Anonymous, 24 | DO TELL

Trigger warning: describes childhood sexual abuse

My sexual story starts at a young age—I was a really cute kid and got a lot of unwanted attention from older men (“grown ups”). I come from a Muslim country and was taught that my purity is one of my biggest assets. When my dad died, my mom tried hard to protect me and my sister from the big bad world, but let in a wolf in the form my father’s friend. I remember liking the feeling of being wanted by him, but I did not understand the physical side of it, though as a child I used to hump the bed and had orgasms from a very young age (not from him, though). When my mom found out, she went nuts and shamed me, and cut off ties with him completely. He wasn’t the first—there were others before him who had put their hand down my panties while I sat there, distracted. I started putting on lots of weight—in retrospect, probably to protect myself from the turbulence of that situation. I think my father’s friend was using my mother as a way to get to us kids (apparently he tried to coerce my sister as well—something I didn’t know until last year).

Battling with the weight issue during my teens, I outwardly always tried to make it seem that I was happy in my skin and didn’t want to change for anybody, but that always meant that the “guy I liked” didn’t like me back (or preferred my skinny best friend). So I wound up in a couple of relationships with desperado types who were a little bit embarrassed to be with me (and very embarrassing themselves). As you can imagine, the sex was not so good (for me), and I faked a lot of orgasms to make them feel good about themselves while resenting them a little bit. During this time I also had a bit of a lesbian fling with my very sexy best friend. She had the nicest tits and the most beautiful lips—she made me orgasm so hard and I still fantasise about it a little.

I started using sex with my last boyfriend as a validation to feel bad about myself. Then I discovered his alternative online life which showed what a sexual deviant he truly was—I was nowhere close, so I left him and finally started getting my shit together, now, as a 24-year-old woman. I spent most evenings after my Master’s lectures in my bed with my big pink rabbit vibrator, smoking weed and masturbating away to lots of online porn (a habit I picked up during the relationship with said ex) and had a great time doing so. I could obtain pleasure which finally didn’t result in bad feelings and dissatisfaction.

The man I am with now is someone I met after this phase—I’m still fat, but I think he likes me for me. He is my intellectual match, and I think he is so sexy, and damn does he make me feel good. I have finally been able to come during sex (almost during the first time!), and I feel loved and safe and happy. But I still hide the fact that I love to masturbate and do it every time he isn’t around. I think it might make him feel bad to know that my “appetite” is bigger than the sex we have, but this conversation might happen in the near future because he listens to me when I say something is important. Though with him I really do have to explain my logic and not be cryptic about what I’m trying to say—something I really have to work on after all those years of people pleasing. 

6sexual abuse, childhood sexual abuse, masturbation, body image, pleasure, orgasm, queer, female sexuality, communication, self consciousness, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, substance use, vibrator, relationship, self exploration, religion, purity culture, Do Tell, submission, medium,

M.T., 21, Ohio, Hispanic, Straight | DO TELL

I lost my virginity to my high school boyfriend when I was 16 and he was 17. I was raised by a single mother who was very sex-positive and open about contraception. She was barely out of high school when I was born, and she raised my sister and I alone. My high school boyfriend and I continued to date and have sex for a few years. Sex with him was always “nice”—we generally both had orgasms, but I didn’t feel a deep connection.

Since him, I have slept with four men ranging in age from 20 to 30. When my high school relationship ended, I began gravitating to older men. My preferences in bed have changed. I love being dominated—handcuffs, choking, spanking, you name it. I never admit this to my sex partners, but rather wait and slowly give them hints. I am worried and ashamed that my preferences are a sign of “daddy issues.” I worry that I am seeking a father figure in my dating life, someone older to protect me. I worry that my partners will judge me. But I also worry that I am over-thinking my sexuality and will hinder my own pleasure and fulfillment.

