Sexual Development

...We pretend that sexual orientation and personal style are one and the same and that those who suggest otherwise are trying to make fools of us or hide their shameful preference. Presented with Nature's bouquet of possibilities, a wild assortment of genders and erotic preference and a vast array of personalities, we throw it to the ground...

Amy Bloom, Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops and Hermaphrodites with Attitude

See also: sexual molestation, which gives an account of a sexual experience at approximately age 5. It involved a babysitter, and led to me initiating similar activities with girls my own age (infrequently) for a few years.

Most people apparently have trouble remembering childhood autoeroticism, and if they learned suppression or if they were punished for the behaviour, although adolescent activity is usually less difficult to remember.

My masturbation style developed in a way that seems influenced by the perception of being watched. (This may also relate to the eventual development of an observation-communication delusion.) I used to cover my body with a wash cloth when I was very young (many years before adolescence), playing a kind of peek-a-boo with body parts. The idea of slowly exposing body parts became an ongoing part of my masturbation style - with the idea that someone was watching. It seems to me that even later on, many of my fantasies involved the idea of me having a kind of power while others watched me.

I have written elsewhere that my sexual education began in viewing men's magazines, and books like The Joy of Sex when visiting my father, beginning at age 9.

Beginning at age 13, my father began to talk to me in detail about sex.

A girl at puberty might have sexual urges, but no outlets. If she does not conform to current cultural ideals, she may lose confidence, and much of her effort may go into trying to address her attractiveness or lack thereof.

For me, ichthyosis was a significant concern. It could be that food became a kind of sexual substitute which eventually served another function: I could focus on weight as making me unattractive, rather than risk exposing the secret of an unusual skin condition.

Often teenage girls end up giving sexual release to boys, but do not expect reciprocation. It's true I gave a lot more blowjobs and handjobs than I received in return, but it was not all that difficult for me to have orgasms fully clothed just rubbing up against someone, and that would prevent me from having to expose my skin/ichthyosis.

I have heard it argued that sex education which includes talking about masturbation/ways to give pleasure to oneself is a way to help girls resist sexual pressure, the thinking being that if a girl knows she can provide her own orgasm, she will not blindly seek out boys to gratify her unconscious desires.

I masturbated to orgasm regularly before I participated in oral or manual stimulation or had vaginal intercourse. Sex is not just about orgasm, and teen longings include a variety of desires, many of which are probably about wanting to press up against an actual body, and curiosity about what two bodies can do together. The desire to experience orgasm with another person should not be underestimated. In my case, I think it probably would have been good to have easily accessible methods of birth control/venereal disease prevention. At that time, condoms were not available in school bathrooms, I lived in the country and didn't have a social life that included visits to towns or cities, except when my father and his girlfriend were with me.

I became pregnant at age 16, not long after I had been released from a psych ward. I had been hospitalized for a suicide attempt, and when released I was not less depressed - I was scared and demoralized. I was afraid of shock therapy, amongst other things, and in order to be released I accepted that I was manipulative and needed to accept responsibility for my life. I had not wanted to have a relationship with my 'boyfriend', but he came to visit me every day while I was in the hospital, and at that time it was difficult to walk away from the attention and support, even though two days before my suicide attempt he had tried to rape me while I was unconscious (his father had stopped this - and at that time I had never yet had intercourse with anyone).

My (older) boyfriend did have a car, and he could have driven somewhere and bought condoms (he was one of many boyfriends who did not like condoms), but he did not - the point is that it is good if all parties involved are aware of options. Also, there is the issue of cost - teens can manage to have a lot of sex within short periods of time, a lot of supplies are needed, and as far as the pill goes, back then I think it was about $25 per month, which I really didn't have. In retrospect, a significant issue should have been my boyfriend's lack of concern about birth control - ideally I would have chosen someone willing to think and talk about it with me beforehand. However, it is best if both parties have access to resources/enough money to buy supplies. Yes, I was stupid and not very resourceful, but it probably would have been better that methods of birth control were more readily available at the time.

On the plus side, when I realized my 17 year old sister was beginning to have sex, I took her to a clinic myself so that she could have an examination and discuss her options. (She didn't become pregnant until in her 20s, and at that point she had been with the same partner since age 17.)

When I was a teenager, I had the idea that it was a good thing to have experience, and not to commit to the first person you dated. I wanted to do a lot of dating, and only had a very vague idea of marriage in the future. I did not really dream of a wedding. This may have been partly related to the fiasco which was my parents' marriage and their subsequent acrimonious divorce, but it was probably also related to my conversations with my father, and perhaps also related to issues like my ichthyosis, and what kinds of relationships I was likely to attract.

