The "Slut" I Had To Be

art by @meagharr

art by @meagharr

By Charlotte

I was raised in a church-going Catholic household where sex was never a topic of discussion. How many times have you heard someone say that? I didn’t want to start this story in such a stereotypical way – because you know where this is going – but here we go.

The only “sex talk” I ever had at home was when my dad walked into the living room as I was watching a raunchy music video on TV and promptly walked out, shouting “SAY NO!”

Ok, but what if I want to say yes?

Because it wasn’t much later that I did say yes, in my parents’ bed (my bed was a loft type and you’d hit your head on the ceiling ok?), to my nervous donut shop coworker who was as clueless as me. I had never watched porn, and this guy was even more sheltered than me (church was his favourite pastime). Losing my virginity was painful as hell and when he asked me if I liked it I said “maybe I will someday...”

A few months later I moved away from my small town and started university. I remember the ugly newsboy cap I was wearing, trying to be cool for the big city, when I met Brad (years later he would still remind me how stupid this hat was). The first words he ever spoke to me were “excuse me, could you use your feminine wiles to get me a cigarette?” (Feminine wiles? Huh?) I’d never smoked in my life and didn’t manage to bum a cigarette off anyone else. But we still ended up talking all night and he walked me home as I carried my heels (another bad “big city” fashion choice).

He carried a vial of holy water and would introduce himself as “the Reverend,” in an ironic-but-actually-ordained-online kind of way. He claimed to have once baptized a woman in a bar.

Classes hadn’t started yet and I was already skipping frosh week activities to spend more and more time with this guy. He was four years older, neither a student nor employed, and a textbook “bad boy”. He had a criminal record, was technically homeless, and traded his friend’s couch for my dorm room.

He asked if I’d had sex before. I told him “once.” He thought I meant one guy. “No, once.” We used every single free condom given to me in my welcome bag. And I liked it. “Someday” was here, I thought.

Then one day the condom broke and I went into a panic. I lied on the bed frozen and couldn’t look Brad in the eyes. He hated wearing condoms and I officially hated them too… so I went and got Plan B, and then a prescription for NuvaRing.

We were walking down the street high on ecstasy one night when I first told him I loved him, and it wasn’t just the drug doing its thing. These drug-fueled confessions of love became a bit of a theme in our relationship, as there were many nights he would crawl into bed with me after a night of partying and ask me to marry him. “You have to ask me properly” I would say.

We became inseparable. We did everything together and had all the same friends. We were “that couple” that outlasted everyone else’s relationships. We travelled the world. We moved in together. We got a cat.

There was a time I would have said yes, but I’m glad it never came to that.

It became increasingly apparent that my woman-body was gross to him. I don’t mean just periods (although he did once have a major freak out after I forgot to flush...the horror!) I didn’t have an orgasm until I was 20. I thought there was something wrong with me and I was getting impatient with myself – my boyfriend was too. He didn’t like going down on me (and to be honest it didn’t do much for me either), so we came up with a system – I give you a blow job, you scratch my back.

He told me “you’re supposed to be selfish in sex… and you gotta know what you want.” But that you can’t know what you want if you haven’t figured it out on your own yet. It’s not like I’d never diddled the skittle before – it just never did anything for me and I was starting to think that female orgasms were a myth.

So I bought a little vibrator online and I was totally ready to “figure it out”. I learned two things the day it first came in the mail:

1. The vibrator was way too strong and made me come almost immediately

2. I squirt (and this is a real thing, and it’s not pee).

It was to the point that I couldn’t come without squirting. I was fascinated and a little grossed out at the same time, but mostly just excited to realize that my clitoris wasn’t broken. I spent a lot of time alone in an empty bathtub in those early days of experimentation.

My boyfriend didn’t share this excitement. This revelation meant that my vibrator became only something I could use on myself, not with him – it was too much, too disgusting, even after I managed to get things under control. He didn’t actually even see it happen, I just told him about it.

He said “the more I learn about vaginas the more I don’t like them, I want to keep the mystery about it – like it’s just a black hole.”

Still he wondered why I couldn’t come during sex.

Then I stopped getting my period – for a whole year. I couldn’t put in a new NuvaRing if my period didn’t arrive, so I waited. My vagina was still a mystery.

We would go months without sex (he would rather go without than wear condoms). He would turn me down regularly, and told me it “shouldn’t be such a focus of our relationship”. He said it’s normal for people to stop having sex in long-term relationships – that this is how it should be. “Not in my fucking 20s!” I would say.

