How Lesbian Porn Helped Me Rediscover My Gay Sexuality

Before a traumatic sexual experience left me numb, my fantasies were all about gay men. And if you told me years ago that lesbian and queer porn would help me rediscover my erotic side, I'd be dumbfounded.

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Jul 27 2017, 8:33pm

Screenshot via QueerPorn.tv

The smell of overpriced aloe vera–based lube fills the air. On the wall, a lesbian cat illustration by the artist Kelsey Beyer watches over us. My male dom, who is dressed like Spike from Buffy, has begun to edge me. Meanwhile, the genderqueer porn performer Jiz Lee is really, really enjoying themselves on my TV. And after 20 minutes of that, a few minutes of over-the-knee spanking, a few strategically placed slaps to the clothes pin that's pinching my nipple and a whole lot of "parallel play"—that is, back-to-back and side-by-side mutual masturbation—we'll be finished.

And that's just a typical encounter for me nowadays. But, my sex life hasn't always been so… robust.

In my early 20s, I was sexually assaulted at a party by a few guys who I thought were my friends. It left me traumatized, and for nearly five years afterward, I pretty much shut down sexually. I just stopped having sex, period—not because I didn't want sex anymore, but because my anxiety surrounding the act put my sexual imagination on the fritz. The gay fantasies that used to drive me wild now produced nothing but a dull sense of numbness, and without much of a sexual imagination, well, it's hard to actually go through with the act. It felt like—and was, in effect—a years-long crisis of desire.

"When you're vigilant, worried, anxious and insecure, you can't lift your head to go and take off in space and be playful and safe and imaginative," said psychotherapist Esther Perel in a TEDTalk about how to sustain desire in a long term relationship. And that sums it up best—I just didn't feel safe enough to be intimate with myself, let alone somebody else. It was a terribly isolating era in my life.

But over the past two years, I found a way to stop the cycle, and I'm finally able to be intimate, playful, and imaginative with myself and partners again. Though I'm a gay-leaning queer man, the first step toward reclaiming my sense of sexuality came when one of my friends, a queer woman familiar with my situation, casually introduced me to some bomb-ass lesbian-produced queer porn after brunch one Sunday. She offered me her password to CrashPadSeries (link NSFW), a porn site that specializes in feminist, inclusive porn.

To be honest, I had reservations about taking it at first.

Until that point, I thought lesbian porn was the sole domain of straight dudes. In my mind, it was what happened when sexy coeds at Phil McCavity Institute or whatever become bored with all the fake studying they've done and have a long, sensual pillow fight. After experimenting with their sparkly dildos, they decide it's just not for them, but they're super glad they tried it. I had another, more obvious reservation, too: Apart from my very real but innocent crush on Aubrey Plaza, I had never before fantasized about women during my "me" time.

That said, I had to admit I was curious. So I took her password, went home, and logged on.

She recommended a threesome scene with Jiz Lee, who's grown to become one of my favorite performers. I remember my reaction the first time I saw them and heard their voice: butterflies, the good kind. And then surprise at the fact I felt butterflies in the first place. When Lee began kissing one of their scene partners, I giggled and shut my laptop, absolutely scandalized at how much I was enjoying myself. Two minutes later I opened it back up and kept watching. Lee put on a strap-on. Feeling overwhelmed with all the tension, I shut my laptop again. It took about an hour to get through a 17-minute scene in this way, but I had the best time I'd had in a while—I felt like a teenager discovering sex for the very first time.

There was something almost spiritual about that moment. For too long, I had thought that sexual part of myself was completely broken; reconnecting with it after such a long hiatus was a renewal, a rebirth. It felt like baptism. It was the dawn of my new sexual preference: cis and trans girl-on-girl scenes. And it's understandable to view that as strange, given my preference in real life and porn until that point had always been gay men.

But after my incident, I had a huge problem with "men." There's nothing like getting raped to really bring out one's mistrust of and anxiety with masculinity in someone. That anxiety filtered through nearly every aspect of my life, even little things that most wouldn't notice. My family likes to hug a lot—it's just our norm—but after I was raped, I struggled to hug my male cousins. I was too anxious to go to bars unless a family member or close friend was with me. And forget about using Grindr or dating. What if things went south, and I had to endure another assault? What if things went well, and I had to explain that I'm not comfortable with the whole butt sex thing? Not to mention how triggering it was to even watch anal sex after the incident. It felt like men had essentially robbed me of my independence. Having to constantly account for and accommodate those feelings made me angry; it was the closest I've ever felt to misandry.

And that meant I had a lot of self-hatred, too, because I identified as male. I hated myself for being a "male," and I came to associate male sexuality in all its forms with violence. Being male and having male sexuality meant that I myself could potentially cause the same acute harm and trauma I'd experienced. And I just couldn't reconcile those feelings.

But in lesbian and queer porn, I found an environment where I can safely set my feelings of fear, anger, and hurt about male sexuality aside. It's a place where I feel safe enough to reactivate and explore my imagination again.

For most of my adolescence and early 20s, I felt that penetrative (anal) sex was sex. Everything else meant foreplay; the road to, like, win sex. That's certainly not a surprise. Many of us are taught from school, TV shows, movies, and porn that penetrative sex is the default sexual encounter for adults to look forward to. It's no wonder my sexual imagination was in such disarray.

But in tons of lesbian and queer porn—especially videos produced by my favorite studios, like CrashPadSeries and QueerPorn.tv (link NSFW)—scenes aren't anchored by penetrative sex alone. Edging, spanking, massage, sex toy play, handstand sixty-nining, parallel play: Exploring all those alternatives totally redefined what the "main event" of sex is in my mind.

I find sex in lesbian and queer porn to be more dynamic and compelling than the formulaic sex I've seen in mainstream gay porn (e.g. two to five minutes of oral sex, 20 minutes of anal sex, then a money shot facial). And that made my sexy times feel more wholesome, frivolous, and exploratory.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not like, "Okay, all better!" just because I've defeated my crisis of desire. I didn't just watch some porn and then start having sex immediately after. My depression and PTSD didn't just disappear. That would be absurd. Getting turned on again was a big step for me, sure. But relearning to trust people and unlearning maladaptive coping behaviors is another, much longer story.

At the same time, though, I have to give the porn I've come to love credit for where I am today.

When I hear others talk about porn, more often than not, they treat it as an escape—a fantasy that draws you away from the present. But on the contrary, I've found that porn helps keep me in the present. It makes me mindful of the pleasure I receive and intentional in the pleasure I give. And maybe that's ultimately what made queer and lesbian porn such an effective tool in getting over my crisis. It's taught me that the best sex isn't stilted or forced, gluttonous, or passive, necessarily penetrative or even anywhere near what most of us imagine when we imagine "sex." It's human and joyful and celebratory. And that's exactly what I was missing for all those years before.

Follow Robert Kelly on Twitter.

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