Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts from Anna Rose, Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of posts about my experiences with a sexual pain disorder, and my journey toward a cure.*

His fingers move to the elastic at the top of my sweatpants.
“I feel like you should know something about me,” I tell him. Too dramatic? What else do I say?

“Okay?”
“I have a disorder that makes penetration hurt.”

If men's responses to this piece of news were a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, the choices would be:
1) Okay.
2) Does your clit still work?
3) That's a relief
4) Are you a virgin?
5) Can I still have a blow job?
6) What if I wear a condom?

It's clear that some of these guys were expecting sex. I don't know what led them to that expectation, but my guess is it was past experience with one night stands. That leads me to assume that there are a good many women having sex when they hook up. I had a lot of encounters with many different men. While each was different, one thing remained the same: I couldn't have sex with any of them. They couldn't even put their fingers inside me. It would always hurt. So I told them that (I use the past tense here because the nature of my current relationship leads me to believe that I won't be having anymore random hookups. Stay tuned for my next post, which will cover serious relationships and pain disorders).

There were all the usual practical and emotional reasons why I didn't want to have sex with someone I didn't know. But we can only learn from our own past and our own bodies, so pain was the reason I always gave. Since any kind of contact or penetration hurts, I figured had to tell them anyway.

Yet, some of my lovers' responses led me to believe that other of my fellow females aren't having sex on the first encounter. These guys knew how to take no for an answer with grace and fluidity. So I began to wonder: What do other women hide behind when they don't want to have sex? If they don't hurt, what's their excuse?

The way I worded that thought to myself the first time I had it made me realize that I was, in fact, hiding behind my disorder. Even though I hated it, even though it had ruined a relationship and given me more misery than any other part of my life ever, it kept me safe. It gave me something solid to stand on that I couldn't possibly be talked out of, and made any guy who pushed a truly supreme asshole. I used my disorder to hide from intercourse, and I used it to hide from other acts: If I couldn't have sex, then oral was as far as I could go. That made oral take on a more emotionally charged role, or so I told a few guys, so they could hold their breath for that.

My thought pattern continued: If I was using my disorder to hide from sex, what would I have been up to if I were healthy? Would I have thought differently about it, and had more of it? As it stands, I've been sexually active for five years and I've made love with two people, both of whom I was in love with at the time of said sex. I've never had a real one night stand. I've always wondered what spontaneous sex is like. Who knows if I'd have had it, if I could. My disorder has taught me to appreciate the deeper nuances of sex. To me it's not about penetration and pleasure, but about the way sex reminds me of how animal I really am, and how that connection to my planet, which I believe to be a breathing organism, in turn makes me spiritual. It's an intense revelation of the interconnection of all the parts of us. Since I can't possibly feel casual about it, I've never had casual sex, even though the idea appeals to me.

But would I, if my experience of sex had been different? In some ways I'm glad it wasn't, because I'd know less about sex in general. But would I have had more of it? And would that have been worth it? Would I have had more fun?

Or would I have felt more pressure? I know there are women who have sex because they think they should, or because it's just easier than trying to get out of it. I could never be one of those women. I cannot be talked into sex. I've avoided several potentially dangerous situations by being invulnerable to persuasion or attack.

But there are plenty of women who say no, and their excuses are the fear of pregnancy or disease, or the simple lack of desire. Given the persistence of some men, it almost shocks me that a simple "no" could be sufficient safeguard. What do you back it up with? What if the conversation becomes so persistent that you're just completely turned off? How do normal people do this?

I realize that it's probably sick to even feel like I need to protect myself. I wonder if I hide behind my disorder because it makes me feel like there's a reason I have it after all. I wonder if I do it because it's easy. It's the only easy thing about my sex life. Maybe I do it because in some way it makes me unique. I could just as easily say no. Maybe I do it to gain some semblance of control. There's no guidebook to this disorder, no support group or role model to set an example or give suggestions. I'm making it up as I go along.

So I used it as an excuse. I did what I could, and ostracized myself from what I couldn't. I made it a non-possibility. At times of especially bad pain or trauma, I've done it in relationships too. Sex scared me, so my disorder kept me safe. It was a cycle so twisted it became a Mobius strip.

Love,
Anna Rose

*If you have chronic pain during intercourse and you know you have no history of sexual violence, you may have a pain disorder, and you should see a doctor. Get opinions from several different kinds of doctors, especially non-conventional if possible.

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