This is the sixth in a series of posts about my experiences with a sexual pain disorder, and my journey toward a cure.*
My boyfriend and I still try sex.One time, when I think the lidocaine cream is really helping and it still hurts so bad, I ask him to stop, and then I cry and cry and cry, my whole body grieves for my dead sexuality, some part of me that feels ripped away, and I just curl away from him and can’t look at him, can’t let him touch me, and he lays helpless, defeated, for a half hour, while I am controlled by sobs. I feel cheated, and I feel I’ve cheated him. I want to give everything to him, and I barely have any for myself.Finally, when it’s over, he just holds me, and we never talk about it again.Sometimes it’s so bad that within a minute, I push him out of me, literally, with my hands against his chest, arms locking. He has so much pain in his expressive eyes each time. Sometimes I resent him that he doesn’t have it in the rest of his body. I feel ashamed and ungrateful, but there are moments I just hate him when he can get off and I don’t even feel good. But he tries so hard.
But once a relationship is established as sexual, the lack of sex can destroy it. When people tell me sex doesn't actually matter, I laugh. Freedom makes them foolish. Sex may be the oldest way in which we show we've chosen to love someone, and being forced to give it up is traumatic.
In fact, I just read about a young woman in Medieval Europe, where they were giving up sex all the time for the sake of Jesus, or so they said. This woman convinced her husband to make their marriage chaste to secure heaven. After a few months, he asked her if someone held a sword to his neck and said they must have sex, would she let him die before making love like they used to? I believe he actually used those words (in Old English): Make love like they used to. She said that she would rather him go to heaven (heofonum, as they said back then) clean than live in sin.
He tells her she is "no good wife," and honestly, I have to agree. I'm not here to knock anybody's faith, but she would rather let him die than ever have sex with him? That's extreme. And yet, maybe there's something about this woman we don't know. Maybe she and her sisters used religious fanaticism as an acceptable excuse to not have sex, when their actual reasons may not have been respected.
But...Here's her husband, bound to a woman he loves having sex with, and who has condemned him to a life of celibacy. And he respects it. It obviously hurts him and their marriage, but at least up till the conversation, he respects her wishes. Regardless of how difficult it is.
Many of my fellow feminists will stand up and say, "Of course he should respect it! It's her prerogative! He doesn't have a right to tell her to have sex!" They're right. No individual should ever force or coerce or guilt or obligate another person into sex.
But if you've ever told a man that he can no longer express his emotions for his woman in the deepest physical way, that he must stop giving her what he believes she deserves, and seen the pain on his face, you would understand that there is more going on than horniness.
When a man loves a woman, the desire for sex is not selfish. It's an expression of exactly how wonderful he thinks she is. That's why men care so much about performing well and often, and why a lack of prowess or size or ability is such a source of shame for so many. It has nothing to do with other men, or their own sense of manliness. They just want to pleasure their woman. It's almost an act of service. My first lover told me that the first time he made me orgasm was the single most rewarding experience of his life. It is a huge point of ego for a man to be able to please a woman. They love watching women they love experience pleasure.
Abstaining in general is fine, if that's what's understood from the beginning. People seem to have an easy enough time with it, and there are good reasons to do so. To take sex out of a previously sexual relationship is torture. It cuts off a route to expression, creates a boundary that wasn't there before. I've done it several times, both with my ex- and my current boyfriend, and as hard as it is for me, I think it's harder on them. I may be in pain, but at least I hold the cards. But these poor guys just have to sit there and watch me suffer. I've never seen anyone look as helpless or desperate as my lovers have looked when I'm hurting. Men love solutions, they love to help, but here, there's nothing they can do.
There are times when I'm extremely resentful; there are times when I don't care, or when I'm glad at least they're in some pain too. But I've been going through this long enough to realize that it can't be easy to have a girlfriend like me. So I have some sympathy. I've gotten lucky. There are some women in my situation who lose their men, or whose lovers turn violent in an attempt to satisfy their own urges. But I believe that most guys are basically good people who want their lovers to have happy, healthy, sexy sex. I give my lovers lots of credit.
That being said, my first sexual relationship completely fell apart, partially because of that very issue. Yes, we were becoming very different people who weren't destined to be together anyway, but the more difficult sex became for me, the more we fought--about stupid stuff, too. There came a point when I began to associate any physical attention with the eventuality of sex, and became afraid of, and turned off by, every kiss. I asked him not to initiate intimacy anymore. He was completely respectful, but it was rough. There were times when I was angry at the world and took it out on him. He started accusing me of crap instead of trusting me, and wouldn't believe my apologies were sincere.
It's worth mentioning that this guy was a total rock star: His girlfriend before me suffered from female sexual dysfunction, a psychological syndrome caused by trauma. She couldn't have sex with him either. When we broke up, I joked that he deserved a girl he could have healthy sex with. He said, "The thought has crossed my mind."
It's tough to love a man, and to know that sex is part of that equation, and not be able to provide it for him in the normal methods or quantities, let alone enjoy it myself. Even in my current, wonderful relationship, I feel like I'm cutting my boyfriend off from something he deserves, that he would be getting from most any other woman. He walked into my situation knowingly, too. He says he did it because I'm worth the wait. We plan to be together in the long run, so he figures this will eventually be a short phase at the beginning of our relationship. Despite very real challenges, and very hard times, he's optimistic.
But I think to myself: What if I knew I was going to be like this forever? Would he stay? Would it be right of me to expect him to? And he can say now that he would, but if the situation became a reality, would his answer change? The impossibility of answering these questions is almost as frustrating as the questions themselves. I've wondered if I might even leave him, so that he can feel free to find someone healthy to have sex with. I'd feel like I was imprisoning him otherwise. And everyone deserves good sex.
Everyone deserves good sex.
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.
To read the whole story, take a look at the whole "Thoughts from Anna Rose" series:Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5