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 »

Hi Carly!

Thanks, that article was really helpful! :)
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, sandpiper! I'm back around today if there's anywhere you'd like to pick things up!
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!

I'm wondering whether you had any thoughts about my initial Saturday post. Especially the part about not really being sure of a good way to think about sexual pleasure that doesn't feel like setting it aside entirely or what feels like pressure to be something I'm not. Thank you! Hope you had a nice weekend :)
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Sure! Will take a look in a bit and circle back!
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 »

So, a couple things!

For one, I think this is where planning real time for being together -- otherwise known as dates! -- really comes in handy. It's much harder, like you said in that post, to really have time to get in the headspace for pleasure if it's all crammed in there with a teeny bit of time, and on top of a mountain of accumulated work stress and exhaustion, no less. Having real time both to first decompress AFTER work and all the rest of your day, and THEN go be with our partner (or ourselves, if the pleasure we're engaging in is solo) is really important. This is one reason why a lot of couples have standing date days or nights that are sacrosanct, so be sure that time exists. Something else I'd add to that is that you can make that decompression in between a lead-up to pleasure with a partner by making it, in and of itself, a place of pleasure for you. Doing things that feel good for you before your date that involve pleasure rituals -- like bathing or showing, or a walk or nap, getting dressed up or grooming if that's something you like to do, etc. -- can help you switch into a headspace that's about pleasure.

Something else to know about is what's sometimes called (all credit to the recently departed and much-beloved Betty Dodson) an "erotic recess", a time and space you can make for yourself, alone or with someone else, to just explore pleasure the same way you explored play at recess as a child in school. In other words, you can give yourself a little bit of time in a day to just figure that's your time for play, in this case, play that's about erotic (whatever that means for you) exploration, where you are just playing, experimenting, just exploring without an agenda besides exploring and giving yourself time to do that and see what might feel good. The goal isn't orgasm or anything like that --- there really isn't a goal at all. The point is really just time for play and exploration. 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 »

That does make sense, thank you!

You're right about dates. That's probably also a larger life balance thing for both of us (ie, stop working until midnight every single night) to figure out. Hard to have good date activities (or anything else that's good, really) when you're that worn out!

The erotic recess thing is something I'll have to think about more! I've known to try and not go into solo or partnered sexual activities with expectations, but it's still hard to get rid of the question of pleasure goals (or non-goals, in the case of actively deciding it's not going to happen anyway so why try) entirely when there's such a persistent cultural narrative about it being a big deal, you know?

(I've brought up a couple of these things we've talked about to my partner recently and I've gotten him asking curious questions about himself, what IS sex, what IS sexuality for him, too! That just feels really exciting to me- I'm always happy to have someone on the same page, exploring the same ideas, along with me, even if the answers look different for him! :) )
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Happy to help! And yeah, I get it. In so many ways, the narratives around all of this stuff -- especially if you're heterosexual or in partnerships that fit that paradigm in any way -- are so restrictive and so counter to what actually is in alignment with pleasure, joy, intimacy...it's a real head trip. The good news, though, is that YOU actually seem to have a pretty flexible mind! :)
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 »

Yeah! I'm doing my best to be flexible- staying where I was hasn't gotten me anywhere so far, right? :)

Thanks so so much for all your help! This whole conversation has given me a lot to think about and put into practice.
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

It really is my pleasure. :)
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 »

Here's a question. I'm working on accepting all this and working through and identifying and thinking about all the pressure that's happening here. I know it takes time. But even though intellectually I can say that the way I've experienced things is fine, inside, my heart still sinks a little whenever I see something in media or hear a story from a friend about some exciting sexual desire, arousal, or pleasure they're experiencing. As you can probably imagine, this is problematic when sex is a thing people talk about and present in media kind of a lot, generally speaking.

