Confession: I Had Painful Sex…And I Didn’t Say a Word

It’s been a quiet month here at EROcentric. My review schedule remains outdated & untouched and I haven’t had the motivation or the emotional fortitude to admit what’s been going on with my sex life — to myself, my partner, or to my readers. But the more I tried to push down my emotions, the more they needed to find validation within actual words.

The truth is… My partner and I have had sex exactly once in the last month and my number of masturbation sessions is not much higher.littlebackstoryIt started as my last menstrual cycle came to an end. I could feel that something wasn’t quite right with my body, and before long I noticed the telltale signs of a yeast infection. I purchased the dreaded Monistat (I’m never quite sure what feels more uncomfortable: a yeast infection or the treatment for one), stocked the fridge with yogurt, and started drinking enough water to have me running to the restroom every hour. Compared to yeast infections of my past, this one actually surrendered without much of a fight.

When I finally allowed myself to masturbate again, the results were lackluster at best & mildly uncomfortable at worst. The lubricant stung, thrusting felt abrasive, and arousal was nonexistent. At this point, I hadn’t had sex for about 2 weeks — and it suddenly went from something that I was longing for to something that I needed to simply push out of my mind.

I should point out that two weeks without sex has not been exceptionally rare for me over the last few years. I’ve been fairly open about my struggle with low libido & my efforts to determine what it means for my own sexuality while also forming a plan of action with my “high libido” partner. It’s been the topic of many tearful conversations, but we’ve finally been seeing some real progress… until this particular set back.

I could tell that the lack of physical intimacy was beginning to wear on my partner, even though our emotional intimacy was still high. I just couldn’t find the words to talk with him about this. All I knew was that my body wasn’t cooperating and my mind had shut itself off from any sexual thoughts. Anything more than cuddles felt like a request that I simply couldn’t handle, and the guilt & shame was too overwhelming to let him in. All he knew was that I had stopped expressing love in a way that is very meaningful to him.tippingpointFinally, after 3 weeks of no sex and a growing distance between the two of us, I was desperate. Desperate for a connection. Desperate to feel normal again. I tried to initiate foreplay and get into the mood, but I felt detached from my body…and as intercourse followed, the pain set in.

As someone who advocates for sex positivity, consent education, and open sexual communication, you’d think that I would have spoken up — but I didn’t. I hid my pain in the darkness, clenched my fists, and waited it out. And once it was over, I cried.

Yes, I cried because the burning pain of a thousand suns was trapped within my vagina. But I also cried because after so long without sex, I felt like I had ruined everything. I cried because I felt guilty that I didn’t communicate, and therefore put my partner in a very awkward situation. I cried because I didn’t know what was wrong with my body or my sex drive. …I cried because my shame suddenly became a river that I was drowning in.repeatoffenderThis entire situation has made me realize that this isn’t the first time I’ve made the mistake of not speaking up. In fact, it’s something that I now recognize I need to work on.

During one of my first D/s scenes with my current partner, I felt uncomfortable and emotionally shut down instead of using my safeword. I fell asleep feeling bitter & angry that he didn’t read my mind, while he was confused and assumed that he had done something to lose me completely.

I’ll also commonly grit my teeth & bear the last few thrusts of intercourse in the doggy style position, even though my partner is painfully bumping against my cervix. I don’t want to speak up, because I know he’s close and I’d hate to ruin his orgasm. I do this continually, even though I know he’d rather me speak up because he hates the idea of me being in pain.

It’s not “no” that I have trouble with; It’s “stop.” My pride gets in the way. I have an impossibly hard time asking for help or asserting my needs. I want to prove that I can take anything. I don’t want to appear weak. But it causes much more trouble than being honest with myself & my partner.wherenowHonestly, I’m nervous to have sex again. I’m afraid of the pain still being present. And even though my partner & I have since discussed what happened in much more detail, I’m still scared that sex will be awkward as a result of my communication failure.

The entire mess is contributing to a lack of libido that is more intensely depressing & debilitating than any dry spell I’ve ever experienced before. Although I have ideas on how to move forward, I don’t feel confidant that I’m actually moving in the right direction. I find myself fearing that not only has my libido dropped, but my arousal & enjoyment of sex has as well.

I have to keep reminding myself of the good in this situation: that the crying actually forced me to open up again & it cleared the air between us in the bedroom. That I have recognized an area where I need to focus energy & we’re now facing this problem as a team instead of separate & alone. I also have to remember that being “sex positive” isn’t about having great sex — and it doesn’t mean that I’ll never make mistakes. Sometimes sex is bad, but that doesn’t mean that it always will be. And it doesn’t have to mean that I’ve done irreparable harm to my relationship either.

