I went 2 years without having sex. Which, in gay years, equates to about a decade.

I didn’t go without sex because I was saving myself for Luke Perry (RIP) or unable to find a sexual partner.

I avoided it because the very idea of sex terrified me.

I’m a pretty insecure person. I’ve struggled with low self-esteem for years. I’ve felt too skinny and too fat. Too pale and too pink. Too inexperienced. Not well endowed enough.  Name an insecurity, and I’ve probably had it.

Sex required me to put all those insecurities on display. It required me to strip myself of the clothing and jokes I had armored myself with, and be my realest and most vulnerable self. And it put that vulnerable person at risk.

If someone didn’t like me after they saw me naked or after we had sex, it wasn’t because of some bad joke or personality flaw I could therapize my way out of. It was because there was something wrong with me and my body. I was wrong. And this feeling was only worsened by the trauma I was dealing with from a previous sexual assault.

So, I avoided sex. It was better to deprive myself of sexual intimacy and pleasure than risk feeling totally rejected.

And for a long time, sex (or the lack-thereof) ruined every romantic prospect I had. It was the elephant in the room only I could see. So, I would ghost guys the moment they expressed sexual interest in me. I’d end relationships prematurely because I was too afraid to articulate the anxiety I was experiencing.

My fear of sex became crippling—and it ruined any chance I had of having an intimate relationship with myself or others.

But at some point, I grew tired of living in fear of something that was supposed to be enjoyable. I no longer wanted to listen to my irrational anxieties that told me I wasn’t strong enough to withstand the potential rejections of others. I wanted to give my prostate the attention it deserved! 

 So, I decided to have sex. I jumped on Grindr and found a guy to get “drinks” with. I knew there was little risk involved. If it went well, I could celebrate overcoming my psychosexual hurdle. And if it didn’t, I’d never have to see him again (he lived in East Boston, so the odds of me seeing him again either way were SLIM).

So, how did it go? Honestly, better than expected.

The guy was not nearly as good as he claimed to be. He wasn’t super well endowed nor did he have the best body I had ever seen. But he carried himself with a kind of confidence that was enviable. And afterwards, when he collapsed on top of me as if he had just finished a marathon, I couldn’t help but laugh at how funny the whole situation had been.

Sex wasn’t scary—it was actually kind of silly. It was pleasurable and awkward, intimate and animalistic. Full of unintentionally weird faces and movements and sounds. It was rhythmic and offbeat, beautiful and ugly.

In that moment, I allowed myself a moment of pleasure. I let my body feel good and wanted. And I realized that the vulnerability I was afraid to share with others was actually a kind of vulnerability I was afraid to share with myself. Like most of my problems, it was one of my own making.

And I asked myself, “if I could accept an imperfect guy and imperfect sex, why couldn’t I accept myself?” Couldn’t I take pride in someone say they enjoyed having sex with me? Couldn’t I believe I was as beautiful as he said I was?

Why should I hold myself to an unrealistic standard I’d never hold someone else to? Why should I put myself in a box and tell myself I can only be a specific kind of person? Why not tell myself I can be anything instead of nothing?

What if I just focused on how fun and pleasurable sex could be rather than think about all the things I could be doing better?

I’ve had sex with a few guys since then. Each experience has been enjoyable and awkward in its own ways. And in the process, I’ve learned more about myself and my desires, and that many of the things I considered to be flaws are actually the opposite.

Every time I have sex, I become a bit more comfortable in my skin. Taking my clothes becomes easier and more intuitive. Accepting compliments about my body becomes less of a battle. I wouldn’t say I’m fully comfortable or that my insecurities have truly gone away. But now, sex isn’t just some obligation I feel I must meet; it’s an act I genuinely enjoy doing.

Lizzo once said, “if you can love me, you can love yourself.” And that’s what I learned from these experiences.

If you can find beauty in another person’s imperfections, you can discover that beauty within yourself. Don’t dwell on all the ways you think you fall short.  Don’t pigeonhole yourself into being the person you think others want you to be. Don’t obsess over what you wish you could change about yourself.

Focus on your own needs and desires. Think about how lucky and privileged that person is to see you and your realest and most vulnerable self.  Let yourself be wanted, and let yourself want others.

Sex can be whatever you want it to be. So why not make it fun? There are plenty of other things out there to find terrifying (*points to literally anything going on outside*).