It's not even grand overblown orgasm stories or portrayals of great sex that get to me; rather, it's the little everyday things that seem exciting and fun: the genuine arousal, the ability to just naturally want something that I've been trying to make myself want for so long, the little bites of satisfaction in working towards the things that excite you. It just seems fun, and I wish I had all that, but I don't, and it seems like a lot of other people do, and even if I know it's okay to be the way I am, there's still a sinking feeling in seeing people who get to be some other, more fun way.

I'm not sure exactly what causes that feeling. Maybe just envy of some sort that they have these things I want and feel like I'll never have? I'm trying not to judge my feelings and add more negative meta-emotions to the mix, but it's hard for me not to feel kind of immature because of the way this brings me down. I know it will probably go away with time and getting to know and be confident in myself and my sexuality, but right now it feels really frustrating to still be feeling these negative feelings when I know they're certainly not helping anyone and that it's okay to be the way I am.

Apparently my grandma didn't like sex until well after she'd had several kids! I know everyone's on different schedules with this sort of thing, but thinking about that just feels even more helpless, reminding me how much of this is just the way I am right now, out of my hands, not something I can control as I'd like to.

Any advice?
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

This isn't really a feeling that bothered me much when I was single (or maybe I just didn't notice it as much) because I just thought of it like "Whatever, so I'm not interested in sex, so what? I just won't have it" and I assumed I'd never be in a situation where someone I cared about deeply WAS interested in sex (with me). The greater source of occasional heart-sinking then was just a craving for this kind of incredibly close emotional intimacy often found in romantic relationships that I assumed would never come for me. Now that I have that, though, I guess I feel a lot of pressure to sort out a lifetime of sex stuff I ignored entirely, and to be experiencing some exciting version of partnered sexuality that matches the societal script.
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

I also keep thinking about how, as a small child, I definitely masturbated here and there; it wasn't a thing I thought about much or understood, just exploration of touch that felt good every once in a while. But having not felt that way in at least 10-15 years, remembering that makes me feel like I broke myself somehow- like this isn't how I was supposed to be, and something I did along the line somehow screwed me up (like I said, no trauma history- I guess I just completely lost interest well before puberty). I'm scared that some sort of childhood shame or embarrassment or paranoia made me put it away and I've never been able to pick it back up. I know people change, but it's so infuriating to be trying to figure out what I could have done to change this (and how I can turn it back) and coming up with nothing because it was so long ago and I just don't know what happened.
valerie4
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by valerie4 »

Hi Sandpiper!

Just wanted to drop in here with some thoughts. You talked about feeling like you were missing out from the "little joys" of sexual desire, arousal, or intimacy, that you see in the media or in your interactions with your friends. I completely understand that feeling and I think there's a level of societal conditioning that has taught us we can't experience intimate little joys of intimacy without sex when that simply is not true. Right now, you are really focused on what you don't have but I think if you were able to take some time to really look for romantic or platonic intimacy, you would find those "little joys" are EVERYWHERE. When you start looking for the kinds of things you know you can and want to participate in instead of focusing on what you cannot participate in, you are going to feel a lot less pressure to conform to something you don't want to do.

While I know you are aware that representation of sex in the media is MESSY at best, I want to push you a little further to start to think more critically about how media represents intimacy and immediately ties sex as sort of a calling card to intimacy. Often in all kinds of media, sex is used to be a sort of shorthand to symbolize those more subtle or more nuanced kinds of intimacy! So, we can misunderstand that as meaning that sex is the only place those are rather than that sex is the only place media is showing us that.

An example I can think of off the top of my head is the concept of knowing what your partner wants and what brings them pleasure. That can be a sex thing, but more often that not its just acts of intimacy. Knowing the small things that can demonstrate your affection and care for your partner is incredibly intimate AND exciting. It could be knowing that your partner is overwhelmed right now and doing the dishes would eliviate that stress. Or it could be knowing the perfect food to bring home on a rough day. Being able to anticipate your partner's needs because you have a special window into their life is EXCITING. And this can be a platonic thing as well. This could be a different kind of arousal; one that is based off of knowing your partner knows how to love you. It doesn't need to be sexual for it to be profoundly impactful. More often than not, the moments I'm describing make up a HUGE component of romantic relationships more so than sex does.

