Power, Sex, and Risk Avoidance

My youth was all bravado and bedpost notches, but it took love to show me the true power of sex.

Baring Soul, Not Just Skin


photo courtesy of Guille Faingold

filed under Sex, True Stories

As a young woman, my self-expression was frequently articulated through my sexual identity and adventures of the flesh. I loved being provocative, desired, objectified—even if it was antithetical to my feminist-minded upbringing and liberal arts education.

Sex was freedom, sex was power, sex made me feel like a woman, even though I was still in the early stages of understanding the weight and symbolism of what that really meant. I was promiscuous with a purpose: My aim was to experience everything I could without catching feelings or having the hang-ups commonly associated with the stereotypical female psyche. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

While sexual expression came easily to me, intimacy did not. I was allergic to romance and appalled by effusive sentiments. I made my lovers leave my house after a tryst. Cuddling never appealed to me. I had no interest in sharing feelings—I worked through my feelings, insecurities, and power struggles in the theater of the bedroom.

Back then people would describe me as a badass, screwing and leaving my partners like a man. I was a pathological cheat, a self-confessed heartbreaker, and totally unapologetic about it. The truth of the matter is that behind the bravado and the bedpost notches was a scared little girl afraid of intimacy, of vulnerability, of being loved. I was not a sexy alpha female. I was a coward.

It’s easy to fuck. It’s not easy to love and be loved. I spent my formative years running from healthy and happy relationships, opting instead for chemically-driven dalliances with unsuitable partners who could offer a great orgasm but little else.

That was until I met my husband—for the second time. Our first encounter, in a far-too-hip smoky dive bar, was a serendipitous fleeting moment that left us both wondering if the other was “the one.” Our rekindling three years later, thanks to a seemingly random Facebook message, solidified our future for once and all. I moved to New York from San Francisco with my clothes and little else on a Saturday afternoon in August. The next night was our first official date and the last-ever first date I would go on.

Our relationship was difficult at first. It took years to recondition my brain to accept love and to understand intimacy. This lesson was not one I could learn through bedroom prowess or dirty talk. Instead it required the opposite—no distractions, no passion plays, just us: two vulnerable people learning how to accept each other, to embrace the good with the bad, the gorgeous and the ugly, and the brutal honesty of love.

I also had to learn how to have sex again. Previously, sex was an act made solely for corporeal exploration and fantasy fulfillment. This sex was different. For the first time I cried during orgasms. I actually fainted from of the intensity of the mind-body connection I felt when I came. It was a transcendental sensual experience that required both of us to be present in every sense of the word. It was the beautiful merging of consciousness and carnality. This was deeper, darker, more potent, more gratifying than anything I’d experienced before. This was lovemaking. This was intimacy.

Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman is a Brooklyn-based writer by day and professional tarot reader by night.


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