Well you know me ~ I like to keep it heavy, deep, real, and apparently long. Those of you Walla Walla peeps who just joined my list, welcome to a truly intimate me. Christel TMI Johnson!
As many of you know I do these emails in order to reveal my struggles and hope that in doing so we all heal. Maybe hearing my story you don't feel so all alone. Maybe I can give you perspective on your struggles and you realize yours are not that bad off. What I've learned along the way is that I heal immensely when I share these things. Conversations get started and advice given. More than anything I get it off my chest and out in the open where I don't have to carry the weight alone.
Let's talk about sex shall we?!
I am so sick of feeling shame around sex. So I'm just gonna come right out with it. I love sex. I have had multiple partners. I have had one night stands. I had what I call a "promiscuous period" after breaking up with my first love. And everything I just listed are things I have been embarrassed by, don't really talk about, and feel tremendous amounts of shame over.
My relationship to sex is something I have only begun to figure out. To talk about. I believe my sexual thoughts and patterns played a part in my unhealthy marriage.
Let's backtrack shall we. A little bit of history (Okay more than a little bit.)
First Sexual Experience
I dated a senior when I was a freshman. I felt pressure to have sex in general at that age and especially if I wanted to keep this "older man". I offered myself to him and he turned me down. He didn't want to take my virginity from me. Hindsight: What a gentleman!. At the time: I can't turn him on. I'm not pretty/sexy enough, He doesn't want me. etc... Shortly after that he broke up with me. I was crushed and I also felt shame. Must be my good ole Luthern upbringing!
Second Sexual Experience
The summer after I graduated high school I met a not so great boy, but hey - he gave me attention and I was desperate for it back then (I think I still am!). At the end of summer we went to his house to have sex. He could't get an erection. Strike 2 for me! Again I can't turn someone on. Obviously: I'm not pretty/sexy enough. He doesn't want me....
Instead he has me give him a blow job. He put his hands on my head and pushed me down on his penis. I was gagging and struggling. I didn't have enough hudspa to stand up for myself and was desperate to please him. So I continued, he came in my mouth, I reluctantly swallowed, and went into the bathroom and almost vomited. It was a friggin awful experience. This made me not really like blow jobs for YEARS AND YEARS. Oh - and I felt shame. Big time shame with this one!
ACTUAL FIRST TIME
I met my first love. He was gentle and kind and guided me through intercourse. We had very safe sex. I don't mean using birth control. I mean it wasn't adventurous. It was missionary. It's purpose was more to make the other person come so there was an orgasm and we could be done.
After the heat/passion of a new relationship died down (about 6 months-1 year in), I would get mad about the fact that there was no sex, but wouldn't initiate. The few times I did initiate, he would rather watch reruns of Cheers and he turned me down each time. In my mind of course this reaffirms that: I can't turn someone on. I'm not pretty/sexy enough, etc....
I'd like to interject here that I have had this not so healthy/accurate way of viewing sexual relationships. According to everything around me, the man has the sex drive and is the initiator in the relationship right?!I I felt like I wasn't enough or he would want me right? I would sit around and wait for the man to initiate even if I wanted it. I would be shy. As you are probably gathering - I had tons of shame around being sexual. "I'm not married." "If I want sex that makes me a slut." "I must not respect myself if I want sex." "I am here to please my man so I get commitment, if I get pleased it is just a bonus." "If I've had sex with other boys then no one will want to date/marry me. So don't talk about it"
CLICK: UNPAUSE: DISCOVERING MY SEXUAL SELF
I was 21 and living in Lake Tahoe. I no longer had a boyfriend. I was drunk and high most of the time and lost inhibitions. A boy/friend would find me attractive and since I had come from this place of feeling completely unattractive and unsexy.... well - this was so nourishing to my soul. "You want my body. Good. I'd like yours too." I had lovely uninhibited sex. It was sex for sex's sake and it made me drunk. It was so powerful and amazing. I learned some non-traditional and exploratory things I liked. I masturbated finally at age 21. It took me until I was 21 to touch myself for goodness sake! I got a vibrating dildo and learned to please myself. This was all revolutionary in my world. After each encounter, I felt SHAME!!!!!! (Even about touching myself.) So inwardly I knew I LOVED sex, but outwardly I still felt that was wrong.
I started to become more self-aware. I knew I wanted to look for more meaningful relationships and not just have sex with people. I started to date my second boyfriend/love and I went right back to the same Madonna values and beliefs I had had before discovering who I was sexually. I didn't honor myself. I let him lead the way. I let him/expected him to initiate. I didn't explore his body or mine. It was a doomed relationship for many reasons other than sex, but looking back it now - I can see the same pattern yet again. About 6 months in, he told me he didn't enjoy having sex with me anymore and BAM: I can't turn him on. I'm not pretty/sexy enough. And shame yet again.
So flash forward to what just ended. My 3rd love. The sex was amazing in the beginning (It always is isn't it?). And then about 6 months- 1 year in when it started to die down.... I expected him to initiate. I would wait around for him even if I wanted it. I still had this Madonna/Whore complex. Two separate selves. I didn't want to be a slut who explored, who talked dirty, who occasionally slapped his ass or asked him to slap mine because that would make me a slut. And we all know that no good man wants to be with a slut.
So I was timid and shy. I'd give lame petting that wasn't assertive enough and get pissed when he didn't start having sex with me. During year number 3 of marriage when we were going through an extremely rough patch and he almost left me, I decided, "Okay Christel Joy. Enough of this bullshit. Initiate and have sex with your man so you can keep him interested and around so he doesn't look outside for it." And I did initiate! It was awesome. It started to make me feel sexy. Up to this point in my life I still felt about as sexy as a used tampon. Yeah, you get my point then. So you can imagine how empowering this was for me!
After I initiated a number of times and he did not meet me 1/2 way by initiating occasionally, I started to get pissed and stopped initiating much at all. So the gap became a chasm, because if he wasn't initiating... and if I stopped initiating..... We had next to no sex for the last 8 years(ish) of our marriage.
I personally believed that our sex issues were/are past patterning and that I would like to examine it with him, move through it with him, and we would come out stronger. That we'd be able to have that sex you hear and read about when 2 mature people commit to each other and delve deeper and it's more than an orgasm. It's a sheer, utter, amazing soul to soul connection!
He told me he "no longer had passion for me". I told him that although our sex isn't exciting like it was in the beginning, I still enjoy having sex with him. Does he with me? He told me no. Not only does he not enjoy sex with me, but that he feels twice as bad because he knows he should have a connection. Basically, he hasn't had passion for me in years. Although I appreciate his honestly and respect that he had the guts to tell me the truth ~ holy shit did that hurt. I'm still reeling from it inwardly. Yet again (in my immature mind) I can't please a man. I am not pretty/sexy enough.
I'm not taking all the fault. I know that a lot of what's written above has nothing to do with me and are their issues. But I do play a role in it. My own patterns persist. I do not want to go into another relationship with the bullshit I've carried around for the past 30 or so years. Nor do I want to be in a relationship where I am not willing to actually "see" the red flags and do something about it. I think I didn't want to see them or deal with it because I didn't want "him" (pick any him here) to leave me.
I wanted someone to touch me who desired my body. I wanted that part of me to heal. There was/is soooooooooo much damage here. And I wanted to explore again as a sober adult who I am sexually so I can combine the 2 halves of myself (Madonna/Whore) to make a whole so in the future I can bring that person, my true sexual self, into a relationship.
There was guy and we had the mutual connection of heartbreak. His gal had broken up with him within the last year and we were both reeling. I proposed that we have sex for healing sake. We did. I went into it knowing I wanted to be my true self. I had no inhibitions. We were either looking at each others bodies or into each others eyes the entire time. We explored each others bodies. It wasn't about orgasming. It was about pleasing the other person. I didn't have to be a "good girl". As a matter of fact I was determined not to. Especially since that seems to be/have been a major hinderance for me in my past relationships. I was just Christel Joy Johnson as I am without the protective walls.
We are no longer seeing each other. The relationship has served it's purpose. We both got much needed healing and we helped each other let go of our past loves. He helped me to finally, at age 43, feel a little bit sexy and to see beauty when I look in the mirror. This is huge for me. And I'd like to add in - I don't only feel sexy because he viewed me that way. He stopped having sex with me because he was interested in another girl and I didn't completely break down into "I can't please a man." "I'm not pretty/sexy enough." Well maybe just a little bit, but not like in the past. Something has changed in me and I can see these things for myself. I have always known you can't get your self worth/value from someone else, and I am finding that. This beautiful boy was a catalyst for me to begin to find beauty in myself. How lucky am I to have gotten that experience!?!
