Originally posted May 23, 2012
Also view this article on elephantjournal.com
I have been a very dirty girl. And I’m OK with that.
Well, sort of. It’s more like I am learning to love this part of myself. She’s been in hiding for some time now, afraid that if she speaks to loudly or chews with her mouth open or runs naked through the streets, people will get angry. Or they will laugh at her. Or they will watch her with a starving madness and she will feel their shame burning through her skin (which will then light the fire of her own shame and her ‘good girl’ cover may get blown).
But this ‘dirty girl’ is not what you might be thinking. She’s no ‘been-there-done-that’ kinda chick, nor does she spend her nights trolling around town looking for the next hot lay. She’s actually quite naïve—she comes from a place before her sex got tied in the knots of social conditioning.
We’ve only been recently reacquainted.
I’m face down on the bed. My legs are spread. My lover pushing himself inside me. My right fingertips are on my clit. His hands are tangled in my hair as he shoves my face into the pillow. I am bellowing from a place deep within the basement of my soul. It’s uncontrollable, as if a fury has taken over my voice. I vacillate between crying and laughing. Grieving the release of past trauma and marveling at the humorous absurdity of it all. I am a 31-year-old woman possessed by the banshee spirit of a 4-year-old while in the throes of some pretty brutal fucking.
And within it all, the anger, the terror, the hilarity and the tears, is a tremendous amount of turn-on. My whole body is alive. I have expanded to a point just a hair’s breadth beyond the limits of my safety, for the moment. I feel a twinge of guilt in not pushing further, as if my sex were some sort of product to deliver (and the business of my sex demands utmost customer service), but we fall asleep, sweetly drenched in the hair and sweat of our electric togetherness.
But what expands, must equally and oppositely contract. A few hours later, he reaches for me in the vulnerable darkness, hands on my ass, cock pressing against me. All at once a rage snaps my body tightly together, a violent ‘No’ escaping my throat and I clutch the sheets in a feeble attempt to scurry away. I am angry and terrified, as a childhood ghost flies through me. My lover holds me tightly, letting me know that I am safe. After a few tense seconds, my body slackens, but what was once alive has now gone numb.
And this frightens me. I know this place. I took up residence for a number of years. Starving myself in the addiction of anorexia in the attempt to quell the voices of a ravenous (and dangerous) sexuality. Maintaining a pre-pubescent state of being so I didn’t have to face the terror that comes with stepping into womanhood.
After a few minutes I fall asleep. I leave his place the next morning, quiet and unfeeling. I don’t know how to make sense of what I am experiencing. Is it resentment? Violation? Pain? Anger? Shame? All I can tell is that my emotional body has shut down and is on some sort of autopilot. A big block of cement sits right on my belly. If I let the old Candice take over, a passive aggressive brew of sexual withholding and the silent treatment isn’t far away.
A few hours go by and the pain starts to thaw. Vulnerability wins. I can feel again. I break down and call him, crying. I am a confused mess of a woman. On the one hand, I am angry at all men who rape women and for every man who has ever only wanted me for my sex. On the other, I ashamed at my compulsive need to have every man I meet want me sexually. Who am I if I don’t have my sex to offer as collateral for my right to exist in this world? My insecurity breeds a way of being in the world that invites the very reaction I most fear and therefore, it also invites a reaction that comes with a large amount of desire. Desire to confront and know myself as a woman of sexual maturity.
We end the conversation. I feel a bit more relieved, but there is still a bubble of unexpressed desire sitting in me. A few hours later, I meet with a friend for an OM (Orgasmic Meditation). The moment his finger slides onto my clit, the bubble wells up into my eyes and I am silently crying. In this moment, as he is stroking me with tenderness and care. I connect with the sexual innocence of a child. It is sweet, soft and nurturing. I feel emotionally safe and free from shame—something for which my body has hungered for a long time.
As kids, we are naturally curious about our bodies and express pleasure without concern for what others think. Children aren’t born with shame; they experience it once they learn from adults—who are themselves wrestling with their own unhealed wounds around shame and fear of abandonment—that some part of who they are is ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong.’
Our erotic journeys begin at conception, which is itself a sexual act. You see little babies touch themselves in utero. We are birthed through our mother’s genitals. We are nourished at our mother’s breasts. Our fathers hold us in their laps and tickle us to tears. The entire experience of young childhood is both sensual and innocent.
Then shame enters the picture. This can look like adults condemning erotic expression and setting up walls between themselves and children; or, as in my case, adults will be so erotically starving and are unable to share that with their adult partner (if they even have a partner) that they will use their children for energetic support, which opens the door to emotional or physical incest.
