I was close to asking if he wouldn’t mind if I got a toy for myself but I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable.
An interview with Dolores.
Dolores | Age: 46 | Location: London, UK | Occupation: School counsellor | No. of sexual partners: 10
Why did you take part?
Sexuality is a not much talked aspect of life. For myself, I’d like to find out more, to learn, and I guess I hope to understand more of myself through talking about it.
What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?
I’m the oldest of 3 siblings. 2 sisters and a brother. Religion had a big impact on me growing up. Told me what was good and what was bad. One of the things that I remember was a feeling that nothing bad could happen to me because god is looking after me. My daughters don’t have that. I’m not a religious person now.
My sister who is one year younger always wanted to be a boy. She would go to the toilet standing up. I respected that and it defined things - I was the girly girl and she the tomboy. Then when we had a baby boy arrive it was a big shock for my sister. She was very jealous of the baby.
By the age of 13 I had my first proper boyfriend for 2 years. It was a really nice experience. He was 17. It’s funny because if I think of my daughter bringing back a 17 year old I’d probably be worried. We didn’t have sex, but we did everything except for penetration and I had my first orgasm with him. Religion made me feel like I should be married to have sex. I was afraid of what might happen if we did have sex. We were very tactile but I always asked to stop. He wasn’t a virgin but he was very respectful. Looking back, all that gave me confidence. I attracted him and I knew there were other boys interested. I was insecure in other things but not in my body.
After I split up with him I had another boyfriend almost immediately. I was with him for 4 years. At the beginning I was quite afraid but I ended up having sex in that relationship. He was patient and not a virgin. One day I thought if there is a god then he must realise I love him and that made it ok. Funnily enough when I told him I was ready he asked for time. He was really nice. Very curious and not afraid of trying things and being playful. It was a good experience with him, especially as the first one. We lived with our parents and we had to have sex outside so we had lots of funny situations. Hotels where we had to pretend to be grown ups, etc, it was fun and gave me confidence. Then I split up with him since he was cheating on me. That was a hit to my self esteem. We grew up together. Our parents were very close. He regretted and came back. Said it wasn’t fair, that we were too young. That if we’d been older things would have been different. He wanted to have experiences with other women. I was in love and not wanting to interact with others so I didn’t get it. I was quite sad. I was off relationships for a little while. Then I dated this boy who played on the rugby team but I couldn’t have sex with him. I felt very hurt and didn’t want to go through the pain again. We didn’t last too long.
Then I had another boy who was very attractive. I quite liked him and with him we went straight to sex. Literally went out a couple of times and did it. It was good but then I found out he was cheating on me. I felt betrayed again. Then the guy again apologised but it was the end of it. I was really hurt.
I started going out again but I didn’t want to have anything to do with boys. Once when I was drunk I had sex with a brother of a friend of mine. I was going out with a friend of my sister and it was such a mess. We were drunk, just did it - I felt incredibly guilty. He wanted to carry on. People would say Dolores wouldn’t do such a thing - go with a boy younger who has a girlfriend. We didn’t get on at all but had a lot of sexual chemistry. It was an ongoing sexual relationship that lasted for 4 years. I thought I was in love but it was really destructive. It was very sexual. I couldn't understand how I could be so attracted to someone I couldn’t have a conversation without an argument. After a while he left his girlfriend but we were always on and off, never officially a couple. We were both living in Buenos Aires. We drank and took drugs. We got pregnant and I had an abortion. It was a total clash with my religious upbringing. We had a bad ending. He used to abuse me verbally but when he hit me I decided that was the end. We split and all the guilt came back. It was a dark period - not a lot of people knew about the relationship or the breakup so I didn’t really have support.
Then I got attracted to this friend. At first he had a girlfriend but once they broke up we started to see each other and I was quite besotted. It lasted for 9 months before I found out he was cheating on me. I called him and his ex answered - they had gone back together. I got pregnant and he left before I found out. I had to call him. He sent me money through his brother but didn’t even call to check how I was. At that point I decided not to have relationships and not to have kids. I decided to go to europe for a couple of months. I didn’t want to be with anyone, just wanted to travel. I had a couple of sexual encounters but I didn’t want anything serious. I was very detached.
Then I met my husband. I knew I was going back to Argentina but he was very flexible. He just came from a relationship too and was quite careful. We said let’s enjoy while it lasts and take it easy. I got pregnant and he was really sweet about it. Asked me what I wanted to do. Offered to help if I wanted to have it. I decided to have an abortion but he was really there for me. He felt really bad about it. He came with me to the hospital. It created another level of the relationship. When I went back to Argentina we carried on long distance. And then we decided we needed to give it a chance and I came to live with him for 1 year. He proposed. In less than 3 weeks I became pregnant again, with Maria. All these pregnancies, and only once was I not wearing a condom! I was very fertile.