Additionally, I don't want you to see the possibility of being asexual as meaning you are lacking or "broken". There’s always a possibility sexual desire will become a thing in your life at some point but to me, it feels like focusing on the “if and when” of that situation is probably making you feel worse. It might be more beneficial to encourage exploration of the types of intimacy that you do enjoy. But even more than that, I would go as far to say that sometimes, being on the ace spectrum and not focused on sex, can make you a very good lover in ways that are unique to your experience.

Let me explain that in more detail. For context, I am disabled and also somewhere on the ace spectrum. But for this example, I'm going to talk about my status as a person with a disability. Recently, I attended a talk on disability and sex (by the group Sins Invalid which I would highly recommend checking out if you're interested) where someone prompted the question, "what can make disabled lovers better than their able-bodied counterparts?" That is to say, what about the unique experience that is disabled sex makes you more attuned to things able-bodied people might not think about. One person talked about having a partner whose joints easily dislocated, which meant during sex they had to be lasered in on what they were doing, not distracted, to make sure they didn't harm their partner. And in doing this, they actually felt so much more engaged sexually because they were so focused in on sensation. This was just one example. I bring this up to pose the question to you, "what about the asexual experience might make you uniquely a more interesting/invested/exciting lover to your partner?" When you are not focused on what society demands about sex in relationships, what avenues open up?


Let me know what you think!

- Val
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Val!

Thanks so much for reading, for sharing and for your ideas! You're definitely right that there are a lot of other "little joys" of intimacy that I really love experiencing with my partner, even without experiencing sex in a particular way that many other people do. Things like writing my partner little notes and surprising him with little gifts, the joy of us knowing each other more deeply than anyone else knows us, of the ways our brains and humor just click together and we keep each other entertained all day long... it's all really really good, and you're right that focusing on the things I don't have isn't helping.

This particular part of your post really spoke to me: "This could be a different kind of arousal; one that is based off of knowing your partner knows how to love you. It doesn't need to be sexual for it to be profoundly impactful." It's kind of a weird experiment, but this year I've been logging every time I cry with the date and some notes on what I was feeling. And there's a dozen times in there where I just burst into happy tears from feeling so loved and appreciated and so loving and happy. These weren't moments of ecstasy or grand romantic gestures; one was just when we were sitting in a public place at night sharing a protein bar and talking. Two were in "sexual" settings, although the second didn't involve any genital sex at all that night- he just so gently and lovingly, slowly and deliberately kissed my legs that I burst into tears. And I'm not usually a crier! So those moments have exemplified a really really special feeling, of knowing one loves and is loved, and that we know so much about each other and (over years of friendship plus our current relationship) have shared so much. In those moments I know I don't need some particular feeling other people are having; I'm just so full of this feeling of being close with someone. That's something really special, and something I should spend more time appreciating instead of wishing I had something I just don't have right now.

I also really appreciate this thinking prompt about how the asexual experience might make me a better lover! It's not something I've really thought about before; I usually think of it as a hindrance and a disappointment, a problem, something to work around.

I also find it really validating that you bring this up because I find that a lot of ace spaces are really uncompromising on not taking part in sex because one doesn't have a traditional urge for it, and while it's great that that works for those people, I just don't really hear a lot of talk about the asexual experience in people who DO want to continue to engage in sex for other reasons and how they feel about it. This makes it kind of scary to talk about sometimes, because the way, say, a friend assumes when I confide in them about this, that I'm going to stop having sex entirely because I don't feel a certain way, feels like people spelling doom for a relationship that I really want to work on all fronts, including sexually.