Eventually my period came back, and I immediately got the Mirena IUD.

And then the orgy happened.

We were living with 5 other people in a dilapidated 2-story apartment that my dad said looked like a “drug den” (he didn’t know how accurate that was). We threw raves and sold alcohol and kept LSD in the freezer.

I was sleeping one night when Brad ran into the bedroom and yelled

“We need you upstairs!”

“Need me for what?”

“There’s an orgy happening and we need another girl or they won’t let me join, come on this is our chance!”

“Our chance for what?”

I went upstairs and chugged a bottle of whiskey and dove in. A couple of my roommates and some other acquaintances had taken their clothes off and were writhing on the bed. There were 5 guys and 5 girls and it was unexpected and exciting.

Brad and I soon realized that we were both looking for “our chance” – to see other people. He was my only partner since I first awkwardly lost my virginity and four years had gone by. I was nearly finished my degree and it was time to re-evaluate things.

We tried having an open relationship but it didn’t work out (he couldn’t get anyone to sleep with him, while my numbers ticked up). The arrangement wasn’t “fair” – so we made rules. I couldn’t sleep with anyone new until he had (which never happened).

Eventually he decided to move back home to look for work. He wanted me to go with him, but I stayed. Shortly after, I broke up with him over Skype. It was the most painful experience of my life. Despite everything, he had been my best friend, and I didn’t know how to do life without him. My parents were devastated. They thought I made a horrible mistake (even after I told them about the felony charges). My grandma kept telling me to hurry up and get married.

He also claimed custody of the cat.

I remember one of the last times we had “sex” – I was fed up with him turning me down, so I decided to turn him down. But he couldn’t take no for an answer, so I let him finger me while I read a magazine. He looked at my fluid on his fingers and said “ew, gross” as he wiped it off. Then I lost it. “WHAT, ARE YOU A FUCKING 10 YEAR OLD?”

The breakup was a long time coming, more than he knew. Over the previous year, I had gone out of my way to get close with a professor of mine. He had been wanting to take me to his favourite wine bar, so I texted him and we met up. As they say, “one thing led to another” and I found myself in his basement apartment half naked as he told me he wanted to go further but couldn’t – he had a girlfriend.

Well, they ended up having an open arrangement themselves and invited me in. They lit a fire in me and made me feel truly sexy. I was 22, she was 26, and he was 42. He ate pussy like a champ and talked dirty in Spanish.

I realized that I had been feeling more like Brad’s shadow than my own person. I was always “Brad’s girlfriend” in our circles. It was daunting to be on my own and felt like the ground was shifting beneath me. I got my own place, and started to find my feet.

I felt like a “woman” for the first time. I realized my feminine wiles really were quite powerful. I had a newfound sexual energy that could barely be contained. I became the slut I had to be – to feel free, to explore, to understand myself.

I travelled. I tindered. I seduced. I sexted. I met pilots and opera singers and lawyers and diplomats. Israelis and Icelanders, Austrians and Australians, Canadians and Kenyans.

It wasn’t all toe-curling, mind-blowing sex. Sometimes a guy would fold my clothes neatly and cook me breakfast, and sometimes they’d leave me stranded and abandoned in a hotel in a strange city.

My ex was right about one thing – I couldn’t expect anyone to please me until I could please myself. To take it one step further, I couldn’t meet a guy and get into a relationship until I had truly met myself, and formed my own identity. Don’t get me wrong – you don’t have to sleep around to get there! But this is the path I took and I’m learning to be unapologetic about it.

There are some particularly unsavoury parts of the internet that claim that a woman’s ability to “pair bond” in a relationship diminishes with every additional sex partner (the “n-count” as they call it). I’d like to refute this with my own anecdotal evidence. For me, getting out there and slutting it up was exactly what I had to do before I could commit myself to another relationship.

Two years into sampling the international dick buffet, I met the man I’m with today (on tinder, ha ha). I came (at least) three times the first time we hooked up. He bought me a brand new vibrator on one of our first dates, and loves to use it on me. My bond with him is stronger than it’s been with anyone. We don’t have sex every day or even every week, but we’re still intimate in so many other ways. He doesn’t shame me for my past, or for my body.

I’ve seen what’s out there, and I know I’ve got it good.

Emily Dickinson