This story originally appeared on Kveller.
I grew up with unrelenting criticism. About what I said, how I acted, how I thought — but most of all, about sex.
“Only prostitutes enjoy sex” was but one of my parents’ admonitions to me. After so many years of hearing an endless stream of these kinds of threats, the messages stuck.
I tried all my life to be a “nice Jewish girl” and make my parents proud. Even when I became a wife, the goal remained. If anything, I became even more committed to the ideas my parents foisted upon me. The message I took was don’t be affectionate, don’t be loving, don’t be spontaneous — and, above all, don’t be you.
It was important to my parents that I marry a Jewish man — something I eventually did. At age 38, I found my soulmate. His lightness of spirit was so uplifting after the drama I experienced at home. I loved that he was funny, and he loved that I laughed at his jokes. We understood each other on a deep level and, most of all, I felt he truly loved me.
Still, what my husband asked of me during the course of our marriage was not in the Jewish “good girl” handbook. One time my husband wanted to watch porn, and I was vehemently against it. Another time he wanted to take a bath with me. I wouldn’t do that, either. It should come as no surprise that our sex was not satisfying. I had a closed mind to sexual experimentation, and the few times during sex when I expressed my needs, he wasn’t responsive. Unbelievably, in all the years we were married, we never talked about sex!
After 15 years of marriage, I lost my husband to malignant melanoma. Then — partially due to my feelings of loss, partially due to medications I was taking and partially due a lack of desire — more than a decade passed during which I didn’t have sex at all.
One day, as I was packing up to move to a smaller place, I took stock of what to keep, what to sell, give away and throw away. And then I took stock of myself. I realized I was 68, and hadn’t had sex in more than 10 years. I knew now there was something wrong — and, more than anything, I wanted to fix it!
I saw my urologist for a checkup, and though I had never divulged personal information to her before, I told her, “I haven’t had an orgasm in a really long time.”
She said, “Get some porn and a vibrator.” I was so desperate to change my life — and so angry at the deprivation I had endured — I took her advice. My urgent wish to be free, combined with my doctor’s “permission” to do so, enabled me to knock the “good girl” stories right out of my head. I felt like a young woman blossoming, and it felt wonderful.
I had been in therapy, but I never discussed sex with my therapists — until I met a particular one who told me, most sincerely, “I’ve heard it all.” I felt comfortable talking to him about sex, and from him I learned that I could see porn for free on the internet. That was a revelation!
I felt great exploring my own sexuality. I had never felt that before. Once the wheels were set in motion, rather quickly I became a whole new me.
When you’ve been taught to fear sex, and that you’re bad if you engage in it — let alone enjoy it— it can take a toll on your entire life, as it nearly did mine. Shutting down your desires, thoughts, and feelings is not living. It’s existing.
It takes courage to open your mind. I invite you to join me in exploring your fantasies and setting yourself free. It happened to me at age 70, but you can cure your repression at any age. Here are some things I did that may help you:
1. Prioritize your orgasm. I had always had trouble having orgasms. After I bought a vibrator on my first visit to an adult toy store — itself a fascinating adventure — I started having two orgasms a day! You can of course shop online if you prefer.
2. Watch porn. There are free sites such as Bellesa.co and Redtube.com, with a variety of options to choose from. Some involve oral sex; others penetration, group sex and much more. They feel contemporary, and while Redtube tends to be geared to men’s fantasies — Bellesa.co is geared toward women — they are still stimulating. Porn will loosen you up — it will arouse your curiosity and send your libido soaring. At least it does that for me.
3. Practice dirty talk, anonymously. Join a sex site — there are free ones like Benaughty.com. When I began to chat with men, I realized that there were so many things I couldn’t have even conceived of that brought me pleasure. I didn’t know what to say at first, so I wrote down what a porn star said in one of the tapes I watched and used her language to get started. Important: Be very careful about meeting someone in person from this kind of site. I vowed I would meet no one, then wound up meeting two men. Both were extremely nice, but the important thing here is to use your chat exchanges to free you. This can be done very nicely without meeting anyone face to face.
4. Read erotic stories. Then write some of your own. Reading and writing erotic stories is internalized differently from porn. It’s more personal and intimate than watching an arousing film. This was another avenue that brought me closer to sexual freedom.
5. Use your imagination and let the censor inside your head fly out the window. I was able to do this because I was so fed up with having an unfulfilling sex life, I was willing to try just about anything. If I can do it, so can you!
6. Make it fun. When you have a sexual partner, share in some creative erotic play. You can wear a sexy outfit — it will put you in a different frame of mind, and it will put a smile on your partner’s face — or read an erotic story together, or use toys. Along with discovering you really can be sexually free, remember that the idea is to have fun. Because of my upbringing, sex was always serious business. It doesn’t have to be!
7. Let go of the “nice Jewish girl” ideal. Quit aspiring to be a “good girl.” You’re an adult, and you can strive to be a happy Jewish woman.