Relationships archive

Sex, Sexuality and Consent

When I was, ooh… 17 years old (give or take) I wrote a “dirty” poem for the man I thought I was in love with. I don’t remember the words, but I remember it was a little bit rude, a little bit “naughty”. That poem didn’t go down well. The recipient freaked the fuck out and I still don’t know why, but it immediately shut down communication about sex with the man I was supposed to be spending the rest of my life with.

That break in trust — the terrible reception to such a big part of an ‘adult relationship’ — caused a catastrophic change in my already fragile relationship with sex and my ‘sexual identity’. It’s hard enough to think about sex when you’ve had control over it forcibly removed from you at a young age (link content warning, sexual abuse) but to pluck up the courage to do ‘something’ and then be shamed and ridiculed and made to feel like a terrible human being?

I distanced myself from sex at that point. I made excuses to avoid it. I celebrated headaches, and getting thrush was like winning the fucking lottery. I tolerated the parts I couldn’t refuse. I faked orgasms to get it over with quicker. I refused to try new things. I was labelled frigid, and I cried, but accepted it as truth. Over the years as memories of that encounter faded I swallowed the constant message that this lack of interest in sex was my fault. I accepted that I just wasn’t that into sex, that sex did nothing to me, and it was probably because I had been abused; because I was broken.

Some 11+ years after that incident and I found myself suddenly free. With nobody to tell me what I did and didn’t enjoy, what I could and couldn’t say, I found myself bizarrely attracted to the idea of just getting laid. Going out, having sex with a random stranger, and seeing what happened. I put it to my counsellor that having sex would, once and for all, finally answer questions that I had kept buried for so long. Was I just frigid? Did I actually enjoy sex? Could I actually even orgasm from something other than masturbation?

In hindsight, this was a terrible plan that could have gone disastrously wrong. Sex, not least sex with someone for the first time, can be crap for a huge variety of reasons. The last thing I needed was for a bad one night stand to cement in my head that I was a fucked up sexless disaster of a woman incapable of enjoying herself.

By some miracle my first sexual encounter post-ex was glorious. And not for the reasons you might expect: my vagina did not spontaneously combust because of orgasm overload (although that would have been impressive) and I didn’t explode semen from my ears (less impressive). I felt lust and desire for what might have been the first time in 28 years, but after a long day of anticipation and nervousness and a long not-date full of conversation and laughter, I was exhausted and I stopped the whole thing. I said no.

“What happened next might surprise you!”

He said OK. And we rolled over and cuddled to sleep. And it turns out that’s what normal people do. Sometimes one or both persons don’t want sex, and they say no, and things go no further. Like I said, this was glorious. It was exactly what I needed. I did not need multiple orgasms to feel better, I needed someone to respect my body. To respect my voice and to understand consent. Respecting that “no” meant trust, and it meant communication withour fear, which meant I did not feel judged or shamed or like a terrible human being. It made me feel normal.

As it turns out, there’s nothing quite like communication and feeling normal to give you the mental space needed to finally open your mind to what sex CAN be like. Given that freedom meant that I could work through both old issues from new angles to (hopefully) put them to rest, but also a muddled up jumble of thoughts about myself as an unbroken person! With needs! And desires! And fantasies and kinks and attraction to people and ‘types’ that I’d never considered before.

Growing up in what I would call a sex positive household — an openly gay mum and various relatives of all LGBT+ colours — meant that I had never given much thought to sexuality. It was just a thing that people had/did/enjoyed/whatever. No big deal. On one hand this was great for opening my mind as a kid, but on the other this fluidity and ‘normalisation’ and blurring of sexualities and different sexual preferences meant I never really considered it important to establish my own preferences in any sort of fixed medium. That, and the early and further long-term erasure of any sort of personal sexual identity, meant that I spent 30 years just assuming I was straight.

So… back to this new found ability to communicate and explore, and I get on to thinking about my sexual preferences, and I started thinking about sexuality in more detail. I figured yep, I must still be straight because I knew I wasn’t gay: I was finally enjoying sex with a man too much to be gay. But for a straight woman with lots of thoughts on what I’d do to the likes of Tom Hardy or Cillian Murphy if they found themselves in my bedroom, I sure found quite a lot of women attractive too.

Despite experiencing sex and sexuality positive parenting, I also saw biphobia from a young age. Gems such as “it’s just greedy”, and they’re “in denial about being gay” were not uncommon. I can’t say for sure that this made me discount bisexuality altogether, but it definitely meant that it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind growing up. And then one day I found those ‘Tom Hardy in my bedroom’ thoughts undeniably stirred up by an attractive woman and bosh: like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it all clicked together. I am bisexual.

That wondrous magical consent-respecting man I mentioned above is now my husband. And despite my attraction to women (and Tom Hardy) I’m not greedy and I’m not gay: because above and beyond all others I love, want, & desire him.