Once I had Maria I almost didn’t recognise it my body. It felt like my body didn’t belong to me. It’s the most animal experience you can have. The connection to your body changes. You breastfeed. Your body becomes something else, something very strange that feeds another human. The view that your partner has of you also changes. At the beginning, before Maria, he was fascinated - we still had sex. It was very erotic to see a pregnant woman for him. I feel like him seeing me give birth changed things but he won’t admit that. And then of course we had sex again. Had another baby but decided to not have any more. I have the iud. It was very intense looking after the girls. Once I started to get more independence and we went back to being more of a couple with more privacy, we thought, really, go at this again? The financial burden, the trips, cars. We took the easier path.
Once we started to have more time, we started to be more aware of how our needs are different. The longer you are together the more these differences come out. You just want to be with the other at the beginning. There is always one that wants more and one that wants less. In our case, he is the one that needs sex a lot less often. It became an issue and it was hard to talk about it for him especially. He’s almost feminine in that sense, like he has to feel close and be in a special mood. I feel the opposite. It was hard for me to accept that he can love me but not want to have sex. It was a blow to my self esteem. I kept wondering what was going on. I tried getting toys but then I just felt guilty using them. I also had an early menopause. It wasn’t easy - sexuality was a big part of my identity. The shift took me time to accept.
These days what is centre is having my daughters awaken to sexuality. It’s a different reality for them. No religion, the big city, the culture around sex. In south america people are more sensual. In europe there’s more mental freedom but they’re quite prudish about sex. My younger daughter is still a girl, she just started menstruation a month ago. Maria is way more awakened and more curious through. She has been quite open with me. She comes with questions and doubts which is good. She pushes me out of my comfort zone too. She questioned if she likes men or women, and how to explore. I have to find a balance between just listening, not judging and helping her to make choices. She started asking me questions about when I kissed or had sex for the first time. I try to be as honest as possible. When I told them my first boyfriend was 17 they thought it was wrong. They couldn’t believe I never kissed a girl. They said how I could know I didn’t like girls if I didn’t try it.
What does sex mean to you?
It’s part of being a woman, part of being in a relationship. A way of expressing and connecting with others.
What’s difficult about sex?
As I’m growing older I question my future as a sexual being. At what point do I stop being a sexual being? It’s a part of me that is becoming secondary. There are people that do and don’t carry on with sex. Is that a choice or a natural happening? There are a lot of questions and I don’t know where we are going as a couple and as individuals. Until what point I’ll be able to compromise. He doesn’t want to have sex and I have an animal inside. It’s a solitary experience sometimes.
What do you most enjoy about sex?
Apart from the physical pleasure it’s the whole idea of giving and receiving pleasure with someone. The closeness, intimacy and trust that you can have. It’s a good metaphor for being naked and vulnerable with someone.
Do you orgasm?
Yeah. It’s easier for me with full penetration.
How often do you have sex?
It varies. It has died down a lot in the last few years. We have it a lot less than I would like to. We have different needs. Sometimes it could be a couple of months without. A lot of things get in the middle when you’re married for years and have 2 kids, and stressful jobs on top. You don’t have the space to just be. It becomes more of an automatic thing. It’s almost like your hours are limited and you have to choose what you share - more often it’s a good cuddle, or a conversation than sex. Or reading a book. You don’t have the same time freedom or attraction as when you’re first discovering yourselves.
Do you masturbate?
Not now. Not very often in the past either. Don’t know if it was the religion or if I just had a busy sexual life. Not anything regular.
How do you see female sexuality portrayed in the society?
I pay attention to it because of my daughters and my role at the school. This new generation is more open about sex and its ambiguities. They explore it much more than when I was growing up. Talking about transgender used to be taboo. Now there is more information and openness. 75% of me thinks it’s great that it’s out there. It makes it easier for them to talk about and accept things, to feel more free when they’re exploring their sexuality. On the other hand I feel like I had some security in having just 2 options. If you’re a self-questioning teenager and you have a dozen options to self-identify, it can be overwhelming.
What’s your advice to women?
Accept your sexuality. Explore, allow yourself to not only give but also to receive pleasure.
What’s your advice to men?
Listen. Don’t buy all the stereotypes that you have to be strong and in control. Accept and allow that you are a sexual and also a vulnerable being. It will add a dimension to your being and to your connections
Is there anything you want to explore?
Toys. Still fixated with this but we never reached that point. I was very close to asking if he wouldn’t mind if I got a toy for myself but I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable.