I’ve got a good life. I’m lucky, and fortunate, and privileged. I work very, very hard to maintain that life. Because of the way I grew up, with a father who mistakenly thought, over and over and over again, this time my horse can’t fail, I’m also always secretly terrified it will all slip away. So I work harder still. Memories of the yakuza knocking on your door at night, in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon, those never go away. And so I do everything-work, working out, porn–at full force, and even then I don’t really believe it will last, because I know everything is changeable, nothing is guaranteed, and you have to fight to keep what you have. This has made me successful, but it can also make me very, very tired. So I’m using some of the money I have worked so hard to save, and I’m going on vacation, to make myself happy again.
I’m going where there is sun (maybe) and a pool and there might be a beach or two, and there is going to be jewelry. Necklaces and chokers and bracelets…I’m going to be flashy and brassy and bold and all the things I never let myself be. There are going to be dresses; so many dresses, and maybe even…gowns (though I am unclear on the actual difference, to be honest). I’ve been planning what to wear and shopping for months, and I’m not telling myself when would I ever wear that? This is the time I’m going to wear it. I’m going to dress for dinner like the sophisticated adult I always imagined I might one day be, and I’m going to dance and drink wine and champagne and Prosecco and maybe even a cocktail or two.
I’m going to kill it in the gym every day, maybe twice a day, and I’ll be swimming every day, and I might do some rock climbing, and I’m definitely going to do some hiking. I’m also going to get a massage or three and a manicure and a pedicure and maybe even a quackish spa treatment. I plan to haunt the saunas and steam rooms and hot tubs on the days when I access have one.
And I plan to have sex. So much fucking sex. The first night I don’t get to my hotel until 2 am, but every night after that I’m going to fuck. I’m going to have my nipples sucked and pumped and pinched and bitten and stretched until they are sore and swollen and stand out like thumbs in my bathing suit the next day.
My clit is going to get so much love, too. I’m only bringing a few toys, but the most important one is the pump for my clit. It has been ages since I got the chance to pump more than once every week or two, let alone once a day, which is what I used to do. Sometimes I would pump it for two, three, four hours at a time and my clit and labia (I used to pump my whole pussy a lot more) would get so fat and swollen that they would still be stretched and swollen and full the night when I started again. Each day, they’d get a little bigger, more sensitive, and more freaky looking.
I loved that sense of causing myself to become so outre, so shocking, and so strange, even to myself. I remember looking at my partner as we changed my body into something else entirely, as I pumped my labia until they were standing out like a fat, juicy fruit that filled my entire hand, and laughing a nervous, excited, happily horrified laugh, and saying, “Is this ok? Can I do this? Is this allowed? What if it never goes back? What it’s so big that I always have to wear a skirt or I will have a giant cameltoe? What if even under skirts it will show up? What if I look like a guy in a bikini? Would that freak you out? What about when I go back to Japan to visit? What if I go to an onsen with my friends and they see it? What if my mom sees?”
“It’s your body,” he said. It’s completely up to you what’s allowed. It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what your friends think. It doesn’t matter what your mom thinks. It only matters what you think.” It’s your body. It’s completely up to you what’s allowed. That simple statement–of a simple fact said at precisely the right moment–changed everything for me.
It might sound obvious to you. But to a Japanese woman growing up in conservative family–and, furthermore, one who grew up believing, secretly, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that if she did everything just right, and above all properly, this rectitude and propriety would spill over into her family life and keep her mother sane, keep her father from away from the track and the horses he could never quite give up on, keep him from shacking up with the vampiric track skanks (or better still, from ever coming back), keep the loansharks from the door–to a woman like that, the idea that we can (and maybe even should) just do whatever the fuck we want to ourselves, if it makes us happy…to a woman like that, such an idea is wildly, improbably revolutionary.
Of course, I’d heard those ideas before. Even in Japan you can’t avoid the sex and self-indulgence that permeates the media. We may have a more culturally ingrained sense of conformity and duty (or we may not, but that’s the perception), but we see all the American movies and TV shows, and our own culture is utterly saturated with sex, too. Unfortunately, in Japan it’s sex that is almost completely in service to men, to a far greater degree than even in the US. Or at least, that’s how Japan was for me, when I lived there.