The first thing that comes to mind that makes me a better lover through my experiences is that I'm better at avoiding a lot of the ruts some other people might get stuck in with sex, because I'm used to things feeling weird and different from a particular cultural narrative. It's easier for me to have regular conversations about sex, what isn't working, and some really vulnerable feelings about it, because I've had so much practice communicating about it in all this time, from the very beginning, that nothing has gone the way it's "supposed" to. As a couple, it's made us both introspect and work on erasing certain pressures and assumptions and ways we think about sex (like talking about other feelings besides sexual pleasure being equally important and valid things to explore!). It's given me more practice in communicating and negotiating and compromising around sex, in making myself more open to things I wouldn't crave or seek out on my own, and in analyzing ways we can potentially improve things. I'm honestly having a hard time coming up with others besides this main point for now, but it's still something!
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey, sandpiper: I don't want to step in too much and interrupt the flow of these great conversations you're having, but I do find I'm curious about something.

In any of the conversations you and your partner are having about all this since you started coming here, has he been able to be very supportive of you keeping the focus on yourself, and able to talk about this with you in a way that also keeps that focus there, rather than moving it more unto him or your relationship? Or when you talk about it, does it feel more like it's kind of winding up gravitating back to talk about sex between the two of you and how all of this might play out with him and the two of you?
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valerie4
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by valerie4 »

sandpiper wrote: This particular part of your post really spoke to me: "This could be a different kind of arousal; one that is based off of knowing your partner knows how to love you. It doesn't need to be sexual for it to be profoundly impactful." It's kind of a weird experiment, but this year I've been logging every time I cry with the date and some notes on what I was feeling. And there's a dozen times in there where I just burst into happy tears from feeling so loved and appreciated and so loving and happy. These weren't moments of ecstasy or grand romantic gestures; one was just when we were sitting in a public place at night sharing a protein bar and talking. Two were in "sexual" settings, although the second didn't involve any genital sex at all that night- he just so gently and lovingly, slowly and deliberately kissed my legs that I burst into tears. And I'm not usually a crier! So those moments have exemplified a really really special feeling, of knowing one loves and is loved, and that we know so much about each other and (over years of friendship plus our current relationship) have shared so much. In those moments I know I don't need some particular feeling other people are having; I'm just so full of this feeling of being close with someone. That's something really special, and something I should spend more time appreciating instead of wishing I had something I just don't have right now.
Just from this paragraph alone, it sounds like you have an INCREDIBLE dynamic and loving relationship going for you. It makes me so happy to hear that! Happy cries are some of the best ones. Everything you just described to me is filled with emotional intimacy, closeness, and care that I think most people strive for in relationships. You don't need to feel bad about focusing on what is causing you stress because that is natural. I'm only suggesting you take the time to focus on all the good because it will lessen the stress and fill your life with more joy.
sandpiper wrote: I also find it really validating that you bring this up because I find that a lot of ace spaces are really uncompromising on not taking part in sex because one doesn't have a traditional urge for it, and while it's great that that works for those people, I just don't really hear a lot of talk about the asexual experience in people who DO want to continue to engage in sex for other reasons and how they feel about it. This makes it kind of scary to talk about sometimes, because the way, say, a friend assumes when I confide in them about this, that I'm going to stop having sex entirely because I don't feel a certain way, feels like people spelling doom for a relationship that I really want to work on all fronts, including sexually.
I'm glad that resonated with you. I do talk about asexuality as a spectrum for a reason. It does not inherently mean you have no sexual desire. I'm quoting from our asexuality primer article, "The asexual community is diverse and asexual people have a wide variety of experiences, but what most have in common is prioritizing other types of attraction and relationships over sexual ones."I feel like the bolded part of that definition is extremely important in understand motivations and experiences. Its not a matter of "sex or no sex" but rather more a matter of what is prioritized in a relationship. So for you, if you feel like being able to provide your partner sexual pleasure brings YOU joy and is something that YOU want to do, that's awesome and still fits under that definition (though it's important to note words are just words and we can define our experience beyond a popular definition). My only concern ever in that situation is if you feel pressured to do so. Remember, this is about you and exploring your feelings and emotion. It might be hard to focus on these issues that stress you out if you aren't centering your experience. Helping finding your positive experience with intimacy starts with centering what you want and like to do and not what anyone else wants.

