I am happiest when I’m alone in nature.
There’s an infectious axiom that floats around daytime television, self-help books, and yes – blogs: No one else can love you until you love yourself.
During my darkest hours, I was loved. For every day I was most full of self-loathing and despair, there was a person in my life who loved me… and probably couldn’t see the corrosive feelings gnawing away at my insides. Just like I couldn’t see their love. Like there was an invisible wall between us.
Those people propelled me to start a ten-year journey of healing from a place of self-injury to a deep self-love… and I did it in a way that would make life coaches cringe hard.
Stage One: Build a fortress.
In my late twenties, I met some rebellious and raucous women who inspired me to say, “Fuck this.” I stopped looking for love and relished just having a good time; I casually dated and never let anyone get close to me for years. Using this defense mechanism of putting up walls allowed me to do two important things – learn who I was and what I wanted for me outside of relationships, and embrace casual sex. I’m very thankful for both.
Stage Two: Stop dating men.
I’d had so many excruciating experiences wherein I a) developed Real Feelings for a boy, b) told him, c) had sex with him to get him to like me back, and d) felt crushed when surprise! He didn’t. This is probably one of the reasons why I just stopped being that attracted to men. Dating women allowed me to express my feelings in a safe space (for the most part). They didn’t lie to or mislead me in order to get sex; in fact, if anything, I had to work on my communication skills in order to tell them exactly what I wanted up front and be really honest when I wasn’t looking for a monogamous relationship – before the sex. Not only did I have relationships (and phenomenal sex) with strong, adventurous, no-nonsense, compassionate, intelligent, and hilarious women – I was surrounded by them in my community. Dating women taught me that I have inherent value that is not directly tied to my cunt.
Step Three: Allow yourself to fall in love recklessly with someone you know will break your heart.
I started dating men again because I fell in love with a coworker who I knew was going to leave in a matter of months. When I realized a month in how intensely and romantically I loved this man compared to his palpably platonic love for me, I acknowledged it and dove in headfirst. I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings – the euphoric and the excruciating – and when I made it through the other side, I’d learned not only to survive, but to open my heart completely because I knew I could survive and recover from heartache.
[Step 3.5: Travel to a tropical locale. Feel the breeze, listen to the waves, self-evaluate, and drink rum. Have a lot of sweaty sex with someone who makes you laugh hard.]
Step Four: Recognize the value of other people’s love.
I never have to guess how The Engineer feels about me, and he never has to guess how I feel about him; we tell each other every single day earnestly and without prompting. His emotional intelligence and general smooshiness have made me reflect on my expression of love to friends and family and theirs to me – and I try mindfully not to take a single drop of that love for granted. When I was in my early twenties and was surrounded by people who loved me, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Or, rather, the tree – the tree being whomever I happened to be infatuated with at the moment.
Lots of people have loved me when I didn’t love myself – when, in fact, I felt empty, worthless, and unlovable. And their love, whether or not I felt it, allowed my fractures to be re-broken and eventually mend – if not perfectly, enough to make me feel whole in and of myself.
The first words ever uttered to me in session were, “Get undressed, bitch.”
I am a fantasy, I thought. This isn’t real. I’m not me. He can’t get to me. “Yes, master,” I replied calmly. He saw what he wanted to see: a pretty little girl doing his bidding. His kink was to be powerful. To be obeyed with no hesitation.
I existed as a mirage for years, a lucid fantasy concocted in the deep psyches of men. Half-real and half-dream, floating in and out of the consciousness of my clients. I’m probably still tucked away in some corner of their minds as a blurred image, a whisper, a tug. Well – not me, I mean. Her.
When I tell people I worked in a dungeon, half of them reply, “Oh – you mean that whips and chains stuff?” I don’t. I personally never used a whip; they take a remarkable amount of practice and skill to use without incurring unintentional injury. I have used chains in session, though mostly to hook handles to the ceiling so I could pick myself up and swing my heeled boots deep into someone’s testicles.
People are really surprised when I tell them that most of my sessions in the dungeon were more like therapy. If a serious masochist came in and wanted to be tortured, we weren’t a good fit – my heart was never in hurting people, and there are a million instruments and toys I just never learned how to use. I didn’t wear a lot of black leather or bark orders at anyone; there are a LOT of women who do this exquisitely, and I am not one of them.
Likewise, while I thoroughly enjoy pain, I can only handle so much. And I have no desire to be verbally humiliated – even if I’m being paid for it. There were clients who came to see me who pushed my limits in ways I explicitly told them I didn’t want them to, and I never saw them again. She never saw them again.