6BDSM, sex-positivity, contraception, openness, pleasure, sex, sexuality, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, preferences, emotion, Self Acceptance, kink, Do Tell, submission,

Anonymous | DO TELL

There is one thing that always leaves me feeling less than comfortable with myself. I am a straight young woman who has been raised fairly Christian, and while I know my parents would still love me, they would never be happy if I were homosexual. The farthest I’ve ever gotten with another girl has been kissing my friends when they have been drunk (usually I’ve been sober during these encounters). But every so often, I’ll have an incredibly vivid dream about receiving or giving oral sex to another woman. I actually really enjoy the dreams, which causes me to question whether I would enjoy it in real life. I have a boyfriend who I’m very happy with, and he has no problem with my dreams but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a tendency to niggle around in the back of my mind. I guess you can just call me confused. 

6sexual identity, heterosexuality, queer, confusion, identity, religion, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, desire, female sexuality, oral sex, cunnilingus, relationships, homophobia, Do Tell, submission, medium,

L.F. | DO TELL

Trigger warning: describes childhood sexual abuse.

I had a very interesting (colorful?) childhood. Something most people who meet me don’t know is that I grew up in a sex cult; I hide it very well. My parents weren’t bad people, just naive, and as a result of that I was exposed to some pretty despicable people. I first realised being touched felt good—the truth is I can’t remember when, I was that young. I knew it was wrong. My childish intuition screamed at me, and I eventually screamed at him, but he still tried again. I masturbated frequently, but my idea of a partner and true love were very different due to my early exposure to sex. I had very pure idea of love. Almost like I was trying preserve the innocence that was taken away from me at such a young age. When I liked someone, the thought of doing anything sexual apart from kissing scared me.

Close to my 18th birthday, I decided to take matters into my own hands and own my sexuality. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time. It was a first real orgasm too. I was on top and he let me call the shots. That night I took back my sexuality, and now I own it.

6sexual abuse, empowerment, pleasure, masturbation, abuse, fear, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, sexual debut, first time, orgasm, Do Tell, submission,

N.M. | DO TELL

When I was in college, I played “guest star” in another couple’s relationship for an extended period of time. When I would come over, it was like we were all on a date together and would frequently make these masterful dinners that really only a group could pull off. And then once our dates progressed into the bedroom, that was exactly how the sex was too—complicated and delicious. And I always got to be the dessert—not exactly necessary, but something worthwhile to make room for.

6threesome, non-monogamy, relationships, pleasure, sex, Do Tell, submission, medium,

E.B. | DO TELL

I masturbated starting at an early age, became sexually active at 17, and though I wouldn’t say I was promiscuous, I can’t remember all the men I’ve had sex with (though only a single one night stand). The relationships I had were very loving, and I’m fortunate to have no negative sexual experiences in my past.

In my 40s, I evaluated my life and made a massive overhaul, including sexually. I stopped having sex, and don’t plan to ever again unless I happen to get married—which I’m not expecting to. Taking sex out of the equation freed me from certain qualities of thought and behavior, and now my life is vastly simpler, peaceful and happy. I never thought I could live without it, but I definitely prefer it this way. I’m surprised I don’t miss it at all.

6celibacy, masturbation, pleasure, multiple partners, change of life, marriage, sex, Do Tell, submission, medium,

T. | DO TELL

The moment I met T., I knew that I wanted him to be mine. He was a blue-eyed, brown-haired, tan guy who loved the things I did and was someone I was actually interested in talking to and getting into his mind. He’s also my brother’s best friend. I messaged him telling him how attractive I found him, and seven months later we ended up having sex. It was fucking incredible. I felt something more than I had with other guys I had hooked up with.

Something drew me to him. I thought it could turn out to be something. Turns out… I later admitted to him I had a crush on him and his response was “What? Why? I’m so lame.” We had a brief run-in again before he moved to California a couple months ago.

The confusion is the worst part. I feel like anyone else might regret having sex with someone you are not monogamous with, but I enjoy sex with people I connect with. This worst part is not knowing where he stands or how he feels about me… But I don’t regret any of it and we are still friends today.

