Every sexual encounter was so stressful. All about being the best. If you put pressure on performance, you’re gonna have performance anxiety. 


An interview with Lev.


Artwork by Sooyon Kim

Lev | Age: 34 | Location: London, UK | Born: Israel | Occupation: Project manager| No. of sexual partners: 15

Why did you take part?

It took me a really long time to feel comfortable with my sexuality and I think it only happened in my 30s. It was a kind of a revival and a revelation. I’m feel like I’m slowly peeling layers. I feel that’s what I read in the stories. This project, it’s a kind of a greenhouse.


What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?

My mum died a few months ago. So much there. Why I want to impress someone. So much effort there! I want a hug, I want them to say I’m awesome. My mum called me Lev, she used to say my name means lion, someone great. I was the alpha child. Very big and very smart. I was good at the things I did. It’s a dangerous thing for anyone. You get hooked on that thing. You start creating lies and stories and fantasies to hold on to being the best. My parents were both really hard workers. I used to tell them stories. Slight fabrications that turned into lies. I never got caught. I played basketball and at one point I stopped being the best. I’d tell my dad I’d scored whatever and I got great feedback so I did that every week. As a teenager I’d go out and have sexual encounters - all I thought about was sex sex sex. The lies crept in there too. I’d say “oh I was with this girl and did this.” I almost believed myself. I only realised the damaging effect when I was 23 or 24. Every sexual encounter was so stressful. It wasn’t about enjoying it, it was about being the best. Most of them were complete disasters. Complete gap between what I was and what I had in my head. It wasn’t about pleasure. There was no space for pleasure it just had to be amazing. It was all about preserving this facade even for random people. I still do that sometimes. There’s still a lot of spaces now where I focus on whether the person likes me rather than whether I’m actually enjoying the experience. There was a long period when I had to take drugs to perform sexually. To think less. To let go. If I didn’t have a bong before I’d feel crippled. I was all about being the best. So tense. If you put pressure on performance, you’re gonna have performance anxiety. 

I  was very erotic from a very young age. I remember myself masturbating when I was 4. I did it to “True Blue” by Madonna, right in front of my parent’s bedroom. I also did it weird, like a girl, I’d rub my body against the floor, lying on my belly. They never caught me but somehow it still felt like the wrong thing to do. I felt very feminine and I felt that it was wrong. I am a verbal person. When I was young I was big. After puberty I was no longer this big person and I felt really awkward. I never had sexual encounters with men but maybe in another lifetime or the future...I’m closer to the midpoint than to being straight for sure. I’m like a lesbian, I’m attracted to women but I don’t feel like a normal man. I felt wrong to me. Now I have kids. It’s unrelated but it’s also uncovering my sexuality. The dots of intimacy connect. There is huge intimacy between me and my 3.5 year old. She loves hugs and cuddles. I see through that how much a lot of the encounters I had were not what I wanted. I’d be in bed with people I didn’t want to be in bed with. I didn’t really want to go on but I wanted them to like me so things would happen. I just wanted someone to bond with. It’s almost like intimacy was important than the actual sex. I remember the firsts time I actually enjoyed sex. From then on I knew, “that’s pleasure”. 

Then went I was a bit older I became a DJ, did cool things, intense things. I would go out a lot. You’d think that should lead to exploration and fun but it wasn’t fun for me. Intense and awkward was what it was. I was depressed when I was 20. Doing drugs really helped. Some psychedelics. Not massively but in nice situations. It helped with the anxiety. 21 was when I had my first real girlfriend. She was a very loving person. She was in a similar situation. She was very sexual but also very shy. Very erotic but also found sex a bit intimidating or even scary. It lasted for 4 years. Ended very sharply. We weren’t a great match. She was a crutch in a way. She gave me unconditional love and I held onto that until I didn’t need it anymore. I was ready to grow up at the end of it. 

Then I dated someone after who was “so amazing” to me. I find these types of women intimidating. I never go for them anymore. She felt like an alpha woman. She was the awesome person and out-awesomed me. Clicked sexually. We’d kiss for infinities. Everything that she told me was charged with sexuality. I thought, I want to be like that. I was really heartbroken when we broke up. When I think about what I enjoy I think about that time. 

Some of my partners stand out more than others. The ones who i remember just really inspired me. I was abroad and i met this woman. I chatted up this girl at this yoga retreat. We went to dinner. It was a perfect summer day we talked and drank and talked and walked. We went back to her place in the afternoon. The light, everything felt erotic. It was really fun and communicative and explorative sex. Usually it takes a lot for me to get there. With her it was very much in the moment. Usually I have that sense of connection for 3min and then it goes. With her it was very concentrated and continuous. 