2 STEPS FORWARD, 3 STEPS...
I just found out I have HPV. Now although I've heard of HPV I really had no idea what it was until I was diagnosed. I have lesions on my cervix and the doctor wants to do a biopsy to be sure I don't have cervical cancer. I've now talked to 2 doctors about it and neither one is very concerned, but they want to take precautions. (AKA: Don't worry about my health. I will let you know if something develops, but the doctors don't think it will. I am okay.)
I am hoping in sharing this with you, we will all be more knowledgable and for those of you who have it or any other STD and have felt shame and been silent - you are not alone.
Things I didn't know about the virus.
- HPV has about 100 viruses lumped under it's "HPV" umbrella.
- It is estimated that 80% of sexually active people have had, have, or will have HPV during their lifetime. 80% PEOPLE!!! That's crazy!
- This makes it the most common STD.
- Most people's immune system clears the virus and they never have any effects. They never even know they had it.
- A few of us (me included) have effects. The most common include genital warts and lesions on the cervix or vulva.
- In an even fewer of us who have symptoms, the lesions on the cervix can turn into cervical cancer. This statistic is very low.
But my emotional journey around this has been WAY HARDER than the thought that I could have cancer. The very first thing to enter was ~ you guessed it: shame. I felt shame that I have an STD. "I must be a dirty girl." "I'm a slut." After coming so far in my struggle around sex, this news brought me right back to square one gaul darn it!
When I told the first doctor about my sexual history she says that with the lesions I have the virus has most likely been dormant in my body for about a decade and only now have formed the lesions and become active. Next my mind goes to anger at my ex-husband. "That F&*ker gave me an STD?!?"
But as I read up on this disease ~ there is no way to tell where this came from. Who I got it from. It can live in the body anywhere from a few weeks to years before showing up on tests. Maybe I came into the relationship with it. Maybe Ronnie did. Or maybe I got it from my recent lover. I will never have the answer of how I got it. My little rational mind has a hard time with this. I need someone to blame. After all I am human. I'm not saying that this is healthy, but it was my reaction.
Another thing that kills me is the thought that anytime I want to have sex or want to start a relationship I will have to tell that person, "I have HPV. We can wear a condom and that will help reduce the risk, but there is still a risk that I may pass it on to you." And oral sex..... Even though it's a 1 in 99 percent chance.... The chance is still there. Would you want to have sex with someone with HPV? Would you give them oral sex? I think a number of years ago I may have said no out of ignorance and fear, but now... now I know more about the disease... now I know someone who has it...
The universe is pretty silly folks. For the first time in my life I feel sexy. I look in the mirror and think I'm not just average looking, I am pretty. I finally feel like I know who I am sexually. I have made my disparate parts whole. I have that to bring into a relationship when I'm ready.
And then the Universe gives me an STD! Immediately my immature voice takes over inside my head and I no longer think I'm sexy. Now I'm tainted. I think that my recent lover probably wishes he hadn't had sex with me. That no one will ever want to touch me again.
Time passes and slowly that voice is dying down(ish). My mature, wise voice tells me that I will be alright. That this doesn't make me less sexy or less beautiful. That some beautiful man someday will be willing to touch my body as it is, disease and all. That voice isn't very strong yet, but it's there and I know that eventually it will be the stronger voice. It will guide me into a deeper more self-aware and beautiful place
Okay, I think I'm done. Phew!!!! It's all out there now. Feel free to judge me as you will. Or don't and find compassion.
But please DO:
Talk to someone about any issues you have about shame. (Read the quote from a Social Research Professor, Brene Brown, below)
Talk about sex and don't feel embarrassed or shy about it.
Embrace that you are a sexual being. You may not like what I like, but know what you like and consider exploring that with your partner or someone who is safe to you.
Be ashamed if you have a STD. It doesn't make you a bad person. Or a slut.
Wait for the other person to initiate. Make it a team effort.
These things I'm saying to you ~ I'm saying them to me too! I could have a whole emails of dos and don'ts around sex and shame, but you get my drift!!!!
Anywho, thank you for reading this. For opening your minds to one girl's struggles on this big big planet.
Your Quote for this blog (I'm using it again cause it's so good):
- "Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it also appears to be the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love." ~ Brene Brown