So, what can you expect from EROcentric in the coming weeks? Unfortunately, I’m not sure. Will my body start cooperating, allowing me to finish reviewing the wonderful products that have so far gone untouched? Will this hiccup in my sexuality allow me to write a couple of non-review articles that I’ve been excited about but haven’t found time for?

At this point, all I can promise is that I am still here & I’m not giving up on this journey.

I am a Sex Blogger & I Reject Pseudonymity

The last time that I was visiting my parents’ home, my mom and I got onto the topic of sex toys. For some of you with sex-positive parents, that might seem normal. For others, it might be horrifically uncomfortable to imagine. For me, it’s both. There was not an open dialogue about sex while I was growing up, and, not surprisingly, my mom disagrees with many of my current beliefs about sexuality. But our relationship is one of friendship. We talk about nearly everything, and considering that EROcentric has become a rather large part of my life, what I do here is not off limits.

During this particular conversation, she turned to me with a look of utter confusion. “I just don’t understand. I mean…is this just your thing?!” She meant the question in a rather amusing ‘Do you have a fetish for sex toys?’ sort of way, and I tried to explain to her that it’s about so much more than just a sexual response. It’s about discovering my body, taking control of my sexual pleasure, even enhancing the sexual connection that I share with my partner. But I get the distinct impression that she still struggles with the same question in a much larger sense.

Why do I do this? Why do I think that talking about sex is so important that I have decided to openly write about such things on a public blog? 

I do it because sexuality is my passion. Because I believe that we should not be afraid to talk about sex or be ashamed of our own desires. 

As someone who harbored a lot of sexual shame growing up (largely due to a lack of accurate sex education), I want to help educate others & normalize sexuality— of all safe & consensual varieties, including the right to not engage in any/all sexual activity. In my perfect world, sexual stigma would cease to exist. Blogging is one way that I strive to turn that dream into a reality.

It has been my personal conviction that as I am advocating for shame-free sexuality, I must not remain anonymous. No, I don’t share my full legal name on my blog or blast my personal Facebook account with my latest blog posts. I recognize & respect the fact that not everyone in my life would be comfortable with or open to the topics that I discuss here. But if someone I know (who is not already in the know) comes across this website, they will see my first name & my photograph, and they will recognize me instantly. And that is okay.

I am lucky enough to have an amazing support system, a progressive employer, and career goals in the very field of which I write about: sexuality. It’s important to me that, because I am in the perfect position to do so, I take this opportunity to publicly demonstrate a commitment to sex positivity as best as I can.

I won’t lie. There are still days when I question my decision. I get anxious at the thought of everyone I know finding out about this “double life” of mine. I worry that what I write will someday hinder my professional aspirations — even in a relevant field. I fear that online harassment may someday cross the line into reality, posing very serious threats to myself and those I love.

But then I recall the times when friends have come to me, asking questions and revealing intimate secrets because of something that I have written. I feel that by sharing my sexual knowledge (including my experiences & insecurities) in a way that shows that I am not ashamed…it helps facilitate the open dialogue that I aspire to create in the world.

Of course, none of this is to depreciate the work of my fellow sex bloggers who do choose to remain anonymous or use a pen name. I believe that all of us are changing the world in fantastic ways, and I understand that this is by no means the right choice for everyone; it may not even be a viable option.

The debate surrounding online privacy, professionalism, & sexuality is complex and I don’t claim to have the answers. Who knows, perhaps some day I will regret my decision. But for now, I am proud to proclaim…

 I am a sex blogger. And girls do too masturbate.

Confession: My Sex Life Isn’t Perfect

I’m always in the mood for sex & it’s always amazing.

As I increasingly share my work as a sex blogger (or an aspiring sex educator) to more individuals, I become much more aware of the winking smiles and subtle comments about how lucky my partner is. Call me naïve, but I didn’t realize how pervasive this “nympho” stereotype was for women like me. I didn’t realize that simply because I was more open about my sexuality and have worked very hard to educate myself, that my personal experiences in the bedroom would be glorified to those around me. And I certainly didn’t anticipate that I would begin to internalize other people’s expectations for my own sex life.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve actually had a lower than “normal” libido.

The truth is, my sex life is not always full of rainbows and bunnies (i.e. reliable, mind-blowing orgasms from the near-constant sex I’m having). Sure, the fact that I’m knowledgeable about sex and comfortable discussing it means that my partner and I are able to communicate very effectively. We’re not shy about telling each other what we want/need, and I’m sure that does make our sex life more pleasurable than some other couples’. However, we are two real people in a real relationship, and no part of life is perfect.

We’ve been together for four years and sometimes work/school, bills, and our two fur-children simply wear us down. Certain oral contraceptives have both increased my depression and decreased my libido. Sometimes we might go a couple of weeks without having sex and I don’t even realize it. And sometimes when we do have sex, fireworks just aren’t there.

