How I Lost My Mojo

Let’s be real: sex is a huge part of the human experience. It’s how we’re created, how we go on to make more tiny people, how we bond with others, heck, how we occupy a good majority of our thoughts throughout the day. So, what do you do when you find yourself, a young twenty-something female, who should be a rampant rabbit, feeling about as sexual as a dead fish? That’s where I’ve found myself over these past few months (okay, maybe a year). Zero sex drive, no desire whatsoever to come into contact with another human being in ‘that sort of way’ and a great deal of confusion as to why I would be feeling like that. Surely the fire can’t have left me already? SURELY I’m too young to be completely dried up? This can’t be the end of my sexual career, can it?!

Now, the knowledgeable, logical readers amongst you will be saying “for goodness’ sake Grace, sexuality fluctuates constantly, you can’t expect to be horny 24/7 for the rest of your life, calm down you’re being ridiculous!!!!!” and to that I say “oh don’t you worry, I know, ridiculous is my middle name!”. But sometimes knowing that your worries are ridiculous still doesn’t do a whole lot to negate and/or sedate them, especially when you love to overthink everything as much I do.

So, my libido was dead, and whilst this was an entirely expected dip in a drive that had been at full throttle for years, there were still other factors that I believe brought me to a standstill. I would like to share these with you, maybe for my own catharsis, but maybe for anyone else who has been left thinking “Dude, Where’s My Sex Drive?”.

Without further ado, here’s what happened:

Surrounded by Sex

If you’ve lived a day in our Western world, you’ll know that sex is EVERYWHERE. In advertising, in music, on tv, there’s even people on the tube that seriously need to get a room (it’s the Northern line, there’s WAY too many rats and confused tourists down here for it to be sexy). You get the picture. Having sex thrust in your face on a day-to-day basis is enough to desensitise anyone, but I went a step further. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t shagging a lot, far from it. Instead, I went full nerd. I read books on polyamory, kink and sex-positivity, I listened to sex & relationship podcasts daily (Savage Lovecast, Guys We Fucked & Loveline with Amber Rose, to name a few), I researched the psychology of sex and sex therapy, I went to Torture Garden, I started working in a lingerie and erotica boutique and I created this blog. Literally surrounded by sex on a daily basis without actually having it.

Sexuality, love and relationships are all parts of the human experience that I am particularly fascinated by, but this truly was too much of a good thing. It meant that not only could I not bring myself to write about it for Highly Sex-Ed (yeah, that’s why it’s been a while), but I definitely could not touch another person. It became all that I would talk about and all that anyone would want to talk to me about, so much so that I started to resent the thing that I love, because even though I am intensely confident in my own sexuality, I am much more than it. I felt like I needed to reclaim the non-sexual parts of my personality, so much so that I almost shut down my sexuality completely.

Bad Experiences

As a sexually active person, you’re inevitably going to have some bad experiences along the way. As a woman, those bad experiences can range from a bit boring, to fearing for your own safety, and enough of those bad experiences can make you want to avoid sex entirely, just to save yourself from possible disappointment, or even danger. Having experienced heartbreak, bad sex, frequent sexual harassment and being viewed as solely a sexual object for most of my adolescent life, it’s no wonder I reached a point where my mind and body finally said “please, no more of this”. That’s not to mention my experiences whilst working at the lingerie boutique. Men calling every other day, masturbating whilst on the phone to you is enough to put you off for life. And then with all of the current allegations of sexual assault against celebrities and public figures that seem to constantly be coming to light in the press, you can’t help but feel that we are living in a culture where women are not safe. When the negative experiences start to outweigh the positive, it’s hard to justify opening yourself up to a new person when the odds don’t seem to be in your favour.

Mental Health

Your mental health can affect everything in your life, even down to your perception of the world around you. With many mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress, it can often be the case that your libido is one of the first things to fly out the window. Whilst I am undiagnosed with any specific mental health disorders, I have struggled with managing my low moods, anxious thoughts and stress as much as the next person. Living in a busy city like London for the past few years has only managed to amplify these problems. Leaving drama school, losing friends, toxic relationships, stressful jobs and limited creative outlet have led to an overall feeling of loneliness that traps you within it. Being alone is one thing; but being alone in a city full of strangers who carry on their lives regardless of whether you exist or not can leave you feeling empty. As Olivia Laing said in her book The Lonely City, “the lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired.” The lonelier you feel, the less that intimate connections with people feel possible. It’s a vicious circle, one that can only be broken by opening yourself up to new people and possibilities, but the fear of being hurt and damaging your already fragile mental health feels like too much of a risk. And so, you continue to find yourself void of intimacy and alone, which leads to me to my final possible factor:

Independence

As a young single woman, my independence is extremely important to me and as an only child, I have always been content in my own company. However, in recent years I have found this to be both a blessing and a curse, struggling to bridge the gap between independence and loneliness, needing time alone to escape overwhelming social situations, then desperately needing people when no one is there. Often when we need help the most is when we project an exterior of strength, not wanting to admit our weaknesses to those closest to us in the hope that the problems will eventually disappear. For me, this meant pushing away any possible chances at intimacy for fear of losing the independent, single version of me that I had learned to love so much over the years. If I opened myself up to one person, would all of the work I’d put in to build up my strength immediately disappear and I’d revert back to the fragile girl I’d been, broken by previous relationships? To me that felt like an all too possible reality. My version of independence then seemed to mean ‘solitude’, which inevitably led to loneliness, so to save myself, I needed to redefine it.

I think that losing my sex drive was a symptom of a much bigger problem and, ultimately, a warning sign to myself that I was not okay. Not okay with the environments I was in, the way I was feeling, the people I was surrounded with or the lack thereof. Talking with friends was a good start to unearthing this mass of confusion that had embedded itself within my head and removing myself from stressful situations gave me a chance to stop and breathe again. As for finding those intimate connections? It’s tricky, but I’m working on it and, slowly but surely, I’ll know I’ll find a way to be vulnerable again. It’s a long road, but I’m hopeful that, much like Austin Powers, I’ll eventually get my mojo back.

If you’re worried about your mental health, speak to your GP. For more information and advice on mental health, visit:

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

www.mind.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

Lessons in Self-Love

 

“Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” – Rudy Francisco

 

You’re with them every day. You know them inside and out. All of their favourite things, what they hate, their hopes, their fears, their secrets, their entire life story. You wake up together and can’t fall asleep without them. No matter what happens, they’re always there. Forever. You can’t get rid of them, even though sometimes you might wish that you could. You’re stuck with them FOR LIFE.

It’s you.

You’re tied to yourself forever. It’s the marriage contract that you never signed and you can’t divorce your way out of it. It’s a melancholic truth that we’re born alone, we live alone and we die alone, so surely it works out better if you love the only person you will spend 24/7 with for the rest of your life. Seems obvious, yet so many of us hate, dislike, or at least want to change something about ourselves. I’m surrounded by strong, confident, inspiring people who still manage to look in the mirror and dislike what they see, who can’t see the pure radiance and brilliance that I can, and I’m sure you’ve all got friends like that too. The ones you want to bash over the head every time they put themselves down when you know that they’re walking perfection. This one’s for them. Because we all deserve to feel comfortable in the skin we’re in. After all, it’s the only skin we’re gonna get.

Loving myself has been a long journey, one littered with speedbumps of loathing and self-destructive tendencies, and god knows I still trip up occasionally, but looking back and seeing how far I’ve come is what keeps me pushing forward. So, in this post I’d like to share a few things that have helped me. It’s possible that I could be trapped in my own little narcissistic, only child bubble here, but there’s always room for a little more love in the world, so why not direct some towards yourself?

(Side note: this doesn’t include self-improvement, we should always want to better ourselves, be kinder, learn more, eat well, etc. BUT there’s a difference between wanting to better yourself and despising yourself for not being ‘good enough’. This is about finding that balance if you’re leaning towards the harmful side.)

Okay, so here we go:

  1. Be Alone

There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Often when we’re struggling with ourselves, we surround ourselves with people, keep so busy that we don’t have time to think about the turmoil in our minds. But what if you confronted it? Because you’ll have to eventually. We all need family and friends for comfort at times, but what if you could do that for yourself? Understand who you are when you’re alone, and try not to be judgmental, simply take note. Meditate, travel, all that self-discovery stuff, because as wanky as it sounds, you really do learn a lot about yourself. Which leads me to my next tip…

  1. Date Yourself

Now, I am a huge fan of this one. Take yourself OUT, you saucy thing. Just think: going to the cinema and nobody tries to talk/snog you throughout the film, you can actually watch it. Eating at your favourite restaurant and no one tries to steal your food. Going shopping without someone complaining that you’re taking too long trying everything on. Seeing that weird abstract exhibition that you would have missed if you waited around to see if anyone would go with you. You get the picture. As amazing as your friends/family/partner are, you can’t rely on them to want to do everything that you want to, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Go out and treat yo’self like the star that you are.

  1. Masturbate

You knew it was coming when you saw the title, you filthbag. No, but seriously, this is a good one, especially if it’s something that you’re not so comfortable with doing. By experimenting a little and getting to know yourself intimately, you develop a sexual confidence that will change the way you perceive your body. It’s a way of learning to love your body and the incredible things that it can do, whilst simultaneously giving you the confidence to know exactly what you do and don’t like in the bedroom. Also, orgasms are great, need I say more?

(And to my ladies that have been shamed for this since puberty and need a little bit of help, check out OMGYES.com and thank me later).

  1. Eat Well & Exercise

This one’s a given. When we eat better, we feel better. Exercise gives you mad endorphins that make you feel ready for anything. If you’re someone that struggles with your body image, this will help you both internally and externally, and just be amazed at what your incredible body can do. Look after it and it will look after you.

  1. Cut Out Toxic People/Habits

We’ve all had them. The judgmental ‘friend’ with the backhanded compliments, the bitchy co-worker who looks down on you, the manipulative partner that hinders rather than helps you. It’s difficult, trust me, but you can, and you have to, CUT.THEM. OUT. Sometimes, you have to be selfish in order to save yourself and your sanity. Those that bring you down and make you feel worse about yourself, intentionally or not, need to go. And, I promise you, you will survive just fine without them.

  1. Be Grateful

Now it might be the hip, new, trendy thing to do, but writing a gratitude list every day, or whenever you’re feeling particularly shitty, can really help you appreciate the skin you’re in. On bad days, maybe it’s only “I’m grateful that I’m still breathing”, but that can easily improve to a “I’m grateful for my intelligence/cracking sense of humour/fantastic bum etc…” when you’re really feeling yourself Beyoncé style. The more you reinforce the positive things about yourself, the more it becomes natural to think and feel that way on a day-to-day basis. Be grateful that you are the way you are, because no one else is gonna be.

And, finally…

  1. Believe That You Are Lovable

This one might be the most difficult (it is for me, anyway). Streams of bad relationships, worse friendships, troublesome family dynamics, mental health issues, heartbreak, loneliness and failure only help to reinforce the idea that maybe you are just not worthy of love. But let me stop you there, because of course you are. Most likely, you’re a decent human being. You’re not Hitler and someone even loved HIM. As you are a decent human being, I can guarantee that there is someone in this world that does in fact love you in some sense of the word. Whether it’s family, friend, partner, secret admirer, pet, or whatever god you may believe in, there IS love somewhere directed at you. And if you can’t see it too clearly, then you be the one to start that love campaign. Like attracts like, love attracts love, that’s why we’re drawn to those who have confidence and high self-esteem. You would never dream (hopefully) of telling someone else that they’re unlovable, so why say it to yourself? Believe that you can be loved, and love will find you.

 

So, there we have it! Some of these tips may work for you better than others, but, above all, the idea is to be kinder to yourself than you were before. Just give self-love a go. And hey, maybe one day you’ll look in the mirror and love what you see. I hope that you do.

Me Too

When seeing the wildfire of this campaign that’s spread across Facebook in recent days, I couldn’t help but immediately think “of course, me too”. Without question, without thought, because it almost seems obvious to say that I too have experienced some form of sexual harassment, simply due to the fact I have a vagina and present as ‘female’.

Obvious? Yeah, freakin’ obvious.

From a basic catcall, to something far, far, worse, I struggle to think of any women I know who haven’t experienced sexual harassment in one form or another. From my experience, no one is immune to this plague. This isn’t a sickness that only attacks the weak. Confidence and strength of character can only help you so much. From my own experience, these positive characteristics have often made things worse. “You like yourself? You like your body? You can’t possibly have self-esteem, you’re showing it off for me, for my consumption, I am entitled to this because you got your legs/midriff/tits out for me. You deserved what happened to you.” Stay quiet and feel the sickness swell in your stomach, speak up and risk physical harm. “But why didn’t you DO anything?” Because you never believed us. Until now.

“Of course, me too”. But then I stopped and thought about it, and the pain of memories I’d quieted for years reared their ugly heads. Everything I’d learned to live with. Things I’d just pushed deep down beneath the surface, because that’s what happens to women, isn’t it? We should expect this, shouldn’t we? Unwanted comments and gropes from strangers and, even worse, those we called friends. “You want this, don’t you? This is what you like.” When you learn how to shut yourself down until the unpleasantness ends just so you can try to protect your soul because your body has already been taken, you know that something must be wrong.

But I’m done with shutting down, because I’m not alone anymore. So now, I join my sisters in speaking out, for those who can’t.

For those women who don’t make eye contact on public transport anymore ‘just in case’, for those who wear headphones to protect themselves from unwanted conversations, for those who walk home with their keys gripped between their fingers, for those who are too scared to speak up at work/school/university, for those who can’t tell their parents for shame, for those trapped in abusive relationships they can’t escape from, for those who can’t trust anymore, who can’t love anymore, who can’t live anymore.

