Shame: My StorybyFetishJane©
It took some time to formulate my thoughts after I walked out of the screening of 'Shame'. The setting was familiar; the story resonated with past experiences. Yet what was most on my mind is the behavior of the women in the film. They seemed always willing, looking for sexual adventures despite their 'taken' status, forthcoming and even aggressive, just like the men, or even worse. As a result, I started thinking about the portrayal of a similar scenario from a woman's perspective. I am that woman.
I am attractive, charismatic, intelligent, professionally successful yet I have spent several years of my life in a similar loop of addiction, sleeping with many men and getting into more and more extreme situation to satisfy the emotional emptiness within. There is no logical explanation in my background for this behavior -- the parents' divorce wasn't pleasant, but it's a common occurrence, and a broken heart at university was not an immediate cause, since I had no trouble pursuing a normal relationship afterwards, and there was a gap of several years before the addiction truly kicked in. It must be caused by something deeper within, and the clash of that unknown with societal norms and expectations. Living in New York contributed to the inner emptiness that I struggled so hard to fulfill.
Whoever said it was the greatest city in the world, lied. For beneath the modern and shiny reflective surface of New York lies such loneliness, emptiness and cynicism, there is no connection. There are so many attractive and interesting people that it's very difficult for people to be satisfied with what they have. Exchanged glances with a charismatic stranger on the subway, an exhilarating conversation with someone from a different path of life in a downtown bar, a mutual appreciation of an art piece at an exhibition leads to coffee, drink, bed. Another day, another sexual adventure. Then of course there is the all-encompassing web of the Internet; when I took the plunge into online adult personals, I felt like I had tapped a vein. So many responses from so many men! So many good looking and interesting men, all wanting to meet me, to sleep with me! Hopping from taxi to bar to bed to another taxi, getting back home in the middle of the night or early morning, constantly checking my phone for the texts from unsaved numbers suggesting to meet up, reading my personal email surreptitiously at work and going for a run around the Central park reservoir every morning, running to attain a high that proved more and more elusive, running forward, running away, coming full circle again and again.
In the midst of all this I met a guy I really liked. I met him through the same channels, and went to bed with him after two drinks. The sex was amazing, the connection was there, I was exhilarated after the meeting, practically running home, clenching my fist tight to retain the feel of the touch, the smell, with a huge smile on my face. I met someone I really liked! He contacted me straight away the next day, and most days thereafter, always asking about me, chatting away, but always shying away from meeting up again. He was further up the road than me, more cynical, much more experienced, more shut off. Yet he liked me, too.
After a month of playing the game, I asked him straight out why he doesn't want to meet up. His response is one I have heard from others before -- he said that he likes me, but I seem like a nice girl who needs a nice boyfriend, and he is not looking for a relationship. Unwilling to let him go so easily, I have asked what it is he is looking for. This is when he told me straight out that he is into group sex, swingers' parties, orgies, and sleeping with multiple women. Try me, I said. He offered to take me to a party the next day.
In love and in addiction, we're always trying to replicate our first successful experience. Since that day, sex parties became a major part of my life; I have frequently avoided evenings with friends and made up excuses in order to escape to a sex club, or yet another private party. Yet there are many times where I turned down the invitation from the man, because part of me was still hoping to find romantic love. Or was it the possibility another sexual adventure that titillated me more at the time? I turned him down, then I went to parties on my own, partially hoping that he would be there, but he wasn't, he was probably in bed with someone else so I would hop in with another stranger. Gather my clothes when it's getting light outside, have the doorman hail me a cab home.
I stopped talking to this man, almost fell in love again, still unfulfilled, struggled through a couple of attempts at normal relationships before deciding to make the move to London. It was the right time to leave. I sent him a quick note suggesting to meet for a drink before I leave, since he was the one man in the back of my mind, the one I most regretted leaving in New York. The world suddenly turned; he came after me with such fervor and passion that I was a bit freaked out, and continuously told him no. While previously he was always busy with other women and made it seem like he didn't have room for me in his life, suddenly I was the only one that mattered -- he could see me tomorrow, he could see me the day after, he could see me on the weekend, he could see me anytime I wished. It took a month of pursuit for me to finally meet him, and my last two weeks in New York were spent as much as possible with him.
