exploration

How I Came to Be Part I: The Beginning

“How I Came to Be” will be a three-part series, exploring the path I took to finding relationship dynamics and styles that are right for me. Each part covers an era in my life defined by my relationships during that time. This story is ever evolving.

Fair warning: part I of this story is the ugly part.

I fucked a near-stranger while on vacation in Texas the summer before I started high school. I was young. Very young. But even then, I didn’t like the concept of “losing your virginity” as some sort of milestone; I just wanted to get it over with. We never saw each other or spoke again, though many years later I heard he’d been killed in Afghanistan.

Months later, my high school boyfriend hated that someone had “gotten to me” before him. Someone other than he had “broken the freshness seal” or some other slut-shaming nonsense. Consequently, Tod and I waited several months to have sex– I think he meant to test me, to see if the whore had any self-control. At fourteen, naïve and sophomoric, I told him loved him and swore he was my one-and-only.

It was what he wanted to hear, because the only love he’d grown up with was in myth and movies. His family was from Southie stock, and he imagined the ugly past with rose-colored glasses, because he needed an escape from the reality of his mother’s health issues and his father’s Vietnam-induced PTSD. I told him what he wanted to hear because I’d learned quickly that when I said things he didn’t want to hear, things went downhill fast.

I never heard the word “codependency” until I was much older, but it was an accurate description for our relationship. We were young, stupid, and desperately insecure. He was controlling, forever afraid that I would stray. In his mind, I validated his fears when I expressed interest in a close friend of mine.

I asked for an open relationship, swearing it was only about the sex. The manipulation, gaslighting, and psychological and verbal abuse started. I retaliated by cheating, first with the guy I’d originally been interested in, and later with several others. I wasn’t “allowed” to break up with Tod, so I carried on as if we weren’t together at all. Eventually I started an entire second relationship behind Tod’s back, which continued until I moved away to college.

Of course I didn’t deserve the abuse, which had become physical by the time we split up, but we were both bastards to one another. I didn’t like the relationship and I didn’t want it, but I was held hostage until I moved away and didn’t tell him where I was going. It was the only way I could end things for good.

The relief that came with the end of my relationship with Tod was tremendous, and it felt like coming out of a fog. Unethical as my behavior had been, I saw the value of dating two people at once. The sexual variety kept that spark alive in both relationships, and I came to understand that one person could never be everything for me. It fit with my outlook on life and my need for independence. I’d been reading about non-monogamy and nodding along in agreement with the principles laid out in The Ethical Slut, and at seventeen, finally free and on my own, I swore off monogamy for good.

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Walking the Line

Double standards.As I’ve mentioned before, bisexual erasure is a thing I feel pretty strongly about. It sucks– bisexuals have been around forever, and yet we’re still subjected to eyerolls and disbelief when we come out. Because of this, I think visibility is important and the more bisexuals who stand up to be counted, the better.

Yet I refer to myself as “gay” half the time. Where’s the logic in that?

I’m not one to dwell too much on labels, but after many years of alternating between the two in conversation, I stopped to think about why. The answer is almost unsatisfyingly simple: I identify with both.

I am bisexual in that I am attracted to all sorts of folks, among whom are men, women, and non-binary individuals. My sexual history reflects that diversity, and though I can’t predict the future, I expect the next five years won’t look two different from the past.

Despite that, I am also gay. All but one of my serious relationships have been with men. I’m open to another relationship with a woman or non-binary person, but all the partners I’ve introduced to my family and colleagues have been men. In other words, I navigate the world as a gay man and my romantic experience largely reflects that identity.

Is it disingenuous for me to straddle that line and claim both identities? I don’t really know. I do think my sexuality is more complicated than a single word (something which I think is true for most people) but I’m going to choose the most appropriate word to convey the point I’m trying to make.

These distinctions are all arbitrary anyway.

Rate of Exploration Over Time

I dove into the world of kink headfirst as soon as I was legally able. I’d been sexually active for a few years already, and I was chomping at the bit to become a part of a culture I’d only been able to interact with by falsifying my age on the internet. I went to munches, met people, sought out parties, and tried everything I could get my hands on. I was starving for experiences.

And then a couple of years in, something happened: I withdrew. I noticed that I was using fewer and fewer of the toys I’d collected, and munches were no longer a priority on my calendar. I no longer actively searched for new partners, and I stopped playing with a number of regulars.

What happened? Even I was surprised, and I started questioning myself. Was I “more vanilla” than I’d previously thought? Was it just a phase? Was I in some kind of funk?

I chewed on the question for a few weeks and came to (what now seems like) an obvious conclusion: I came; I experimented; I refined.

When I started out, I didn’t know what I wanted or what I liked. I had a general idea: I knew that I got off on hurting people and that I preferred being in control. But beyond that, I was clueless. I had to experiment to really understand my desires, because they are much more subtle than that. Through experimentation, I found the activities that really pushed my buttons and those that I could do without. I found the kind of partners that were right for me, and which would be incompatible.

My kink activity slowed down not because I had lost interest, but because I’d just stopped doing the things I didn’t like. These days I can summarize my style of play pretty easily: I like primal rough body play with active bottoms and lot of physical contact, especially in the context of consensual non-consent. I don’t mind being hit back within that context, but I don’t like to bottom or sub. I’m relationship-oriented, and I like service-based dynamics. My style of dominance is Daddy-like and protective.

I’ll still try new things and occasionally surprise myself, but I’m pretty content with sticking to the things I like. Sex and kink are meant to be fun, not a competition. Just as kinky sex isn’t inherently “better” than vanilla sex, those of us with relatively narrow interests aren’t doing it wrong.