar anti-fantasies that make me feel scared and alone.
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8617
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 51
Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, sandpiper. I'm sorry to hear about this. These kinds of pervasive thoughts and feelings can feel really terrifying.

I know that it's going to feel very cliché of me to ask and put out there, but I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't: one common cause for this kind of thing is sexual trauma. In other words, for many people who have this kind of experience, those thoughts and feelings are based in psychological and physiological memories of trauma. It is possible some of all of this is based in memory of previous trauma. We can talk about that more if you want (though heads up, I'm about to be off for two days, but I'd be glad to circle back here tonight in an hour if you want to have one more go at conversation tonight with me).

It's also possible that this is about feeling pressured and fearful around sex, which would hardly be surprising, since we know you have very valid reasons for those feelings. The intense fears and thoughts of pain way ahead of these experiences are a bit confusing to me, but honestly, our culture has a lot of scripts that sexualize pain, and that romanticize the pain of women, in particular, with sex, so it's not that confusing, you know?

Either way, invasive thoughts, of any variety, are the kind of thing that can often be worked with with success with a therapist, and if that's something within reach for you, I think the more support people for you in all this, the better, period, so it certainly would be worth exploring if you're open to 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
sandpiper
not a newbie
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed May 19, 2021 11:32 am
Age: 20
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: US

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hey Heather!

Thanks for circling back. I certainly don't remember anything I'd call sexual trauma. There's a handful of different (unrelated) things that have made me consider therapy over the years, but my parents have always been invalidating and unsupportive about mental health, and therapy isn't covered by my insurance, so, so far I've been relying on a lot of reading and thinking and self-help and discussions with friends and in places like this :D Thank you for the suggestion, though; it's definitely something I've thought a lot about trying someday.

I really can't point to any obvious causes of this lifelong fear right now, but those are some good ideas I'll have to think about more. Thank you.
Sam W
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 7448
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:06 am
Age: 30
Awesomeness Quotient: I raise carnivorous plants
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity and orientation: queer
Location: Desert

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Sandpiper,

I'm sorry your parents have been unsupportive when it comes to you accessing mental healthcare, that's so frustrating. I did want to chime in and ask if, in the reading you've done, you've found any apps or workbooks designed to help with intrusive thoughts. If not, that might be an avenue to explore until you're able to access therapy.
Post Reply Previous topicNext topic