If you are doing it on your terms because it makes YOU feel good, than that's great. I know you've been linked to this article before but its always a great re-read to ground yourself in your experience Just the Basics, Ace: An Asexuality Primer.

Additionally, it's important to note that your experience might change over time and there's nothing wrong with that! It doesn't make you a "fake" for identifying a certain way previously. Our bodies and interests change DAILY so that logic can and should be extended to our experience with attraction.
sandpiper wrote:
The first thing that comes to mind that makes me a better lover through my experiences is that I'm better at avoiding a lot of the ruts some other people might get stuck in with sex, because I'm used to things feeling weird and different from a particular cultural narrative. It's easier for me to have regular conversations about sex, what isn't working, and some really vulnerable feelings about it, because I've had so much practice communicating about it in all this time, from the very beginning, that nothing has gone the way it's "supposed" to. As a couple, it's made us both introspect and work on erasing certain pressures and assumptions and ways we think about sex (like talking about other feelings besides sexual pleasure being equally important and valid things to explore!). It's given me more practice in communicating and negotiating and compromising around sex, in making myself more open to things I wouldn't crave or seek out on my own, and in analyzing ways we can potentially improve things. I'm honestly having a hard time coming up with others besides this main point for now, but it's still something!
This is AWESOME. it sounds like your experience actually facilitates consent and exploration of what pleasure might look like in a way your peers might not experience. You've created a healthy and crucial dialogue between you and your partner and that is NO easy feat. Celebrate yourself for that and recognize how uniquly powerful you are in that regard. That is a form of intimacy the media fails to cover. You've overcome something society often ignores because of your own experience. That's really cool. I hope you continue to think about this question and explore it in your life!

- Val
sandpiper
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Thanks so so much, Val! This was all really validating and super encouraging to read.

I do feel really proud of the intimacy we create together and the way we're able to just talk about anything- the past couple of weeks especially we've been having a lot of really fruitful conversations (including some where I paraphrase a lot of ideas that you all have presented to me here!) about exploring and widening definitions of sex and sexuality, unlearning the goal-based framework that keeps us feeling frustrated, and brainstorming specific steps to try when we're back together. It's something that's really, really special to me. Thank you for reminding me of how cool that is! <3
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hi Heather!

Sorry I didn't see your post earlier! I'm not 100% sure how to answer that one- he is very supportive of the points I'm expressing that are focused on me and my experiences. He's also commenting where something resonates with his own work that he needs to do (i.e., unlearning a very hetero idea of sexuality informed by porn and toxic masculinity), and I've also brought up ideas I think we could both benefit from thinking about and discussing (like new ways to think about sex to take pressure off both of us). I don't feel like the conversation is monopolized by him or that it gets bogged down in how sex between the two of us might play out. It feels like a mutual exchange of ideas that are useful to both of us growing and exploring ourselves, and I feel supported.
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

That's great! Just wanted to check in to be sure. :)
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by sandpiper »

Hey there, friends at Scarleteen! I hope you're all doing well! It's been a couple weeks. I've had a lot of fruitful partner conversations, done a lot of thinking and paying attention to sensual pleasure, tried to learn to fantasize, made many more stabs at masturbation, tried lots of sexual media, seen a gynecologist, learned a new solo jazz dance routine, and read a couple more relevant books (Lonnie Barbach's For Yourself, as well as The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women, a rather hokey spiritual ramble of a book that was all the library had available at the time, and actually made some decent food for thought at certain points).

