by Lola Simone
I’ve always liked having sex: the feeling of closeness, seeing the desire in my partner's eyes, forgetting everything, and, of course, the rush of hormones and pleasure as you reach climax. Each new lover was a new land that begged to be touched, explored, and understood. On my list of favorite things, sex was definitely on the podium, along with food and music.
But something that has changed over the course of the ten years I’ve been sexually active is my relationship to sex and the way I engage in it.
Like many of us, my first time was not an enjoyable experience per se. I must confess it was actually a pretty bad one. I was ready to be sexually active and I fully consented, but the way my partner acted before, during, and after left me feeling used. Mind you, I do not believe in the myth of virginity and the idea of having to choose “the right person” for your first time, but I do think that your early experiences will lay the foundation for what sex can or should be for you personally. And this one set the tone for years of discomfort, shame, and taboo.
"Each new lover was a new land that begged to be touched, explored, and understood."
Due to the already traumatic experience of my first time, coupled with being slut shamed afterwards, it's no surprise that I don't remember most of what happened. See, when you experience some form of trauma, your brain is most likely to erase the memory (in an attempt to make it easier for you to keep living a somehow normal life). Of course, the memories haven’t disappeared completely: they’re just buried deeper in your subconscious, making them harder to access. Luckily, my sexual experiences improved over time.
Not right away though. As with anything new, my sexual life would be filled with trial and error. Some mistakes were minor, like forgetting to pee after sex (hello UTIs!) or not using lube for anal penetration. But some of them were more serious, involving heavy doses of alcohol, not putting a condom on, sleeping with someone my friend liked, and going home with a stranger without telling anyone.
For a long time, I had considered myself a sex-positive and free-spirited girl, who didn’t care about how many people she hooked up with (and was secretly proud of it). I always had the crazier stories to tell and my friends would come to me for advice, or just to engage in hours-long conversation about sex. I had labeled myself ‘the sexual one’ and I loved it.
Except most of what I had taken for freedom of choice and open-mindedness turned out to be reckless behaviors and a lack of boundaries on my part. Sometimes, I experienced straight up abuse from my partners. It didn’t matter that I had had sex with more people than I could remember or that I could talk about it openly with strangers –– in the bedroom, I didn’t know how to say what I wanted, and more importantly what I didn’t want.
I had let partners do things to me that I didn’t enjoy. I didn’t know how to say words as simple as no, wait, slower. I only knew how to say yes, hoping to conform to what I thought was my partners’ ideal vision of great sex - without actually asking for their input beforehand.
It wasn’t all bad. During these 9 years, I had awesome sex adventures with gentle and experienced lovers where everything was consensual and I felt seen. I had wonderful, crazy sex in swimming pools, on the beach, in the dark rooms of clubs in Berlin, in hotel rooms, and on rooftops. But if I’m being honest, those experiences weren’t the norm –– until things started to change in 2020.
I met a girl with whom I started an open-relationship. I had known I was bisexual since I was 19 but the sexual component of those relationships had always been trickier for me to navigate. With her, I was forced to confront what pleasure, arousal, and desire meant to me. We talked openly about our sex life and I started experimenting with sex toys beyond solo play. With her, I felt that my needs and wants were truly taken into consideration, and that I didn’t have to conform to anyone’s vision of sex. With her, I felt seen and loved for who I was, and learned that I didn’t have to settle for anything less than what I desired. From then, I started being more vocal about what I liked, what I wanted to try, and what was out of the equation.
READ MORE: How Purity Culture Harms Everyone
I also stopped drinking for a month, which had the greatest impact on my sex life. Suddenly, I was in control at all times. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with going with the flow and losing yourself to the moment, but it had become my default way of engaging in sexual activities. Now, I could make decisions based on logic and wait for real chemistry to build instead of jumping each other's bones out of disinhibition and horniness.
Finally, several partners introduced me to the marvelous world of BDSM. I had already gotten a glimpse of it a couple times, but was turned off by boundary violations. This time, it was different: not only were my partners knowledgeable, they were also deeply concerned about my pleasure and well-being. Outside of the bedroom, we had meaningful and honest relationships, and the affection we felt for each other brought our role playing to a whole other level: I started to crave this feeling of giving myself entirely to my partners and having them focus solely on my pleasure in return. It opened the doors of a world I didn’t know I dreamed of discovering, and more fantasies started to form as a result.
Thanks to those experiences, I finally learned how to express my needs and desires, and how to set boundaries. I regained control over my body and my sexuality. I started to enjoy sex as a mindful experience rather than an escape.
At 26, I have reached 100 sexual partners, but it isn’t about numbers anymore.
Lola is a trilingual journalist & writer whose fields of expertise include (but are not limited to) business, technology, entrepreneurship, education, and health. She is currently training to become a sex therapist. When she’s not talking about non-monogamous relationships and pleasure activism, you can find her doing yoga, writing Spanish poetry, or hosting women’s circles.