The first time I came face to face with the intensity of this shame was when, at the age of 15, I let a boyfriend go down on me and I enjoyed it. The next day, I felt so sick with guilt that I could barely look at myself in the mirror, and all I could say to him was, “Why did we do that?”. I had no words to articulate why I felt ashamed, no language to express that I’d grown up in a culture where you were either a nice girl or a slut, and since nice girls say no… that must mean I was now bad. Tainted. Slutty.
That was the start of a spiral of shame that would follow me for another 10 years or more. Even now, with the end of my twenties in sight and over 100 posts of my sexiest secrets on the internet for the world to read, I’m still blindsided by that shame from time to time. Just this week, a biologically nonsensical meme about ‘loose vaginas’ gave me a moment of shaming myself for my promiscuity (before making me so angry I had to step away from Twitter and go for a run before I unleashed the full force of an Angry Sex Positive Feminist and probably got myself banned).
My first long-term boyfriend asked me what was wrong with me that I couldn’t enjoy sex ‘the normal way’.
All of this is to say that sexual shame is real and it’s really painful, particularly for those of us whose desires don’t fit into society’s narrow boxes. As I gradually came out to myself and then to a few select people as bisexual, as non-monogamous/polyamorous and as kinky, I began to feel lonelier and lonelier.
I could see the discomfort on my friends’ faces, wondering if I was waiting to pounce (I wasn’t). I watched as a friend who meant the world to me pulled away because her boyfriend decided I, the queer polyamorist, couldn’t be trusted with her. I heard over and over the words of my first long-term boyfriend, who asked me what was wrong with me that I couldn’t enjoy sex ‘the normal way’.
As a person with depression, feeling alone is both a symptom and a trigger of my condition flaring up, and for this reason I spent much of my late teens and early twenties in cycles of self-hatred and deep sadness, in large part due to my sexuality.
My blog was always there for me
There were several things that ultimately helped ease this shame, isolation and loneliness, including finding affirming and supportive partners and joining the real life BDSM scene. But one of the absolute biggest shifts for me was starting a sex blog. In spewing my thoughts about sex, love, kink and relationships out onto the internet, I suddenly felt that I had a meaningful outlet whether anyone was listening or not. In the times that there was no-one to talk to – or even if there was, but the idea of doing so felt impossibly overwhelming – my blog was always there for me. It was really as much a personal journal as anything else in the early days. It took away the pressure of silence enforced by social norms and shame. It opened up avenues that had previously been forbidden.
Realising I had an actual audience, though? That was something else. When people began commenting, retweeting me, telling me they read my work and it had brought them a smile or a tear or a flicker of recognition… well, that was a very heady thing. If other people loved the words I wrote and recognised themselves in some of them, then I wasn’t alone or weird or broken after all.
I wasn’t just a weirdo oversharing on the internet any more.
This gave me the courage to seek out more sex-positive community in the real world, which is what led me to a paradigm-shifting, life-changing two and a half days at Eroticon. There, I met dozens of amazing people who are doing brilliant, radical work. That weekend, and later on our Twitter feeds and our blogs, we connected and we shared our experiences and we lifted each other up and supported each other. In that community, something lit up inside of me. I wasn’t just a weirdo oversharing on the internet any more. I was part of something bigger, something meaningful, something that mattered and was beautiful. I’m now delighted to call so many of those people genuine friends. They understand me, and I would never have found them if it wasn’t for sex blogging.
If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this essay, it is simply this: Find Your People. Whatever the “thing” is that has you feeling ashamed, broken or alone, I promise you there are other people out there who will understand and affirm you. If you’re suffering from sexual shame, or feeling isolated or alone, finding your people is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say community saved my soul… and I found them through sex blogging.
Amy is a queer, twenty-something sex blogger from the UK. She writes erotic fiction, toy reviews, true-life tales and personal essays on topics including BDSM, feminism, mental health and ethical non-monogamy. You can find her work at http://coffeeandkink.me or follow her on Twitter @CoffeeAndKink.