The First Time

Once again it’s Valentine’s Day, when young lovers exchange tokens and thoughts turn to romance. Valentine’s Day, day of Hallmark cards with trite rhymes repeated in thousands of homes, and wilting flowers bought as an afterthought from the petrol station on the way home.

Oh my, I’m a cynical, old woman, aren’t I? So long in a marriage that the only sparks are static when I take off my dressing gown and go to bed, cuddling my fluffy penguin. That’s not a pet name for my wife: I literally mean a fluffy stuffed toy.

But even people as old and decrepit as us were once in the first flush of youth, and Valentine’s Day with its symbols of love speaks to the surging of life with the first stirrings of Spring.

And the young certainly feel stirrings and surges! I know I did. No more beating around the bush: I’m talking about sex.

Do you become embarrassed when the subject of sex arises? Become coy at the thought of talking about it, never mind actually doing it?

Why is that? What feelings do you associate with the idea of sex? Have you been taught that it’s somehow dirty or sinful? That “good” girls (and boys, but mostly girls) don’t talk about it? Don’t think about it? And certainly don’t go out looking for it!

Well, fuck that! Sex has two purposes. The one you probably got taught about at school is procreation: making babies. But did they tell you about the other reason? The big reason? The reason why so many people have so much sex? It’s because it can be immensely pleasurable.

Pleasure. Joy. Ecstasy. Bliss. Fun. Now, if that’s not a good reason to do something I don’t know what is. I’m not here to try to teach you how to have sex, when to have sex, or who to have sex with (if anyone: it can be just as enjoyable flying solo).

No, I’m here to promote a positive attitude towards sex. And an important part of that is destroying the myth about it being something special, or precious. Ditch those thoughts: it’s not. And virginity? It’s bullshit. Just a crock of shit cooked up to try to control women.

See that body of yours? It’s all yours. Nobody else’s. There is not one single other person on this whole planet who has any right to tell you what to do with it. Bodies are great: endlessly fascinating. They make funny noises. They can look weird; they can look amazing. And you can play with them. In fact that’s part of the fun of having a body: playing with it. Doing stuff with it that feels great.

Sex is one of those things that can feel great. And really it’s not any more exotic than another activity I find pleasurable: eating. Now, when I first started eating I was very young. Far too young for sex (that came later when my body had developed more).

I wasn’t very good at eating when it was all new to me. I don’t even remember my first time. For a long time it was just messy and awkward, but kind of fun too. And you can turn it into a game: play with your food. I might have forgotten my first time but over the years I do recall the best times.

Sex is just like that. When you stop thinking of it as some special, magical activity and just take it as it comes you can start to relax and have real fun with it. Like most activities you get better with practice. Your first time will probably be messy, awkward and even uncomfortable. There’s no reason to expect it to be perfect or even memorable. Would you expect your first time riding a bike to be perfect? So why set unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex? Hey, you’re new at this: you’ll get better. Practice.

Focus on the things you like. Experiment, try new stuff, see what you enjoy. Always be in control: it’s your body so you decide what happens to it. If you don’t want to do something or you don’t like something, you get to say no. You decide to try something and change your mind, you get to say no. You set the boundaries. That’s the essence of consent: nobody does anything to you unless you give permission. And you can withdraw that permission any time it suits you, for any reason.

Anyone at all who doesn’t ask your consent, who doesn’t respect your boundaries, is in the wrong. There is no middle ground, there are no grey areas (especially not fifty shades of them). Sex without consent is rape.

I’m a great believer in exploring your own body, discovering what turns you on or off, what sensations you enjoy. The better you know how your body responds to various stimulation, the more able you will be to talk to a partner about it and let them know what you like. And hopefully they will have done the same and you can both be off to a running start.

The bottom line is that sex is not a mystery. It’s a normal bodily function, like walking. Although most places it’s probably best to keep the sex indoors. Or at least out of sight of other people. Walking in public is fine though.

