Knowing Myself

Content Warning: The following post contains discussions of sex & nudity. Reader discretion is advised. Though, these issues shouldn’t be taboo

At the end of the year I decided to spend some time (probably close to two hours at this point) to try and give a good honest look at myself. What drives me? Why do I have the desires I do? What kind of a worker am I? How do I best learn?

I also wanted to reflect on what I could/should do about it. So, here is what I got.

Sex and Nudity: I have a pretty high interest in sexual things and overall nudity. I think this comes from two places: past intimacy and politics. The latter is pretty simple, I think it is harmful to members of our society to keep sex and nudity taboo. The lack of non-porn star nude bodies that people see (especially younger people) leads to body image issues and shame. Very few of us know what an average nude body looks like or understands that there is no real “average”, that nipples, labia, testicles, penises, butts, etc. come in a huge variety of appearances. Similarly, what people enjoy about sex and how it can be a healthy practice is something shunned in society. We all gain from openness, but our society doesn’t value that. So, by being open about my sex life, sharing nude pictures (with consenting adults), and such I am rebelling against social norms to create a better world. But it is also personal.

My family did not really address nudity or sex in a healthy way. My parents did the best they could, but it was something I think they were unprepared for, particularly in the modern world. Looking back, I have a handful of memories that I think kind of shaped my unhealthy discomfort with sex, my body, and my mind.

  • When I was around 10 years old, I was taking a bath with all my siblings. Six of us in the tub meant that there wasn’t really any cleaning going on, instead we were just sitting in a row (I was in the back) and kind of playing. I had an erection while playing, it wasn’t sexual or erotic or anything, it was just the result of a pre-teen whose body was smashed against something. At the time, I had no idea what an erection was for, it was just something my body did. My dad came in and saw us and said something to the effect of, “You two (Jordan and I) are too old to be taking baths with your siblings.” I was pretty confused about the whole thing.
  • A friend and I were playing in the woods at around the age of 13 or 14. I can’t remember why, but we took our clothes off and just kind of walked around naked. At one point he asked me if I thought he was a “weirdo” because of how he looked. I was confused, and he pointed out that he was uncircumcised. This started to stir up some erotic feelings in me. I told him that I didn’t think he was weird. I didn’t really know what circumcision was and his was the first uncircumcised penis I ever saw. I felt a ton of guilt due to my feelings for my friend.
  • In 7th grade we had to watch a terrible sex ed video. The girls went in one room and the guys in another and we watched separate videos. In the guys video there was a scene where they showed you how to check for testicular cancer. I started to feel incredibly sick and almost vomited in class.
  • By 7th grade I was masturbating somewhat often but didn’t really understand what was happening. One night, I was grinding on my pillow and I had an orgasm. I felt such a rush of shame that I cried myself to sleep that night. I felt like I had betrayed God, my “future wife” (a common source of prayer in our youth group), and everyone else.
  • When I was 18ish my mother discovered some porn, I had under my mattress. She said she found it while she was cleaning my room, which is something that never happened. I realize know she was snooping for one reason or another. That was during the time when she thought my brother was smoking pot (he was actually harboring a stray cat that he was somewhat allergic too), so maybe she was looking for weed. She trashed the magazine and then a few days later asked if her and I could grab some lunch together (again, something that had never really happened before). During the lunch she started crying and told me that she was date-raped as a 16-year old by guy she went on a date with. She knew that he watched porn and was convinced that porn lead to raping people. At that point, I felt like she was way off base because I had been viewing porn for a couple years and never had a single urge to rape anyone.

Sidebar: I think this all used to manifest itself in my porn preferences for a bit, but I think as I start to consciously look at these things and analyze them that is starting to fade a bit.

When I finally rejected my upbringing around sex, I started using it (and shared nudity) as a form of intimacy. In fact, due to the timing in my life I would say it was my only source of intimacy. I felt that the only surefire way to know someone cared about me was whether they would share these “taboo” acts with me. If they would send me nude pics or have sex with me then I knew they cared, and, on my end, I tried to get attention by sending pictures (sometimes unsolicited, I’m ashamed to say) and pursuing sex above all else. This is something that I still struggle with.

So, what do I do with this information?

To be honest, I don’t think much. My sex life and desires aren’t causing any mental distress or relationship issues. My partner is fully aware of everything, from my interest in multiple partners to kinks. I share nude pics with consenting friends and they share them with me, and we all get a bit of a confidence boost due to the positive feedback. I see it all as both harmless and an enjoyable part of life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being titillated by friends or through exhibitionism/voyeurism, and I do like that my openness has lead to others feeling open.

I feel trusted when someone is willing to let me see their body as well as their soul and mind. Maybe I shouldn’t put so much weight in validation from other people (who are generally women) but I’m not terribly bothered by it. I guess everyone knows now that when they send me a nude pic they are really brightening my day and making me feel like our friendship is close and matters, it isn’t just masturbation material. And, even more so, I feel cared about when someone requests a picture of me. So, yeah, I am definitely curious about what my friends (and everyone) looks like naked, not necessarily due to sexual desire but as a, potentially misguided, interest in fellowship and intimacy.

Oh, one more thing came to mind that I think is related. I am starting to accept that I may have a distorted view of my body. I don’t think it reaches the level of Body Dysmorphia Disorder (at least not according to some quick googling) but my perception of my body seems off from what objective measures and others say. This has been an issue for most of my life, particularly with regards to my weight and genitalia. It is embarrassing how many times I’ve searched “average penis size” or asked a partner if I was adequate. Similarly, when I see myself in the mirror, I feel overweight or even fat, when I know that isn’t the case. I know it, but I may not believe it. Additionally, I have friends who I trust that have reassured me that I’m in plenty healthy shape, that my penis is fine, and that I’m a decent looking guy. I trust them because they have also been honest with me when my health wasn’t as strong as it is now. So, I’m put in the position of either believing my mind or believing my friends and objective measure. I think this is starting to get a little bit better, but I still find myself seeking affirmation from others (this is probably related to the nude pics too).

Motivation: I am kind of a lazy person. I don’t really like working hard and it takes a fair bit of effort for me to get things accomplished. Therapy and prescriptions have helped on this front, but I still lack motivation a lot. I do know that I am very much motivated by positive feedback. I am a “reward” person, not a “punishment” person. Whether it is someone sending a me a picture of boobs, a financial bonus, or a solid “nice job, that looks really good”, I respond well to positive feedback. It makes me feel good.

My only concern with this is how it can turn into a time-suck. I deleted my Facebook account for this reason. If I spend all my time trying to get more “likes” or getting a rush out of being a “rebel” then I don’t do the things I should or want to do. That’s another thing that motivates me, feeling like a rebel. I don’t have non-traditional beliefs or views just to get a rise out of people, but openly displaying my freak flag does give me a rush. I feel like I’m doing something positive for the world by standing tall as an anarchist, polyamorist, sexually fluid, atheist, recreational drug user, etc. I don’t think I’m alone though, a lot of people try to proudly wear their beliefs on their sleeves, especially when they think they are a minority.

Learning and Work: I learn by making mistakes. I am really bad at actually learning from other people’s mistakes or advice. I need to dive into a project, due it my own way, and then when things go wrong, I can correct it. I almost never make the same mistake twice, but I make almost every mistake once. Knowing this, I need to have “practice” assignments when taking on a new task and/or give myself a lot of time and space to work on them. I can avoid mistakes if I factor in significant time after a project to let it sit and then revisit it before submitting it. Or, ideally, be able to submit it to someone for review before final submission. Unfortunately, that isn’t really always an option.