Anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me probably knows something about my sex life.
I’ve always been one to overshare, and I never really cared to question it until a former sexual partner asked me why I thought everyone was so concerned with what I did in my own bedroom.
While I initially responded that I was someone who likes engaging in and talking about sex, he did have a point: I’ve been determined to make sure others know I’m sexually active — eerily reminiscent of a Reddit post from r/ihavesex.
Funnily enough, however, I’ve never really been the most traditionally sexual person.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that didn’t demonize expressions of sexuality — my mom bought me my first vibrator when I was 14. But while I’d always felt content exploring and discussing sex, I’d never been able to extend that comfort to a shared sexual experience.
I can’t necessarily blame others, but as I grew up and watched my female friends receive — and often reject — male attention, I’d feel my own resentment and insecurities build up.
Rejecting those advances was something they at least had the option to do.
While my self-esteem was never particularly high to begin with, I started to especially attribute my self-worth to whether I was deemed sexually desirable.
I’d pine after male friends in hopes of gaining their validation and the approval that I so desperately craved despite feeling no attraction; I’d hurt my friendships by assuming they were using me to make themselves look better.
I’d become consumed by my need for affirmation.
After having my first kiss and sexual experience with another openly bisexual female friend my senior year of high school, I’d been told not to tell anyone; regardless of whether it had anything to do with me, I internalized that shame and began to think that, while I may be sufficient to fuck, I wasn’t more than an embarrassment to be shielded from the public.
With not much sexual exploration in the years in between, I went on a bit of a bender — increasing my body count from two to 20 — from August to October, my sophomore year at UC Berkeley.
I didn’t really plan to have sex with that many people, but after the first hookup — his hands caressing my body, his words fulfilling all of the validation I’d always longed for — I was hooked.
Plus, I like being good at things, and practice makes perfect.
I continued to chase that same high. I was having sex with more than one person in a day, regardless of whether we had a bed or a van next to Route 101.
Even after I moved back to Berkeley for the fall semester, my habits remained the same: having sex with strangers who would momentarily validate me, even if they cut me off midsentence to order an Uber afterward.
A lot of my friends asked me when “reality” would hit and I’d realize what I was doing, but I was already asking myself the same question. Maybe it was the (now-cured) chlamydia, or maybe it was losing my anal virginity to a 31-year-old burnout.
Perhaps it was the threesome I had with two men in their 30s as a then-18-year-old.
While I could, at the time, recall every detail of my first time having sex, the memories started to get fuzzy as time — and quantity — progressed. The different faces blended in with one another and the various touches along my skin started feeling the same, enveloping into a hazy blur.
My “bender” didn’t really slow down until I started talking to an age-appropriate guy who seemed intimidated by my sexual experiences, his fascination foreign to me. It was after we did have sex that I gradually seemed to lose my allure, my inadvertently self-created persona crumbling beneath the sheets.
The conclusion at this point may seem that I was simply insecure and had decided to supplement these insecurities with sex, now realizing it won’t work. While that may be true to an extent, I don’t think my experimentation with casual sex was necessarily negative.
Even though I’m not entirely proud of having violated my personal boundaries, there were things — both physically and mentally — I learned through sex that were impossible to replicate otherwise.
I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my sexuality, feeling a sense of autonomy not in the partners who likely couldn’t care less about me, but in the pleasure I can bring to and experience in front of others.
I haven’t cut casual sex off completely.
While I may still be inviting new partners, I’ve tried to limit myself to those with whom I actually feel comfortable around and attracted to: It had led to my first orgasm during sex with a partner who respects my time, boundaries and pleasure.
At this point, I can’t claim I’ve gotten over my insecurities, that my sexual bender was without fault or that I’ve stopped oversharing. However, I’ve come to learn to let go of a lot of the shame I have surrounding my sexuality and, more importantly, as an individual beneath the sheets.