The act of love is nuanced.
Sex is sweet, fun, intense, confusing, and sometimes traumatizing.
It was 3 a.m. on a road trip and a lover and I were trying to keep each other awake, so naturally we were talking about sex. “What’s your number?” After wandering into several tangents, I never landed on it.
Days after our conversation was over, I wondered why it matters to me. The only thing I can think is that, like so many of us, I used to have a lot of shame around sex.
I will never be a woman who reduces the people I have slept with to notches on my bedpost. It’s gross and dehumanizing. And I would hate to be thought of in that way.
It’s not that ascribing numbers to my lovers either validates or invalidates my sexuality, but I am curious and a little obsessive. My obsession burns as a deep need to break down this antiquated virgin/whore dichotomy—to embrace the holy and vulgar.
Can I not be innocent, playful, deeply soulful, and a hellcat in the sack? I think so. But coming to terms with how much I like sex and the kind of sex that I like has been an adventure that is thus far 25 years in the making. I was 15 my first time, and I just turned 40.
Let’s say I have slept with about 30 people. For the hell of it, let’s say 33 because that was the age that Jesus was when he allegedly ascended. (I smirk.)
When I was 33, I was in a highly unsatisfying relationship. We both knew that we didn’t belong together but we cared and couldn’t let go. Sex was on and off, and there were times when I felt utterly undermined as a woman.
It hurt. And I had been hurt in love before.
The first lover I took after ending a decade-long relationship growled into me when we had sex. It was raw, primal, and exactly what I needed. He reassured me how good I smelled and tasted to him. He woke up my orgasmic giggle. I quickly caught myself reverting to my old relationship strategies—compromising, codependency, and trauma bonding—and for both of our sakes, I ended it.
How does a strong, confident woman fall into sticky relationship traps?
I had trained from a young age to believe that what others wanted and needed was more important than what I did, and that if I could just get good enough at martyring myself then I would get my needs met.
I’ll let you in on a little secret—it didn’t work! What it did was give me headaches and anxiety that built up in my body until I finally exploded and, like Lilith, flew the garden for the wilderness where I learned how to devour my own bad habits, lack of confidence, and low-self-worth.
When I crawled out of my old snake’s skin—reborn—I was juicy, alive, and so sweetly sensual.
I had lay fallow for about a year as I courted my own creativity and woke up my inner poetess. I walked, soaked, cooked, danced, made friends, and dated absolutely no one. I wanted to take time to get to know myself as a lover. Until one day my womb began to stir and I found myself deeply attracted to a beautiful gardener with thick black dreads and amber eyes.
We started slowly—attended a sweat lodge, ate food I made, and by our second date when he leaned in and asked me how I was feeling, I replied, “Warm and curious.” At which point he asked to kiss me. I said yes, and as our lips met, my whole body suddenly remembered—I love sex!
We didn’t dive in; we continued to warm up to each other, but by the fourth time we hung out, he stayed the night and we did a fine job steaming up my bedroom windows together. The next morning, both of us in my bathrobes, we drank coffee and laughed and I nervously made a mess. I had missed this.
The holidays, family emergencies, and then COVID-19 pulled us away from each other and a few months went by before I was to encounter my next lover. Another round of writing and self-exploration, a deeper sense of security, and a deeper connection to my own desires prepared me for what came next.
What can I say about the way I feel about this man?
I want to lick little words from his lips, study every line on his face, and listen to his maple-bourbon-coated voice for hours. The way we flirt, banter, and dive into serious stories with each other is one of the sexiest things I have ever experienced. Simply—my clothes want to fall off for this man.
It’s rare that my mind, heart, and cunt awaken for a man. This is a deep, primal intelligence that I am learning to trust. It’s not about agendas or assigning labels to connections; it’s about honoring my instincts. My instincts have come to life and I won’t apologize for what I want anymore.
There is another lover who more than a little makes my heart soar.
Skin sparked when we met for the first time on a starlit Texas night. We’d been speaking for years only with miles of rivers, highways, deserts, and obligations between us. I had given up on us ever touching in the flesh. Then we did. I wrapped my long legs around his body, rocked him ever so sweetly, and even trimmed his wild, wild hair. Then we were, once again, torn apart by life’s demands.
Though I sit here alone in my cozy home, every cell in my body vibrates with my love for sex. It’s about connection, pleasure, being bared with another human. It’s about being awkward and seen, heard, and deeply felt. It’s about being honest. It’s raw, vulgar, and holy.
And to every lover who has touched my heart, my soul, and my body—I bow to you and to the us that we were, even temporarily.