Writer’s Note: This is part of a much larger post, titled Changes.
The Autonomy Declaration
This is a pretty major deal for me. The other day, my husband and I were talking and dealing with some issues that had built up over the last couple of years, while we had a different submissive living with us (as well as “The Sub”), and things went very sour. The hubby and I have made it a habit, throughout our marriage, to periodically sit down and talk through any issues that may have been quietly building up, the kinds of things that don’t bother you enough individually as they happen to warrant a major discussion, but over time, lead to resentment. We work very hard at nipping those things in the bud through these talks, and have had great success with it over the years.
There has been something brewing in my mind for a while, and I have had no idea how to broach it with him. It felt an unfair burden to put on him, and yet it also felt fundamentally dishonest to omit, because it has been causing me so much distress and is definitely relevant and important. I am fundamentally committed to honesty, and I felt the time had come to talk about it, no matter what came of it.
I was raised by a father who not only was fundamentally geared toward’s a 1950’s style of living and relation between the sexes. It was drilled into me throughout my formative years that my purpose, as a woman, was to make myself a good person/mate for my future husband, and that when I was married, my existence would revolve around him. This was taught to me both directly and subtly, through observation of his treatment of my mom and I. For a more extreme example of this type of brainwashing, once, early in my marriage, I made the mistake of trying to talk to him about an issue I was having with my husband (where my husband was, even in his own eyes, in the wrong). My Dad said that I should spend less time complaining and be spending all my energy making sure the house was clean, that I had a drink and a foot rub waiting for him when he got home from work, and that I was “performing my wifely duties regularly”.
I spent so much of my life focused on nothing but my husband, including the years before I had even met him. “Growing up”, for me, was supposed to be focused on grooming myself into the perfect mate for a man I had yet to meet, rather than discovering myself or exploring my own identity, talents and purpose in life. This messed with me, majorly, even in spite of my fiercely independent nature and the steps that I took toward self discovery, directly going against his wishes and often facing reprisal for doing so. It shaped my world view far more than I knew at the time. It has taken years to strip myself of those fucked up attitudes and mentalities, one at a time, like peeling an onion. The amount of gaslighting abuse that I endured as a child made each truth far harder to face and accept, but I have been fighting it for years and have no intention of ever stopping.
Over the past couple of years, I have had a major drop in my libido, accompanied by major anxiety when it comes to having sex. I’m incredibly comfortable with my husband, and affection and emotional intimacy haven’t been a problem at all, but sex itself has made me feel incredibly panicked. We have had a very sparse sex life for a while, because neither my husband or I wanted me to “force myself” to make love, given how that basically amounts to “self-rape”. Still, even when I have wanted the intimacy with him so much that it overpowered my anxiety, I have been uncomfortable and afraid off and on during every time we have made love.
Much of this disturbance to my libido was caused by resurfacing memories of sexual abuse I suffered when I was younger, and we both knew that. But over the past few months, I had become more and more aware of another cause, just as deeply rooted.
One of the sexual “limitations” that my husband put on my BDSM activities and relationships was no intercourse, because he wanted something to still be “exclusively his”. I have followed that request to the letter, and we have always had open and honest communication about the activities that I do participate in. I haven’t minded the limitation itself, even when I have found myself tempted to push past it. It seemed a fair rule (particularly since we were already married when I discovered how much BDSM was my orientation, and not something I could stifle forever).
Over the past few months, I have begun to realize how much it bothers me that I think of my genitals as being “owned” by someone other than me. I made vows and signed away my right to make my own choices about sex and my body before I knew just how important those rights were. I have become more and more uncomfortable about having sex because it feels more and more fundamentally non-consensual. I cannot give consent for sexual intercourse if I am not the one who is in charge of my body and sexual choices in the first place.
And that is where it dovetails with the sexual abuse in my past. I had control of my body wrenched from me when I was so young that I was unable to even understand that my body belonged to me in the first place. I operated under those faulty assumptions and wrong mentalities for most of my life, and my Dad’s continual gaslighting and philosophy creation efforts ensured that I continued to do so, even though he was not the person who sexually abused me. My husband, for all his consideration, thoughtfulness, and understanding, cannot mend my attitudes. That is my job, and my responsibility alone, and I blame him for none of this. It is damage that was done to me before we even met, and even I was unaware of a lot of it until just recently.
I explained these feelings to my husband. I tried my best to explain how strongly it had affected my libido and my attitudes toward sex, while also making sure that he understood that I did not view him as the person who had been keeping me from being “free”. And while none of it was his fault, the fact that the part of me that was “exclusively his” boiled down to my genitals, had been quietly, unintentionally reinforcing the idea that my purpose in life is to fulfill someone else’s desires, not my own, and that my value was primarily between my legs, not my ears. I’m not even necessarily desirous of sex with other people, but I do want to be the one who makes that decision.
My husband is an incredible man, and I envy all the women on the planet who are not fortunate enough to be married to him. He understood. All of it. And he told me that my sexuality and my body were mine to do with as I chose; I was his wife, not his property, and that he loved me no matter what. We are still discussing details of disclosure and safety, in case I do eventually decide to have sex with someone else. But for now, it’s not about that. It’s about reclaiming myself, my autonomy, and my feeling of self-worth. It’s about unearthing the truth that was hidden beneath years of gaslighting. It’s about my being who I am, without apology, and not just being who I am supposed to be to please someone else.
Literally within minutes of reaching that decision, my husband and I were making love, and it felt different, better than it ever had before. I was giving myself to him with a freedom that I had never before possessed, because even while I had enjoyed and consented to sex with him before, I had never really owned that my body and sexuality were mine to give in the first place. I have never felt more close to him, more respected and cherished by him, or more in awe of the incredible understanding nature and empathy that my husband possesses.
I am a lucky woman. And now, I am more my own woman than I ever had been before, and our marriage can truly be one of equals.