August 15, 2017

When Your Erotic Identity Is Damaged

Please Do Not CrushThere is an assumption that there are certain people so confident in their sexuality and erotic identities that nothing can challenge those aspects of their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am living proof.

This isn’t easy to talk about. Our society as well as our sexual and kink subcultures worship at the altar of confidence and certainty. Most of our kink scene is shrouded in a veneer of iconic bravado and unwavering certainty.

Such solidity adds to the fantasy for many because their kink and erotic identity is founded upon such things. In a scene replete with rigid hierarchical rankings and deified roles and positions, it’s no wonder that any crack in that armor risks the entire enterprise.

Cracks happen though. The armor of our sexuality is often in truth nothing more than a thin covering easily pierced by something as random as someone’s casual negative comment or as monumental as a life-altering bad experience or situation.

I’m not going to rehash exactly what happened to me. I don’t often air my own life’s inner workings in public, at least not in print. But please accept as true that a few years ago a series of life happenstance challenged my sexuality and erotic identity to its very core, and those challenges reverberate throughout my life even today. It’s been a long slog to recovery and that process is still unfolding as I write this.

Since I was in my early teens, even prior to my fully coming out at the age of 17, certain types of sex and power dynamic play formed the foundation of my sexuality to such an extent that it eventually morphed into an identity. What I did erotically not only formed sexual fantasies and practices, but it also formed an identity that has generally served me quite well.

Realizing in my youth that I was an erotic rebel, a sexual maverick, coupled with my then newfound realization I was indeed gay, created for me a bedrock from which the entirety of the rest of my life naturally flowed and flourished. I was a gay leatherman. I was a devoutly kinky adventurer. I had found that version of myself that fit like an outrageously comfortable glove. I had found a set of communities that accepted and celebrated those aspects of me. I had found me and my people.

While my various social interactions and work took me to all walks of life and endeavors, it was my gay kink identity from which I always operated, whether that identity was evident in all situations or not. No matter where I was or what I was doing, inside of me resided a gay leatherman and kinkster who took solace in that self-identification. In short, it made me happy.

Fast forward from my early teen years to a few years ago. In one fell swoop a series of unexpected conflicts and between a rock and a hard place situations occurred and my entire erotic identity crumbled. My sexuality was damaged. I was shattered. I was supremely unhappy. Life sucked because my foundation had given way beneath me and I wasn’t sure how to rebuild it.

Did most people know this? No. A few close friends did. A handful of my leather and kink network did. But generally, most people saw the same old me writing, speaking, organizing, advocating and educating. Few suspected that underneath it all I was suffering badly, and feeling like everything was going to shit.

Why am I telling you this?

Perhaps in part this is cathartic. Sometimes opening a window of transparency allows a breeze of relief to wash over us.

Or perhaps my main motivation is to instill in everyone reading this a bit more understanding that even the most apparently solid of people can be shaken and pushed off balance. I see the nasty barbs or accusations thrown around at leather and kink folk on social media and I cringe because I know those words might be crushing someone on the other end of them.

Or perhaps I simply want people to realize that when someone looks “just fine,” they might not really be fine. Underneath they might be hurting like hell and covering it all up with a persona of confidence and solidity that belies their hurt but that their friends and audience have come to expect from them.

So, what have a I learned from all this? A lot. About myself. About life. About sex and the sexual subcultures in which I mingle and thrive.

I’ve learned that first and foremost I must be me. My relationships are important. The people around me are important. My communities are important. But ultimately, if I can’t be truly me, if I can’t fully maintain the identity that brings me strength, then I’m of no good to anyone. Anything I say, do or advocate for would be coming from a false pretense if said by someone not living up their own sense of optimal and best self. Living a lie is a terrible idea.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t always take much to crush someone mentally or emotionally. It can take just a few words. It can happen in an instant. And that instant can end up forming a life crisis far bigger than might seem possible upon reflection on that brief life-altering moment. I hope people realize this when they say some of the things they say, especially in this era of the social media broadcast effect when harsh words can distribute through the social ether like a strong putrid wind.

I’ve learned that when your erotic identity is challenged, you deal with it or it will eat away at you and taint everything in your life, sexual or otherwise. To not deal with it is to doom yourself to deep unhappiness, and I say this as I myself am continuing to struggle. But my struggle has gone from daily depression to more of a nagging reminder that if I falter from being myself and living the life I need to lead I will plunge myself into a depth of despair that I do not need to enter. I’ve become a lot stronger.

Let me wrap up this post by asking something of you.

Please, do some introspection around your own sexuality and erotic identity. Are you living up to the potential that will make you happiest? Are you eschewing outside rules and constructs when they collide with what you know will make you happiest? Are you consciously configuring your life to create a sexuality, an identity, your sense of being as a human, that brings you the greatest joy and satisfaction?

The answers to those questions will hopefully either validate an already strong sexuality and erotic identity, or propel you to improve them to align with what makes you happiest.

I ask those questions of myself every day now. My erotic self and indeed every aspect of me is a lot stronger today than it’s ever been, but I still tread on a walkway populated by a mine field of doubts and challenges. That is sometimes the human condition. It’s only by facing it head on that any of us can improve ourselves and our lives.

Be yourself. Be your authentic self. Be the self, erotically and otherwise, that brings you the greatest happiness because doing any less is shortchanging yourself in ways you might not even realize.

Be happy. Sexually. Erotically. Every way. Just be happy.

6 Comments on “When Your Erotic Identity Is Damaged

August 16, 2017 at 1:34 am

Thank you for sharing this. 4 year ago I was very deep into my own crisis, experiencing abuse and damage i wasn’t even fully recognising. Friends in the community helped me to come out of that and actually you played a small part, providing advice through a mutual friend. i still struggle with the life changing questions around the depth of my need to submit that this situation brought up but 4 years on i am definitely a lot stronger and, yes, happier. So, having read this piece on the Facebook page of another mutual friend, i wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you and to support your message that we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable, honestly assessing and dealing with our sexual and erotic selves in the pursuit of true contentment.

I don’t know what happened to you, but I admire what you have said above and how you have said it. As with most of what you have written over the years, I’m sure that it will help many folks. Thanks.

Russell J Stambaugh, PhD
August 16, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Great post, Race. As many as 47% of kinky people have contemplated suicide or attempted it according to Sprott, Wadura and Randall’s recent TASHRA Kink Health Survey. That significantly exceeds the Trans/fluid community, (about 34%), suggesting that stigma becomes more poisonous the more marginalized your community is. This is profound reason why even the more confident among us may be whistling a little past the graveyard in attempting to embrace sex desire and identities conventional society has told us we have no business having.
Being strong is situational and contextual. Introspection helps, support helps, and community often helps. I have found, as you have exemplified, that giving helps.
Be well!

David Ley PhD
August 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Sexual Integrity. Thank you for modeling what that looks like.

Charles Moser
August 16, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Take care of yourself.
Life is short, eat dessert first.
Do the sex you want, not what you are supposed to want!
All of us work so hard to help others enjoy sex, we forget to enjoy it ourselves.
Thank you for doing all you do.

Heather McPherson
August 18, 2017 at 9:36 am

A great reminder that most of us have had unthinkable things said at some point about our erotic identity. Knowing that most often the comments come from a lack of education and shame allows us to pick up the pieces a little quicker. However, reading things like your post, books and research as well as gaining confidence and integrity around our identity through community contributes to our quest to be an erotic rebel and sexual maverick. Something I have always seen you to be.

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