The clients who came to see her again and again were ships lost at sea who were looking for a safe harbor. They were mostly people stuck in marriages with spouses who either didn’t approve of their kinks or worse, didn’t care anymore. Even though the services I provided were ostensibly kinky in nature, they never felt like a media portrayal or performance of what mainstream culture thinks of when it thinks of kink.
I wore slinky dresses, kimonos, or lingerie, made a lot of eye contact, asked questions, spoke in a soothing voice, listened. I never feigned interest in a client who was sincere. What I did felt more like somatic therapy – a gentle caress, a loving beating, an acceptance and normalization of wants and needs. This is what I excel at: empathy.
Don’t get me wrong – there were beatings and bondage and worship (oh my!), role play and anal play (I also excel at finding a prostate), but the vast majority of my sessions were with people who were looking to connect with another human on an intimate level who wasn’t going to shame them. Many of them just wanted to be seen and heard and cared for earnestly.
Sex workers are therapists and care takers. We meet clients where they’re at and walk alongside them… or inside of them. It’s hard work. Emotional labor is labor, and I was shaken badly by a couple of sessions. But mostly, my clients brought joy and relief through surrender into my life. They also taught me everything I know and made me a better kinkster. I learned on the job from my clients, and that’s why I can now teach The Engineer how to use a cane properly. Their impact (see what I did there?) on my life reaches far beyond our sessions, and I hope my impact on them does as well.
P.S. For every hour session I did, I worked another hour of prep and clean up. Tip your sex workers, people. Sex work is work. Especially those of you who write out entire dialogues and insist on going back and forth via several emails going over every single detail of the session before going into it – that takes time and effort.
This one is for you, my nest.
I come home one day to find you out back in the garden; you’d come home from a long day at work, ready to relax, only to remember that you’ve got a ton of stuff to take to the tip, and it has to go in the morning – so you’d better load up the car tonight. By the time I get home, you’ve spent an hour carrying armfuls of heavy rubbish; you’re sweaty, dirty, and sore. I float in, cool as a breeze after having been in an air conditioned office all day, to see your back muscles flex as you pick up the last load. You turn around, look me in the eye, and drop it where you stand.
I chuckle. “Long day, lo-?” I start asking, but before the words are out of my mouth, your lips are pressed against it and you’re clutching me with soil-crusted fingernails, not giving a shit if you leave streaks on my pale peach blouse.
You are ravenous.
You charge, forcing me to the trellis against the back wall of our building – the one with the overflowing plum-colored bougainvillea – and crush the flowers with my back as my purse slides down my arm and slips to the ground. “Stay,” you order me, as you rummage for something among pots, tools, and patio furniture. You find a length of twine underneath a pair of gloves and swiftly tie my wrists together like a boatswain before attaching them to the trellis above my head.
You unbutton my blouse and shove the top of my undershirt under my tits, letting them spill out so you can apply vacuum pressure to my nipples; I’m so taken with surprise that it’s a few minutes before I realize that the neighbors could see this. All of them. The thought of it makes my cunt burn. I want to get on my knees in the earth and take you in my mouth, only I can’t.
As soon as I think it, your belt is unbuckled and your cock is out, popping up from behind the confines of your jeans. Watching you stroke yourself and not being able to touch you is torture and rapture. You reach under my skirt and move my knickers to the side so you can gather up my nectar with your fingers to use as lube to stroke yourself with. I watch you take the flowing juices from my body and use them as your own, wanting to tell you that it’s not fair – if you’re going to smear them on your dick, do it by sliding into me – but I don’t. Instead, I watch wide-eyed, heart thudding, as you continue to wank with fervor.
Suddenly you stop. You press your mouth to my ear and whisper, “Do you want my cock inside of you?” I choke back saliva, and before I can answer, you’re on your knees, yanking my knickers all the way down and my skirt all the way up. “Well done, love,” you say, taking a hooked finger and drawing silky webs away from my thighs. I whimper.
You draw up a chair, tell me to spread my legs as wide as I can, and continue wanking. Deep into your reverie, you stand up and leave me alone outside for a minute, exposed for all the world to see; you come back, work a large dildo into my cunt, and tell me to clamp my legs. You sit back down and watch me intently while stroking yourself until your pleasure forces you to close your eyes halfway; I try to clench the dildo hard enough to make myself come, but I’m not quite there. Perhaps you take pity on me seeing me strain – or perhaps you just want to fuck me. In any case, you stride over, take me down from the trellis, and lead me in by the twine, assuring me that the best is yet to come.
