There is something I often tell people about connecting with others — in my experience if you are willing to be vulnerable first with someone else, often it will be reciprocated at least to a degree. Being consciously vulnerable creates a safety of sorts and holds space that allows others to be more brave and open and step into that space themselves.
I like being vulnerable, but it’s not something you can force or expect of people.
To me, when someone chooses to share something vulnerable with me, it suggests that they trust and respect me, and they’re willing to share a connection. I feel honoured whenever someone shares that trust and connection with me. I do my best to exist in a way that encourages people to do so.
Intimacy. It exists in many forms and is very important to many people. Some have intimacy with family members, some with best friends, some with strangers, but most of us probably experience the bulk of intimacy in our lives with romantic and/or sexual partners. For the purposes of this article, when I refer to intimacy, I am referring to both emotional closeness, as well as the often physical/sexual component of intimacy.
The pandemic has led many more people to be isolated and ‘touch starved’, though that was a problem before the pandemic even started and was certainly exacerbated by COVID.
For people who go longer stretches being single, intimacy can sometimes be difficult to access. Not even just physically. Perhaps you have a lot of anxiety, or you have trauma, or you live in a remote area, or you’re financially unstable, or maybe something else. Our wants and needs are sometimes stymied by things that we struggle to deal with or things out of our control.
Often what can make the loneliness and isolation worse is not being able to talk about it.
I know a large chunk of the population is uncomfortable with having particular conversations, or admitting what they truly want, enjoy, or would like to try. There is still a lot of ‘slut shaming’, and while kinks and fetishes are a little less taboo nowadays, they’re still not a casual conversation topic (well, not usually). Don’t worry, this article isn’t about kinks and fetishes.
There is so much programming we are subject to growing up. I wasn’t even really comfortable talking to friends (male or female) about sex for many years. I know I’m not alone in that, and there can be lots of reasons for this. Many of us don’t even have the language to describe what or how we feel in a satisfying way, and maybe the other person doesn’t have the language to understand either.
In western society, I was known as a ‘late bloomer’. Someone whose development was delayed in one or multiple ways, putting us ‘behind’ our peers. I was both socially and sexually delayed, due in large part to Autism that was only diagnosed in my mid 20s. That’s roughly where I feel like my social development began (so to this day I tend to relate better to people who are younger than me rather than older). This was also roughly where my sexual development really began ie when I first began to be sexually active with other people. When the desire finally met the opportunity, for a brief period.
I’ve met several other late bloomers like me and know there will be more reading this article. I’m fortunate to have ‘caught up’ quite a bit in my late 30s, as have other late bloomers to varying degrees. However, due to the (often unwritten) rules and expectations of society, if you’re not at a certain point with certain things by a certain age, you become stigmatized.
There was a movie made to poke fun at this called The 40 Year Old Virgin. Cultural properties like that can further increase the anxiety of people who are struggling with it. A person can feel like it’s ‘too late’, or no one will ever give them a chance now, or what if they’re just too far behind and can never get enough practice to learn and catch up? Yes, the movie had a happy ending (pardon the pun) but it isn’t always so.
I’ve opened my mind a lot over the years, largely from getting to experience different ways that other people conducted their personal lives (often indirectly, second-hand, or third-hand). I dabbled in the local kink scene for a year or two in 2010 but never ‘found what I was looking for’. I had a few hookups but didn’t enjoy them as much as I expected or hoped to.
This baffled me at first, until I realized that I had basically internalized the perceived expectations from society that if I wasn’t getting laid (or at least trying to) then something was wrong with me. I suppose you could call that ‘compulsory allosexuality’ (a spin-off of ‘compulsive heterosexuality’, or ‘comphet’). Allosexuality is a term that means a fully sexual person.
I realized I didn’t just want sex for the sake of it. I wanted — and to an extent, needed — to connect as well, but the type of connection I sought was perpetually difficult for me to find. The hookups amounted to me trying to settle, to get something because it was better than nothing.
