What do I know about my own sexual desire?
Today I know that it is still, and I refuse to worry about that. This seems to be a core piece of the discussion: worry. I (loosely) remember lines from a Woody Allen movie:
Girl: I was telling my psychiatrist that I had an orgasm last week. He told me it wasn’t the right kind.
Woody: Really? Not the right kind? Funny… every one of mine is always right on the money…
In my day women could still be frigid, and even though I was too young to deeply understand this notion, it was pervasive and real, especially within some of the books from which I was getting my information about sex: “The Group”. Later on I read “Candy” which, while assuring me that the young and beautiful were not prone to frigidity, they were expected to put out or be called frigid. What a wide Sargasso Sea that is.
I was coming of age sexually in a time where women were beginning to refuse to assimilate any further in the land of the patriarchy, and were looking to revolt, or find a new land entirely. Patriarchy: it was a word I was hearing early and often, while all the neighbors in my building in Queens talked excitedly with a kind of awe about the daughter of the people who lived in 2D who was now a Playboy bunny. But frigid was still there, hanging about like the forbidding wraith the word invoked.
With this underlying fear of being cold, of not “liking” sex, came this revolt or response from women older than me that demanded sexual freedom and placed the responsibility for “good” (not frigid) sex not on women, but on the idea that perhaps some women had shitty, uncaring, inexperienced, or frightened sexual partners. Suddenly the Kinsey report was not shocking, but helpful. There was talk about the clitoris, masturbation, and orgasm without having to hide and read about them in “those” books.
But this is really back story.
My first sexual experience was rape, and since only bad girls who deserved it, wanted it, were raped, that occurrence is what offered me the palette from which I could choose to color my desire.
Right after that night, I had a series of sexual encounters (I should mention that I was just barely 14) that I initiated with boys I knew had been trying to break me down. They were awkward unsatisfying comminglings that took place in the bedroom where friends were babysitting, the 50’s classic back seat of a car, and standing in alleys. Once there were back to back encounters. It was always fucking. I would never call it anything else.
I was, like you, looking for something. In my case, along with the love, I was trying somehow to reclaim my choice. Rape had a way of removing that in my mind, and my fantasies still included that lack of choice, often to my chagrin. Yet, why should I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with my fantasies and desires? Most likely because they did not come from me but from the culture around me, and I could not own them.
Still, as time passed things did change and I remember coming into a time when I did not have that shame. I was encouraged, almost charged, to have sex as often, freely and openly (this also meant out in the open) as possible. The small culture in which I participated and toward which I gravitated, let me try to find my desires by experimentation, accident, and design. But I will say that as the times changed, so did my feelings about my desire. As the world became chilly, as the pandemic broke over us, as youth retreated, so did my desire.
Today, as I have said, my libido is quiet. I know it isn’t dead, and the stillness may be my own doing, but that is exactly the point: it is mine. I would be lying if I didn’t say that once in a while I wonder if I am finally frigid, but then I laugh and say, “Oh fercrissakes, let’s believe in Santa while we’re at it!”
Remind me to talk about the recent realizations around vibrators that I had via others responses to my having said I never used one. That was very interesting…