There are four things I cannot do:

  1. Be sick
  2. Share a bed with someone for a full night
  3. Wear tight-fitting clothes
  4. Have an orgasm with a partner

Flint calls it almost immediately. ‘You can’t let yourself be vulnerable,’ he says as I sit facing him on the sofa, making sure none of our body parts touch each other. He has me there. I try to relax.

Thing is, I pride myself on my vulnerability, having forged a career by chipping away at my mental health, mining for stories that portray my diagnosis in its ugly, raw, passionate, exposed reality. Underneath this, however, begs the question: is vulnerable truly vulnerable when its curation is so carefully controlled? When I pick and choose which parts of me to show to the world, it’s not truly vulnerable. It’s a highlights reel.

With his throwaway statement, it feels like Flint has reached into my brain with both hands, had a rummage around and come away with an obvious answer I’d never considered. I’m annoyed and impressed.

One of my issues affects Flint more than the others. By now he’s used to my early-morning wanders, sometimes padding through to the living room if he wakes up naturally and enticing me back to bed. He spends time gently complimenting my body and lifting my opinion of how I look, so we’re working on the clothes. But the orgasm thing. For him, that’s new.

I feel the need to give a huge disclaimer that this is one of the few cases in which: ‘It’s not you; it’s me’ is actually the truth. People I’ve slept with and loved before aren’t to blame. I’ve been lucky enough to acquaint myself with people who’ve done their research and tried their best to make me feel good. This makes sense, as I’m only interested in people who believe pleasure is a mutual experience: caring, intelligent folk who have compassion and treat affection and happiness – both in and out of the bedroom – as equally important for all involved. 

That being said, I can’t come.

The reasons for this are multifarious, each deserving of a blog of its own. Am I too stressed from living in today’s hellscape of a world to let go? (Yes). Do I, simply by being a woman who exists, feel innate guilt and fear of my own sexuality, due to years of society’s inherent slut-shaming, confusion and disgust when it comes to female desire? (Yes). Has years of being exposed to male-made and male-dominated porn made me think I’m a prude for not immediately dissolving into moans of ecstasy the minute I spy a cock out the corner of my eye? (Probably). Is there something deeply-held in my mental health – whether my mind simply playing up, or my antidepressants making things difficult – that is to blame? (Undecided). Is this a response to childhood and teenage sexual assault? (I suppose we’ll come to that at some point). Am I just shit in bed? (I hope not).

When I think about the fact that I can’t do this one thing, this one basic thing I’m led to believe should be natural, freeing, joyful and easy, the main emotion I feel is guilt. I know it’s not my fault. It’s – annoyingly – nobody’s fault; everything would be simpler if there was one person or one thing or one situation to blame. Rationally, I can understand this, but the nauseating tendrils of guilt and shame still creep across my uncooperative body whenever I fail to perform. 

It must bother Flint. I know he wants to make me feel good, as what’s more arousing than your partner giving themselves over to pleasure you’re orchestrating? And, I suppose I do, up to a certain point. It’s all so textbook it’s almost boring: the lowkey tingles, the waves of pleasure spreading outwards, the cacophony of hands and lips and dick, the body on fire and then – nothing.

I’m on a journey, I know, and now Flint’s on that journey with me. There’s guilt in bringing him on board. I suppose, however, If there’s any journey to be undertaking, this is the most fun one. 

My therapist reminds me that, at the heart of it, sex is a mutual exchange of pleasure. Sex with Flint is hot, fun, playful, intense, experimental, affectionate. I give myself – as much as I can – to the experience. I’m excited to one day be able to give all of me.

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