For the longest, I considered myself an ethical slut. Ethical because I take into account the emotional state of my partner(s) before entangling. Slut because I will try anything twice. Now that I’ve given up sex, so many new realizations are popping up.
This paradigm worked for a time because it allowed me the space to care about how my partners arrived in my life. Were they emotionally present enough to engage in whatever we would share? And, more importantly, can I limit the amount of emotional baggage our circumstance would generate in their life?
I thought this was the altruistic path through my libido: be present for others. What happened, though, was I never truly had to shine a light on my own emotional situation. I was so caught up in slutting ethically for others that I gave no thought to how my proclivities were impacting me.
From my work in HIV, I know that people end up in sexual situations for myriad reasons. Looking back, seldom do any of us, myself included, proceed through sex flatfooted and clear headed. I, specifically, now realize that I’ve used sex to sooth something much deeper.
When I moved to Atlanta, I lived with family. As a grown man living an independent life, I moved halfway across the country to sleep in the bed my sister grew up in. I stored my clothes in her dresser and tried my hardest to shrink myself into the space my family provided for me. When I finally moved out, I did so in reaction to the living circumstance I was in previously. I was blessed to have a spare room to turn to, but that spare room could never be, for me, what I needed it to be.
I sacrificed that spare room for two years of expensive independence. I did odd jobs to struggle to make ends meet. All the while, my sex life remained popping. I entangled regularly to sooth the dire financial straits my life was in. This truth, I’ll admit, very few people ever knew. I supplanted vulnerability and asking for help with sex. I was actively, albeit unknowingly, participating in what I realize was emotional survival sex.
Sex is a vehicle for many to survive. OnlyFans, prostitution, or even some toxic relationships are ways for a lot of people to get by. So many of us fuck for our livelihood. As I look back at my own life, however, I realize some of the same tenants of survival sex applied to me. I turned to sex when nothing else could make me feel. When I was overburdened with life, sex soothed me enough to forget what I was going through for a split second.
Sex became an emotional lifeline for me. I prided myself in not preying on the emotional vulnerabilities of others while I actively allowed myself to be preyed on in my own emotional vulnerability.
The men I engaged with have no fault in my circumstance. They gave me exactly what I asked for. In that season of my life, I was never taken advantage of, I was never coerced into doing anything I did not enthusiastically consent to. What I did to myself was allow sex to be the bandaid over my insecurities. I allowed sex to carry me through, all the while distracting from my actual emotional work. For those fleeting moments in those bedrooms, backrooms, and bathhouses, I felt whole, even though I was empty.
Sex helped me survive. But now, even sex must evolve into something else. Sex and my relationship with it must change so that I can be more whole for what my next chapter entails. So day 17 of no sex continues. My realizations of self deepen. And my emotional future has never looked brighter.