So get out there, or stay in bed, or whatever suits you, and have more sex. Have different kinds of sex. On your own or with a friend. Also, be responsible: think about the risks and take steps to minimise them. After all, you don’t want anything to go wrong. It’s like making sure you have appropriate gear before going walking in the hills: the sensible thing to do. Yes, you could try to walk up Ben Nevis in a T-shirt in the middle of winter but bits would probably drop off and I don’t think you’d make it back.

Above all, approach it with an open mind and a positive attitude. Even joke about it. (Don’t penises look funny? Imagine one with googly eyes!) Who knows, it could become your favourite hobby! Or even a career! Sex is not special, but it can be great fun. And fun is generally worth the effort.

Sex And The Single Autist

In case the title wasn’t explicit enough, here’s your last chance to click away if you really don’t want to read a frank post about sex.

I’m not single now; haven’t been for nearly 20 years (except for a brief spell between marriages). But I was for the first 24 years of my life, so the title is partly relevant (I just liked the sound of it). I must confess to some feelings of trepidation about this subject since I acquired many inhibitions while growing up regarding discourse on sexual matters. Indeed, that’s as good a place as any to begin…

I grew up in a fairly typical middle-class family. My mother gave up work to care for me and my younger brother while my father held a professional/management job. A privileged upbringing: private education; safe, loving home; freedom to think freely. But there was one subject that was never mentioned at home: sex.

I don’t think I was even aware of sex until I accidentally discovered the pleasure of rubbing myself in a particular way: I’m sure many young people have independently discovered masturbation. I guess I was aware enough of the taboo nature of those body parts to keep my discovery to myself.

I believe if I had raised the subject with my parents they would have been far too embarrassed to respond positively: they had been raised Christian-fashion to think of this as something sinful rather than it being a harmless, pleasurable way to explore one’s own body and sexuality.

I remember having a single sex ed. class at school. It must have been when I was about 12 or 13 and it simply covered (using textbook-style illustrations) comparative anatomy and conception. It was too far removed from reality for me. I learned basic details: the male has a penis and testicles, the female has a vagina, uterus and ovaries. The penis is inserted into the vagina, the testicles produce sperm, the ovaries produce an egg, and one sperm somehow coincides with the egg in the uterus, fertilizing it and causing it to develop into a fetus (and thence into a baby). This was all the preparation we received for adult, sexual lives.

This was the 1980s: there was no internet as we know it and TV didn’t show anything more than kissing (at least before the time I had to go to bed). Playground “gossip” mostly passed me by but what I did glean about sex only taught me that it was a forbidden subject. Honestly, I wonder that we have continued as a species with these attitudes!

What I did learn about sex came from books such as the later Dune novels which described manual stimulation of the clitoris and labia. I formed the idea that that was a key means to provide pleasure, an idea that time and experience have done little to dispel.

My experiments with masturbation techniques also led me to discover anal stimulation. First it was simply stimulation of the anus itself, but I soon learned that I enjoyed the feeling of penetration as well. But the main focus was my imagination: I would picture myself having sex with a partner while I stimulated myself, usually by straddling and rubbing my genitals against something.

I would also lie on my back and imagine how it would feel to have a man atop me, entering my vagina, thrusting rhythmically, raising me to a pitch of ecstasy. Which was curious in a way because my sexual attraction has always been primarily towards women. Not to mention the fact that my anatomy was incongruously male. To explain: I am attracted to the female body but at the same time I picture myself as female when I imagine having sex. In fact I always picture myself as female-bodied: that’s the cause of my gender dysphoria and why I’m pursuing medical treatment for gender confirmation.

This didn’t confuse me: I just accepted it as the way I was (although I did enjoy seeing myself in the mirror dressed in clothes borrowed — without her knowledge — from my mother, and wished with all my heart that there was some way to step through and be the girl I saw in reflection). But that wasn’t possible and I didn’t feel able to talk about this to anybody so I kept all these feelings inside.

It did make me wonder for a time whether I had fetishized my cross-dressing, but I came to realize that there were two separate forces at work here: my identification as female, and the consequence that had on my sexual desires. I never found wearing female clothes to be sexually stimulating; rather it was that I was consistently female even within my sexual fantasies. When I would masturbate while dressed as female the clothing was an external confirmation of my internal identity rather than a source of sexual stimulation: it masked the discordant note introduced by my physical body.