Many of you have probably, at some point, played this adolescent psychoanalysis game with your friends wherein you describe your favorite (animal / color / place / season / what have you) and it’s supposed to belie a deeper meaning about how you see yourself, how others see you, your worldview, etc. The last question in the version I learned asks participants to describe the ocean – and it’s meant to be interpreted as the way in which the participant views sex.
Wet (hardy har).
One of my favorite films opens on two lovers entwined in the ocean underneath a full moon; they writhe and twist as they kiss, splash, and grind against each other with the assistance of salt water to keep them buoyant. From the first time I saw this movie, it’s been a fantasy of mine to act this scene out – which mainly involves finding water that’s warm enough and isolated enough to fuck in.
While I don’t eroticize the sea itself, I have a lot of wonderful memories interweaving it with sex and romance. From making out in a secret water cave during a travel affair in the Philippines to sitting next to a bonfire on Ocean Beach and telling my girlfriend I loved her for the first time to running naked into the sea to wash the cum off of me while beach camping with the Texan, the ocean has always held a special place in my… heart.
I made plans with a partner once to have sex in the ocean while beach camping; we left our tent behind and walked to the shore to shed our clothes. I dove headfirst into the water so the shock of the cold would wear off; he was not so eager to freeze. He didn’t even get in up to his knees before backing out, saying maaaaybe we should fuck in the tent instead. To say I was disappointed would be a major understatement.
Until last summer, I had always loathed the beach; I refused to go with my friends despite living in a city full of beaches. It wasn’t until I experienced topless / nude beaches for the first time that I finally felt comfortable lying in the sun, sweat dripping down the sides of my breasts, listening to music and inhaling the delightfully coconutty scent of sunscreen. The first time I got in the sea to swim naked I remember feeling distinctly animated and fluid – and completely unsexualized. It seems a bit ironic to me that people are more sexualized on beaches that require clothing than beaches that don’t.
Someday I’ll advance my sex-in-the-ocean mission. The Engineer and I are planning a fun trip next year to a region with lots of tropical beaches, and I think he might be amenable to the idea of wrapping my legs around his hips and plunging himself into me while our soaked bodies smack tightly together, his long fingers entwined in my brine-tangled hair. Might be.
If you’re in England and have been suffering from the Great British Heat Wave / walking on crunchy brown grass for weeks, you know how desperate the country is for rain. It finally came while I was here… and stuck in a tent with the intention of going on a 15 km hike! No matter; we found other things to do.
It was nearing midnight; most dancers had already gone home, eager to catch the subway. I never stayed out this late, but I’d had great dances that night and was feeling a bit giddy. The music became sultrier, the lights dimmed, and sheer clothes stuck to our bodies in the humid tango studio.
“Wanna dance?” she asked casually, holding out her hand.
“Do you lead?” I asked. “I can’t.”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “And you can – you’ve just never tried.”
I put my fingers in hers and my hand on her sticky shoulder, and she pulled me into a close embrace. She smelled like Nag Champa; her wild, tangled hair tickled my face. I slid my hand farther up so my fingers grazed the back of her neck, and she leaned her cheek downward to meet my hand. Her spaghetti straps kept slipping down her shoulders; as we rolled our bodies together in time, I pulled them back up for her.
This was different. I closed my eyes and felt her soft curves press against me, her small hand steady in the middle of my back, gently pushing me into submission with tiny wrist and shoulder movements. I thought of my mouth on her nipples, her hands in my cunt. I wanted to lick the sweat from her skin, taste her salt. My sudden hunger for her gnawed at me as she bent her knees and swung my stockinged leg up her right thigh, sliding her hand up to finger the lace. Time slowed as she held my leg there and lowered my back toward the ground, her face so close to my breasts that I thought she could see my heart pounding. Pulling me back up, she put my other hand around her back and placed both of her hands on my hips, moving them in circles. We breathed heavily into the space between us, then pressed our bodies close together again. My cunt pulsed with the music, dripped, flamed.
When the song ended, we held position, hugged. The next song started: “She Moves Me” by Muddy Waters. I glanced over at the DJ; he was staring directly at us, all wolfish grin and starving eyes. I knew that look, could see the cogs and wheels of desire moving within him. I leaned into her ear, let my lips brush her lobe. “I think we’re meant to have another go,” I whispered. She smiled, pulled me back in, and swung her hips like no one was watching.