Have you ever wondered how we become who we are sexually? How it is, exactly, that we collect all our kinks, from our inclination to hold or relinquish power to the perversions we seek out in partners, or from the way we want to feel under the weight of someone's body to how much we need to open up to experience real intimacy?
I've never been able to figure it out myself. Sometimes I think I'm merely the sum of my own life's experiences—always destined to be the way I am, for better or for worse. I imagine I was destined to like the erotic things I like, to date the guys I've dated, to take the risks I'm willing to take, in bed and out of it. I've always been reckless. But as I start to get older (and at least marginally more experienced), I've started to wonder if it's all much more complicated than that.
The power of firsts
My mind is like anyone else's. It's full of snapshots, snippets of every person I've dated or fucked or genuinely felt a connected to. Each one holds a little space in my brain where I find my most vivid, blistering memories. Sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I'll play through all those snapshots like bits of movie reel, trying to trace my them backward, to understand myself better.
The most vivid snapshots of all are from my very first time, which doesn't seem that unusual. It was my first time, after all, and I'd never experienced anything like sex before. The memories are brighter, like the first time you see the ocean or snow. I can remember the entire experience, despite the fact that I'd been drinking heavily (as usual). Not everyone has a good first time, and I had a great one—it's true. I was lucky.
The snippets from that night are among the easiest to recall: The beginning, when I was carried from a couch to a dark bedroom, all of my clothes being slowly stripped off my body (still my preferred method of getting undressed) and then the actual event: Sharp pain followed by relief. I remember being asked how everything felt, and I remember feeling in control. There was a small dose of dirty talk—another thing I still love, as you guys all know—and there was the clear understanding that I was in the company of someone I'd known for almost a decade. When I woke up in the morning, I didn't feel used at all—I felt like I'd emerged into adulthood and my sexuality all at once. I was a force to be reckoned with. I still am.
When I reflect on all the other partners I've had over the years and the memories of us tangled in sheets or holding hands on a sunny, smoggy sidewalk, I almost always smile. I've lived an incredibly rich life since. But threads have started to form in my mind, weaving all my experiences with those men together like spokes on a bicycle tire. Sometimes, when I'm with someone completely new, it feels like deja vú, and I'm never quite sure why. It's like walking into a house that looks vaguely like the one I grew up in. The rooms seem a little familiar. Eventually, after lying in bed and tracing those threads and spokes backward for long enough, an interesting question occurred to me: Are we always looking for people like the ones that made an impact on us? It would make sense, I suppose. We're not just influenced by the people we connect with—we're changed by them.
I wonder sometimes now if who we are, sexually or romantically or even existentially, started from a single, pulsating point, sort of like the universe itself. A singular event that was small and seemingly insignificant, a pinpoint under extreme heat and pressure. Something that blew up and created a map for the way we would seek sex and intimacy moving forward.
A Big Bang. A blueprint.