I would eventually learn of the term ‘demisexual’, which speaks to needing to have an emotional bond with a person to desire or enjoy sex. But there are degrees of this. So many spectrums. Few things are completely black and white.
Around that time I also began to meet lots of polyamorous people and relationship anarchists (though never got involved in that myself) which began to show me a different way to look at and think about relationships, connection, shared intimacy, and more. Polyamory didn’t initially feel like a fit to me (jealousy is a real issue and something that many of us need to work on) but it was still useful data in the learning and self-discovery process.
So I found myself perpetually stuck in this unfortunate situation — feeling deeply, craving connection, having a sexuality and sensuality that was languishing, not feeling totally comfortable talking about it, and having minimal success in finding what I was looking for or someone to be intimate with. A lot of this is still true, except that I’m a lot more comfortable talking about it now.
Over and over again, I would get frustrated and hopeless, and turn back to hobbies and ambitions and pour myself into those, which in part I think helped cause further delay for me having these other experiences. I knew I couldn’t make someone like (or love) me, and mutual sexual interest with sufficient connection was quite rare. I was very frustrated by this one aspect of my life — a thing I wanted very much — but unlike so many other things in my life, felt very out of my control and impossibly out of reach.
Here is something that many would probably call a radical thought, but my experiences in trying to embrace and explore a part of myself that society has some really complicated expectations around have brought me to radical thoughts.
When I reflect back on so many years of shyness, shame, anxiety, etc, I find myself wishing it was just as easy to talk about sex and sexuality and intimacy as what your favorite kind of food or type of music is. Of course people would still need to opt-in or consent to those conversations, but I wish that was our reality. I wish we were all (or mostly) comfortable enough with ourselves and each other, and that regardless of who you are or aren’t attracted to (and whether you’re asexual or hypersexual) we could just talk about it.
I think we could learn so much more from each other and about ourselves. We’d have much healthier and fuller lives and experiences. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Well, for some of us at least.
But as I said, intimacy and vulnerability aren’t just about sex, and there are several other topics and issues that are culturally more taboo.
V Is For Visibility
I recently joined the ‘People For Pleasure’ community run by Katrina Marie (@MyOrgasmicLife on Instagram). It is a community of (mostly) women who care about, are passionate about, and want to prioritize their sexuality and their pleasure.
On a call within the group, someone made a comment about how brave they felt Katrina was for being so openly sexual on the internet. And she has cultivated a heck of a supportive, open, and loving community.
But this comment rings true —it does take some bravery, but you also have to live your truth.
I manage two PG brands. I’ve intentionally tried to keep the creative work that I do educational leaning, and appropriate for children. But this started to come into conflict with being a human with things to express that weren’t as in line with child friendliness.
I recently interviewed a TikToker who makes video about mental health and Autism, who also happens to have an OnlyFans page. In case you are not familiar, OnlyFans is a page where you can share sexual and erotic content and have people subscribe to access that content. There are also several other websites that work the same way, but OF is probably the most well known.
When the guest and I had our initial call to discuss the interview, they mentioned their OF and I asked them if that is something they would be comfortable discussing in more detail. They said yes. We came at the topic from a variety of angles — being a sexual person (as many of us are) who has a “PG brand”, the way that women and ‘woman coded’ people are approached and interacted with online, especially when they are open about their sexuality, and also sexuality itself to an extent among other things.
It was probably the most open, personal, vulnerable, raw hour-long interaction I had had with another human (who was mostly a stranger) in I don’t know how long. I was so honoured that they allowed me to be part of that because it really fed my soul. That conversation was healing. And this is another downside of not being able to talk about your whole self and express your needs and desires. You don’t feel fully seen, and that means you can’t heal as much.
This conversation about Sexuality vs PG brand really served to spark my recent shift back into acknowledging my sexuality more consciously, wanting to hold space for it again. It highlighted a deficit in my own life. A deficit of shared intimacy, and a deficit of having an outlet to express parts of myself and have healthy and positive interactions around that.