6casual sex, non-monogamy, pleasure, desire, sex, self esteem, communication, confusion, regret, friendship, Do Tell, submission,

J.M. | DO TELL

Sex is about letting go, but it’s not easy. I’m an introspective, overthinking introvert. Despite having a high sex drive, enjoying sex is challenging because I’m always thinking about something else. With a stable partner of many years, I no longer spend the time worrying about how my fat rolls look in certain lighting, but I still have trouble being in the moment. My partner frequently complains that I don’t respond to his foreplay, while I want him to be more aggressive—I guess, more “manly”—which is hard for me to admit because I don’t believe in living by our gender roles. I grew up with a very dominant, abusive father, and I’m pretty sure this has something to do with it. I also think it has to do with my own deep insecurity—I have to feel wanted in order to let go. But I know my body well enough that with the help of my fingers I can have a really good orgasm. In those few seconds when I cum, it is magic. I finally let go of the world and stop thinking about other things.

6inhibitions, pleasure, orgasm, self esteem, self consciousness, long term relationship, comfort, gender roles, insecurity, overthinking, escape, Do Tell, submission,

J., 26, Ohio | DO TELL

I just lost my virginity. I didn’t wait this long because I’m religious or I wanted to be in love. I just wanted it to be on my terms. And it was. It was fun, safe, and I don’t regret it. And now I can get on with my life and stop carrying that label on my back.

6virginity, sexual debut, safer sex, safety, autonomy, labels, independence, Do Tell, submission, medium,

C.H. | DO TELL

Trigger warning: describes sexual coercion and rape

I was in a happy relationship. A friend told me he had pancreatic cancer and that it was terminal. He told me if I didn’t tell him I loved him, kiss him, he’d commit suicide because it wasn’t worth living any more.

After six months of the cancer and one month of the sexual contact, I found out it was all a lie. The only type of ill he was was mentally. What he did to me was rape. It broke up the relationship I was in. But it taught me that shit happens. It happens to me, it happens to other women, it happens to other people. You can’t brood on it. You can’t expect the world to be perfect. The only think you can do is to strive to make it perfect.

6cons, manipulation, coercion, rape, illness, lying, Do Tell, submission,

A., 20., Pennsylvania | DO TELL

Trigger warning: discusses sexual abuse

I was sexually abused by someone I was supposed to trust for the first six years of my life. I didn’t know what sex was, and I didn’t know that what was happening was wrong. It didn’t sink in until I was a teenager. I had a complete breakdown when I was 16. That was the low point, and in the past four years I’ve gotten much better, but I still can’t forget. I want to have a happy, healthy sex life with a boy, but I haven’t had any sexual partners since it happened. So many people insisted so strongly that what happened to me was very, very wrong, and I can’t seem to let go of the overwhelming feeling of shame and guilt even when it comes to the mere consideration of consensual sex. Additionally, the male anatomy terrifies me. I’ve felt too shy and too humiliated to talk to any of my partners about it and they’ve just assumed I’m a prude. I want to be the simple, accommodating girlfriend who can just have sex and be happy like other girlfriends, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. I feel like I’ll never be good enough for any boy. They deserve better than damaged goods.

6sexual abuse, victim blaming, gender expectations, consent, childhood sexual abuse, shame, guilt, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, communication, blame, trust, Do Tell, submission, medium,

Anonymous | DO TELL

I thought I just wasn’t all that interested in sex. The first man I slept with was OK, but it was his first time, too, and he had no idea what he was doing. I didn’t start thinking about what I wanted in sex for a long time, mostly because I figured I would get the same thing every time. And then I watched porn.

A friend wanted a critique of her erotic short story, and included a link to the scene she wanted it to feel like. And suddenly I figured out that there were multiple acts to sex, and different ways to get off, and that it was possible to orgasm more than once. I learned more from watching porn about how my body worked than I ever did in anatomy classes or books about the psychology of sex. There’s always this assumption that women may masturbate, but none watch porn. It carries a stigma for a woman in a way it doesn’t for a man. But until I started watching porn, I didn’t understand my needs or desires.

6pleasure, porn, pornography, female sexuality, expectations, masturbation, stigma, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, Do Tell, submission, medium,

A.D., 18, U.S. | DO TELL

I’m 18 and still very unsure about my sexuality. I recently discovered online chatrooms and erotica, and I bought a vibrator. Masturbating feels good, but it’s often frustrating. I can’t tell if I’m orgasming, and I quickly lose interest. I think this may be because I’m on an SSRI, which can lower libido. When masturbating, I usually end up feeling disappointed and wondering what’s wrong with me.

I’m also not sure about my sexual orientation. I feel attracted to both men and women, though I favor men slightly. To be honest, I’m unwilling to experiment with women, since my family would hate me if they found out I feel that way. I’m trying to focus on being attracted to men, but I’m too busy with school and work to put in the time to build a relationship. I haven’t so much as kissed a guy in two years. This, too, is frustrating and disappointing.

I tell myself I’m still young. I’m learning more about myself and my sexuality every day. Hopefully someday I’ll learn how to be sexually happy and healthy.

6cybersex, erotica, masturbation, female sexuality, queer, shame, homophobia, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, sexual identity, self exploration, self acceptance, frustration, SSRI, antidepressant, depression, expectations, Do Tell, submission, medium,

B.H., 35, Arkansas, U.S. | DO TELL

Trigger warning: describes rape and an abusive relationship

Never even told this story to myself before

I was a bright but painfully awkward and unattractive teenager. I grew up in a fucked up situation with a sociopath for a father an a codependent passive-agressor for a mother. My first sexual interaction was through the internet—way back in 1996/1997 with a soldier stationed in Bosnia. I pretended to be young and attractive, and we would stay up all night cybersexing. Eventually, he got on leave and despite my teenage evasiveness flew to my hometown, where we met and despite my obvious unattractiveness, we slept together. This was the first time I had kissed or had sex.

The next encounter ended up turning into a boyfriend the next year—met online and turned into a six month relationship. Sex was humiliating and hurt like hell, but hey—someone wanted to fuck me. He ended up raping me with a beer bottle in my dorm room.

Once I got real with myself, I ended up meeting my now husband. Although I slept around a lot in the early years, now I have a good (if boring) sex life. Quite the miracle considering my early history.

6rape, abuse, healing, survivor, cybersex, sexual debut, humiliation, pain, self esteem, marriage, Boredom, health, Do Tell, submission,

M.A., 43, New York, U.S. | DO TELL

I began masturbating when I was a little girl, not with penetration but with rubbing. I’ve always been very sexual but didn’t lose my virginity until I was 18 because I didn’t want to have to hear what a whore I was in the high school cafeteria. I never understood the concept of “losing” one’s virginity; I didn’t tell the first guy that he was my first because I just wanted it to be over with so I could have experience for future relationships.

I was happily promiscuous in college, but sometimes guys would call me a nympho because I was so slutty. If a girl was mean to me, if she had a hot boyfriend I’d fuck him to get back at her. I’ve cheated on every guy except my current boyfriend, even my husband. It never had anything to do with sexual satisfaction. I love being restrained during sex, if it’s the right guy. I’ve found that letting the wrong guy know that’s what you like often makes them think you were abused as a child or you’re into the stereotypical spanking crap, neither of which are true for me. I don’t have any emotional connection between love and sex. I just want to be held close. I love random hookups, but I’m in a relationship that makes me happy so I’m not interested in being with anyone else right now. It’s a strange feeling for me, not wanting anyone new. Maybe this is love?

6female sexuality, slut shaming, virginity, BDSM, kink, shame, The Cost of Shame, Cost of Shame, monogamy, cheating, infidelity, marriage, consent, safety, motivation, emotion, love, Do Tell, submission,

-