For me, sex was a burden. In my experience, men were eventually going to take you to the track on your birthday and lose all their money on a sure thing instead of buying you a present. Sex was just something I could do in the meanwhile to make the men in my life happy, and, in doing so, make my life better because my partner was happy.
That second part is still true, of course, but it’s not the whole truth, the way it was then. I hadn’t learned that sex could also make me happy. You see, I never had an orgasm until more than halfway through my 20s, and I’d had several “lovers” by then. I’d even been engaged to be married. I knew about orgasms, of course, but I’d decided that there was probably something wrong with me that meant I couldn’t have one, and that I really didn’t even care about them, anyhow.
My first western boyfriend (who is my partner today) took that as a challenge, of course, and eventually that changed. I’m certain it was at least as much about him feeling powerful for making me come for the first time where other men had tried and failed as it was about how I felt, but I’m okay with that. He was young and dumb and I was a repressed, neurotic mess. The article going around about how men view making women come as an achievement more than a mutual act, well that doesn’t seem like a shocking piece of insight to me. I’m sure it’s still true of him today to some extent, but far more so at the beginning.
I’m just glad there was some reason for him to stick with it–and it actually took a consider amount of sticking with, I was so locked down and rigid. I never would have made it on my own. When I think back on how excruciatingly hard and embarrassing it was to get to there, that first time, and how confused and full of hate and rage I was, I just want to sit down and weep for myself as I was then. As confused and run down and mixed up as I get now, I at least know, that if I can manage to want to, I can reliably come and come and come until I need to change the sheets, and possibly the mattress.
This may sound awful, but I am, in fact, absurdly grateful that he stuck with it, to the point where it still makes me resent him sometimes. As in, how dare you make me feel guilty by being nice to you when I didn’t deserve it: I hate you! There were many, many years of really bad (and rare) sex. I’m honestly not sure why he did stayed, although he maintains it was always love. I don’t see how that could have been true at that point, but there must have been some reason. I suspect some degree of laziness, or maybe insanity, because…honestly.
At the beginning, my friends were all openly, even insultingly puzzled. I remember one particular night we were sitting on a blanket under a blossoming cherry tree, drinking beer and listening to the guys we were with singing terrible karaoke through a portable sound system powered by some kind of generator. It was one of those perfect gorgeous summer nights, and I was happily waiting for him to show up, and my friends started in. “Yes, you’re sort of pretty in a square-jawed, Easter Island Moai kind of way, and you’re really smart, but do boys care about smart? I don’t think so. You’re prickly and stubborn and sharp. If you’re not having much sex, and you don’t even like sex, and you’re not any good at sex, why is he still hanging around and being nice to you? What does he want? What’s wrong with him?”
I wanted to be mad, and I felt like I ought to defend myself, or even him, but it was just the truth. I was (and am) prickly and stubborn and sharp, but back then I was also nearly always unhappy, and it made me mean. But we were also very simpatico and good at just hanging out and just being together, which I’d never experienced before. We laughed a lot when we weren’t fighting. He was the first lover I’d ever had who was a friend…a really good friend. Maybe even my best friend.
So why wasn’t the sex better? He learned how to make me come more consistently (and more, importantly, I learned how to relax enough to let myself come), but something wasn’t right. It was him doing things to me…so many things to me, over and over again, things that I often adored and sometimes even craved so much that I got frightened. But something just wasn’t right, and nearly all our fights were about sex at their root, even if he didn’t always know it.
It wasn’t until I really started to absorb that idea, that it was my body, that it was completely up to me what was allowed, that things started to change. Like…I could tell him what I liked, and what I wanted, and when. I mean, that one wasn’t a huge leap, since he was one of those guys who always asked if everything was okay, to the point of it being annoying and off-putting. I was so twisted up inside that literally the best thing that occurred to me, at the dawn of this idea of total freedom, was that that I could tell him to stop asking me what I wanted all the time. Just shut up and do it, asking too much kills the mood! In fact, I sometimes hated him for being so fucking weak and worrying so much about what I wanted, and not just taking it…so that I didn’t have to think about it. How sad is that?
