Chapter 6

I’ve never had a relationship with someone who hasn’t had hang ups about sex. I’m not sure what that says about me. I don’t consciously choose such partners.

My first serious girlfriend, we were together two years and she found it so difficult to open up that I never really found out the full story. From the parts I could piece together, I understood that her sister suffered sexual abuse as a child, possibly inflicted by a family member. The effect of this on my girlfriend was to consider sex shameful and something that was not to be enjoyed. I took things slow and gentle with her – we were together 9 months before we did anything beyond kissing or gentle groping. Over time it became apparent that her issues were not something I was equipped to help with; I was a horny 18 year old who in my mind had been incredibly patient with this girl while my friends fucked themselves raw with eager, willing partners. It felt unfair to me.

Looking back, I regret my periodic bouts of impatience. Intense kissing in the living room darkness, her hand pumping my cock through my trousers as I played with her naked breasts and teased her through her jeans. Building towards a slow passionate crescendo, and right around that moment would usually come the words “I have to go” or “You’d better leave before someone wakes up”.

I recall countless nights of cycling home, hormones coursing through me, so pumped up I couldn’t think straight. My mind a conflict of sympathy at whatever it was that made it so hard for her to be with me – was it my fault? did I do something wrong? – and explosive horniness, so badly needing to achieve sexual satisfaction, and desperate to help her overcome whatever demons she was grappling with so that she could feel the same.

Over time the sympathy waned, and the sexual desire took centre stage, and desire became resentment. When I brought it up, when I asked how I could help to make things better, how I could give her what she needed, the answer was always “I don’t know” followed by a flurry of sorries. This in turn meant I felt bad for calling out that there was a problem, but even that eventually turned to anger – why just keep being sorry, why not try to work something out, if we supposedly love each other and want to do this?

We each agreed we wanted to be the other’s first. I was, I thought, in love with her, though with the benefit of hindsight it seems now more like a nurtured codependence. I can’t live with or without you, as the song goes. I wanted her, but I wanted to be single and free to have fun, not be trapped in this situation that required maturity far beyond mine to handle.

Eventually we did have sex. It was almost making love. I wanted to take our time, to turn her on, to make sure she was ready for me. She, on the other hand, just wanted it over. She refused my mouth, then my fingers, telling me to just “put it inside”. Of course that was painful for her and extremely tight for me, so much so that my orgasm came almost immediately and that seemed to suffice for her. I felt embarrassed and slightly short-changed. She just seemed relieved.

Sex never got a whole lot better. Conversation after conversation offering support, gently encouraging her to open up, were rebuffed with the response that it was nothing, there was nothing wrong, why did we need to discuss it when we could just do it. And so on. She refused to let me give oral sex or use my fingers on her. She claimed to have no interest in foreplay. Everything I thought I was supposed to do with a woman was rejected – she just wanted me to go inside her until I came. Her apparent disinterest, this by-the-numbers approach she seemed to favour, made it difficult for me to feel like she truly desired me, and my own performance suffered, the psychological impact manifesting physically. This too was frustrating, not because it was happening but because she seemed to have so little interest in making things better.

Against this backdrop, one night I was out in a club with my friends. Not an unusual event, given the majority of my student years were spent going out 3 or 4 nights a week. That night though, a very attractive girl came over to where I was sitting and told me I was in her chair. I was drunk and cocky, told her she’d have to find another one, and she gave as good as she got, telling me if I wouldn’t move, she’d just have to sit in my lap. And she did.

Roughly half a second later, our tongues were in one another’s mouths and she was moaning and her hands were running over my body with a sensual familiarity I had never before experienced. I was transfixed by the feeling of being desired by another person. This was the first time in my life it had happened and it was absolutely wonderful.

Moments later, my friend slapped the back of my head hard and launched into a tirade about what a prick I am because that girlfriend of mine is a lovely girl and I’m sitting there letting some slut eat the face off me. And so on. Well deserved of course, and I felt rightly chastised for my behaviour.

The following morning, I confessed to her what had happened. In the spirit of being truthful here, I must admit that my secret hope was that she would end the relationship there and then. Something I was too cowardly to do.

But no. She forgave me. She was as trapped as I was, happy neither together nor apart.

It took me leaving the country for the summer 6 months later before it ended. And even then, it didn’t really end. In fact it just got more complicated, as she and my best friend started to get together while I split my time between flirting with anything with a vagina and wooing my future wife.

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