• The Celibacy Issue

    Choked Up

    The Celibacy Issue

    Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998

    Choked Up

    Inga Hensing shares her own sexual coming of age, when she knew she had to stop fucking that way

    The first time I put my dick in someone I was seventeen. I had traveled from the Midwest to the East Coast to visit my first love, and we fucked for the first time while stuck alone in a cabin in the middle of a thunderstorm. The power had gone out, but we still managed to fumble over, through, into each other’s bodies. The night had all the makings of romance, but when it came to the actual fucking, natural lubrication wasn’t enough and we collapsed, exhausted together. I don’t think either of us came.

    I kept fucking this way through college but couldn’t quite get things right. I’d spend hours entangled in the limbs of my partners, high on touch. We’d fuck all sorts of ways but the moment that my body was inside theirs I would jump out of my skin, sensation would cease, and I would grit my teeth until I came as required by compulsory heterosexuality. I couldn’t name what was happening and I started getting drunk so that I could keep climbing into bed with others, so that I could keep putting myself in harm’s way.

    I don’t know why this, among all the other daily misgendering I endured as a closeted transsexual woman, triggered me so intensely. Maybe it felt like betrayal because it occurred in the most vulnerable, physical moment that should have made me feel embodied and present. Maybe it was because insertive sex, as a key site for the production of gender, was where I could most clearly feel the hand of patriarchy forcing me to fuck.

    Sex was, for me, a recurring tragedy, a return to the dreaded moment when a partner would ask for insertive sex and I would say yes. I kept coming back to the act hoping that I would find someone who would unlock me. In hindsight I can see my desires clearly, but I was so terrified to speak up back then, afraid that stating my needs would frighten my partner and leave me without even the most basic physical contact that I craved. 

    I came close a few times, when a woman and I would follow the flow of our bodies and I’d end up on my stomach, pressed between the floor and her cunt. Those ones never called me back.

    These moments are legible to me now as sexual trauma, thanks to long hours in conversation with my therapist and other trans women. Probably because I was white, the world read me as a man and because I mostly fucked women, I never had a rapist to point to or a specific night when I was violated and shattered. It wasn’t any one person, but society that sexually assaulted me. It whispered to me that because of my anatomy I was safe and in control during sex, all while it cut away at whatever connection I had to my body.

    It took six years of freezing up, going quiet, and losing days to dysphoria to stop fucking myself into dissociation. By then I knew that I wasn’t a boy, but I wasn’t sure of much else. One night, in the middle of insertive sex, my girlfriend paused and asked me if I was still there. “We don’t have to do this, you know,” she said. She knew what was happening. She’d been there too, under different circumstances.

    It was the permission that I had been waiting for. I didn’t know where I would go from there, but I knew that I had to stop fucking that way. 

    I decided to be a woman. I found Mira Bellwether’s incredible Fucking Trans Women #0. I realized I could call my parts whatever I wanted and left words like ‘dick’ and ‘cock’ behind. I discovered muffing. I took a bunch of pills and fought medical bureaucracies to become able to feel present in my body on a regular basis. I tell my partners to never ask me for insertive sex, but sometimes I go there when I feel safe and in those moments I feel deeply vulnerable and beautiful. I think it’s what healing feels like.

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