As I grew into my late teenage years I became aware that several of my peers had boy- or girlfriends but my own understanding of relationships was very late in developing and I didn’t ever consider that sex could form part of the picture. I never had any relationship beyond friendship until the age of 23.

It all changed when I met the woman who would later become my first wife. We met socially and it was her who initiated every stage. I still don’t know what attracted her to me but we did, at least for a while, get along very well. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but one night shortly after we met she came back to my flat. We shared kisses and cuddled.

I really had little idea of what to do: she led the whole way. I basically had to be instructed what to do at every stage. It was several dates later (with things slowly progressing each time) that I was induced to have full, penetrative intercourse: penis in vagina. It was… intriguing. I reached orgasm (which was familiar from my experience with masturbation) but on the whole the experience was rather less than the earth-stopping event that I’d been led to expect.

With hindsight it’s clear that we were both young and inexperienced, and didn’t communicate effectively. I’d had years to discover what forms of stimulation worked best for me (and I assume the same was true for her) but we didn’t share this knowledge and simply applied what we had been taught was the “normal” way of doing things.

After the initial novelty wore off I began to lose interest in sex (although we do have a daughter from this brief period). I’ve since realized (many years later) that apart from the direct genital stimulation I do not find sex where I perform the male role either arousing or fulfilling. Using the penis in that way does not feel natural.

My gender transition has been positive because it’s allowed me to overcome some of the inhibitions I had regarding talking about sexual matters. I didn’t even realize just how deep those inhibitions ran, how much baggage I had picked up from my childhood, until that moment of release.

The secrets to successful sex are self-knowledge and communication. You have to be familiar enough with your body to know what forms of stimulation work for you, and — equally as important — you have to be able to communicate that to your partner. And vice versa: they have to be able to tell you what works for them.

Openness is vital: you need to explore each other’s bodies and provide the feedback that guides and informs that exploration. Be open to experimentation but always in a consensual manner: state your boundaries and respect the other person’s. But above all have fun: ultimately it’s all about the pleasure.

Celebrating Difference

Warning: This post contains frank references to sex and sexual organs. If you don’t want to encounter such words then I suggest you don’t read on.

It makes me angry when I hear people make disparaging comments about somebody based on their appearance or mannerisms. The unspoken assumption that those people are somehow inferior because they do not fit into a neat little box in a neat little life.

There’s denial of a person’s self: “You can’t be disabled. You don’t look disabled.” Deliberately using the pronouns of their previous gender to refer to a trans person. Suggesting that a woman is only lesbian because she’s not had sex with a “real” man (whatever that means).

There’s the imposition of one’s own standards on another: of a sexually-provocative woman, “She looks like a tart. She’s all over those men, whoring herself.”

Guess what? There are a host of disabilities that don’t affect a person’s physical appearance: that man with Tourette’s didn’t get issued with a badge along with his diagnosis. And somebody who does have a physical sign of disability? Odds are they are aware of this themselves and don’t actually need your help in pointing it out.

A trans person who transitions knows who they are. Your crass attempts to suggest that you know better than they do only serve to paint you as ignorant, narrow-minded and prejudiced. Yes, I used to present as a man: I know this only too well, after all I was there. But I’m a woman. I don’t need or want to be reminded of who I appeared to be before. That life is in the past.

Some people are attracted to people of the same sex. For a man to suggest that a lesbian should prefer sex with a man, and that experiencing it would change her sexual orientation, demonstrates a staggering lack of understanding. If he thinks being penetrated by a penis is so wonderful perhaps he should try it. After all, speaking from personal experience would carry more weight!

And that woman wearing revealing clothes? Well, I guess she’s feeling confident and attractive. Getting attention from the opposite sex probably makes her feel empowered and can be a turn on. And maybe — shock, horror! — she enjoys sex?

There are a whole lot of people in this world of ours, and that means there’s a lot of scope for differences. Instead of feeling insecure or threatened by this I would hope that people can approach others with an open mind. We are all people and we are all different. Different does not mean less. It does not mean wrong. It’s time to accept and celebrate these differences as what make people unique and special, each in their own way.

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