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.

Anniversaries, Races and …. this is a terrible title

What a month. WHAT A MONTH. Is it just me, or is May easily the busiest month of the year? (It probably is just me.)

The end of April (that’s basically May, right?) saw this blog – well, domain – reach 15. FIFTEEN years of dodgy web design, blogging about everything from poop to programming, as well as documenting massive life changes and my ongoing adventures.

May 4th, which came round far too bloody quickly, was the date of my trail marathon. That one with multiple ascents of circa 2000ft that I entered because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Predictably, I did not train for a marathon, so ended up ‘downgrading’ to the half on the day.

We (myself & some local friends) walk/ran/walked the half in 3hrs 37 official time, but again a Garmin moving time of around 3hrs 15 mins. Some of that walking was because my choice of trainers left a lot to be desired; despite running regularly in minimalist barefoot shoes and loving it, they’re absolutely sod all use for hilly half marathons comprised of slippery rock faces, gravel paths and the like. I was expecting to run in some Asics trail running shoes but they didn’t arrive in time, so I’m holding these back for July (because I’ve entered another trail half!?!)

The 5th of May saw me celebrating my ‘freedom’ anniversary – 3 years since I asked the ex to leave. As per usual, this meant my annual donation to Women’s Aid which after a quick post on Facebook was nearly tripled by friends.

On Sunday 7th May I then ran again — the Market Drayton 10k — which as well as being the first race I ever ran back in May 2015 is also up there as one of my absolute favourites. The support from the locals of Market Drayton is always fantastic: such a huge buzz being cheered on for 99% of the route by everyone from tiny toddlers to old pensioners. Bloody great goodie bag at the end too (important facts)

Next Tuesday (16th May) is my first wedding anniversary. One whole year of being married to the smartest, funniest, most amazing man I know. At this point in time I have completely failed to do anything about an anniversary present despite knowing what I want to do for well over 6 months (Jem in “leaving things til last minute” shocker) so this could be a very short lived marriage. :D

In between all this I’ve been juggling huge workloads both of my own stuff and as a WordPress ninja for Gaz’s firm locally; revising and practising for an upcoming taekwon-do grading for my yellow belt with a green stripe; usual kids / house crap; and lastly, multiple social engagements… because I am nothing if not a social butterfly (with great boobs):

To end this month of chaos we have Olly’s 5th birthday (May 30th) rapidly approaching which also marks the 5th anniversary of working for myself shortly after (no, launching a business with a newborn isn’t a good idea). I am not sure how my little spud managed to get to 5 (benign neglect / second child syndrome) but here we are. Should probably get him a present too…

What a munchkin.

All photos taken from my instagram because I’m too lazy to download them from my phone & re-edit them.

Identity

I was having a conversation with Gaz in bed the other day. You know the type: snuggled up in bed, pillow talk, vulnerabilities exposed, all that shit.

And this deep, meaningful conversation — the sort of conversation I can only truthfully have with my fucking wonderful husband — made me suddenly realise that over the past year or two I’ve become so wrapped up in treating or not treating, coddling or ignoring, planning in or avoiding my symptoms of PMDD that it has become my identity.

In my desperation to not become defined by this Thing that I cannot fix, I have literally let it define me. Let it control me. Let it stop me taking risks and let it stop me pushing harder.

Having not so long ago risen up against foes and demons of my past and thrown myself into the deep end of discovering ‘me’, I have gone and let a new demon wash me away. My fear of drowning in the abyss of hormones and treatments and not-treatments and symptoms and anxiety and SHIT has distracted me from the greater goal of constantly learning and constantly redefining who I am and who I can be.

Of course, this epiphany doesn’t come with answers. Knowing I’ve wrapped myself up in knots trying to avoid something whilst simultaneously using it as the very rope that binds me doesn’t magically fix all my problems. Introspection has only ever got me so far, and acknowledging that won’t make it go away.

The funny thing though, rather than ignoring it and hoping it goes away I think the real solution is to acknowledge it, embrace it, and fucking kick some ass anyway.

Easier said than done though, right?

First the plans, now the goals

Off the back of my post about plans for 2017, and following a conversation with my darling husband last night during which I got defensive more than once (even though he spoke the truth) I woke up with fire in my belly.

Taking advantage before noisy children and the realities of my todo list extinguish the flames I’ve set myself some goals for the year (and cracked a few things off that blasted list) to work on alongside the Big Plans:

Challenge more stereotypes, more often
I work hard to address stereotypes at home – personally, and with my children – but can and should do more publicly and for others.

Work harder in the time I do have so that I can better use the time I don’t
I have a limited work day. I often get round this by working through the evening and making up time over the weekends. Sometimes this is a necessary evil but a lot of time this could be fixed by planning ahead, working harder/better during the day and waffling less on twitter.

Write more – blog posts, letters, thank you notes
It’s been ages since I’ve written decent long form posts and pieces, and years since I wrote a proper letter. I need to do both more often: so as not to lose the ‘skill’, because it reminds me of my Grandpa, because it’s the only way to improve, to record more of myself for when I inevitably forget.

Writing more thank you notes is self-explanatory. Gratitude is never wasted.

Drink less
For my liver and my bank balance. Cutting it out completely doesn’t work; it only takes one social occasion to reset me back where I started. I’m taking a different approach: don’t buy alcohol to drink at home. Once my Christmas treats are gone, any drinking needs to be done socially because there’s an occasion to do so.

Stop accepting mediocrity as OK
Mediocrity in my work, in my approach to fitness, in friendships, in my interaction with others in general: it’s not good enough. If I’m not giving it 100% I might as well not bother. To give 100%, though, I need to cut out the deadwood that’s distracting me from the things that deserve that 100%.

I started this last year by culling ‘friends’ on Facebook that don’t directly contribute to my wellbeing or happiness, as well as unfollowing people elsewhere who upset/annoy me or make me question or doubt myself. As we go forwards into 2017 I need to take this to the next level: cutting out people who aren’t beneficial to my mental health, dropping clients who cause me more stress than pleasure, turning down work that isn’t a good fit for my schedule.

I don’t know how long this will last. I don’t know how much I will achieve. But… if I seize every moment when I feel like a badass warrior woman, I’m hoping it’ll carry me through the days I want to hide under my duvet. I got this.

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)