This is the story of Leah, a woman whose own mental health complicated her view of sex and self worth. She shares with us the story of losing her virginity and how trying to conform to those around her as a teen had lasting damaging effects on herself and her sex life. Sex expert, Megwyn White, offers her advice to the story throughout…
Am I pretty? The reflection I see in the mirror shows me nothing but things I want to change. My lips are too thin, my boobs are too big for my frame and my belly wobbles way more than I’d like. I want to be attractive and I want to be accepted. How do I know if I’m as pretty as the other girls if I have no one to confirm it? They’re all having sex; boys want their bodies and boys think they’re pretty. I want that confirmation. Or am I just curious? I mean, I’m 15, this is the age we start exploring each other’s bodies, right? They’re all doing it, so it must be.
Oh, how naïve I was. Just because I smoked weed and got drunk at parties to escape the petrifying acceptance of who I was, I thought I was mentally mature enough to begin exploring intimacy with another. Who knew intimacy came with so much mental baggage? They didn’t teach that along with the STD lectures and condom on banana practices at school. It was always referred to as a very physical thing. Not taught as love. Just something we’re all going to have to experience one day. Not how to enjoy it, not how to mentally prepare for it, just the fact it’s going to happen.
Sex expert, Megwyn White, reminds us that, when the pressure to conform perhaps goes further than you feel mentally ready to explore, keep in mind that you have your whole life to explore sex. It is meant to be an activity of pleasure that helps you connect with yourself and your partner.
Everything else I learned was from the girls at school. Going to an all-girl school, as I’m sure you can imagine, boys were the central topic of almost every conversation. Who got with who, who was ‘linking’ who and who was shagging who? At such an impressionable and vulnerable age, these topics consumed my mind. They’re all doing it, why aren’t I?
At this age, I was anxious over everything, I’d been diagnosed with body dysmorphia and depression. I’d been told I was a ‘pretty’ girl but ‘pretty’ was nothing but an empty word to me. I needed proof. I wanted to feel it or see it for myself. I would force myself to vomit in the hope of my tummy slimming down, I’d lock myself in rooms in the attempt to avoid eating all day, one time I even smashed my mum’s camera when she tried to take a photo of me. Nothing was working. I hated myself and that was that.
The other girls look happy, I thought. Probably because they know they’re wanted. Maybe if someone wants me, I’ll start to love myself. No one warned me about what was to come.
“It’s so easy to feel confused and fall into a space where you feel you have to act older than you are as a way to feel strong and in control. The unfortunate truth is that acting out sexually with partners that aren’t emotionally available only leads to more emotional strain that will have to be processed in one way or another. ”- Megwyn
It’s not just our body that’s stripped-down during sex, but our emotional barriers too- yet no one taught us how to protect those. When I threw myself into my first sexual experience, it was for no reason other than wanting to conform to those around me. To know that I was ‘on track’ with everyone else and, most importantly, to know that I was good enough. There was no emotional connection, no physical attraction, I just wanted it over and done with.
Blow job in a shed. Box ticked. I had to fake being on my period so that he didn’t have to touch me. I was never taught that pleasure worked both ways. Guys like it when girls give them what they want don’t they? That’s what my friends all seemed to think.
I was left disappointed. Sucking his dick didn’t quite fill the hole of self-hatred that lived within me, it ripped it wider, making me feel more lost and confused than ever. I felt disgusted. Drained. Neglected. It might’ve been my fault for running away in the morning, with cum-stained hair, and treating him like a stranger. But sex isn’t about emotions, right? At least I’d done it, I thought that was all that mattered.
“It’s helpful to have mentors around sex that you trust and are respectful and kind as a way to learn about how to articulate boundaries. This can also be a helpful way to learn from other people’s mistakes, while gaining insight from people who you actually respect.”- Megwyn
Whilst part of me felt good for ticking a box and knowing that someone found me desirable, the nausea and anxiety outweighed this. I felt horrendous, certain that I would never go near a boy again. This is when I came across the term ‘bisexual’.