I moved to London and I thought that we were over; the misconception lasted two days -- he started talking to me again almost every day. I didn't have many friends initially so I liked having someone to talk to; he also promised to visit. He came eventually, but then he left, which brought me down and almost pushed me into the cycle again. I somehow managed to escape for the time being, and ended up dating someone for six months. Yet I still longed for the one in New York, I loved him with all my heart, so the relationship here failed while alienating the New York man in the process. The quiet before the storm lasted a couple of months; the self-destructive behavior returned with a vengeance.
A different man every night, most days of the week. A few of them regulars on rotation, supplemented by the always available roster of single men in the city's dingier bars or clubs. Only one at a time, and each one was made to feel special -- in case there was a night when I needed someone short notice, several options were always open. Constantly changing sheets, throwing away the trash with the used condoms, changing stockings. I even had honed a foolproof strategy to get through the working day with a hangover and lack of sleep, so that by the end of the workday I was ready to go to the next pub, to the next club, looking and feeling great. It wasn't a successful night out unless it ended in sex. There were always willing partners in crime, and girlfriends who were amused enough by my antics to keep me company and play sidekick. I always got my man, almost without trying. It was too easy, and gradually the game got to the point where it no longer satisfied.
Along the way I discovered a harder version of sex. The man was unassuming looking, cute but boyish, not very tall, charming but not particularly charismatic or fascinating. Three years later, the number of conversations we had during that time could be counted on the fingers of one hand. We always best expressed ourselves in bed together; come rain or shine, we would end up together, and no matter what men I filled my time with during the week, come Friday night we would go separate ways but find each other at the end. He was the personification of my addiction, he was my obsession, and he felt the same way about me. To say that we fell madly in love would bring an unnecessary romantic element to the story, but it's fair to say that our connection was so strong that while we were constantly drawn to each other, we just as strongly pushed each other away, we hurt and we were hurting, we were too scared to think what all of this may mean, but when after all the fighting, the pain, the tears, the drinking and the recklessness we ended up in each other's arms, it all seemed great again. I had found my match, and we got ourselves into a perpetual cycle that drove each of us further and further down into our deep, dark world.
Around this time I ditched the regular bars and clubs as pick-up joints, and progressed onto more dedicated establishments to get my fill. Walking into a sex club on y own at 1am on a Friday night, for the first time after a few years of absence, felt like finding my home again; I returned the next night and the following weekend. I met more people, who told me about more places, other parties, and my world had opened up again. During those nights it wouldn't satisfy me to sleep with just one guy; it was a game, so it had to be two or sometimes three, maybe with another girl involved, for good measure. It never worked out the way they show it in porn. Since these activities were restricted to the weekends, I spent the time during the week watching porn and enjoying various combinations of several vibrating toys, which provided a short-term fix. Then on the weekends I would try to re-enact that which I fantasized about during the week.
The parties got more intense, usually followed by private after parties at amazing flats in central London. The after parties expanded to regular nights out, so it was common for a typical after work drinks to culminate in several exchanges of texts, and the crowd would gather at the same spot for the same series of acts; even the shade of the meaning got completely lost. I had the dream life, amazing friends, access to the coolest clubs and the most exclusive sex parties in London. It all came crashing down soon enough, another party, four men, five am, out on the street, short skirt, no underwear, no taxis in sight when I made the call to the nearest person I knew.
I stopped. I re-assessed my priorities. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'm looking for. I stopped the drinking and started yoga. I even got a better job, and I deleted all the phone numbers of my meaningless hookups. I reconnected with true friends, I was open with them and they helped guide me. I have spent so many years being lost, but now I have finally found myself. I broke off all my toxic relationships, and drew a line under the situation with the New York man. I am ready for something more; more passion, more intimacy, a partner, and a relationship. I am a woman, and I have survived my shame.