Listening to a podcast recently, an author was discussing his book on loneliness in gay men, and how much being in the closet and hiding who they truly are carves grooves in a person’s personality. Someone who has lived the majority of their life hiding who they are never loses the fear of letting people in. That fear of being rejected if someone knew the real you becomes so integral to your experience that you never entirely shake it. I teared up in the car as I listened because I’ve lived the majority of my life hiding what a pervert I am.
You may feel that I’ve crossed a bridge too far in taking the experience of gay men and flipping it to something so apparently trivial, but come along for the ride a bit. I’ve hidden my sexuality since childhood, feeling wracked with shame every time I saw boobs on television or in a movie, thinking if I didn’t act the right way, my parents would know I wanted to look at those boobs. I would freak out if they walked into the family room when a sexy video was on (J Geils Band’s ‘Centerfold’ was tough with all the women in bras and negligees). For years I thought of myself as a prudish kid but I’ve realized I was just desperately hiding.
I hid how interested I was in sex from all my friends in elementary school. I remember reading all the dirty Judy Blume books I could get my hands on from the library and frantically grinding against my palms at night as I replayed the sexy scenes in my head. When I brought up elements of the books to my friends, everyone seemed to think it was gross or dirty and so I kept to myself how much I wanted to do the things they described. The Flowers in the Attic series by VC Andrews had a pile of sex in it and I devoured them despite the creepy themes and violence.
Once I discovered my older brother’s porn magazine stash, I’d spend frantic time in his room when no one was in the house, voraciously absorbing as many delicious naked images and stories as I could to fuel the nightly wank fest. Girls didn’t do this, as far as I knew, and I felt so abnormal. The shame I felt from touching myself meant I never truly gave myself over and enjoyed it and certainly didn’t ever orgasm from it. I was alone. I was sick. I was disgusting. None of my friends talked about touching themselves, and the small amount of sex ed we did at school just talked about not getting AIDS or pregnant.
When I was older and had boyfriends I hid most everything about my perverted self. I was convinced they wouldn’t like me if they knew I wanted to kiss girls and look at naked photos. Even after I married Flick, I kept most of my ‘perversions’ to myself. I was able to open up about masturbation and my bisexuality and we explored many fun, sexy things, but I constrained myself to what I thought he’d find acceptable. The fact that nearly every time I got drunk I’d show people my underwear and would often kiss people I wasn’t married to still didn’t indicate to me that these were things I wanted to explore. Instead, I tried to keep alcohol consumption to a degree that ensured I wouldn’t shame myself, or (more importantly in my mind) Flick.
Our marriage hit a rather rocky patch about six years in, when we were taking each other for granted, and internet messaging via ICQ was now a thing. Not getting the connection I wanted from Flick, I began flirting heavily online with a friend of a friend. I was getting such charge from the attention and sexy messages from someone who was genuinely interested in and paid attention to me. While I didn’t act on it physically–the way I had with a groomsman while out of town at a wedding a few years earlier–I was definitely thinking about it, and might well have been down if he’d taken the initiative.
When the flirtation was discovered–as well as the earlier undisclosed infidelity–Flick and I had to decide if what we had together was worth saving. We decided it was and that we wanted to fight for us so we went to couples therapy to sort out what was going wrong in our relationship. We both took responsibility for our parts in the distance in our marriage and Flick didn’t act out maliciously or shame me for my behaviour (I was doing plenty of that myself). Through the counseling and a concerted effort our communication got better, and we committed ourselves to ensuring we wouldn’t drift apart in such a significant way again.
While we learned a lot of positive things to put into practice to improve our connection, I felt guilty and thought I needed to ‘fix’ myself. One of the ways I did that was to lock down my sexuality as hard as I could, blaming my out of control desires for my role in things getting so rocky. The small explorations we’d been making into kink and more adventurous sex stopped as well as we focused on loving each other better (not understanding at the time how essential exciting sex was to that love). It took about a decade to shake off the dysfunctional messaging that my strong sex drive was a feature not a bug.
Finding myself in non-monogamy years later I have been able to open myself up to my own perversions, as has Flick, and we’ve discovered a lot of places where they overlap, as well as where they don’t. The relief I felt when I finally fessed up to a few things that turned me on was like exhaling a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding for 30+ years. I got to be a slut and feel good about it. I got to stop kink-shaming myself for the desires that sit at the edges of what’s openly acceptable, even in sex-positive circles.
Despite being out to many of our vanilla friends as people in a non-monogamous relationship, we keep much of our sluttiness hidden. We include Flick’s girlfriend Iris in many events we attend, and she’s met Flick’s mom (they’re even friends on Facebook), some close friends know that we have long distance relationships with people in other cities, but there’s only one or two that know we throw and attend play parties and have casual sex. The polyamory piece of our non-monogamy is the most acceptable piece, so that’s the piece we let people see. The most perverted pieces of our lives are still kept from all but the closest friends.
Of course, in most people’s opinions, our sexual selves should be private. Who wants to know about their friends’ sex lives? Well…me. I love knowing pretty much everything about everyone. Breaching the walls of decorum and what we ‘should’ talk about is one of my favourite things and I revel in the friendships that include that element. Not being able to truthfully answer, ‘what did you do this weekend?’ is one of the reasons I spend much more time on Twitter with fellow deviants than on muggle Facebook. I feel more real in this skin. (Though the excitement I felt over releasing my book recently means that I’ve talked about it to a lot of vanilla friends, and several have read it and suddenly know a whole lot about my pervert life.)
I’m thankful to have found a community online who accepts me for who I am and I’m slowly building more relationships with people in meatspace who know me for the pervert I am. Despite being more open than I’ve ever been to people about my desires, there’s definitely an ongoing block in my ability to let people in beyond the surface. Even when I meet other pervs who get it, if they want to get to know me emotionally, I freeze up, retreating to safety behind my walls.
It’s a piece of the puzzle I haven’t worked out yet; those grooves are carved deep in my psyche. However, I need to keep working at it; I don’t want to be lonely anymore.