If I’m not interested in sex, I have failed as a romantic/sexual partner.

I’ve put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself over the last couple of years. When I first noticed that my libido wasn’t what it used to be, I would consent to sex without really desiring it. (Eventually my partner called me out on it and asked me to stop.) I have tried so hard to get in the mood only to end the night in tears, because I “failed” and feel broken. And I’ve often found myself worrying that I’m more interested in learning about sex than I am about actually having it.

Through all of this, my partner has been the only other person to know how guilty I feel for not wanting to have sex all the time. He knows that when I try to joke about being a “bad girlfriend,” I’m trying to make light of how I actually feel. He has seen my insecurities get the best of me when I worry that my lower sex drive will eventually cause him to leave our life together — despite his multiple reassurances. Until now, I have been way too embarrassed and ashamed to ever let that imperfect part of my sex life show outside of our relationship.

Part of being sex positive is accepting myself & my sexuality — even when it’s not sensational.

This summer, I shared a couple of videos on my Twitter. In one, Kitty Stryker talks about having a low libido and the realities of not-so-great sex. In the other, Sarah talks about how she has learned to accept that she doesn’t have a very high sex drive. I watched these videos and was amazed at how perfectly these two women expressed my own insecurities and concerns.

Then Penny wrote a blog post on “Sex Blogger Life,” and her first point was that she wasn’t a nympho. And Beck wrote her own Wicked Wednesday post, sharing that she is also a real person in a real relationship that isn’t just about sex. I want to thank both of them for their honesty and openness. It was very comforting to relate to fellow bloggers in this way, and I realized that I had fallen into the same trap as many of my friends. I had been concentrating on other bloggers’ erotically written intimate experiences, amazing masturbatory sessions, and seemingly endless orgasms…unfairly comparing myself to sexual ideals.

There’s a sexual rule of thumb that I discovered while reading Secrets from the Sex Lab by Judy Dutton that has helped to take some pressure off sex. Therapist Paula Hall has dubbed it the “2-6-2 Rule” and it basically means that out of every 10 times you have sex, 2 will be absolutely amazing, 2 will be so bland you wonder why you thought it was a good idea, and the other 6 will be somewhere in between. So while I am still trying to actively rediscover the joys of sexual experience (through self-pleasure, foreplay, toy reviews, blogging, etc), I know that I can only do that by learning to relax. I have to stop expecting every sexual encounter to be mind-blowing (and blaming myself when it’s not). I have to stop obsessing over the frequency that my partner and I have sex. Most of all, I have to embrace my own unique sexuality — whatever that may be.

If I refuse to judge others for their sexual choices, why have I been judging myself?

My Experience on Trivora (Oral Contraceptive)

Why I Chose Oral Contraceptives

For the first couple of years that I was sexually active, I relied on male condoms. But even though my partner and I were both super strict about using them correctly, the typical-use failure rate of 18% made me nervous. I needed something more reliable, and since I was part of a committed & monogamous relationship, I started researching hormonal methods. Of course, these presented me with a whole new set of concerns. Some females in my family have experienced very negative reactions to ‘The Pill,’ like fainting. The idea of a lower libido or an expanding waistline weren’t very appealing either. But what worried me the most was the risk for depression.

Despite my concerns, I reasoned that oral contraceptives would be a relatively cheap way to experiment with hormonal methods. And if the side effects turned out to be unbearable, stopping the hormones would be quick and easy when compared to more invasive methods (implants or IUDs). After discussing my options with a nurse practitioner at my local Planned Parenthood, I started Trivora.

What’s Trivora?

Trivora is a combined hormonal contraceptive, meaning that it includes both estrogen and progestin. For practical purposes, this means that it has a slightly larger window for error when compared with progestin-only pills. It’s also triphasic, meaning that there are 3 different doses of hormones in each 1-month pack of pills.  My nurse practitioner suggested Trivora partly as a way to test my body’s reaction to different levels of hormones. It was also on the cheaper side of the spectrum, costing about $20/pack.

My Initial Response

Just as I feared, the first month or so on Trivora was emotional hell. I was crying almost daily. I became consumed by obsessive & negative thoughts, to the point that I no longer felt in control of my own mind. My life goals floated away along with my motivation and desire for everything that usually made me happy. My history with depression had returned full-force. Needless to say, sex was the last thing on my mind. I was simply trying to function well enough to survive. And my partner was becoming very, very concerned.

I knew that it could take up to 3 months for my body to adjust to the new medication, so I (somewhat dangerously) forced my way through the symptoms I was experiencing. Thankfully, somewhere in the second month, everything calmed down. I gradually started to feel a desire for life again, and I returned to a state of emotional stability. Now, after almost a year, my partner even swears that my PMS mood swings (pre-Trivora) have disappeared.

