I can feel sensations now. I’ve started to feel my emotions too. Before that it was just a robot phase.
An interview with Roddie.
Roddie | Age: 28 | Location: London, UK | Born: UK | Occupation: Researcher | No. of sexual partners: 8
Why did you take part?
Curiosity. Sometimes talking is a kind of framing for thinking. I don’t always do the framing until I’m prompted to and sometimes I learn from it.
What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?
I didn’t feel sexual at all until puberty. My parents are very unsexual. There was a calm and loving atmosphere but no sexual display. Maybe I have seen my father kiss my mother on the lips gently but nothing more. Around 12, scenes in movies started to be stimulating. Oh wait, I remember age 9 or 10, getting changed for PE lessons at school. The whole class got changed on the floor of the classroom, boys and girls, mixed. I deliberately showed my penis to some girls who were sat right next to me. I did it on purpose and it made no sense to me at the time at all. I had no idea at all why I did it. And I got caught! The head teacher took me aside and told me that what I did in the class I must never do again. But it didn’t really feel like I’d done anything wrong. It was confusing to not know what my motivation was at the time.
My first sexual experience happened when I went away on a holiday with my parents one time. We stayed in a hotel for a night. I was probably about 12. I was getting ready for bed. I sat on the toilet and my penis brushed the toilet seat and I had an orgasm. An amazing surge of pleasure. That was very shocking. I then went and stood at the window looking out bathing in this confusing new experience. I quickly figured out I could have this pleasure all the time so I started to masturbate.
The next phase really is very boring because I didn’t have any sexual interaction with anybody until university even though I did find girls sexually stimulating. I didn’t really express the feelings I had for anybody. Not surprisingly, I got nothing back! It just didn’t occur to me that if I don’t say anything, nothing would transmit. It didn’t occur to me to say anything to anybody. Very soon after entering university there was someone 5 years older than me who came to the same lecture. We just got talking after the lecture. She invited me to smoke a joint. I hadn’t really figured out there was something more to it. A friend was coming to meet me too. While we were there smoking the joint the friend arrived and she left. We then shared some philosophy essays. There was a distinct lack of initiative from my side. She asked if she could visit again to about a science project. Halfway through the meeting I clicked in that maybe she liked me. I was then turned on but very cautious in case I misinterpreted it! It got very late and I said she could stay the night. She lay next to me. I slowly slowly edged towards her there lying and then I rolled over and lost my virginity! We continued to have a relationship for the next 9 months and we’d visit one another, talk about philosophy a lot and had a lot of sex. I enjoyed it. It felt like a close relationship but she was basically a good friend I’d have sex with. She would have sex with her professors and other people. It seemed fine with me. She would notice other people at uni who would be attracted to me that I didn’t notice. She encouraged me to have sex with them and I did it once but I didn’t feel motivated. I was totally satisfied by that one relationship. I had no urge at all to find other sexual partners.
I then met someone else during a summer holiday and felt very attracted to them. At that point I felt love that I hadn’t felt before. When I came back I continued to have a relationship with this person and I wanted to stop the first relationship. I felt really bad about that. It felt unfair to her that I didn’t seem interested in supporting multiple relationships. I just didn’t feel motivated. This was the first time I felt love for somebody. Emotionally it was difficult, as she was often very anxious and then she became angry a lot. Very unstable. Our sexual relationship ended maybe after a couple of years but I continued to live with her. Even the last year at university she lived in my room. Towards the end of it we never had sex anymore. It felt like I had a friend living in my room. I left uni and continued to live with her for many years. There was never any sexual interaction. She’d have sex with other people. I’d feel envious. The fact she didn’t want me sexually didn’t change my feelings towards her. That continued for many years. She got very physically and mentally ill. It was upsetting to deal with someone so unstable. She’s be violent at times. Mainly I felt upset because I couldn’t do anything that could actually help. She didn’t seem assured by the fact that I was intending to support her indefinitely. She was unhappy. She couldn’t get out of bed for a while. It was 9 years of being together at this point. Her illness and her wanting to leave is what stopped it. Except that it didn’t stop it because I continued to support her for another couple of years.
I then did start looking for a new relationship. I would use online dating sites. I never met anyone in person. I suppose I had a few relationships with people that became sexual relationships but in every case they only lasted a few months. Always serial, nothing in parallel. Once I’d find someone I’d be satisfied sexually. But I didn’t love these people. I’d start to notice after a while and end it in very indirect ways. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings and I couldn’t say it and I’d just become ever less available, busier. I’d try to gently break it off every time. That continued until about a year and a half ago.
About 18 months ago I met this couple who lived in Berlin. I went to visit them in the summer. I was fascinated with the man - he would have a new girl almost every night. I was surprised that his girlfriend didn’t mind. We lay down with a friend of his visiting and just had sex. It was fun. I wasn’t really sure if I felt love or not. There was a desire for sex and it would motivate me to go do things and continue the relationship but it seemed independent of if I loved the person. It didn’t seem very connected. A little later in early autumn I went to a tiny festival gathering again with this guy. That’s where I met Nicole. I didn’t feel immediately sexually attracted but my attention was on her. It wasn’t sexual first. We didn’t interact very much at the festival. I didn’t say very much at all to her. Maybe nothing. Week or so later I wrote her on OKCupid and I said ‘hey come visit’. It didn’t feel like a strongly deliberate act. It just happened. It was only then when she visited I realised that I was very interested. I found her and her mind fascinating. I thought ‘oh, this is someone I love!’. Then we had sex and I loved her. Sex and love, in one relationship! We’ve been together for a year. During the times she’s had sex with other people. I don’t really feel the desire to have sex with other people, I feel satisfied by being in one relationship. She doesn’t live here but we seem to see each other at least once every three weeks.