Although checking in too much is actually an annoying habit of his that still enrages me sometimes (although we’ve mostly moved past it), he really was right to ask, back then. In fact, he was doing things that I really didn’t like sometimes. Other times, he was just doing things that I might have liked fine at another time, but wasn’t in a mood for right then. And he was asking about them all, but, instead of saying no, I’d just go through with them, and then be truly awful to him in retribution at at some later date, without ever explaining why. Or I’d say yes and then just be unavailable for sex for days or weeks after, also without actually explaining why or even really clearly saying no.
It took me a lot longer to actually get to the point where I actually lived up to the idea that I really could say no. To anything.
Every woman has things they don’t like. One of my favorite writers on sex and feminism and being a woman has sex, Charo Shane, writes again and again about how much she hates receiving oral sex, which is fucking crazy to me. But that’s just it: she’s the one who gets to decide, no matter how crazy it might sound. (For me, it’s masturbation; I don’t and hardly ever have have. I know, freak out: discuss.) With him, it was anal, which I felt obliged to say yes to. The ability to just totally shut that down was terrifying, but wildly empowering at the same time.
I may have gone a little power-mad for a while, employing my newfound veto power. It’s one of those personal growth stereotypes that is also true that when you start working on yourself, things get worse before they get better–especially for your partner. It turns out that, ideally, sex is a negotiation. No one has to (or should) do anything they hate, but if you want to actually be able to live with someone and have a partner, you might actually need to negotiate a little bit, unless your partner is willing to be totally subservient to your needs. Since despite the tone of this story, I’m mostly the submissive one, that’s not at all what I want, I’m not well matched with that kind of partner, so I had to learn how to do that, too.
I eventually discovered that it was much more fun to just insist on what I wanted and to make it more and more fun for him to give me what I wanted (and to make him want to give me what I wanted) than to focus on denying him what he wanted. Eventually, we ended up mostly wanting the same things, and sex got much, much better.
It turns out that, if you say, I want you to do X to me–where X is some kind of kinky, transgressive, or just plain crazy sex act–and that afterwards (or during) they get an orgasm, that’s going to take care of most guys. If they have some super-specific kink that they can’t live without, either you need to be okay with satisfying it every so often, or you probably just shouldn’t be with them.
These days, if he really wanted anal, I’d be fine with doing it once in a while, but he’s so fixated now on my clit and shooting my porn that it hasn’t come up in literally years.
That all sounds great, and it would be great, if only I could live by it all the time. But despite the fact that I sort of mostly know it’s true, on a good day, I only have it about about halfway internalized, at most, and that’s after years of working on it and countless hours of therapy. Sex still gets problematic for me. I work too much. I worry too much. I’m still the girl who turned up the volume on her stereo to drown out the sounds of my mother screaming at the loansharks looking for my father–whose horse always failed, until he finally did disappear, forever. And so I work myself to the point where I’m sick. I’m too tired for sex, and, more importantly for the kind of negotiations that make it fun and exciting, and bearable, let alone sexy.
So I’m on vacation. Recharging. Getting myself together. Again. Using some of that money and time off that I have banked, and getting back to the point where I not only know that it’s my body, and that it’s completely up to me what’s allowed, but that I also recapture that feeling of wanting things to be done to it, loving when things are done to it, and loving when new things happen to it, with new people, and loving sharing all those experiences with all of you. Maybe this time I’ll even be able to learn it so deeply that it’ll stick with me, that I’ll remember that I ought to choose the things I love, and that make me happy, instead of the crazy, obsessive, superstitious things that I do to try and manage a life that I haven’t actually lived for many, many years.
It’s not that I’ve ever stopped actually loving those things, but I get so tired and sick, honestly, that I can’t remember how to access that feeling of love, if that makes sense. Don’t worry; it’s nothing for you to worry about. This happens from time to time, and I’m getting better about taking care of myself when it does. I hope you’re as excited as I am about what’s going to happen when I back, recharged and ready to be Rikochan again, full of that new, shiny optimism that this time I’ll be able to keep my life in balance, that my partner will stick through just this one last cycle with me, that this time my horse won’t fail.