Here's something that really frustrates me: a lot of books and people in the universe of sexual troubleshooting seem to always recommend practice, practice, practice. Which makes sense on the surface. Barbach's program, for example, which essentially consists of clitoris-focused masturbation for an hour a day for 10-14 days and all but guarantees some sort of progress, depresses me. If her program doesn't work, she suggests starting over and doing the two weeks again. I've put in my hours my whole life and gotten nowhere. I'm never rushing it- I'll settle in for multiple hours of curious exploration, try several different kinds of written and visual sexual media (though I really haven't felt super interested in any of it), use lighting and fragrance to create a more comfortable atmosphere, get some exercise beforehand to get my blood flowing, use lubricant, take time to relax... and none of those hours of exploration create any amount of physical pleasure and it's something that just makes me angry to think about when the narrative in a lot of these self help resources seems to be "just put the time in to learn what you like". It's not that it feels kind of nice but not nice enough- Barbach refutes the "it feels like nothing" claim by saying that even if it's a tiny bit better than touching your elbow, keep at it, but it isn't. It's absolutely nothing or it's acutely uncomfortable and nauseating, depending on pressure and location.

It feels like the fine print on that should be: "just put the time in to learn what you like, BUT ALSO, if you don't genuinely desire it, good luck enjoying much of anything". Barbach's take on this feels particularly blame-y to me: I know that book was written in the 70s and has been very helpful to many people, and my gynecologist herself told me to read it and follow along after I'd asked her about pleasure, but the sections about how you "have to really want it", without any indication of how to actually make that happen, just feel really, really hopeless to me.

Dear friends, how can I make myself "really want it"? And, if this is just my natural state that can't be changed much, how do I square that away with the mountain of "just practice" advice that feels so extraordinarily infuriating and unsuitable to me?

Intellectually, I feel like I'm doing really great inner work and making really great progress with my partner, with both of us expanding our understanding of sex and sexuality and all of the good things that can be involved besides the "particular type of physical pleasure, culminated in orgasm" framework. But the "just practice more and everyone can enjoy this particular feeling" pressure really sets me back. It accumulates in the idea that, on top of all the other kinds of pressure, I "should" be having sex so I can "figure it out", and the more time I put in the more I'll get out, which absolutely hasn't happened over months and years.

Trying to encourage or cultivate desire feels impossible because you've got to sneak around your own brain, you know? One wrong step my brain is suddenly aware of how fake and contrived it all is and how I'm trying to manipulate it into feeling a particular way, and it goes "Stop pressuring me, I do what I want!" and sends me into dissociative orbit.

The Ultimate Guide book raised an interesting idea about some pre-orgasmic women subconsciously feeling unable to "let go" to experience orgasm because they feel so much pressure and that everything else is so out of their control, that the one thing they can control and cling onto is not letting themselves feel good. Engaging in so much solo or partnered "okay, let's figure this out" sex probably isn't helping from that perspective. Obviously I'm saying yes to any solo or partnered activity that happens, but if I've never done it out of any genuine desire to do so, maybe that's fueling self-resentment and powerlessness that aren't helpful. I also don't come from a very consent-respecting family (just the typical stuff: lots of hugging/kissing/poking/tickling/touching/grabbing and emotional prying which doesn't ever respect me saying no several times) so that probably makes me used to relenting to things on the surface that I never genuinely want.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, sandpiper. It's really nice to see you, and I'm so happy to hear about all the positives.

I am less happy to hear about the other stuff, particularly some of the media you're asking about. In all honesty, I actually don't think talking about it in the way you're asking is worth your time or mine because I never would have suggested that media in the first place -- and not just to not you, not to anyone -- and I'm really irritated your OB/GYN did (but also not surprised: most gynecologists and other doctors don't have a background in sexuality or sexuality education, and so don't tend to be up to date at it or great at it, and in fact, can often give some really boneheaded advice).

