Are You Getting Any? I Was Raised Catholic, Now I'm Sex-Positive

Leaving a toxic relationship made 27-year-old Carolyn re-evaluate her relationship with intimacy.

Welcome to 'Are You Getting Any?', a column that asks a generation rumoured not to fuck if they in fact fuck.

Carolyn, 27

Quality of sex overall: 8/10
Frequency of sex with myself: 9/10, with others: 2/10
Intimacy levels: 9/10
How do you feel generally about the people you fuck: 7/10
How happy are you with the amount of time you have for sex: 5/10

VICE: Hi Carolyn! What made you give a five for frequency of sex?
Carolyn:
I’m self-employed and I work internationally, so I'm always working to weird schedules and on weekends. I have very limited time to actually meet people to have sex with, especially also because I'm demi-sexual [only experiencing attraction when there’s an emotional bond], so the way I experience attraction is very different. I don't enjoy inviting people into my space, intimately, that I don't know very well.

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When was the last time you had sex with someone? 
Like January, which I will say is a relatively long time for me. Despite the fact that I’m demi, I have a pretty high sex drive, so I like having regular intimacy with other people. But it's been a weird time. In Melbourne, Australia, we've had a really intense lockdown, so it's been hard to meet people and have to have lasting connections with people. We’re all busy now because everything's happening and it's exciting.

Tell me about the dildo on your windowsill. 
It usually lives on top of my toilet, next to a plant and an empty wine bottle that I've put a candle in. Sometimes, I'll just put it in random places. One time one of my friends put it in the fridge. It floats around sometimes. During one of the lockdowns, [my friend] and I used to throw it at the wall and make it stick – that was very entertaining. 

It provides all forms of entertainment, then. 
It is purely ornamental. I just like to have it around because it's a good conversation starter. If anyone walked into my space and had an issue with it being around, then we’re probably not going to get along that well. This is a sex-positive space. 

Carolyn at home.

How would you describe your sex drive?
It’s in a state of flux. If I’m with a partner [who] is into having sex all the time, or being quite intimate, I can totally keep up with that. Last year, someone I was spending time with didn't have as high of a sex drive as me - maybe once a week - but that was also fine for me. My sex drive is totally tied to my menstrual cycle, so there's a couple of weeks out of the month, where it's very intense and then it sort of dips down again.

How do you usually meet the people you sleep with? 
Through work, a lot of the time. I'm always meeting a lot of new people that way and I really love it. Dating apps played a really big part in my dating life prior to COVID. As someone who's been dating and relatively single since 2015, dating apps were really good between 2015 and 2017. Then they became really shit for a while and then there was a bit of a dating app renaissance. Prior to COVID, I was travelling all the time. There is an endless amount of people to meet when you're staying in hostels and living out of a backpack.

Is it easier for you to create an emotional bond with people when you meet them in real life versus a dating app?
Yes and no. Sometimes I find it very hard to read other people and how much of a connection they want or feel towards me; I’m also just so riddled with self-consciousness that I never expect someone to find me attractive. With dating apps, that kind of gets eliminated because when you match with someone, you already know that you find each other attractive. Not having to worry about that has allowed me to kind of gain more confidence and focus on what I’m feeling towards others and whether I am actually attracted to someone without disregarding my own feelings. That’s mostly because I had a very toxic relationship very young, that muddled with my sense of self-worth and the way I go about negotiating intimacy with others. 

Have you always been as sex-positive as you are today? 
I grew up relatively Catholic. Not super hardcore, but I went to Catholic school, so everyone around me had this very religious view of sex. My sex education was very biological, it was never about self-pleasure or self-experimentation. The only advice I got about having sex was do it with someone you love and I really don't think that's good advice for so many reasons. I’m also queer, but heteronormative sex was always the baseline. Growing up, I didn't really understand what masturbation was and I didn’t orgasm from masturbation until I was 23.

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Had you experienced an orgasm with someone else before it? 
My first serious relationship was for five years and I never had an orgasm during that time because it was super toxic. It ended when I was almost 21; a lot of [the toxicity] in that relationship was to do with making me feel as though I wasn’t good at sex as a way of keeping me in it, like, ‘You’re not good at this and no one else is going to want you.’ That was a big rhetoric in the relationship. After that I did a lot of sexual exploration to work out what it is that I liked, both by myself and with other people.

What was the process of unlearning everything from your previous relationship like?
It was what a lot of young people go through when they come out of relationships, like going crazy [with dating and sex]… but it was from a very patriarchal point of view. I was so concerned about being perceived as attractive and sexy towards men. It was absolutely exhausting.

So the first step was like actually working out that I do really enjoy sex – I just wasn't enjoying it was someone who was physically and emotionally abusing me. The second step was to understand what I enjoy and that other people enjoy me doing certain things to them and I slowly built up my confidence in that area. You learn different things, like I worked out very quickly if I'm feeling lonely, I should not have sex with someone; that's not going to solve the problem, it’s going to make it worse. 

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Were there a lot of ups and downs during that process?
I would have really good connections and chats with people but then after we'd had sex, all they would do is treat me like a sexual object. It coincided with a time in my life where I was travelling, so I couldn’t have sexy lingerie and all of the things that we go through to upkeep for the male gaze. I ended up having much better experiences with people and I would leave intimate situations much more fulfilled. 

What’s balancing the things that you enjoy that also fall under leaning towards the male gaze like?
Dressing up is still really fun. I do think that after I realised that I didn't want to be treated like a sex object, I went too far the other way. But there is a certain performative aspect that comes with sex that I enjoy, like, sexting and building anticipation. It's all about doing things because you want to, not necessarily because you feel like something is expected of you.

The British Medical Journal research says that our generation is having less sex than generations before. What do you think about that?
I think perhaps our relationship to sex has changed in the sense that it's not a physical manifestation… Sex isn't even necessarily about physically being with someone anymore. You can experience sex over the phone, or by video, or by sending pictures and looking at porn on the internet. I think we just find different ways of channelling the behaviours. Access to sex is definitely easier than what it used to be, but that doesn't mean that people are having more of it.

I was raised in a religious-ish house, so I'm really curious about how your sex-positivity and being raised Catholic came together?
I can't talk about it with my parents. When I lived with them, I’d be lying all the time about where I was and my mum caught me lying when I was like, 25. It was like, do you want me to tell you that I'm off at this vegan guy's house having sex? You don’t want to hear that. I also haven't come out to my parents I'm just planning on sending them a link to this article.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

If you’re 18-30 years old and want to be featured in the Are You Getting Any? series, send an email to nana.baah@vice.com with the subject “Are You Getting Any?”.

@nanasbaah / @dylan.tarbett

Tagged:

Sex, Dating, demisexual, demisexuality, Are You Getting Any?

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