A very drunk acquaintance approached me at a public function last weekend with this: “Hey! I have to talk to you later. There’s something I think you’ll be really interested in.” From the way he lowered his voice and said this into my ear, and from the tone of his voice, I knew instantly that whatever it was he wanted to talk about, it had something to do with sex. Intrigued and a bit nervous, I sought him out later and asked what was up. He told me that he had recently attended an orgy and that it was amazing — that everyone was really cool and they all hung out the next day. He thought I’d enjoy it and wanted to see if I’d be interested in joining the next time they met up. I asked some questions: Did everyone discuss sexual health and STI checks beforehand? Yes, he said. How do you know these people? They were random strangers who approached him on the beach last summer and wanted to hang out. A tad dodgy, but I said I’d give it a think.
And I did. I thought about it a LOT. And the conclusion I came up with is: I’m just not up for it. Immediately after I made the decision to pass on the orgy, I felt the weirdest and most unexpected feeling: reverse sex shame (shame for choosing not to do the sexy thing). I’m someone who has talked about sex more than anyone really cares to hear about it my whole life, much to the chagrin of some partners and some of my more conservative friends. I’ve encouraged everyone I know to me more open and experimental sexually; here was my opportunity to try something I’ve never done before with someone who is not only a person I personally know, but who’s also really attractive. I’m going to say no, and I feel ashamed for it. I feel ashamed for passing on a new sexual experience because I’m that girl that talks about sex all the time. Even though the idea of attending this orgy makes me uncomfortable for several reasons, I feel like I should go and that something is wrong with me for not wanting to. Reverse sex shame.
Why the discomfort? I’ve managed to spend five years in this country without sticking my dick in the neighborhood. For five whole years I have not fucked one single person who hangs out in the expat bars I hang out in, so I’ve avoided small social circle drama (at least that social circle) and being the subject of locker room talk. I feel completely comfortable being myself there because I’m not worried about getting into anyone’s pants or anyone trying to get into mine; it’s a safe space where I can just bro out.
Also, I’m just not an exhibitionist (at least not in groups / not while I’m sober). I cherish my privacy and don’t even feel comfortable speaking in front of a room of my peers, let alone comfortable fucking in a room full of people! Not much of a voyeur, either. My kinks — and there are many– lie elsewhere. I enjoy sex for the connection; even if it’s with a stranger (or two), even if it’s only for a night, I savor the feeling of closeness that comes from learning in depth about someone’s body and desires. But even as I type this, I’m experiencing a very strange reactionary response to my own feelings and desire for intimacy.
I compartmentalize my life and spend time with a lot of different social groups; doing so gives me a sense of emotional security. I deeply respect and admire polycules and people whose lovers and friends are the same people and who can be all, “We’re a totally fluid community and we have no labels or separate spaces and just transition seamlessly from one type of relationship to another,” but it’s not my jam. I’ve hooked up with friends who I was incompatible with sexually and just went back to being friends, no problem… and I don’t look at these people every time we hang out and think, “Eek! You’ve seen me naked!” But because of where I know this guy from (sports bars where we hang out with a bunch of dudes), it feels different.
Maybe it’s because I read so many books and listen to so many podcasts about sex that I’m feeling unnerved both that I don’t want to participate in this orgy AND that I’m feeling shame about that… I feel like there’s a giant question mark floating over my head asking “Where is this coming from?”