What were the aha moments in your sexual journey?
I haven’t been very curious or exploratory because I was just satisfied. Very easily satisfied. I didn’t really have much to measure by. Even with the first girlfriend. I didn’t feel the need for more. Have an orgasm. Maybe do it again and go to sleep. It felt sometimes like I was doing my duty sometimes. She’d just want to go on for hours. It was kind of mechanistic. I’d sometimes want to go to sleep. I don’t think I felt very embodied. I was always very rationally aware during sex. That has been true up until a year ago. Nicole forced me to be less of a robot. I never felt embodied before. It’s difficult to disentangle this from psychedelic experiences or vipassana. I can feel sensations. I never felt anything like that until a year ago. I didn’t become embodied until a year ago. Before that just a robot phase. I’ve started to feel my emotions too. Just noticing what I feel. Finding a location for it. Exploring feelings like anxiety whether a relationship will continue, fear of losing something. Very intense love. It kind of feels physical. It’s like it’s real and something there rather than what I had before that seemed rather abstract. I’d say before love seemed indistinguishable from a feeling of loyalty or duty towards them. I’m not sure it was very different to loyalty I’d have towards male friends. The feeling felt the same. Over the last year I’ve felt love that’s deeper than that. Feelings that I’d never felt before. I have no idea why I didn’t feel things before. Until a year ago I was just baffled by people who were driven by emotion. I’d seem strange to me how people would make decisions on emotions. I always thought I was good at judging what people wanted but I had no idea how they actually felt. I couldn't feel with them. I’ve only had a year of this though, I’m curious how it will be in the future. It’s almost like the very rational side finds this very fascinating. I’ve had periods of very intense negative emotion. It’s difficult to say it’s a bad thing. I do want to change it when I experience them but it’s not a fundamentally terrible thing to have a negative experience.
What does sex mean to you?
Right now it's all about intimacy with my partner.
What’s difficult about sex?
The thing that’s changed is Nicole pointing out that I should stop being calculating about it. I became aware that I was treating it as a means to an end. Trying to give the other person the best experience. Sex was a planned activity to give my partner the best pleasure which also was pleasurable to me. Turns out I get turned on by the other experiencing a lot of pleasure. I was doing it kind of instrumentally before. Sex meant pleasure for the other for however long they want it until they have had enough. In a way my pleasure was consequential rather than the goal in itself. Nicole helped me to realise that I should do what I want not what I think she wants. That’s probably the single biggest thing. I find it really difficult to know what I want, which applies across life. Especially with no felt desire it was a cold weighing up. Which meant I didn’t really want anything. This is the first time I desire things. I don’t actually believe though the thing about doing it for myself. I was forced to take it seriously but it doesn’t seem realistic. It doesn’t seem right to displease her and please me. She at times will express displeasure. It seems like it needs to be mutual. The other person not appearing to enjoy themselves completely turns me off. If I detect any hesitation I’m completely turned off sexually. I find it really difficult. Unless there’s an overt expression of pleasure it doesn’t work. There’s no desire at all to dominate, to physically assert myself over someone. I have no desire to do that. I don’t want people to dislike me. I tend to avoid conflict. Fortunately Nicole is very alert to that. Trying to avoid conflict is conflict for us!
What do you most enjoy about sex?
It’s the most positive feeling to interact with someone in an intimate way when they find great pleasure in it. I find more of my own pleasure in it too. It seems like the drive to have sex is actually stronger than the pleasure I get from the experience. Seems limited. More or less intense. The sex in the last year has changed it but fundamentally it’s still similar. The love stuff coming out of my heart, physical emotion experience has added much more richness to the experience of it but I feel this feeling now though without having to have sex with her. I still wonder if there is some dissociation. Should it be the case that the desire to have penetrative sex and to ejaculate is independent of these other wonderful feelings and all the terrible feelings as well? I’m not sure I feel fully integrated as an embodied experiencing being. Maybe it should be more entangled that this.
How often do you have sex?
Just when I’m with Nicole.
Do you masturbate?
Yes. I look at pictures of Nicole. I can’t masturbate to anything else now interestingly. It doesn’t turn me on to look at other images. The American Apparel used to be my preference for a decade. I was totally unmoved by actual porn. Just seeing somebody who seems reasonable happy and like they might feel love towards me and is partially clothed. That’s all I need.
How do you see male sexuality portrayed in the society and how does it make you feel?
I don’t feel very personally connected to male expressions of sexuality. I wouldn't’ have thought of myself to be sexual in a male way specifically. It seems like the male sexuality is just wanting to have ejaculation and that’s just not what I feel. I feel quite alienated from it. I don’t really know what male sexuality is other than that rather boring drive to have penetrative sex.
What’s your advice to others?
I feel like I’m the last person to give that. Bit late to the party. Advice to anyone who hasn’t experienced emotions strongly, especially positive emotions in a strong way, I’m sure they can. They should try really hard to have these experiences because they are wonderful. I’m not sure how other people can do it. In my own case finding the right person who helped me to explore that is very important but that’s just good fortune. LSD was very helpful in becoming more embodied but I would never recommend anyone to spend too much time using psychedelics or other drugs before early twenties. The brain is still developing then. Find people who will help you find those feelings in yourself. It may be difficult to be motivated to do that because motivation comes from emotion. I used to be cold and content. It would be worth it to make a rational choice based on curiosity.
Is there anything you want to explore?
It feels like early days so I want to continue to explore the full range of human emotion. Maybe I wouldn't extend that to the most extreme negatives. It feels like emotions seem to be a wonderful thing that I want to experience. What I have is great and I’d like it to continue but I also want to experience what I haven’t experienced.