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Taking Back My Sexuality

I wasn't aware until my 37th year of life that all the sex I'd been having was a performance; a variation on the tired sorority-girls-tonguefest-to-impress-horny-frat-boys theme. I behaved in ways I thought might turn on my partners, imitating what I had gleaned from the movies and the little bit of porn I'd watched. I was raised Mormon; sex was viewed as a means to an end—dirty copulation in order to create life and increase church membership. I grew up embarrassed by my sizable breasts, ashamed of any indiscretions that involved someone touching them. Sex in my teens was an exciting yet joyless affair, permeated by guilt; aching bodies obliging raging adolescent hormones, minds simultaneously horrified by the acts of the bodies.

Repeat/repent. Repeat/repent. Repeat/repent.

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In college, I caught tiny glimpses of why others claimed to enjoy sex. An orgasm here and there with my boyfriend but it was purely physical—my mind was still riddled with guilt, lacking the ability to appreciate the genuine joy and pleasure in the magic that is two bodies coming together in ecstasy. That, coupled with the body image issues so many girls suffer from that often lead to embarrassment over brazen nudity, usually left me standing on the outside of sexual fulfillment.

I did everything but turn cartwheels in bed for my future husband so he mistakenly assumed I was a wildcat in the sack. And I was! But it was still mostly a performance—a performance that wasn’t a lie, it’s important to note. I believed that was the way sex was, that this was how it was done. Well-meaning friends telling me I should have sex with my husband even when I didn't feel like it certainly didn't help my already distorted view of sex and marriage. I loved him, and there were many good times and lots of orgasms, but it often felt off. Whether the blame belongs to the religion of my youth continuing to rob me of passion or us being sexually mismatched can never accurately be determined.

A slave no more to the puritanical fanaticisms of my childhood, I love my body ... I feel sexy. In the turbulent wake of divorce, I have managed to unpack my baggage, finally.

During the marriage, my shame and guilt in connection with sex lingered like cigarette smoke laced into clothing after a night at the bar. I had mistakenly assumed marriage would change things in my mind, that sex within the bonds would erase the sin—but I underestimated the far-reaching tentacles of religious guilt and shame. Twenty-seven years of condemnation from church and self can’t be erased like so much chalk. Shame, emblazoned on my mind, tattooed on my body. I looked at my naked body and saw shame where others saw beauty.

I once told my husband I felt like my true, sexual self when slightly drunk. That the alcohol took away the insanity Mormonism had tangled in my DNA. He didn’t like that, misinterpreting it as me needing substances to feel attracted to him. He didn't mean to, but he made my issues about him, took my confusion and guilt personally even though it wasn’t about him. It was about me, but his response to my issue made him part of the issue. Instead of listening to me when I attempted to express my internal struggle, he understandably became offended and responded in ways that ultimately wrecked what little sexuality I had managed to cultivate in such an unfriendly environment.

I turned away. As for him? Lack of sex is annihilation on a mind made insecure by constant rejection from one who is supposed to love you. The wedge grew. We talked about it some but small minds prevented us from moving through it.

We are no longer.

I am older now. Less concerned with what anyone thinks. I've worked hard for a deep understanding that life is a blink and done; what a damn shame to waste any of it and especially one of the best parts of it. A slave no more to the puritanical fanaticisms of my childhood, I love my body. More than I ever have in my life, in fact. I feel sexy. In the turbulent wake of divorce, I have managed to unpack my baggage, finally.

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