I’m married now. My wife gives me inspiration. With her, it’s her energy and fragility. It’s very similar to me. A very strong person who is also insecure. That tension is very interesting. She can do amazing things but she also needs constant affirmation. Now I feel like I need less of it. I have a lot more confidence in what I do. Kids give me that as well. As long as they’re ok, I’m ok. I still go back to that. 

What were the aha moments in your sexual journey?

I realised something when dancing a while back. I was with someone. I felt really sexual. I had an erection. Thought maybe she feels weird. And then the moment was gone. And then I wondered why not just enjoy it. Be respectful but enjoy it. I was about to walk off, break away, and I realised it’s me that gets in my way, not the people I’m with. 

It’s liberating to know that everyone is a weirdo. Growing up, sex was either romantic or what people talked about. This image. There were remits of being normal sexually. It took me a while to feel safe to be really weird. Everyone is weird. Everyone thinks weird. Even the realisation of childhood sexuality. You weren’t this weird child. Every child goes through this. If you want to sit on a cucumber while you’re fucking someone, go for it so long as everyone is cool with it. People who are square who have mundane conversations they all are weird too! 

What does sex mean to you?

Mostly fun. A lot of it is about power. Getting the affirmation of being a stud. Sometimes it’s the byproduct of intimacy.


What’s difficult about sex?

I hardly talked about the marriage. Most of what I talked about was pre-marriage. We’ve very open with each other but there is a logistical thing going on. The kids narrow down having sex. Kids wake up at awkward times. It makes sex into a very time boxed thing. Not to mention physical exhaustion. It all really goes against it. We settled down and now it feels like we need to start pursuing our sexual selves again. It’s easy to just not go down that path. To forget about it.We’ve been together for 10 years. Sometimes I find other people interesting. I can’t imagine that would go down well “so you want me to sit with the kids while you go fuck someone else. I don’t think so.” I don’t have the ability to explore. We’re not even close to being open. We have talked about it and I’d be willing to experiment but I don’t think it’d work for her. Young kids, it’s not gonna happen. When are you going to meet people?


What do you most enjoy about sex?

The intimacy. I feel like I need to expose myself. Going into something I know but being surprised by myself or by my partner. You create something. It’s a really creative moment you can enjoy. Like dancing.  


How often do you have sex?

Once a week, sometimes less. Before that closer to 2-3 times a week. First year of having kids was challenging. With a cohabiting partner you need to do more sex to get to a surprising situation. You can end up just going to what works so it’s good to create new situations. 


Do you masturbate?

Less now. When I was 16 I’d masturbate 2-3 times a day. I was masturbating since I was 8, on my tummy. It was only once I was 14 that I started to masturbate like other men. Before that I was masturbating with a semi-erection because you can’t be really hard when you’re on your belly. I used to masturbate a lot with porn. I really like porn but I enjoy watching it more with a partner. Less now. I don’t know why. Before I had kids I’d probably masturbate 3-4 times a week. Now it’s twice a month maybe. Depends on the frequency of sex with my wife. Before I’d dim the lights and take an hour. Now it’s just when I’m really horny. 


How do you see sexuality portrayed in the society and how does it make you feel?

People are hypocritical about sex. What happens is a lot of hypocrisy and correctness about sex. Instead of being weird or being freaky, they shy away from it. There are rules of engagement. Instead of that being free and open, what happens you have a prescribed correctness. When they try to explore they fall into the outlaws. There is no middle ground. Always black or white. Society hasn’t changed sexually. In theory there is more promiscuity allowed but the gender roles haven't really changed. What a man should do in sex are still there, boring, old. Need to lead. Need to know. Need to perform. Sex in victorian times was more out there. People can curse in public now and fellatio is a staple menu but that’s not a profound change. The focus is on the physical the doing, but the thinking is the same.


What advice would you give to others?

Just be humble. Take your time. Breathe. Let the other person surprise you. Sexual is just an another extension of life. I can’t separate life advice from sex advice. 


Is there anything you want to explore?

A lot of things. I wouldn’t say there is a distinct wish. I like to explore. The thing that excites me is meeting new people. Just having opportunities to meet people. I used to fall in love very quickly. Have fantasies about lives together very quickly. Now it’s much more realistic. Now I take things for what they’re worth.