I really don’t want to write this entry. But I have to. It’s the right thing, the healthy thing, to do.
I think I’m a porn addict.
There. I said it. Now let me explain…
Actually, how to explain? Where do I even start?
I guess I could start with the fact that I’ve been both horrified and transfixed by erotic imagery and stories since around puberty. That my addiction switches on and off on its own, in concert with my monthly hormonal cycles.
I’ve always had a really difficult relationship with my hormones, fraught with both euphoria and deep, deep depression. During the few days of the month where I’m probably ovulating, I turn hypersexual. The addiction is switched “on”. In a matter of hours I start to think more and more about sexual imagery and scenarios, and by the next day I’m usually frantically scanning AFF.net or FF.net or AO3 for something, anything, “good”.
When I was a young teen, any kind of sexual content was “good”. But now, more than 10 years later, I find myself getting into all kinds of risky edge play, humiliation, degradation, and fear. My fantasy giants have gotten bigger and bigger over the years. When I first admitted to myself that I was a macrophile as an 18 year old, 10′ was tall enough for me. Now I’m writing smut featuring 100+’ men. Escalation in response to a building tolerance is a classic symptom of addiction.
Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon was featured last year in the UK documentary Porn on the Brain. Her research demonstrates that the brains of habitual porn users show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. A brain structure called the ventral striatum plays a significant role in the reward system of the brain—the pleasure pathways. It is the same part of the brain that “lights up” when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink.
When having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into a region of the brain responsible for emotion and learning, giving the viewer a sense of sharp focus and a sense of craving: “I have got to have this thing; this is what I need right now.” It supplies a great sense of pleasure. The next time the viewer gets the “itch” for more sexual pleasure, small packets of dopamine are released in the brain telling the user: “Remember where you got your fix last time. Go there to get it.”
Norepinephrine is also released, creating alertness and focus. It is the brain’s version of adrenaline. It tells the brain, “Something is about to happen, and we need to get ready for it.”
Sex or porn also trigger the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help to lay down the long-term memories for the cells. They “bind” a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her the sexual pleasure.
The body releases endorphins, natural opiates that create a “high,” a wave of pleasure over the whole body.
After sexual release serotonin levels also change, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation.
This is powerful shit. And this cocktail of self-induced drug bingeing can last for days.
Being in that space… you’re basically high. You’re high but you’re cogent enough to be single-mindedly seeking out every way to keep the high going for as long as possible. More, more, more. Some sex or porn addicts call that headspace a haze. It’s very much an altered state, and I can tell you that it’s very dream-like in the way is causes you to detach from the real world and even from yourself in an episode of dissociation. Things that you cared deeply about, things that got you excited and happy 24 hours earlier? Suddenly completely flat and uninteresting compared to whatever erotic shitshow is going on in your head. (And it goes on 24/7.)
This haze has cost me sleep. It’s cost me homework assignments, it’s set me back at work. Once you’re there, it becomes impossible to concentrate on anything in the outside world that doesn’t remind you of sex. And it’s funny, because actually lots of things remind me of sex when I’m stuck in the haze. Music will turn me on. The way a shadow falls on something in just the right way. The stupidest fucking things will make me think of sex and push me further into the haze. I pushed a sponge into some water in the sink so it would rehydrate and I could wash a dish recently. That was sexual to me. And that’s actually the moment when I realized that I was fucked.
- You feel powerless over how you act sexually.
- Your sexual choices are making your life unmanageable.
- You feel shame, embarrassment or even self-loathing over your sexual acts.
- You promise yourself you’ll change, but fail to keep those promises.
- You’re so preoccupied with sex it becomes like a ritual to you.
- The negative consequences of your behavior are getting worse and worse.
I cried myself to sleep last night for the first time since I’d gone on SSRIs. It’s been over a year since I’d been in such a dark place. I’ve written here pretty extensively before how much I’d always hated my libido, and last night I hated it more than anything else. The thing is, I know how to get rid of it– the combination of anti-depressants and birth control pretty much squashes it completely; so completely, in fact, that I’m not even hardly interested in kissing. So my despair was more about how I hated what my libido is, what it’s always been, versus what it should be. How can I be healthy? I don’t even know what being healthy is like. If sex is to be part of my life, which is what I want, then how, dammit? All I see from where I’m standing is two equally shitty options: indulge, and continue to dance on the edge of addiction, or abstain, and turn away from intimacy with my husband indefinitely. I’m at a complete loss. I don’t know what the fuck to do.
What’s more is that I have no idea how this developed. My sex drive has triggered this like clockwork ever since I could remember. All I know, and this is something that exploring my nonbinary gender identity has taught me, is that there is something profoundly broken about the way I exist in my body. Something in me is so unhappy that it’s numbing me in every way it can. Since puberty I’ve also had some very close calls with anorexia, and more recently, I’ve turned to alcohol. Meanwhile, this porn/sex thing has been going on in the background.
Is it the testosterone? Am I spiraling into depression and dysmorphia every time my natural T levels spike in tune with the menstrual cycle? Or am I just like that all the time and the T makes it impossible to ignore?
I don’t know. I don’t have any fucking answers.
All I know is that I’m questioning a lot of things about myself right now. Things I’ve taken for granted over the past few years. Am I really ace-spectrum, or am I so sexually dysfunctional from over a decade of porn bingeing that I’ve accidentally trained myself to not be sexually attracted to real people? Am I really trans or are my hormones playing such havoc with my brain that I don’t know how to be cis?
Why am I so self-loathing? What part of me can’t I stand?
I don’t even know how to start bolstering my self esteem because I don’t even know what body part or aspect of myself I don’t like. I didn’t even know that I didn’t like myself to begin with. I thought that I thought I was pretty okay.
I remember crying once or twice after having perfectly fine and normal sex with him. I felt disgusting for some reason. I felt hideous for asking for I wanted. The same kind of disgusting and hideous that I would feel after crashing after a binge. After the haze couldn’t sustain itself anymore and my brain gave up, exhausted from pumping out an adrenal response and erotic high for almost a week straight.
I don’t know how to heal. I don’t know what to do.
Originally posted on First Time Second Time:
This Valentine’s Day, Transgress Press is coming out with the first essay collection of writings of partners of trans* people, titled Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge, & Resilience. I am excited to have an essay in this collection. Here’s a quote from my essay, which is titled “The Blessings of Change”
I could write about what is was like to support my partner through a grueling shift during which he doubted himself every step of the way, had to make decisions that terrified him, and coped with days seemed to alternate between presenting new kinds of pain and new kinds of elation. Or I could write about what it was like to shepherd my kids through this change. Our daughter Leigh was five when her little brother insisted that “Mama is a man!” Leigh fiercely stood up for Ezekiel insisting, “Mama is a woman” and looking to me…
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Originally posted on captainglittertoes:
Trigger Warning: transmisogyny, transphobia, non-binary erasure, violence against trans people
NOTE: I know not everyone uses the words “masculinity” and “femininity” for themselves (I don’t), but for the sake of brevity I’m using them here.
A few weeks ago, I saw a MAAB student start wearing some new clothes to school–a sparkly striped pink, purple, and blue shirt; a red sweatshirt with silver rhinestones. The clothes complimented their rainbow pink light-up shoes very nicely.
As I saw this student finally able to make some changes in their school wardrobe, I was excited, for sure, and scared for them, hoping it was going OK. I also realized something–I think I knew it in theory before, but it hit my gut that week.
This student wearing glitter and purple and pink and rhinestones–the censure they face is fundamentally different from the censure I face as someone who is (and is…
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I’ve had two women family members, just in the last week, separately offer to take me to Victorias Secret sometime before my surgery because “I deserve to treat/feel good about myself”. One of those women being my mom, who I came out to about being trans.
Am I missing something, or..?? How many times do I need to tell people how ecstatic I am about having this procedure done before they actually believe me?
Content warning: passing mention of pedophilia, suicide, and dubious consent.
Alright, so, it seems that the tumblr callout machine (I fucking hate tumblr callout culture, it is such useless bullshit) has gotten hold of the Normophilic Privilege Checklist and is not really getting it. Granted, I wrote it over a year ago and likely phrased some things poorly, but seeing as how tumblr hates everything with the word “fetish” in it, I feel the need to… expound a few of the ideas I had back then.
So first off, someone, in a comment on the checklist itself, asked if I thought that only straight people are normophilic. Normophilic was in scare quotes too, which is confusing to me– it’s a well-established term in medicine and psychology:
normophilic: Referring to sexuoeroticism which conforms to the dictates of custom, religion or law.
In a short paper called “Yet Another Paraphilia Definition Fails“, the author makes a pretty good observation:
According to Blanchard (2009a), the current DSM para-philia deﬁnition (APA, 2000) isa deﬁnition by concatenation (a list of things that are paraphilias), but he believes a deﬁnition by exclusion (everything that is not normophilic) is preferable. The change is not substantive as normophilia (formerly a deﬁnition of exclusion) now becomes a deﬁnition of concatenation (a list of acceptable activities). Nevertheless, it seems odd to deﬁne a paraphilia on the basis of what it is not, rather than by the commonalities among the different paraphilias. Most deﬁnitions are statements of what things are, not what things are excluded or lists of things to be included.
He goes on to assert that there really is no objective line between paraphilia and normophilia, and that it depends almost entirely on cultural context, which I fully agree with. Gender and gender roles are very similar: the line between gender conforming and gender non-conforming, or cis and trans is sometimes pretty nebulous and arbitrary, especially where non-Western cultures are concerned who may have their own ideas of what gender means.
Ok? Ok. If you can’t accept that the concept of normophilia exists, then you can just stop reading right now and go away, because you’re not going to be contributing anything even remotely constructive here. Read the literature and educate yourselves.
Anyways, am I “seriously saying” that “only straight people” are “”””normophilic””””? Of course not. I kinda said that in the original post:
Normophilic is defined here as being whatever the wider culture defines it as, whether that “culture” is a radical feminist space, a strip club, a Presbyterian congregation, the entire western world, and so on.
Let me explain what I mean by this. If you have straight privilege but are also paraphilic? You have less privilege than the normophilic straight people around you. If you’re straight (whatever that means to the proverbial you in this situation) and trans, and are paraphilic, then you have less privilege than the normophilic straight trans people around you. In other words, all other things being equal, you have less privilege than a normophilic person.
Every time that someone on TV makes fun of someone else for being into feet? That’s paraphilic non-privilege. That guy that was arrested and listed as a sex predator for getting it on with a bicycle in the privacy of his own hotel room? That’s paraphilic non-privilege. The countless people who lose their children or their jobs every year because they engage in consensual BDSM? That’s paraphilic non-privilege. People who get dumped for having a harmless fetish like watersports or bootblacking? Paraphilic non-privilege.
These things are co-exist alongside LGBT oppression. There are tons of examples out there of this; I’ve heard a few stories about the hostility that lesbians who are into power exchange get in those communities. But I’m not a lesbian, and I don’t know the details of these interactions; I’ve only heard stuff second-hand. But I can use myself as a meager example. Unfortunately, I discovered my sexuality and my orientation only after getting into a long-term relationship that wound up turning into my marriage. I didn’t really have much opportunity to discover myself on my own, and I definitely didn’t have an opportunity to learn about myself with other people, so I wasn’t a paradox from the very start, but I wound up being one for a time.
My husband had a rather hard time understanding how I could be asexual AND have what I later came to call a paraphilic orientation. Now that I think about it, this feels a lot like the trouble people have in understanding how someone could be agender but also have a definite idea of what their presentation is or should be. Anyways, paraphilia is sex, right? How can I be ace and have a real fetish too? I think my paraphilias undermined my ability to take myself seriously as someone who would identify as asexual for a year (and who now identifies as gray-lith more or less). That’s… paraphilic non-privilege. It would also seriously damage my ability to relate to myself as someone who wound up not being all that interested in “traditional” penetrative sex in the long run. I grew up thinking that I was your “”””normal”””” straight girl who thought she wanted to follow the bases shit like everyone else. For a very long time I had no reference for what a healthy paraphilic relationship looks like; what a healthy D/s relationship looks like; what sex with my partner could look like being that I was interested to really weird ways of expressing intimacy. That’s paraphilic non-privilege.
I have lots of stories, some small, some big. There was an instance where I found myself coming to the understanding that it’s more socially acceptable to express pedophilic tendencies (because being a grown-ass man that finds teenage girls hot is normo-fucking-philic in the culture I live in) than for me to talk about my mild interest in soft vore. The shit is that about? Fuck that.
The other thing someone brought up was that I was “saying” that homophobia is based on the dominant culture seeing it as a fetish. Well… yes and no? I mean, are there not a lot of bigots out there who have said that homosexuality is a misdirected, debauched, or otherwise fucked up “version” of heterosexuality? Are sodomy laws not mostly relating to the way same-sex intimacy can be expressed? (At least according to common tropes and narratives about what “gay” and “lesbian” sex is and isn’t?) Have people not plainly said that their opinion about homosexuality is that it’s just another fetish?
BDSM is one of the easiest lenses to look at this tangle of horseshit, what with the immense variety of D/s relationships and the immense complexity and variety of the people in them. Unfortunately, gender and sexual orientation both get caught in the crossfire and used as ammo against the people whom heteronormativity, normophilia, and patriarchy try to police. Straight men with male dominants are one good example of how messy this shit can get. Hell, even straight men with female dominants. The paraphilia of the men in these relationships call into question everything else about them, and even in the off-chance that those things are allowed to be established to begin with, there’s always the “haha, well Bob still likes getting his dick locked up” or “I can’t believe Steve cleans that guy’s house for nothing, what a freak”.
Normophilia is a word that needs to exist, end of. I don’t like sex because it’s the “normal” and “healthy” thing. I like sex because shit is strange and bizarre to me, and the only way for me to make sense of it is to twist it so much that it no longer means itself. I don’t fetishize much, but the whole concept of sex is definitely one of em.
(I think I’ll write on the differences between words like “sexualize”, “fetishize”, “eroticize”, etc.)
At any rate, this is a discussion I’ve been jonesing to have for fuckin’ years now, and I’m disappointed to find that this is how folks are wanting to talk about it. I knew a pedophile once; a real one. He told me how often he’d wanted to kill himself because he couldn’t stop from thinking about pre-pubescent kids, and how little he found himself wanting to think about his adult girlfriend who he loved dearly. And I just think to myself that yeah, sure, it’s political suicide to want to talk about the people out there like him, because he is the extreme case, but there’s a lot of folks out there on the spectrum from me to him who are sick to our stomachs at the thought of harming someone. And yet, the thoughts don’t ever seem to stop. And it wasn’t just him either. I’ve heard horror stories about mere kinksters weighing the worth of their fucking lives because of this.
So I am here, ALWAYS here, to support the people like him, and the people like me, who haven’t hurt anyone, who simply find themselves guilty of compulsive thoughtcrime. I will always stand with you in solidarity.
So a lot has happened recently. So much so that I’m just going to list them and maybe find the energy at a later date to break them down into complete thoughts.
- Hysterectomy is booked! December 19th is the date.
- Came out as trans to my mom in an email. She took it REALLY well.
- I found myself having a public rant on FB, mostly addressed to family, about what is and isn’t OK to talk to me about regarding my hysterectomy. Apparently having this procedure done without having kids means that all boundaries break down and my bodily autonomy is completely up for debate. I felt it necessary to put my foot down. Fortunately, everyone (but my grandmother, for whom everything is about her) respected that.
- Husband and I discovered that we were both 100% OK with him getting some cam girl action from MyGirlFund. I want him to be able to have his sexual fun, even if that means without me. Honestly? That takes some pressure off of me haha. I told him that I want to be able to talk about his adventures with him, I want to know what kind of girls he ends up going with, and so on.
- In return, he told me that I was allowed to bottom for other people (only women when he’s not around). I don’t see myself pursuing this option until I’m living with/near him, though. Dunno. Just not particularly interested in involving myself in a kink scene unless he’s readily available for topping, for learning, for support, whatever.
- A journalist shot me an email last week, wanting to interview me for a piece she was writing about being Latinx and asexual. I should be speaking/chatting with her sometime this week.
Originally posted on a gentleman and a scholar:
For a fair while I was pessimistic – running the gamut of ‘cis people confronted by trans object of desire’ will do that for you. The two main relationships of my life so far had broken down, in part, because the cis people I was with couldn’t hack the fact that their trans partner was, as stated before we even began dating, trans. I’d had chasers of all genders and orientations try it on, and a lot of ‘I’ve never been attracted to a [slur redacted] before, but you’re DIFFERENT’. And the inevitable ‘ask you out when they’re drunk, pretend it never happened when they’re sober’. I was sick and tired of it, and, while it saddened me to think of prejudging people, I could understand why some trans people decide to only date other trans people.
Fast forward a year and, as a few of you know…
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