Sexual identity is more than just your sexual orientation. Your sexual identity can also include things like what kind of sex you like, kinks or fetishes, or how frequently you have sex.
So what happens to your sense of self when certain parts of that identity aren’t being utilized?
After my LEEP procedure my doctor said that I couldn’t have penetrative sex for four weeks. When the whole waiting period is said and done, that will be the longest time I’ve ever stayed abstinent.
A couple disclaimers: This isn’t a big woe is me because I don’t actually think four weeks is a very long time. It would be fine if someone did think four weeks was a long time, but I don’t. Four weeks goes quick. Also, my doctor didn’t say no sex for four weeks. She just said no penetrative sex for four weeks. There’s a distinction. But for me, sex almost always means penetration. So her saying no penetration was effectively saying no sex. There are a lot of other things to do, but it’s just different for me, and that’s okay. (Also with the amount of bleeding, pinching, and cramping, I’m not feeling all that sexy anyways.)
All of this got me wondering about identity
At a different point in my life, if I weren’t able to have sex for a long stretch of time (due to stress, anxiety, medical issues, etc) I would feel less than myself. I viewed myself as sexual and thought that to fulfill that identity I had to act out what a sexual person does. If I wasn’t doing sexual things all the time, I was, in some way, failing myself and the guidelines I’d set for myself and who I am.
At times, I would even go out of my way to try things that I wasn’t interested in doing or push myself outside of my comfort zone because I thought “huh, if my identity is this, I should say yes, because I’ll probably like it, right?” Big heavy yuck.
Be aware of false prophets. If anyone ever says “but I thought you were cool” tell them that cool is whatever the fuck you say it is.
But people do this all the time right? Women wonder if they’re actually bisexual if they’ve never kissed another woman. A guy looks at another guy he finds attractive and spends the rest of the day re-asserting his heterosexuality to balance it out. We have scripts for what a person of X identity does, and what being X looks like, and when we don’t live up to those arbitrary guidelines, we can start to feel off or less than ourselves.
Learning that my identity can be stable has been important as my life has become more fluid.
The reality is that we may not always be able to do the things that we define ourselves by. That’s hard. Especially if these things are deeply wrapped into our identity and who we are.
Sometimes we have no choice. We may develop a disability that in some way prevents us from doing the things that we used to define ourselves by. We may become sick. Our health may impede us. A writer may be unable to write for weeks at a time. A surfer may lose the ability to use his legs. This is getting grim, I know, but I’ve had the privilege in my young life to really not have many things impede me from doing what I want to do. I know that as I get older, that’s likely to change.
I don’t exactly have the answers here but I think it’s important to think about. When I let go of the arbitrary guidelines I’d set for myself, I found myself becoming a lot more chill. A lot happier. Some nights I might want to choose reading over sex and I don’t have an identity crisis about it. I might go weeks without wanting to write on my blog and I don’t second guess my ability as writer. And, one day, if I have to completely let something go, I know it won’t change who I am and who I was and what makes me, me. My life might just start to look different. And that might make me feel sad. But it doesn’t make me (less than) I used to be. It just makes me different.
How do you deal with feelings like this? Have you ever had to cope with a big identity shift, or even a short-term identity shift because you couldn’t do something or had to change the way you did something?
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