If you don't mind, what I'd much rather do is try and focus on what I think are your (IMHO, very spot-on) critical reactions to this media, and getting whatever static it deposited in your head out and getting back to the better direction I feel like we were headed in, and stick more towards all that other positive stuff you have brewing. I also think what you asked about in your last paragraph there sounds like something worth exploring for a lot of reasons. Would you be okay with that? I'm around for a few hours today, so I'd be happy to start to dig in a little.
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! That sounds really great. Thank you so much. It feels really validating to hear that I'm going in the wrong direction here, because this doesn't feel productive or right at all, but being directed this way by a doctor is really confusing.
Heather
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Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

Yes, I am 300% with you. In fact, I am so, so glad to have heard your critical reactions to this, eespecially this:
Intellectually, I feel like I'm doing really great inner work and making really great progress with my partner, with both of us expanding our understanding of sex and sexuality and all of the good things that can be involved besides the "particular type of physical pleasure, culminated in orgasm" framework. But the "just practice more and everyone can enjoy this particular feeling" pressure really sets me back. It accumulates in the idea that, on top of all the other kinds of pressure, I "should" be having sex so I can "figure it out", and the more time I put in the more I'll get out, which absolutely hasn't happened over months and years.
I could not agree with you more. I'm sorry your GYN misdirected you. Again, very few doctors, including OBGYNs (a reminder: that's a surgical speciality, and it's not about sex, it's mostly about reproduction more than anything) have any actual training or education in sex and sexuality. Most medical schools don't even include it, and those that do usually have a week or two of that education, tops. Unless you have an OBGYN who actually has some additional training/background/education in sex and sexuality, they're not who I'd ask for help with those things, just for future reference. That's not a failing of theirs (unless they are suggesting they are experts when they are not!), it's just not what they are actually educated in and what kind of care they provide. I'm sorry that this doctor derailed you, but I AM glad that you feel solid enough in knowing yourself and what sounds like you figuring out your own actual, authentic sexuality enough to know that this wasn't right for you. THAT is actually really fucking great, you know? So, in that way, it's kind of awesome you had the opportunity, even though it sure would have been nice to have it not be "tested" like that. :(

I, personally, really think that desire is something we have to just be open to letting it show itself, to letting it appear and to feeling it if and when it does. And then recognizing it, because it doesn't always look or feel like we expect, obviously (or like other people do). You know, like, for you, I think one way it sounds like you often experience desire is in feeling the desire to move your body. There might be some days that you have to try and tease that out a little, like if you're feeling sick, so it's not happening itself so immediately, but you know it'd make you feel better if you could move, but it's still you drawing out something that's *in* you, not making something up. Does it help to think about it more that way? As either having it show or teasing it out? rather than trying to manufacture it?

Something I'd also factor in is that SO much of this kind of media does not take a particularly relaxed attitude about just letting it be when desire isn't there and not freaking out about it or trying to make it happen all the time when it isn't there. (Oddly enough, this is becoming a theme in a lot of what I'm asked about sex and desire now that I'm starting to do more work in the menopause space.) But I think that is a grave error. I think letting desire ebb and flow and accepting that there are times in life we will feel it and won't, and that both are equally okay is what makes room for us to feel it without pressure -- like, that's part of what makes space for it, there being space NOT to have it. Your own mind seems to know that bu its reaction to pressure to the contrary!
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
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Location: Chicago

Re: No Sexual Desire or Pleasure, Ever

Unread post by Heather »

I wanted to plop this one in a separate post:
The Ultimate Guide book raised an interesting idea about some pre-orgasmic women subconsciously feeling unable to "let go" to experience orgasm because they feel so much pressure and that everything else is so out of their control, that the one thing they can control and cling onto is not letting themselves feel good. Engaging in so much solo or partnered "okay, let's figure this out" sex probably isn't helping from that perspective. Obviously I'm saying yes to any solo or partnered activity that happens, but if I've never done it out of any genuine desire to do so, maybe that's fueling self-resentment and powerlessness that aren't helpful. I also don't come from a very consent-respecting family (just the typical stuff: lots of hugging/kissing/poking/tickling/touching/grabbing and emotional prying which doesn't ever respect me saying no several times) so that probably makes me used to relenting to things on the surface that I never genuinely want.
I think this is all important stuff to recognize, and no matter what, I think acknowledging that your personal space hasn't been respected, and that your boundaries are probably extra important to you as a result is great! I'd let your partner (and maybe your family, if you ever feel able and want to) and any future partners know about that, just so you can have that for yourself.