I recently made a new friend and the first time we hung out together, we talked for four hours and our shared reality was being late bloomers and not having as much sexual experience as our peers. I asked her at one point ‘so do you more want a relationship or do you more just want hookups?’ and she replied ‘I think hookups, I really think I need to have a slutphase!’ I nodded strongly and knowingly in agreement.
On that People for Pleasure call, slutphase was very resonant. It does seem to be a thing that many people have, and it was relieving to find out how many other people are out there who are in a similar place at a similar age.
I needed to be more visible, for myself and for the cause. And I hope you will consider that for yourself as well.
V Is For Validity
Disabled people and Fat people are often not seen as sexual beings or sexually desirable. When they appear in porn it’s usually to be degraded or mocked.
Transgender people are not seen by many as valid or viable sexual partners, while at the same time are fetishized by many others. Many men are attracted to transgender women but not willing to be open about it due to stigma of being considered gay (which they’re not, because trans women are women). Transgender women of colour have the highest murder rate of all trans murder victims. Trans men are often outright ignored in the discourse, or disregarded as ‘confused lesbians’.
Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Melanated People (BBIMP) are treated differently, more violently, and also fetishized.
Women (any people perceived as such) are treated differently, often more violently.
Even virgins are stigmatized beyond a certain age.
[Did reading any of the above make you uncomfortable, or make you think about something differently than before? If so, that’s probably a good thing. Might be good to do some journaling around that — speaking from personal experience!]
When a person becomes a fetish, some of their agency and personhood is taken away. That makes it much harder to access love, intimacy, or sex, let alone respect.
As an Autistic trans woman, this has been my experience.
Autism was what largely made dating and sex inaccessible when I was younger, now as an adult trans woman (primarily attracted to women) it is mainly my transness that discourages people from even giving me a chance and not just treating me like a freak or a fetish.
I actually had a conversation with my therapist (who also happens to do sexuality coaching) recently about how kind of shitty it feels that even a lot of queer cis women don’t want to date trans women, and how it makes me feel like I’m relegated to only co-mingling ‘with my own kind’. It’s certainly not that I don’t want to or wouldn’t date a fellow trans person, the issue has been more lack of mutual interest thus far. But that was a common issue still before I transitioned and still thought I was cis.
My most recent committed partner (as of this writing) was a pansexual cis woman, and she was very overweight when I met her. I hate to admit it but I did initially struggle with some fatphobia (despite absolutely loving her personality) but I ended up being able to push past that thanks to her personality, and finally broke down a life long barrier in my brain. Even though that relationship didn’t work out, it changed me and opened up my mind and scope of attraction wider than its ever been. Falling in love with her and her body led me to find more body types and shapes attractive and desirable.
Speaking from experience, I can recall how when I was still living as a supposed Hetero Cis Guy, it felt like there was little need to really push myself and challenge my ideals of attraction, because the kind of people I was attracted to were numerous and plentiful. Then things changed for me and forced me to grow. I caution cisgender folx reading this to not let themselves get too complacent like I did, especially if you’re struggling with having your needs met. I don’t just want to have a predictable sex life, for the moment at least I want to gently push my existing boundaries and see if I can open myself up even further (no that’s not a euphemism!).
I’m finding now if I really like someone’s personality, that itself can bring some level of sexual attraction, even if aesthetically they might not otherwise be what I’d normally go for.
Katrina dropped a phrase in relation to spending time with a person and being unsure if it was just a friendly hang, or a date. That phrase was ‘is sex on the table?’ and I found it really helpful. It’s a question and concept that I had already begun to put into practice, but didn’t have such succinct words for.
