It’s Never Too Late to Discover Yourself

painting (me in my 30’s) by Neil Kosh, property of Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia PA

ALERT: sex talk follows

Sex, while out in the open in so many ways, is still something that many people are uncomfortable talking about because numerous people are still being educated to be ashamed of their sexuality and I think we all know where that particular education comes from. Considering that sex is the way that the human race manages to stay on the planet — and I’m often not sure how wonderful that is for the planet and its other inhabitants — it seems ridiculous that sex has been treated in the way that has… until you realize what a marvelous thing guilt is for controlling people and what a huge role religion has played both in the vilification of sex and in controlling people. So if you’re squeamish on the subject of sex, now’s the time to bail because I’m about to talk about sex, something I’ve been doing for decades.

My body has been involved with sex since I was very young. For many years it was involved in sex without me, because I left the premises. But when I was about seven years old or so, and my father decided that it was time to take up with me, I, too, became involved with sex because my father took on the role of instructing me in the ways of pleasure, both giving and receiving, and as wrong as that was, it probably saved my life… or at least, my mind… somewhat, anyway.

Kindness, gentleness and love are some of the things that help us to thrive and I very much needed help thriving, having endured many of the previous years as chattel at the hands of my mother’s father. One of the many problems that ensued, though, from my combined early exposure to sexuality was that I became very badly ‘programmed’ on the subject, so when it came time that boys were wanting sex, I gave it to them because that’s what I knew how to do and no one had ever instructed me otherwise. That kind of promiscuity marked my life until my late 30s, screwing up my first marriage, costing me the custody of my children, and tying me in knots so badly that I strongly suspect it is what lay behind my acquiring the horrifying auto-immune disease that surprisingly went on to help shape the amazing life that I have today.

The other thing that approximately 18 years of sexual abuse did to me was to distance me from my own sexuality. Oh, I had sex all right… though one might more correctly say that I ‘did’ sex because frankly, aside from the technicalities of it, and although I was acutely aware of it going on, I wasn’t all that involved or interested. Sometimes it got me a boyfriend for a while… sometimes it didn’t. It didn’t matter because any boyfriend I had was going to get cheated on anyway, sooner or later.

From childhood through my fifties and into my early 60’s, I cannot recall actually ever wanting to have sex with anyone, ever, but if someone wanted to have sex with me I was pretty much always available if the person was not disgusting or scary. And sometimes, even then. And usually, even when I knew better. Well, you know… a little strange can be intriguing. I remember a midget… and an open air parking lot in broad daylight in Atlantic City… ahhh, those were the days. Not.

My second marriage, which I was determined to make work to the point of sacrificing most anything that I wanted in my life, including my identity as a creator, was to a man I had met during the years in my first marriage when I was writing erotic fiction for money because my first husband felt that it was simply too dangerous to allow me to have a job outside the house… as if that was going to stop me. The second husband was the editor of a local magazine that did reviews on (illegal) houses of prostitution and “massage therapists” of dubious intent. His response to my first submission to the magazine had been, “This is some of the hottest stuff I’ve ever read.” Within the year he had asked me to do a Q&A column for the magazine which I titled Smart Ass. I went on to write for Penthouse Letters and similar publications.

My second husband was obsessed with me. And, in his favor, I think he thought he loved me. I had love for him he because he accepted me for who I was. He knew my background and didn’t care. He was a big fan of what he thought was hot sex and he was my boss and as long as that dynamic was in play, the marriage worked. I was willing to sacrifice myself for the cause and in the beginning while I did, indeed, have love for him, in retrospect, I had that love precisely because he was obsessed with me and I needed the attention.

What I was not, was “in love” with him. I had never been in love with anyone except for my father and when my father died, about six years into that second marriage, all hell broke loose for me and a very necessary healing began to occur, a healing that took almost 10 years to begin to have any effect on the marriage that I was in, a healing that began to shine a light on the behaviors that had gotten me to where I was and that had allowed me to be able to thoroughly compromise myself on almost any occasion, sexual or otherwise.

I began to become myself… whoever that was… and whoever that was, she was far from the person that had married the man she was living with. I no longer wanted to be with someone was obsessed with me, who essentially wanted to own me. I wanted a life. I discovered that I wanted friends, something I’d never had really had. I wanted to not have sex when I didn’t want to have sex. And so, four years later, there was a second divorce.

I spent the following year alone and during that year I began to discover myself sexually. I had never really understood or appreciated masturbation… perhaps because I’d never had the opportunity to allow sexual tension to build to a point where masturbation might be necessary. But that year, alone and untouched by anyone except myself, I discovered how soft my skin was, how luscious certain foods felt in my mouth, how heavenly silk flowing around my legs in a gentle breeze could be. I discovered a lot of things about myself. I began to realize that I was a very sensual being. But it wasn’t until my third — and very unexpected — marriage that I discovered the sexual being that I truly am, that I discovered exactly how much joy this body is capable of experiencing.

I am, as I discovered sometime within the first couple years of my third marriage, really in love, just like I’d you read about in the books, and had seen portrayed in movies, something I honestly didn’t believe existed until I found myself in the middle of it. Inside of that discovery I also discovered that I am what is called polymorphous perverse. I don’t know why it’s referred to it as “perverse,” it seems just dandy to me. It doesn’t seem the least bit perverse to me to be able to orgasm from just the right kind of gentle touch pretty much anywhere on your body or to be sexually excited by petting your cat or to have lascivious thoughts while applying body lotion. And, yes, I take the longest showers in the world because when the water hits the top, back of my head… oh my! (Word up to the folks who came up with easily-installable hand-rails!)

The term, polymorphous perverse, was defined by Freud who posited that it was a kind of “immature” sexuality, that it stemmed from the period before age 5 when genitals have not yet been identified/defined as the sole location for sexual pleasure. It could be that has something to do with my tendencies which include a powerful predilection for oral sex over genital-to-genital sex. Oh, I can orgasm six ways from Sunday while having intercourse but it never feels anywhere near as fulfilling as going down on someone or when someone going is down on me. If this is immature sexuality, I’m fine with it if it never grows up.

Even at this point in my life, now fully aware of my tendencies, I still think I’m hungry when all I really want is something in my mouth… and sometimes — okay, no, all the time — I have to stop myself from biting down hard my husband’s arms and legs because, oh my heavens, it’s an overwhelming urge. I just need… to… bite! (The penis is never in danger! That brings out a whole ‘nother need.)

I was 63 when I fell in love for the first time and it was falling in love, being able to trust that deeply, I imagine, that has allowed all these doors to open. Granted, some of those doors had been cracked just a little before; in the school of life, self-control had always been my most challenging subject. I’d always felt a kind of longing for something… I didn’t really know what, although Bette Midler’s song The Rose devastated me every time I heard it. Now I know why.

The last stanza:

“When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.” Bette Midler

It is probably love, along with my own personal blossoming both as an artist and as a sexual creature, that has made me identify this time of my life with spring. Most people and songwriters associate the 70’s with winter coming on. Not me. And because it feels so much as if my life is just beginning, I figure I’m either going to live a very long time or death is going to be amazing! I’m prepared for either… or both… just turn up the music and give me something to suck on.