What I Learned from Sex I Hate
And how having sex you don’t like can change your attitude
I am not a masochist.
You might be forgiven for snickering a bit at that, if you’ve seen the sort of sex I have. I have at various times been spanked, flogged, caned, cropped, zapped with electricity, and used as a human pincushion by my lovers. I once had a lover break a wooden spoon over my backside…and I don’t mean a cheap Dollar Store spoon, I mean a Williams & Sonoma spoon, the kind with the curved handle.
Yet I am not a masochist. Being hurt doesn’t get me off. Pain is not pleasure for me, not the way it is for some of my lovers.
So why, then, do I do it? Why let my lovers paddle and spank and pinch and poke and clamp and prod me, if pain doesn’t get me hot?
I used to think it was because I like getting my lovers hot. If something really really works for you, if something lights your fire and brings that gleam to your eye, I can usually find a way to make it work for me, even if it’s normally not my kink.
I love seeing my lovers aroused. That’s true. But recently, I was exposed to the idea of types of fun, and that changed my understanding.
A classification system for fun
There are, as it turns out, at least three types of fun.
Type I fun is what you probably think of when you think of “fun.” It’s enjoyable to do, it’s entertaining in the moment. For me, Type I fun includes camping, playing with kittens, video games, eating sushi, and writing. Sex where my lovers aren’t inflicting pain on me also counts.
Type II fun is anything that isn’t enjoyable in the moment, but is fun in retrospect. A lot of people tell me running a marathon counts: they’re not enjoying it midway through, but they’re glad to have done it after. (I’ve never run a marathon, so I wouldn’t know.)
Type III fun isn’t fun. It’s not fun in the doing and it’s not fun afterward, but man, the narrative value is excellent. Like having a wooden spoon broken over my backside: not fun in the moment, not fun to think back on, but when I tell the story, I can see people’s eyes get big. (It’s also a great story for identifying the kinksters in a room; they’re the ones who have a dreamy smile on their faces.)
After I heard this idea, the heavens parted and a chorus of angels sang: Yes. This.
I like sex that is Type I fun (though that’s not surprising; most of us do, I reckon), but I also like sex that’s Type II fun, and occasionally I even like sex that’s Type III fun. (I have stories, oh yes.)
There’s an important idea here: Something doesn’t have to be fun, or even particularly pleasurable necessarily, for us to want to do it, to do so enthusiastically, and to give open, uncoerced consent to do it.
Even, God forbid, running a marathon.
The key takeaway here, which ought to be simple but perhaps isn’t, is we can consent to sex we don’t actually enjoy in the moment, and sometimes we might even want to.
But why? What’s the point of doing something in bed if I’m pretty sure I won’t like it in the moment? No story can be worth enduring some freaky-deaky sexual thing I’m not actively enjoying, right?
What is sex?
No, I don’t mean ‘is oral sex’ or ‘is anal sex.’ Those questions aren’t interesting. (Obviously, oral sex is sex. It says so on the tin, which is why it‘s called ‘oral sex’ and not, say, ‘oral boating’ or ‘oral server maintenance’ or ‘oral calligraphy.’)
I mean, what is sex for?
It’s a trick question. Sex is a lot of things. Sex is pleasure, sex is procreation, sex is recreation, sex is connection, sex is many things to many people…sometimes all at once.
One of those things is self-knowledge.
I mean, yes, it’s awesome to see a partner get turned on. Nothing in life is quite as delicious as watching your lover get hot when they describe something that really cranks their motor, if you take my drift. That by itself is enough for me to do things I might not otherwise do; the fact that they’re fun in the recollection and fun in the telling is just icing on the creamy sexy lovely cake.
Self-knowledge, though, is a gift beyond price. It’s the reason I occasionally drink coffee, once every few years, even though I hate coffee—tastes can change over time (there was a period once when I didn’t like broccoli!), so it’s always a good thing to make sure your ideas about yourself are still congruent with the reality about yourself.
When I say self-knowledge, I’m not talking just about the surface things, like ‘yep, still hate needles’ or ‘nope, still not a masochist.’ (Well, okay, I am, but that’s just the tip of the exploratory iceberg.)
Exploring new types of sex that push on parts of your personality, that play to your fears, with a trusted and trustworthy partner is an awesome way to shine a light on parts of you that you might not ever know…and it’s fantastic for building intimacy along the way.
The shape of my nightmares
My parents, bless them, took me to see the movie Alien when I was somewhere around 12 years old or so. I absolutely loved Star Wars as a kid, and I guess they figured “he likes science fiction about spaceships, this is science fiction about spaceships.”
As you might imagine, the alien from Alien became the shape of my nightmares for the next thirty years. (Seriously, in my 40s I was still having nightmares about that thing).
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that when I started exploring making my own custom silicone sex toys by modeling them in Blender, printing molds on a 3D printer, and casting silicone into the molds, that my wife would suggest I make a hiphugger strapon based on the facehugger from the Alien movies. Imagine a life-sized facehugger whose legs wrap around the wearer’s hips, with a dildo in place of the tail, used as a strapon.
Why did she propose I make such a thing? Because she knows the alien is the shape of my nightmares. Why did I agree? Because exploring the things that make me uncomfortable is an important part of being the person I want to be.
Sex is many things, which means sex is powerful. Sex can be a vehicle for exploring intimacy, trust, your lover, and yourself quite deeply indeed, if that’s what you want.
What have I learned from all this?
- I’ve learned I can be afraid of something and still choose to do it anyway. For instance, I used to have a full-blown, go-into-a-meltdown phobia of needles. Now I occasionally do needle play. I can stare my fear in the eye and come out on top.
- I’ve learned that trusting a partner in a sexual situation where I feel uncomfortable builds intimacy and trust.
- I’ve learned the world is bigger than I imagined, and many people enjoy things I would find quite unfathomable. (This, I think, is a lesson more of us could benefit from. Whenever someone says ‘porn is always exploitive because nobody would ever want to do that,’ they’re inevitably talking out their ass. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.)
- I’ve learned my tastes change. Things I once thought I would never enjoy (broccoli, pegging) now add richness to my life.
- I’ve learned things aren’t always how they seem. It’s hard to know in advance how something I’ve never done will feel. I’ve talked about this before, in fact: when I first experienced flogging, it felt nothing like I expected.
- There’s more than one way to have fun. Sometimes, things that are not Type I fun can still be Type II or Type III fun.
Most important, I found that life gets better when it’s embraced openly. Fear makes the world smaller; passion makes it larger. As Anaïs Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
When I explore things that make me uncomfortable, my world expands. The edges of my comfort zone are where new discoveries lie.