Me too.

Being Sex-Positive in a Sexphobic World

Life is full of hypocrisies. Our world revolves around ideas of love/hate relationships, and the notion that opposites attract. These are often relatively innocuous, but one of the most common, and most dangerous, hypocrisies that our society consistently perpetuates is our simultaneous obsession with, and paranoid fear of, the most natural thing our human bodies can do.

Sex.

We live in a society that is terrified of it, and it’s time we faced our fears.

We use it to sell everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Cars, food, freakin’ shampoo (I see you, Herbal Essences)?! But God forbid we talk about it candidly. We actually call it ‘it’ because we can’t possibly utter its name in civilised conversation. But, let’s face it, folks: your grandparents do it, your parents do it, you probably have, or are going to do it, and, most likely, your children will too. (Unless you’re asexual, and even then, it might still be something that you will experience.) It’s one of our base human instincts, along with eating, drinking, and sleeping! So, let’s get rid of our Victorian era hang-ups, be brave, and acknowledge the truth: SEX. IS. NATURAL.

So, now that we’ve got that out in the open, let’s talk about sex-positivity.

Now, the idea of being ‘sex-positive’ is far more than the simple acceptance that, yes, sex happens. That’s just step one, the easy part, if you will. Sex-positivity comes from accepting that everyone has sex in different ways without negative judgement (sexual predators aside, of course). For all of my liberal friends and readers out there, this, again, sounds relatively easy, but I invite you to step out of our liberal bubble that we find ourselves so comfortable in, the echo chamber we so frequently scream into in vain, and see that this notion is unreasonably difficult for countless people to wrap their heads around.

In our society, those who dare to enjoy sex, especially if it’s not in the age-old “penis in a vagina for pro-creational purposes” way, are relentlessly vilified for their ‘heinous’ behaviour. Slut-shaming is painfully common in most women’s lives, whether they even have sex regularly or not, just the mere suggestion of it is enough to warrant tearing them apart. Unplanned teen pregnancies are frequently stigmatised for their ‘irresponsibility’, though most are a result of poor sex education from parents and teachers alike. Sex workers, both in the porn industry and prostitution, are constantly demeaned for their work, despite the ridiculously high demand for their services. The number of rape cases compared to actual convictions are enough to make anyone question their faith in humanity. Female Genital Mutilation is a very real problem in so many countries across the world including Western societies, a practice created solely to make sure that women can’t possibly enjoy the sex they will be forced to have. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are still bullied, attacked and even killed for their sexual identity. And when you list it all together, along with countless other problems there undoubtedly are, you can’t help but think “DAMN, our society has some weird complex about sex, because this is some fucked up shit”. For some reason, sex is something that has to be controlled, both in legislature and in unspoken societal ‘norms’. It’s fine as a commodity that we can use to make money from, but don’t you dare enjoy it as a key component of being human. The dangers of a culture of sexphobia range from simple name-calling, to the horrors of rape and murder. So, if promoting sex-positivity can help to eradicate any of these hideous abominations from happening, then educating people about it is what we have to do.

So, let’s lay it down:

Men enjoy sex. So do women. And non-binary people do too, and NO, it doesn’t matter what genitals they have, it’s weird that you want to know. Whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex or whatever classification you want to give yourself, you can enjoy sex in a whole host of ways. Young, old, black, white, disabled, able-bodied, single, married, on your own, with one partner, with many partners, kinky or just plain old vanilla, it’s ALL NATURAL. There’s even people that identify as asexual and don’t find any of this appealing at all. Guess what? That’s normal too! As long as it’s consensual, safe, and no one gets hurt (unless that’s what you want of course ;)), then how can you oppose what is essentially the most human thing you can do?

Now, I’m not saying that we should be shouting about our latest conquest in the office or sharing your favourite sexual position over breakfast with Grandma. There are times and places, and we all have our own personal levels of privacy. But if you’d have been able to talk openly about sex with your parents or teachers, could you have avoided some awkward mistakes in your teens? Or wouldn’t it be nice to talk to a friend about whether something is ‘normal’ with your body, rather than googling it alone? By normalising these conversations, we can enforce a more open and honest view of sex in our everyday lives, rather than perpetuating misconceptions and fear.

Ultimately, it’s about love and understanding, and understanding that people ‘love’ in so many different ways. Ways you didn’t know could exist. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it that way, do it your way. But the more we talk about sex as a natural thing, we break down barriers. And by breaking barriers and embracing each other’s quirks and kinks, the happier we will be, individually and as a society. Because, honestly, who wants to hold on to fear, hatred and bigotry? It makes for a very angry and dissatisfied life.

Be loving. Be understanding. Be sex-positive.