I was sitting in her kitchen, drinking Moscato wine after being laid off of a part-time receptionist gig that I hated but was comfortable with continuing until the end of the summer. I was angry and resentful and sad and anxious. I was a twisted ball of some shit I couldn’t even put into words. Those fucks at that silly little job had ruined my plans and as a way to soothe my hurt ego, my homegirl made a dinner for me that I literally ate with fork and spoon straight out of her caldero (it was that slamming good!) and offered me numbing Moscato by the glassful.
She’s a fucking saint, that woman.
As I sipped, I talked to her about a tryst I had just had and how before that it had been so long since I had been intimate with someone, though it had only been a month or so at least since the last time. Knowing this, she giggled and looked up at me with questioning eyes.
“Have you always been this hypersexual?”
The question stunned me. Me? Hypersexual? But hypersexual was something I only read about, some psychological and fucked up problem that I didn’t have. Or was it that I presented myself in a much too forward way? Did that mean I was TOO sexual? Was I inappropriate? Was I presenting myself in a way that is unbecoming of who I truly was?
The next day, I looked up the word “hypersexual,” and realized it was much more complex than I had first imagined. I skimmed the Wikipedia page (yeah, I went there…LOL) and waited for something to pop out at me, some symptom of this fucked-uppedness that apparently I had been showing for some time. I went through the Wikipedia page sort of quickly, passing the blah-blah-blahs of the technical medical words of it, but it was the Compulsivity Model of hypersexuality that stared me in the face. It reads:
“Compulsions are behaviors a person performs in order to reduce feelings of anxiety or tension. According to this explanation of hypersexuality, persons engage in whatever sexual behavior in order to reduce feelings of tension, instead of to express sexual desire. Because engaging in the behavior can worsen the situation causing the tension, the person experiences a longer-term increase in tension, despite the shorter-term relief, resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle.”-Wikipedia entry “Hypersexuality”
Boom. Now, who HASN’T used sex at one point in time as a temporary relief for some fucked up shit that came up and darkened their day? Who, in their right mind, would say, “No, as a matter of fact, an orgasm would NOT temporarily take my mind off of this petty stress I am going through?” Not me, that’s for sure. And if you said you would say that, you’re a fucking liar, and you know it.
However, in this specific instance, the compulsivity model of hypersexuality intrigued me. I thought back to the summer I lost my virginity. I was 15 years old. I can get into details about the way that my family’s personal shit spilled over us all and affected the ties that bound us together. Thankfully, over the years, those relationships have softened and changed, but at that time, I can remember being a part of a very difficult and hard equation. I was 15. I won’t say I was the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I will say that I was looking for something to spark me back to smiles. I won’t use my age at the time as an excuse or a crutch, that’s not what this is about. It was a choice and I made it, though honestly when it happened, I just let it. There is no other way for me to describe my first experience with sex. I knew I wasn’t ready but I just let it happen.
Can’t get more honest than that.
This kid, this smiling kid who held my hand and played with the ends of my curls and stared at me as I walked away; this kid who didn’t look right through me and who kissed me as if he really wanted me to be there — he eased something in my fifteen year old mind, gave me something to smile about in the midst of my teenage angst and my family upheaval. Despite all of that though, he and I never worked, had a million things happen over the years that revealed why it was never going to work, but we are still friends. He’s having a child soon. I wish him and his growing family the very best.
That coming winter would bring the death of a loved one, the inevitable separation of my parents, a depression that whirlpooled around me, and the realization that what I wanted most of all was to forget and ignore and avoid. The soap opera and dramatics of teenage sexual relationships best fit the role for avoidance. I moved into that framework with such ease it was like second nature by the time I was eighteen.
And so my psychological self-analysis began. I thought of every stressful and anxious time in my life and what my reaction was. Nine times out of ten, I jumped into (or remained in) a flimsy and oftentimes volatile relationship that revolved around the temporary fix that I had received a taste of that summer. This is not to say that I am self-diagnosing myself as a compulsive hypersexual. On the contrary, I write this to acknowledge that my sexual choices have not always been rooted in desire and healthy exploration as they are now. I have to acknowledge that before I critique anything else.
The reality though, the reason I write this, the struggle I felt with this, is that when my friend asked me that question it not only forced me to look at myself and the choices I made since that summer fifteen years ago, but it SHAMED me. I was ashamed to be called that and that pissed me the fuck off.
Now, to be absolutely and positively clear, I wasn’t mad at her. No. Not at all. None of this has anything to do with her or what she thinks of me. That’s my sister and my sisters will put to light anything they feel I should look at more closely. As my sister, she was doing her damn job and I am so glad she did. It wasn’t a very comfortable subject for me to look at inwardly, but the discomfort only proved that it was something I had to do. Dig it?
Entonces, what I was mostly mad about was the idea that a woman of thirty years of age who enjoys sex immensely and talks openly about it can feel SHAME about doing just that. I was mad that I, myself, felt shame. Me, someone who has always fought so fiercely against that binary about women’s sexuality. The binaries still existed though, ingrained in my head after all of these years. It infuriates me that negative connotations and perceptions can be imposed on a woman because they have had more than a handful of partners. That, by having more than a handful of lovers, they are thought of as less than, or less worthy of a healthy relationship, or less worthy of love and respect.
