It took me a while to get to the happy place, but I made it here more or less in one piece. Me, age 13. I was sexual, raised in a progressive and loving household, enjoyed masturbation, and was curious like anyone else. I really wanted to be in love the first time. And I was. But that first boyfriend at 16 told me I looked fat during sex, and I was too naive to know that boyfriends are not supposed to do that. When I broke up with him, after two years of gradually falling out of love, I felt damaged. It took me years and a lot of work to open up to anyone again sexually. And when I did, it wasn’t at all what I had hoped for.
I always had trouble making sense of attraction, with low self-esteem getting in the way of things a lot. But I had figured out my second partner really liked me, which in my mind got us halfway there. Plus he was funny, smart, and seemed like a good guy; what’s not to like about that? So I got really drunk and convinced myself this was a good idea. But when it started to hurt and get uncomfortable and I told him to stop, he decided differently. And those feelings started bubbling up again, about how damaged I probably was.
I decided things would be different this time. As the bruises on my neck faded, so did the memories, and some time later, the sting had gently removed itself. I talked to people about it. I got angry for a change. And through a number of encounters, some weird, some funny, some good, and all completely consensual, I figured my way around the attraction thing, the lust thing, and most crucially: the self-respect thing.
What I learned the hard way is that your gut never lies, and when I got naked with my boyfriend on our second date 6 months ago, everything felt right about it. And it still does, every time we do.