Wedding Antics

So who got married last week? Just me? Oh :)


On May 16th at 11:30ish (we were early) Gaz and I officially tied the knot (as they say; no actual knots were tied). In a short and sweet ceremony where I agreed to love and cherish my “awfully” wedded husband, we exchanged rings, had a quick snog then went for yummy grub at my favourite pizza restaurant.

On Saturday night we made it all the more real with a celebration for family and friends who very kindly travelled from as far away as London, Scotland and even Belgium.

We ate a big hog roast, expensive cheeses, locally made cupcakes and the best tasting popcorn I’ve ever eaten from Joe & Seph’s. Seriously, that stuff is adictive. I don’t even eat popcorn normally and now I’m thinking about getting the catering size packs in for “emergencies”.

Music was provided by local band Lost the Plot and was heartily enjoyed by all guests. Huge thanks to these guys for entertaining us all evening, and for playing (by special request) Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”. There’s something particularly amusing about 3 ageing muscians (sorry guys) playing a song about curvy young women.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the night, including one of me dancing like a bellend (for your personal enjoyment):

what kind of dancing is that

team gazza

the look of love

And there are tons more photos are up on Facebook, if you know where to look.

If I know what love is, it is because of you

If you follow me on social media at all (you all follow me on social media, right?) you’ll know that Gaz asked me to marry him last week. I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, having not long woken up, and Gaz just randomly stated “we should get married”. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, and he was on his phone, so thought maybe he’d said someone else was getting married. I responded, bewildered, “what? why?”

I clearly know how to respond to a marriage proposal with class and the appropriate level of excitedness.

After some discussion during which we established that he wasn’t just pulling my leg, that he really was asking me to marry him, etc etc, I obviously said yes. Who wouldn’t want to marry a man that is hilariously funny, super intelligent, kind, patient, calm and most importantly of all, puts up with me?

So I am engaged. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. Firstly, because this means that someone genuinely loves me enough to want to spend the rest of their life with ME. Secondly, because I have never particularly planned to get married, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thirdly, because suddenly everyone wants to be involved in my relationship which, while lovely, is also oddly intrusive and weird. For someone who is generally a chronic oversharer, my desire to not share THIS (hence not announcing it for nearly a week) feels out of character even to myself.

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really ‘do’ weddings, generally. There are several wedding traditions that rub me the wrong way. I’m not interested in being walked down the aisle (especially so in a church setting, because I can think of nothing more hypocritical) or wearing a giant puffy meringue dress. I don’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and favours and frills and all that pomp and ceremony. (No offence to anyone who likes that stuff, this isn’t a judgement.)

On the flip side, being married to Gaz seems 100% right. There is nobody else who gets me like he does, who makes me laugh like he does, and whom I trust so wholly and completely. And I want people to know that, and to see/understand the depth of my feelings for him. I’m just not sure how to share that without letting people in.

(“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” — Hermann Hesse)

Moving on from emotional abuse (TW)

Trigger warning: emotional abuse, link to/veiled references to sexual abuse

One of the hardest parts about moving on from an emotionally abusive relationship has been recognising the impact that it has had on aspects of my personality and my own behaviour. I am regularly taken by surprise by my reactions to seemingly inconsequential events because of expectations based on previous experience. I will often detach, feeling like I am watching both the situation unfold and my own emotions that follow, knowing that often my reaction is disproportionate to what has happened, but feeling completely powerless to do anything about it. As someone who considers themselves strong and independent and able to deal with an incredible amount of trials and tribulations (TW), this is physically painful to me and does nothing to ease the trauma.

Take for example this every day sort of incident: not long after Gaz and I started seeing each other, he was walking through the kitchen of his flat when stubbed his toe on a portable radiator he had against the back wall. He yelped in pain/surprise and I physically winced. Not in sympathy or acknowledgement of his pain, but because of a sudden overwhelming fear that enveloped my body. My eyes started to water, I felt adrenaline surging through my body as the fight or flight reaction took hold. My body, my reaction, completely out of tune with what should have been an “oooh, are you ok love?” response. It took hours for me to ‘come down’ from that, and it was only months later that I was able to fully explain to Gaz what I had experienced in that moment. He, of course, didn’t even remember stubbing his toe (why should he?)

I know now that this response is caused by conditioning: that over time I have experienced so much negativity following incidents like that, that even though logically I knew I was safe and Gaz would react like a normal / rational person, my brain thought I was ‘in for it’. That I should expect verbal abuse because it would be all my fault.

I’m getting better at dealing with those sorts of incidents. Gaz tripped up the stairs recently (I’m making him sound incredibly clumsy) and although I had a wibble, my immediate emotional response was concern rather than fear.