FUCK THAT SHIT, BY THE WAY.
Let me paint a picture.
I am 27 years old. It is the end of the summer and I am single and dating. Somehow, a man from my past (or a woman in his present) had taken a photo I had sent to him and posted it on a website called Smuts-R-Us. There were two pictures, and in both, I was topless.
I was devastated to say the least, but not for reasons everyone may assume. I had posed topless for artists before, so my nakedness was not the issue for me. The issue for me was the negative connotations and the devaluing of my character through the website. I looked up the word “smut” on urbandictionary.com and despite the known definition of “erotic art, literature, or photography,” the taglines read “ho,” “slut,” “skank,” “dirty,” “whore,” etc. Therefore, my photos being up there branded me as such.
I had to tell my brothers about this, knowing that if I didn’t, they would be blindsided if ever told by a friend who had randomly seen the photos. I was humiliated as I told them. I was ashamed when I told them. I became angry at both of those emotions.
I was told by certain people around me that my nonchalance over my nakedness was immoral, that I should ask God for forgiveness, that I “should have known better.” I lost friends, I lost some people’s respect, I was ridiculed and laughed at, and scolded by my family. The blog is no longer up, of course being reported for its content. I have since connected the dots but its irrelevant who did it because I see no shame in being sexual with someone who you plan on being intimate with or already have been intimate with.
I was in my late twenties for God’s sakes…did people think I was still a virgin? And even if I was a virgin….why was my sexuality or the expression of it a negative?
My anger stemmed from no one understanding this. There was a victim here and it was ME. I was violated. I was betrayed. I was victimized. Later, I would write an academic essay about the experience that would win me $1500. So, there would be my big fuck-you to them. But that is another story entirely.
Instead, I was told that I had done something wrong. I was told that expressing myself sexually was something that I should be ashamed of. The binaries remained, the virgin-whore, the good girl-bad girl bullshit was rife through this whole experience. I was told numerous times, to my face no less, that I was “una sinverguenza”, a shameless woman. That my expression of sexuality with a man I had been sexual with or planned on being sexual with was shameful, that our exchanges were wrong, and that me enjoying this expression was even worse.
I still don’t see what I did wrong.
I tell this story because it is yet another example of how these binaries have manifested themselves in my life. How the expression of my sexuality has been thought to be too much, how the openness of my sexuality has been demeaned, how talking about sexuality immediately casts me as having no shame, as not being worthy of being taken seriously by men (or women, for that matter). That’s unsettling and it shows me clear proof of how the patriarchal hegemony is still at work, even in a society where now people claim women are on equal standing with men.
That’s a big fucking SIKE!!!!!!! But again that is a longer entry. Let’s stay on topic.
I will say this about the Smuts-R-Us experience. If I had been a man, I would not have been called shameless for my expression or my openness about my sexuality. THAT is the difference.
That night, sitting in my homegirl’s kitchen, wine glass to my lips, I felt shame all over again. I felt the same sort of eyes on me and the same sort of judgment being passed.
But it was not from her.
It was all my own judgments, my own shit. I was beating myself up. And it made me think of how those binaries are so tattooed in our psyches that we often don’t need the world to pass judgment because we do it to ourselves. It made me cringe to know that this misogynistic way of thinking, this self-shaming had crept back into my brain, despite my proud-metaphorical-feminist-fist in the air.
But as Yoda says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” It’s something I work on every day.
So, what’s the resolution here?
It is better to teach that practiced safely, sex is beautiful as is its expression. It is better to teach that sex is not an emotional answer to stress (though we all, yes ALL, have succumbed to the temporary stress relief of a good orgasm…don’t lie…I see you…you’re blushing right now). It is better to teach that being freaky and enjoying sex is not a negative for anyone, male or female, AS LONG AS YOU ARE SAFE. Get tested every three to six months, y’all…for everything…condom use or no condom use, whether you are in a long-term relationship or sowing your wild oats. Make it a routine, make it a part of your life. But do it.
It is NOT better to teach females that they are a negative in society if they enjoy sex. It is NOT better to shit on them for exploring their sexuality, for having more lovers than what is considered acceptable by the binaries that patriarchy created for them. It is NOT better to refer to them in a negative way or use terms like “smut” or “ho” or anything as gross as that.
The shaming has got to stop…. from others and within ourselves.
I’ll embrace my sinverguenzeria. I’ll tell anyone if they ask, “Yo soy una sinverguenza.”
Why? Because if being a shameless woman means that I can enjoy sex, that I can safely explore my sexuality, that I can express my sexuality with whom I see fit, when I see fit, and with how many lovers I so friggin’ choose……then I will be a shameless woman and a proud one. I see no wrong in any of that.
My homegirl set her glass down as she watched my face change that night. She stared at me long and hard before she spoke.
“You know, Ang…there’s nothing wrong with that word. Hypersexual doesn’t mean shit but that you have more sex than others.”
I nodded. She poured more wine in my glass.
A fucking saint, I tell you.
Cheers to all my fellow sinverguenzas.