My Positive Experiences

Most importantly, I’m not pregnant. Granted, this has a lot to do with my strict adherence to taking ‘The Pill’ at the exact same time, every single day. But still, Trivora has done its #1 job. I also have a much more regular menstrual cycle, with lighter menses. (My periods were very heavy and painful before.) I haven’t gained excessive amounts of weight. I haven’t suffered from headaches or fainting spells. Physically, I feel pretty much the same as always.

Why I’m Still Looking for Another Method

While Trivora was a good starting point for testing the waters of hormonal birth control, I can’t help but feel that it’s not the perfect match for me. For one, I am experiencing a few annoyances like increased breast tenderness and possibly a decrease in sexual desire. (It’s hard to determine what is due to hormones and what is due to other factors, like stress or relationship familiarity.) Also, the cost, though conveniently spread out over time, is still more expensive than other more effective methods.

For this reason, I’m currently researching Mirena and Skyla IUDs. Both of these are top-tier methods that have lower levels of progestin (and completely lack estrogen). Of course, they also have their own risks. Starting a new method is always a little scary. What works perfectly for one woman may be disastrous for another. But until I find I solution that I’m truly satisfied with, I’ll keep trying. And I’ll also keep reporting my experiences for other women who are searching.

What are your experiences with oral contraceptives? 


Update: I have since switched to Enpresse and, although it is simply a different generic form of Trivora, my breast tenderness has almost entirely disappeared. My emotional state also seems even more stable. At this time, I am content with my method of contraception and have changed my mind about getting an IUD.

 

From Purity to Pleasure: My Struggle to Embrace Sexuality

Looking back, I can practically pinpoint the moment when what I was taught about sex would either a) need a major overhaul or b) become disastrous. I was home from college, naked and fooling around with my high school sweetheart, begging him to have sex with me. I was literally begging despite the fact that we didn’t have any protection and we had both promised years before to wait until we got married. Once the fog of lust had cleared from my mind, and I got over the pain & embarrassment of having my advances (thankfully) denied, what remained was fear. At that moment, I was terribly afraid of my own sexual desire and I was too ashamed to share that fear with anyone.

I grew up in a rural area, attended a public school that was governed by conservative politics, and went to church every Sunday with my mom. I never remember having a sex talk with either her or my dad. And what I recall of my “sexual education” mostly consists of scare tactics about STIs in 7th grade Home Economics. Somehow, without ever having a real discussion about sex, the expectation was still clear: I should not have sex until I get married. Looking back, there was always something that bothered me about the black & white thinking that I was raised with.

If I’m supposed to be ashamed and afraid of sex now, how do I magically overcome those emotions on my wedding night? Will I be able to find a guy who also wants to wait? Should I expect him to? Are we still abstinent if we have oral sex? What about if we touch each other’s genitals? Where is the line that transforms me from virgin to whore? 

Even though I was curious about these things, it was simply easier at the time to ignore the grey areas that nobody else mentioned. I bought and wore a purity ring for the next 7 years of my life, but I never had a serious discussion with my boyfriends (or myself) about what was sexually acceptable and what was not—besides the fact that intercourse was obviously off the table. When we’d become more sexually intimate than we had before, my reaction (after the initial pleasure) was often one of guilt, shame, and tears. I would insist that we needed to “back off,” but it never failed that I’d find myself right back in that pit of self-shaming again and again.

As I entered my 20s I defined my brand of abstinence as simply not engaging in vaginal or anal intercourse, but my devotion to the entire idea was waning. If I only had sex with the man that I knew I was going to marry, would it really matter if we waited until our wedding night? That would hardly make me a “whore” when compared to many other individuals. …But did the fact that I had intense sexual desire mean that I was no longer a “good girl” either? This unclear (and unhealthy) view of sexuality led to the previously mentioned irresponsible and immature begging, as well as several arguments that helped put an end to my relationship.

When I think back on that moment, I cringe at the thought of how badly my ignorance could have affected my life. But I also know that the problem wasn’t that I wanted sex—that was natural. The problem was that I wasn’t educated. I wasn’t educated on how to keep my body safe, how to create a self-image that was independent of my sexual activity, or how to confidently (and respectfully) communicate my desires to my partner.

So how did I go from that confused & naive virgin to the woman I am now, passionate about helping others break down the walls of their sexual repression?! I removed my purity ring as a symbol of removing all past influences and I finally took control of my own sexuality. I started educating myself by reading everything I could get my hands on: sexual anatomy/response, reproduction, contraception, various sexual desires & activities, etc. I was exposed to different views on sex, most importantly those of the sex positive movement. I also entered into a loving relationship that continues to provide me with a safe space for (s)exploration. Slowly and with much continuing effort, I have been able to redefine my beliefs so that my pleasure is no longer something to be feared or ashamed of, but something to own and enjoy.