I probably wasn't consciously aware at the time, but many of my father's conversations were probably about warning me not to get tied down to a family before you've had time to think. Add on to this his obvious unhappiness and difficulty coping with life, and it is not a big stretch to see that getting married and having children could lead to such unhappiness.

In relationships, I was either extremely open-minded, or I had very few personal expectations (possibly due to low self-esteem) or a bit of a strange combination of the two. None of my other siblings attracted as wide a range of different characters. In the beginning, most of my relationships were with highly unusual, but also emotionally abusive people. It wasn't really until I was 24-25 that I started attracting those who would treat me well. I have never expected (nor exerted pressure toward receiving) any kind of commitment in any relationship - in fact it has always been my way to think it best that relationships end. With my two long-term relationships, the others involved wanted me to stay and didn't move on, and our lives fit together well enough that it seemed beneficial for us to stay together - until one found a new partner. However, it is important to note that I have always thought it best that every relationship end. Even the long-term ones were ones I thought ideally should have ended years sooner. That is not to disparage those involved, but to say that I was not strong enough to 'live the way I think'.

It was not until I was in my early 20s that I began to connect sex (or love) and death. I think it was an adaptation, a way of trying to create a passionate and exciting way to solve the 'problem' of my unfortunate existence. From this point on, I never fantasized about living a life with any person. What was exciting to me and what made me feel 'happy' was the idea that a relationship would result in death. I still don't ever fantasize about living a life with any person. It's not just that I don't want to hit the relationship landmarks: ring, marriage, kids - it's that I don't want an ongoing life of any description.

I developed such that I became attracted to those with unusual psychosexual needs. The psychological interaction became the trigger. When I discovered the internet, it was possible to sometimes explore psychological boundaries to extremes. One of the most important aspects was that there was less guesswork regarding what people were thinking. It was easier to see the shape and meaning of a relationship in writing, and to not be carried along by my own passivity - it was easier to have a sense that I had some say in when I wanted to break up.

If I am dependent financially, I cannot have equality within a relationship. This is significant. It may seem to people that I wish to be dependent, but my conscious belief is that I don't, and if I stay with a person beyond the point where the interaction seems more mutually beneficial, (when the emotional and intellectual interaction are the main focal points, rather than day-to-day realities) I will begin to pull away emotionally. I don't feel good about myself in such a situation, and I don't feel sexual.

I often end up offering what I can as far as contributions, and that does mean that part of what I offer is related to washing dishes, doing laundry and other housework - because those are things I know how to do, but playing such a role is depressing to me.

It is not that I prefer written correspondence over real life relationships, it's that when it comes to writing, there is a greater chance for equality, as a relationship is about an exchange of ideas rather than about financial contributions and one's status or lack thereof.

When I failed to develop normally, when I failed to develop potential, go to university, manage to support myself, it had an effect on the relationships I attracted, as well as on sexual satisfaction and ability to achieve intimacy. Who I was becoming did not fit my idea of who I was or who I wanted to be, and it makes sense to me that as a result there would be a ripple effect. If you add on to that cultural pressures to look a certain way, pressures I could not live up to, it makes sense that I would perceive that I was not deeply desired. I kept desiring, and keep desiring a connection and release that it seems I cannot achieve because I am not someone I respect? or at least that if I do have respect for myself, I cannot find anyone else to reflect it back to me.

Once I had contracted genital herpes at age 23, I faced concerns that probably emphasize a non-feminist role: sex often had to be about the other person's pleasure when I had outbreaks. The more commonly I experienced outbreaks, the more my natural ability to respond was compromised, as I always had to control arousal and deny fulfillment. This was mainly a problem from age 33 on, when I had a relationship with a man who had until this time in his life been a virgin. There was incredible pressure not to infect him, and at the same time, his circumstances were very unusual: it seemed 'wrong' not to help him make up for lost time. I was capable of experiencing orgasm when having outbreaks; the problem was that orgasm definitely seemed to ensure that an outbreak would be prolonged. As a result of all the 'necessary' repression, I think it's possible that my body stopped responding naturally in the moment, and in addition that it compensated by giving me 'wet dreams' while I slept (this adaptation continues in my present life).

Both of my long-term relationships began after I acquired genital herpes. In both cases, I told the person right at the start, before the person had a chance to become attached. That both accepted it and were willing to proceed perhaps says something about their level of loneliness and desperation, and about what they felt they themselves deserved. Or, a more optimistic interpretation is that even when you have serious baggage, it may still be possible to find those with compatible needs if you remain open to life and to experience.

It has now been many years since I have had any form of sex with another person, although I do masturbate regularly. It is not that I don't desire to have sex, it's that I don't have social opportunities, and in addition it is now quite clear that my baggage, as well as my increasing age, are 'handicaps' that increase the degree of difficulty when it comes to attracting new partners.















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