Nadia Bokody: The innocent mistake that ruins great sex

Nadia Bokody: The innocent mistake that ruins great sex

A warm, foreign feeling blooms beneath my skin.

I’m giddy with the sense of abandon that’s been awakened inside me.

The outline of my girlfriend’s body shifts into focus as our eyes find each other again in the dark, and I squeeze mine tight for a second to capture the moment.

It occurs to me now, at 37, I’ve lived a life anesthetised by “can’t”s.

“I can’t get off like that,” I’d said, just a few months earlier, when her head was buried beneath the sheets.

“Are you sure?” she’d gently pressed, tracing a hand along my thigh as I shook my head.

Like a lot of women, my initiation into adulthood came with the understanding sex was the currency I’d exchange with men for validation and fidelity.

I saw my body not so much as my own, but as a vessel for pain.

While sex ed was introducing me to the looming horrors of menstrual cramps and childbirth, girls at school warned, “losing your virginity will hurt”.

There was an implicit agreement pleasure was reserved for boys; they had wet dreams and erections and made crude jokes about masturbation on the playground.

Even when I grew older and began chronicling what felt like my sexual emancipation online, my body continued to feel like something that didn’t quite belong to me.

Being liberated as a woman meant having sex as men did, I thought. It never occurred to me that, as I was writing about my so-called sexual empowerment, I was more dissociated from my desire than ever before.

That was until, after proposing an open relationship with my boyfriend to hook up with women, I abruptly realised I was gay. While spending years emboldening women to boycott performative pleasure, I’d participated in the biggest charade of all: denying my queerness.

Nadia Bokody: The innocent mistake that ruins great sex

Nadia Bokody is a YouTuber and sex columnist for Photo / Instagram

That’s the thing about sexual disenfranchisement, though; it runs so deep in the waters of womanhood, even when we think we’ve broken free, we’re actually still wading through it.

What I realised much later into my career as a sex columnist, is sexual parity isn’t so much about the dissolution of slut-shaming and fake orgasms (though they play a significant role) as it is about interrogating our own self-denial as women.

Indeed, the orgasm gap itself (a landmark study found heterosexual men climax 95 per cent of the time, while women do so just 65 per cent) can’t be solved in the bedroom, and the suggestion it’s a sexual issue misses the point entirely.

Pleasure inequity is rooted in the cultural conditioning of women to suppress our needs for the comfort of others.

We hoist our breasts up in wire, tear off body hair, and contort our feet into heels to aesthetically appease. We say “yes” to things we want to say “no” to in soothing voices framed by smiles to ensure we’re not labelled “bitch” or “high maintenance” or asked if it’s that time of the month.

We giggle in the face of jokes that objectify us, reminding ourselves “he’s just trying to pay you a compliment, don’t be so sensitive!” and flirt and play it cool even as our brains silently scream out in violation.

It’s little wonder in the place we’re most exposed – naked, before our lovers – we’re not really vulnerable at all. We don’t tap into our pleasure in the bedroom because we’re accustomed to ignoring it in every other environment.

I often think of this learned disconnect, and the way it led me to convince myself, and several hundred thousand readers for nearly a decade, that I was a sexually liberated woman, simply because I had lots of sex with men – some of which included orgasms.

Even as I felt an emptiness expanding in me. Even while I denied entire segments of myself. And even, surprisingly, after I came out as gay and told my girlfriend, “Oh, don’t bother with that, I can’t climax from oral.”

Those narratives had become so entrenched in the sea of my existence, I wasn’t able to see they’d clouded the water.

In the glow of my first post-oral orgasm, tangled between my girlfriend’s sheets, there’s a prickling at my eyes. It’s a joyful tear for the newfound pleasure I’ve just discovered, but there’s sadness in it, too – I’m mourning all the times I denied myself access to this feeling because I was led by “can’t”s.

It’s quickly erased by my girlfriend’s hand lovingly tracing its way up my arm. She smiles a knowing smile, one that says she’s been here too. Then we laugh and embrace, and this time, the only “can’t” in my mind is the one where I can’t wait to do it again.

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