Is that related to anything else we've been talking about? I don't know. What do you think? I mean, I've not assumed anything we have talked about so far, just so we're clear, is about there being a problem, or is a reaction to something that has been traumatic or problematic. I've assumed that it is just as likely that all of this is just about the flavor of your sexuality and how you and it are, and none of it the matter, as anything else. That said, my praxis is that I also generally know we're all what our lives have made us, you know? Personally, I grew up with a lot of trauma, including a lot of sexual trauma, and I know that's part of my sexuality, but I don't really divide the ways it is into problems and not-problems, especially because I don't think I could: it's a mashup. I say that in part because I also want to make sure that you're being reflective, but not pathologizing yourself or your sexuality here. <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 »

Thanks so much for your responses, and for your validation and kind words. <3

I'm with you in that I don't think I can easily divide myself up into problems and "just the way I am", because the way I am is shaped by my experiences, and I'm here regardless of whether nor not I label a particular thing problematic.

I know I'm a person who has always had a hard time both saying no (say, to work responsibilities I don't want) and saying yes (say, asking for more time to finish something) and it's something I've intensively worked on in all facets of life, to the point that I'm relatively confident in my ability to stand up for myself, if not always eloquently and elegantly.

But boundaries, and figuring out WHEN to put in the effort to saying yes and no and whether it's worthwhile to do so, have always been tricky for me and, you're right, I have a unique relationship with them based in my own personal experiences and "family stuff". It's been a source of a handful of recent other connections I've conveyed to my partner (ie, this past experience might influence whether I feel like I can say no, or why I don't like people raising their voices at me, or why footsteps and background noise make me completely freeze up, etc) and they've been helpful to bring out into the open and look at and discuss for what they are: past (and current) experiences that change the way I react to given situations.

With this one specifically, I guess the best thing I can do to grow from here is trying to remember to actually ask myself what I want and honor that by expressing and responding to it. That's something that's always tricky for me to remember to do. When I'm playing a bad game of chess I know it's because I'm not thinking about what I want to do, but defaulting to defending myself and nothing else.

Being honest with myself within my own brain and solo experience with choices like like "I've tried to make this sexual fantasy work and I just don't care about it at all. The only thing that sounds nice to think about right now is a comforting cuddle," or "erotica is boring and I don't like reading it," or "I don't feel like masturbating and I really need to sleep" is probably a good start. It's really hard to do those things, because I'm scared if I'm not "practicing" these things I'm never going to get any "better" from where I am. Add a partner into the mix, and the cascade of "practice" pressure mixed with all kinds of other societal expectations and disappointment in myself kind of subconsciously put saying no out of the picture for me by making as much practical experience as possible feel like the necessary option, and well, I don't care much either way, so why not do something the other person might enjoy and that there's a chance I might (theoretically) down the line?

So trying to relax my vice grip and just let things happen (or not happen) is something that feels really hard to do. It's really hard to just let it rest and let things come on their own, and trust that things will fall into place and it's okay to be the way I am and experience what I'm experiencing. It's something I know intellectually, but I'm just so shot-through with "should" tension that hasn't let go of my body. Surely I have to be putting in some kind of regular effort to get where I want to be, right? Just letting go feels counter-intuitive to that tradition (I'm a big ambitious work-oriented Get It Done person) and is really, really difficult. Which I guess means it might be worth trying more.
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