Okay, so, apparently nothing in me actually wants to write out a blog post, so instead I'm going to send Braden a Facebook message about why I can't seem to do this, and he can use that instead.
You can call me Charlotte. I'm 27 years old, female/she/her, far more straight than I ever want to be, and a relationship anarchist, though I only worked that bit out a week ago, and in practice, I may as well be monogamous.
Sex has always been A Thing. I was raised in the kind of religious household where so much as thinking about sex is the worst sin, and having it will ruin your life. I suspect that this was more from experience than from doctrine, but it was the message I got nonetheless.
After a long relationship with someone who respected my feelings about (and fear of) sex way longer than was probably healthy for him, I finally realized that I just didn't agree with what I'd been raised to believe. I set out to find a person I could trust to explore sex with me.
When you're 24 years old and still a "virgin", this isn't exactly easy. When I finally got over the upbringing that taught me that I'd be a failure if I ever had sex outside of some eventual marriage, I faced a world that judged me for having gone so long without it. There was a guy who fetishized taking my virginity who didn't believe me when I told him I wasn't interested. There was a guy who all but threatened to rape me, and then swore he never would have if he'd known (because something about that makes it okay, apparently). There were plenty of people who wondered what was "wrong" with me or assumed I was going to judge them. Then, finally, I found him.
We'd met a year before, lost touch for a while, and when I texted him out of frustration, he was on a plane less than two weeks later. He flew from Salt Lake City to Seattle just to spend the night with me, because he'd been there too and he wanted me to have a good time.
I did. We spent the night talking about everything from Walt Whitman to the war that ended Yugoslavia, having all the sex we could sex without a certain body part that was eliminated from the proceedings after we realized we didn't have condoms and didn't want to walk two minutes to the store to get them. The night was amazing; a couple months later we met up again, and then decided to try having an open, long distance relationship when he moved abroad at the end of the year.
Armed with someone who liked me and supported me, I was able to confidently move through the world for about three months before the shit hit the fan.
Over the next two years I left my job thanks to pervasive sexual harassment. I landed unenthusiastically in a relationship with a young man who told me he'd rather not have sex than put any effort into making sure I enjoyed it, who threw a fit when I started considering antidepressants and said I should use pot and change my life instead. I finally got a seemingly amazing job and left the relationship, only to find out after 6 months that I'd been hired as a scapegoat for the emotionally abusive company president to blame when things went wrong. I didn't manage to find a way out until the night I wanted to kill myself, and when I finally managed to get help and be diagnosed with PTSD (you try finding a sex-positive psychiatrist who accepts Medicaid when you're terrified of authority), a friend's parents, who I'd known since I was a young child, were found dead after an apparent domestic violence incident. As if I needed one more trauma, one more reason not to trust men.
As I floated through the world of trauma and flashbacks, self-medicating with pot and alcohol to get myself through to my next appointment, all while desperately searching for a job so I wouldn't lose my home as well, I couldn't shake the thought that was such an obvious throwback to my childhood, that none of this would be happening if I hadn't ever shown an interest in sex.
Thankfully, I had an amazingly solid relationship at this point, someone who held my hand through all of it, someone who was in an open relationship and left the door open for me to spend time with others if that's what I wanted or needed to heal. Given our eerily similar, still tender wounds, and our mutual desire to keep power equal between us, we both knew that at some point I would.
For two years, I was so far from the idea of wanting to date that I couldn't have been bothered. When I started to out the slightest of feelers, all the men I met were scumbags all over again. I got two manifestos of everlasting love from two people who were offended that I'd never been interested, that left me scared to let anyone too close. A couple old flames promised to come around but couldn't ever actually find reason to try. Everyone was untrustworthy, uninterested, or too far away, until finally, for the first time since everything started to fall apart three years ago, I found someone who was enthusiastically all of those things. Once again, I was powerful, sexy, in control of my own body in a way that feels so foreign to me. I finally remembered what it was like to feel safe, and not ashamed of wanting sex.
For all of three days.
And then he, too, decided he couldn't deal with the effects of my past.
That... That was my yesterday.
I've been waiting for the right moment, a moment of feeling strong and powerful like I know I can, to write something to accompany these photos about how it's possible to overcome struggles and love yourself and have satisfying sexual relationships in spite of the world being against you at times. Yesterday was going to be the right moment, and then, in a moment, I watched it all come apart. Today is the worst moment, one where finding a person I feel safe with feels impossible, where I'm focused on the raw percentage of the pictures Braden and I took that I felt made me look nothing better than awful, a moment where I look at the world around me and the people who are happy with their lives for more than a week at a time and wonder how it's even possible.
There are all kinds of feelings that come with sex, and these, my friends, are mine.