However, one thing I still struggle with particularly during periods of high anxiety (generally in the week or so when I’m off the pill, and when I’m overly stressed or very tired) and can’t seem to shake is a different sort of fear: fear of abandonment. If I feel that I’ve done anything ‘wrong’ or that I’m causing upset I start to panic. Trigger for this can vary from something as harmless as a sarcastic comment meant in humour to Gaz physically turning around/away from me (with completely innocent intent). When this happens I am again gripped by feelings I have no control over, and this usually results in one of two reactions: I cry, and act like a needy child wanting reassurance, or I start to use passive aggressive behaviour in a push away/pull you close cycle, making sarcastic comments or resurfacing tiny irrelevant incidents in my head from months past to use as ‘ammo’ in case I need to argue, to fight. This in itself is a form of emotional abuse and it kills me that I recognise the things in my behaviour that have been done to me.

I have yet to wrap my head around why, when I was in that harmful relationship, I completely failed to spot or identify with any of the feelings that I experience now. I had no idea that I felt actual physical fear when I knew I was likely to be used as the excuse or blame for an incident not of my causing. It was just normal. It was how it was. To know that I was so completely out of touch with my own mind that I could not recognise something as powerful as fear makes me really, really fucking angry. And ashamed that I could be so stupid.

As a result of spending a huge part of my life waiting for incidents and accidents I’ve developed a weird sort of hypervigilance. I have empathy up to the eyeballs which allows me to very quickly identify with other people’s range of moods and feel spectacular depths of happiness (which itself causes me so much fucking pain: try being that person in the playground who cries at the sight of their child at the end of the school day “just because”) and, conversely, sadness. Anyway, this hypervigilance was vital in dealing with someone who operated on a very small scale of ‘okay’ and meant that I could try and react appropriately to nip a problem in the bud before it developed into a full blown argument. Of course this meant using the one thing I felt like I had any control over to try and placate and please: my body. The irony of this isn’t lost on me… having to fuck your way out of an argument is not empowering and the person in control was clearly never me.

The hypervigilance remains, but not everyone operates on a such a small scale of black or white in their emotional range. “Normal” people experience a range of feelings, which confuse my little internal radar. When Gaz comes home from work after a shit day and I can see the tiredness in his eyes and the stress in his expression, the “deal with this” alarm kicks in. I backtrack in my head to what I could have done, what part of my day made his stress my fault. A tiny part of my brain reminds me again and again that this wasn’t me but the tiny voice is drowned out by the shouts of “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” and “FIX THIS SHIT”. Of course I can’t fix it, because it’s not my problem nor responsibility to fix anything, and so the despair and uselessness floods in and Miss Fear of Abandonment comes aknocking.

I am getting better. Sometimes, when I feel something affecting the stability of my mood, I can talk myself down or distract myself from it. Sometimes I can fix things with a long run. Sometimes I type out stupidly long blog entries (although I usually delete them). Sometimes I spend money unnecessarily (less ideal). Mostly I just lean on Gaz and remember that I am very lucky to have found someone who isn’t scared by the journey I have yet to take, and who hasn’t faltered when I’ve needed him so far.

20 signs your relationship is probably over

It’s really quite easy to live day to day in a bad relationship because good people don’t like to think that other people — the people they love and are committed to — are anything but good too. But…

  1. If you need to ask permission to see your friends
  2. If you have to justify extending the length of your outings beyond a set curfew
  3. And endure repeated abusive phone calls if you’re just a tiny bit late
  4. If you need to explain why you bought yourself new underwear
  5. If you need to defend shaving your legs or cutting your hair
  6. If you have to put a PIN on your phone to get some privacy
  7. If the only ideas or plans that are acceptable are your partner’s
  8. If you work all day, parent all night, and still have to do ALL the housework, cook all the meals, wash all the clothes
  9. If you need to catch someone out in a lie to get the truth
  10. If you daren’t mention male friends or colleagues for fear of an argument
  11. If your idea of happiness is defined as not having an argument that day
  12. If your friends are rendered speechless at your partner’s behaviour (even if they’re too polite to say it’s dickish)
  13. If you feel like you’re losing your mind because you can’t keep track of the stories and spin
  14. If you are feel physically scared of a reaction to something, even if you’ve never been hit
  15. If everything is always “your fault” or “in your head”
  16. If you find yourself constantly making excuses for behaviour: your partner is tired, stressed, or they’ve had a hard day at work
  17. If you feel you need to make excuses to get out of sexual contact you don’t want
  18. Or feel the need to engage in sexual contact because it’s easier than saying no
  19. If you spend hours every week fantasising about leaving and trying to figure out if you can handle the finances on your own
  20. If you know in your gut that it is over, but are holding on for the sake of your family or children

…you probably need to leave.

It’s easy to normalise and justify each of the items in the list above as “just one-offs” and separate problems, each with their own little causes and ultimately, each with their own solutions. But they are not one-offs, they are pieces of a bigger puzzle. And you probably need to leave.

(Please don’t wait 12 years to do it.)