Here are a few highlights in the tapestry of my childhood sexual shame:
I can remember being 6-years-old and the neighbor boy pulling down his pants and showing me his ‘wee wee’ and me thinking “Oh my God, I hope my mother doesn’t walk in on this.”
I can remember being 9-years-old and having family members tell me not to dance or lick my lips like Madonna, lest I get the ‘wrong’ kind of attention.
I can remember being 10-years-old and having play acting sessions with my girlfriends in which I would pretend to be the ‘guy’ and we would kiss and rub up against each other. I was both frightened that they would tell their parents and mortified by how much I desired to kiss them again.
I can remember being 11-years-old and teasing one of the girls in after-school care about being sexual. She went and told one of the leaders, who then accused me of child abuse.
I can remember being 12-years-old and thinking I was the only female in the world who masturbated. I had heard all the jokes about boys doing it, but not girls. I thought I was some sort of pervert.
Shame is an arena where most of us can relate, but are too afraid to share with each other because of the repercussions society dishes out for deviating from the sexual ‘norm.’ We women are supposed to hold on to our ‘precious’ virginity as long as possible and only give it up for guys that are ‘marriage material.’ Then once you finally pick one guy, only fuck him for the rest of your life. Be a whore on-demand with him at night, but totally asexual during the day. Without the freedom to explore our desire and communicate it to our partners, we often live our lives with our orgasm locked in resentment and rotting inside our bodies.
Men don’t have it much easier. They are expected to walk around with perpetual hard-ons and their worth as a man rests on their ability to please a woman all night long (a farcical notion frequently expressed in many love songs). If his only experience is from watching porn and talking to his buddies, he may lie to cover up the fact that he doesn’t know how to handle a woman’s pussy and is too ashamed to admit it. This shame, which is vacuum-sealed like Saran Wrap around our fear of sex, is why both men and women continue to hide within the ‘safety’ of societal conditioning; thus, unfortunately, widening the chasm between ourselves and our authentic erotic expression.
Many of us in more ‘liberal’ cities may think we have moved past this kind of archaic relationship with sexuality, but I contest that it is very present. The war on abortion and women’s reproductive rights is a direct attack on female desire. The recent ban on gay marriage in North Carolina (as well as the ban on civil unions for both gay and straight couples) reinforces the belief that unless you are in a monogamous, long-term, heterosexual relationship, you are an unlawful deviant of society. Abstinence-only sex education is getting more of a push from right-wing leaders and now, young girls are attending events known as ‘Purity Balls,’ in which female teenagers pledge their virginity to God and elect their fathers as guardians—a role which then passes only to her future husband.
As you can see, there are many people and institutions more than willing to take the load of sexual responsibility off our hands. And the longer we continue to play this charade, the harder it gets to separate our personal truth from the social lie. To stand up and say, “No, it is my life, my body and my sex. I will decide what is right for me,” is nothing short of revolutionary.
In the past, I thought this meant doing all the kinky things I had avoided during my young adult years (my focus on school and my marriage were great places for my sex to hide). This ‘saying yes’ to every sexual opportunity that came my way was ‘proof’ that I was sexually expressed. I see now that the more powerful (and vulnerable) choice lies in reclaiming my own erotic innocence, i.e. that part of myself that is simple, pure, unfiltered in her desires and lives with the ethos of ‘pleasure for the sake of pleasure’ and enjoys something simply because it feels good (rather than looks good), without the fear of ‘not deserving it’ or ‘what do I have to give up in return.’ She doesn’t have to show off or prove her worth. For her, ‘No’ is a valid response—it gives her ‘Yes’ that much more power.
And my erotic innocent is a little dirty at times. Because it’s fun to break the rules. To be a little bad. It turns her on. Rebellion is exciting because it paves the way for some new discovery—shakes up the status quo and creates the opportunity for messiness, play and growth. In confronting my childhood trauma, shame and hidden desires, I am now creating the space for all facets of my erotic being to emerge. Within this sexual self-compassion comes the ability to empathize with each person and accept their erotic self. The newborn, the homeless guy, my father, the elderly lady on life support, the nun—everyone is a sexual being. We are all perfectly built for sensuality. And it is through personal acceptance that the doors of inspiration, abundance and living the life of your dreams open. It’s not a silly, utopian fantasy or a special place reserved only for those lucky enough to find it; it is your birthright.
The journey is not easy. But if it were easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun. The pain, the shame, the falling apart, the voices of doubt—they are not my enemies. They are the raw material for my creativity and serve to remind me just how exquisitely human I am—all I have to do is to surrender to them. What a gift that is. To recognize the gift, accept it with humility and pour out gratitude in service to the Divine is nothing short of grace. And it is within the grace of surrender that an erotic innocent is ushered into Womanhood.