I dreaded the thought of ever feeling as horrendous as the shed incident, so I settled for surface level confirmation that I was ‘pretty’. Every party my tongue was down a different guy or girl’s throat. It was fun, harmless and it was enough proof that I was wanted. But that was no longer enough for the young, vulnerable ego.
Sex. It was time to do the deed. But I didn’t follow my heart, I chose the guy who I knew everyone fancied. I liked the hype, I needed to prove that I was wanted by the ‘hottest’ guy. Fuck knows if I was even into guys at the time. I needed to have sex and it needed to be with someone who society deemed as ‘fit’.
So I did it. A few sexy snapchats exchanged and he was on the bus round to mine for a booty call. I mean, we acted like strangers at school but no one needed to know. We could keep it as our little secret and my ego would be happy in peace.
Anyway we had sex and it became a regular thing. ‘Fuck buddies’ that’s what we called it. ‘Buddies’ though? I don’t think that was an accurate description of the way we treated each other. Friends would never do that. We’d shag at parties, ignore each other at school, use each other for nothing other than just empty sex. Sex that was draining me little by little without realising. I had no idea that this meaningless intimacy was so exhausting.
“It may be helpful to seek out a counselor or therapist at a young age as a way to understand why you’re attracted to certain people that might not be as healthy as you need.
“Without awareness of the root cause while also jumping from one partner to the next only leaves you feeling more damaged. It can take a long time to build up enough trust to find the right person to explore sexually.”- Megwyn
But I just didn’t learn. I was sending nudes to his mates and getting involved with those too. Every party, something different with someone different. Each of them picking away at my emotional state. What I thought would make me feel better was tearing me down, into tiny little shreds, until there was nothing left. Not even myself. Well not the Leah I knew. I lost touch of who I was completely. My fashion changed from a wardrobe bursting with colour to all black everything. My music taste changed. I lost interest in everything. I was a pretty face, boobs and a vagina. I liked getting fucked up and fucked, that was it.
Looking back on it now breaks my heart.. oh god if my mum had any idea what I went through. She was always so confused when I told her I had no trust in men. ”But why Leah? Your boyfriend was so lovely.” She’d say, about a brief three month relationship I was in amidst it all.
Yes Mum but I’m not. My greedy ego, self hatred and disgust at myself could never accept someone nice like that. I craved attention, a lot of it. I first got together with him to prove to myself that I could have a happy relationship with someone kind, someone who wouldn’t treat me the way the other boys did. I needed protecting.
But who was I fooling? I carried on sending nudes to girls for the kicks and finally broke up with him so I could go on a tinder hookup the next day. I’d giggle with my friends about being a ‘player’ but my mental state couldn’t keep up. I’d had a taste of what being truly cared for felt like and I’d refused to accept it. Deep down I knew I wanted and needed that, but my mind was still reckless.
“Invest time in your own mental health. Our mind is an incredible thing. Learn about what turns you on in life outside of sex. Exercise, reading books, gardening. Giving yourself time to explore the sensuality within these activities can not only be helpful for your mental health but it also builds a connection to your authentic sensual life outside the bounds of sex.”- Megwyn
I continued in these destructive ways for a few months until I was hit with a reality check. I’d shagged two guys this week, one I’d travelled two hours on the train to meet, the other I’d broken down in a car with and had nothing to do other than have sex. I can’t say I particularly wanted to have sex with either of them, but after a year or two of just sleeping with people for confirmation, I felt like it was easier to just say yes. I never even considered no as an option, even when I hated every second of it.
At the end of the week I was hit with a huge reality check which came in the name of Herpes.
After going to the sex clinic to try and get tested for it, I was also diagnosed with chlamydia. Something from the sexual universe was sending me some form of sign…so I gave up guys completely and only dated girls for a while. I told myself I’d never have sex again. I was traumatised.
So I abstained for a year and I’ve come a hell of a long way since then. I’m in a happy relationship, I have a healthy relationship with sex and a caring and respectful boyfriend. I feel beyond grateful. Getting here was a bumpy ride but the reality check was what I needed. Looking back, I don’t even recognise myself in that person. But I’m grateful that she was me. I’m thankful that I experienced that because it made me who I am today.
Find out more about Megwyn here.