A couple of months ago, I did something really scary for the first time — I reached out to a few friends whom I was attracted to and let them know (respectfully) of my interest and asked if it might be mutual. All the responses were polite rejections, but that’s certainly better than the reaction I feared — that they would be upset or offended and stop speaking to me. So polite rejections were a really positive piece of feedback that I’d found good words and that there was still mutual respect and friendship. Nothing had been lost. That helped me build my confidence. After all, sharing with someone that you want to be more intimate with them really is a compliment as long as you phrase it tactfully.
I want to express myself in the various ways that make me human just like the many of you reading this. I want to share that with another person. And that’s OK and valid too.
I am single and unattached (as of this writing). It took me many years to come to a point of truly understanding and internalizing that being single is fine. It doesn’t make me lesser, or unworthy. It just is. And that’s okay. At the same time, I also know that I would like to be in a relationship, and I would like to be sexual. While in the past I mostly opted to wait for a relationship to have sex, i’m not restricting myself to that anymore.
V Is For Voice
In order to get what you want or what you desire, you need to know what it is, and you need to be able to name and express it.
After so many years of putting some pretty critical parts of my humanity on hold or off to the side, I’m finally starting to find my voice and more confidently say that I want to explore and express my sexuality and sensuality. I want more intimacy. I want more touch, even if it’s non-sexual. I want to express my romanticism more.
I just want to give and receive these things and these feelings.
I had always hoped that these things would come to me through what I was doing, and while they haven’t yet, I do feel like I’m beginning to see signs that they might sometime soon. I’m doing many of ‘the right things’, which is good.
I feel ‘seen’ as a creator, as an artist, an entrepreneur; but I don’t feel nearly as seen and felt as a complete human (in the myriad of ways that humans desire to be seen and felt). I see myself to be sure, but I don’t feel that others see me as much. Part of my journey has been learning to have the confidence to know that that will come.
I am an extremely passionate person in many ways. I’ve poured the majority of that into my creative work because it was the easiest, but I really do want to find the person who will truly appreciate that passion, and share in it with me. Whoever, or wherever she (or they) might be.
V Is For Velocity
Now that I’m finding my voice, my confidence, and getting braver to share this vulnerability, I need to find more safe ways to keep exploring that work for me. What I think I am realizing is that yes, some topics are ‘mature’ in nature, but they can still be talked about in a polite and respectful way that, while maybe not purely PG-13, are still respectable and professional. As much as part of me wants to start an OnlyFans account, I don’t have the time or energy for that right now.
My life tends to either be moving at warp speed, or be not moving at all. Lately it has been in warp mode, and I like having that velocity to get me towards my goals and desires faster.
V Is For Victory
This process is still in progress, but taking an intentional step, and being open and vulnerable, holding space, “showing up” as you might call it, is a victory no matter how you slice it.
The truth is part of me would LOVE to have a community like what Katrina has built, but at least I get to be part of it and take part in the discussions, sharing, connection, intimacy, and vulnerability of it. It makes me more excited and proud to be going on this journey and having something to share. We all learn from each other!
I’m sure many of you will relate. You’re welcome to leave a reply or comment (though if I get flooded it may take me time to address them all). If you’d feel more comfortable private messaging me, you’re welcome to do so though again, please be patient for replies. (And just in case this needs to be said — please keep responses respectful.)
One thing I would be especially interested to know — is there anything in particular that reading this article has reading this made you feel more brave to share (even if privately)?
V Is For Vindication
This would be the final step in the process. Finding a partner (whether committed or casual) and getting to have some of that slutphase I never got to have. To get to express myself, explore my curiosities, learn new things, and become a more complete person.
I started writing this blog over two months ago, but have gone through such a rollercoaster and so many relevant and pivotal experiences since then, it has been hard to finish. But it’s a really important blog to write and I’m glad I’ve done it, and I owe some thanks to new friends and amazing community.
V Is For Vintage
(aka The End and here are my plugs!)
Lacey Artemis is an author, artist, musician, podcaster, and more. You can find all of her work online at www.artemiscreates.com.
Thanks to Katrina Marie and People For Pleasure for helping me finish this challenging blog post!