Sexuality is a puzzle, and exploring the pieces will eventually help you put all of them together.
By Unwritten — Written on Mar 23, 2023
Photo: Nuebee, Ajisai Creative, Dean Drobot, geralt / pixabay via Canva
By Madison Flatman
In the summer of 2009, I was a 10-year-old standing shoulder-deep in the middle of Lake Michigan with my mom right next to me. I kept begging my mom to give me “the talk,” but every time I asked, the timing was wrong.
As we stood on a popular beach full of other families, I decided it was a good time to ask my mom what sex is. After plenty of begging on my part, my mom told me all about it.
“Ewwwwww!” I screamed in disgust as everyone on the beach turned to look at me. Suffice to say, even back then, I had quite a few signs that I may not exactly be straight.
When I turned 16 years old, I pursued this guy. Truth be told, nothing about him attracted me to him, and we had nothing in common. This didn’t matter to me, though, because he gave me attention, which for the longest time, I mistook for attraction.
I found myself craving “being in love” so badly that I never set standards for my relationships.
One day, this boy and I decided to have sex. He showed me down to his bedroom in the basement. I looked around his bedroom to see where I would have my “first time,” but it wasn’t at all what I pictured. It wasn’t what I thought would happen because I couldn’t imagine myself having sex.
He proceeded to take off his clothes, and I didn’t want to look at him because I was uncomfortable. I tried to pretend that he turned me on, but ultimately, I decided not to have sex with him that night. It turned out to be for the best. I wasn’t ready.
However, this is when my mind began flooding with questions about my sexuality.
Even when I was young, I showed signs that I was into girls. When I was 7 years old, I had my first kiss with a girl. We were at a sleepover, and she was lying down, sleeping. I thought she looked like a princess, so I decided to kiss her to see if she woke up — like in the Disney movies.
She did wake up, which led to my mom eventually finding out about the kiss. I was so embarrassed about that whole situation that we never talked about it again.
I tried to hide my sexuality as much as possible — even before I knew what “sexuality” was.
Truth is, I was a tomboy at heart, but I constantly found myself pushing that side of myself away for the “girlier” hobbies that interested me. Over time, we donated my collection of Hot Wheels and Legos, and Bratz and Webkinz began to fill my room instead.
Certain clothing patterns, like plaid and camouflage, repulsed me because I thought that they made me appear too “masculine.” I stopped playing tag with the boys at recess and instead began playing double-dutch with the girls.
I thought I was doing well with hiding my questions about my sexuality until middle school, when I ended up in a relationship with a boy. This guy and I were walking around during a school field trip when he looked at me and said, “You should come out of the closet already. You’d be much hotter if you were a lesbian.”
This was the moment when I realized that people did see through the mask that I was trying on. A few years and some odd days later, I finally came out… as bisexual.
This label was “easy” because I was still able to be into men while also announcing my attraction to women. It was like a huge weight fell off of my shoulders. I started to find parts of myself that I previously lost because back then, I just wanted to please people.
After coming out, I dated both guys and girls. At 21, I settled down in my first adult relationship — and it was with a guy.
This guy was everything that I pictured in my head when I thought of a relationship. I always had this fantasy of dating another musician and doing shows as a couple. He fit that fantasy perfectly.
My boyfriend was a romantic person who would constantly treat me like a princess. We went on adventures together, and people looked at us as a strong couple with a healthy relationship.
I finally had my dream relationship — but it wasn’t with the right person.
Things got weird when he wanted to have sex. I didn’t want to have sex because it didn’t interest me one bit. However, I wanted to get the experience over with, so we booked a hotel in the Wisconsin Dells.
Throughout our trip, I constantly found things for us to do so that I could postpone having sex. I finally ran out of non-sexual activities for us to enjoy, so we eventually did have sex. The whole time, I just wanted to get it over with.
After we finished, my emotions began to pour out. The experience overwhelmed me. I started to bawl while I sat on the hotel bed, and he held me, clearly confused about what happened.
“Why are you crying?” he asked me.
I couldn’t answer because I was just as confused about why I cried at that moment. Why did I feel nothing and everything at the same time?
For the next year, we continued to try to incorporate sex into our relationship, but I constantly postponed it for later because I dreaded it. Whenever we did have sex, I’d close my eyes or think about something that made me happy to take my mind off of it.
I came out as asexual a year into the relationship, but we continued to have sex. I told him that it was no big deal to me. However, we’d go months at a time without doing anything sexual, and the conversation about our nonexistent sex life soon became unavoidable.
My partner blamed himself for constantly wanting sex, and I felt guilty that I didn’t want to have sex with him. After a while, I slowly realized that I labeled myself as “asexual” but had never actually experienced sex with a woman — or anyone that wasn’t him.
As of now, I’m still figuring out what interests me romantically and sexually.
I’ve learned that figuring out your sexuality isn’t always as simple as coming out once and embracing that label. Sexuality is a puzzle, and exploring the pieces will eventually help you put all of them together.
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Madison Flatman is a singer, drummer, and writer from Wisconsin and a frequent contributor to Unwritten. Her work focuses on topics of wellness, relationships, and mental health.
This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.
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How Using Safe Words Helped Me Reclaim My Sexuality After TraumaI Fell Into The Trap Of Compulsory Heterosexuality, But I’m Finally FreeWhat I Wish My Parents Told Me About Sex And Sexuality