Being Alone With Arousal

Note: this post talks about my eating disorder, including mentions of purging through vomiting, and my experiences of being sexually abused, including subsequent dissociation and general difficulty being alone with arousal. If any of those are tough for you, give this one a miss – I’ll be back on Saturday with a post about why you might find more autistic people than you’d expect in your local kink scene!

My fear of wanking came up in eating disorder therapy.

This is not wholly a surprise. Lots of things come up in eating disorder therapy, because eating disorders are deeply rooted, born of decades of cultural conditioning, dysfunctional coping mechanisms and adverse childhood experiences. But the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’ve come to realise that my fear of wanking and my fear of food are two heads on the same beast.

One common starting point for eating disorder therapy is to consider what we’re actually afraid of. In my first round of it, two years ago, we unpacked a lot of my internalised fatphobia and my fear of taking eating to its extremes, which is an offshoot of my anxiety: it’s pretty common to consider the logical, if unlikely, extremes in any scenario. But I only got six sessions, and we didn’t have time to dive any deeper.

This time, I get a whole eight.

The thing that scares me about food is that I enjoy it. Enjoying things, I have learned, is scary and dangerous and often has real and terrible consequences. Having lived with abusers during a few critical formative periods, I learned and internalised that nothing good is without cost and that the more pleasant the calm is before the storm, the more devastating the storm will be. Best not to let my guard down, enjoy anything too much, or trust my senses to tell me when something is safe or nice.

Then there’s the complicating factor of having learned to wank through being groomed. As well as reinforcing my existing belief that my own sensory pleasures must always come at a cost, it created some really specific associations between the physical act of masturbation and a strong sense of danger. Specifically, fucking myself with an object when nobody is watching feels so wrong that it’s akin to practising a secret handshake on your own,  and fucking myself with fingers is very much the same. If there’s no webcam between my legs, nobody watching my face and nobody talking dirty to me – if there’s no audience to validate my pleasure and benefit from it – it not only feels asymmetrical and disconcerting, but dangerous.

Indulgence has always led to violence in my life.

I am now, of course, free of all the abusers who have made and reinforced that connection, but that doesn’t undo it. It’s wired into my brain like the connection between an object flying at one’s face and one’s inclination to duck. And because I’ve had so much else going on, and so many spectators available to me, I haven’t had time to rewire it.

Being horny alone feels like being in pain. It’s frightening and distracting and I don’t want it. If I do attempt to masturbate, I usually dissociate, failing to orgasm and also failing to feel my own face or entirely remember where I am. If I don’t, I have this constant nagging sensation somewhere in my physiology that feels like an alarm going off, reminding me that indulgence is possible, and therefore, so is danger.

I am fucking sick of it.

I wrote out a plan for a Masturbation Boot Camp (and yes, I titled it exactly that) which instructs me to spend day zero practising mindfulness, day seven touching my body and exploring sensation, and day fourteen actively attempting to come, with every day in between requiring an incremental step towards these goals. I showed it to my tipsy, dyslexic girlfriend, who saw straight through me and said, “And how much of this is procrastination so you don’t actually have to wank?”

It’s a great idea and it’s one I’m going to try, but she’s right. I live in fear of my body and the pleasure I can experience within it, and even the idea of self-massage or watching porn for fun fills me with sickening dread. I suck at most mindfulness activities because, between the chronic pain, the chronic trauma and the violations I’ve been subject to when I have indulged in pleasure, I don’t want to be in my body. I don’t want to ground myself in it. It’s a horrible place to be.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any other vessels to contain my soul (this is a Kingdom Hearts joke), so I’ve got to get used to this one.

I’m getting better at indulging in food, and even at indulging in food without punishing myself. Sometimes I devour cheap kebabs with gusto, and sometimes I go halvsies on a £27 Hotel Chocolat Easter egg with my partner and savour tiny mouthfuls of gourmet chocolate. I’ve managed to bully myself out of the bulimic practice of purging my meals – at first, this was because I was and am on oral hormonal birth control, and consider it a consent violation to jeopardise that without notifying anybody who might jizz in me, but over time, once I’d detached the act of eating from the act of puking, the mere hassle of purging became enough to deter me from it. Eating can still be a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one.

I’ll get back to y’all about my success with Masturbation Boot Camp. I’m hoping it’ll be a challenge, but a rewarding one, and I’ll learn to indulge in self-pleasure like I’m about to indulge in a sliver of salted caramel chocolate.

Formatting And Self-fornication: What Is A Wank Journal, Anyway?

Stock image of a white person's hand holding a blue ballpoint pen over a notebook. The rest of the person is out of frame and the table upon which the book sits is a neutral beige colour.

Content note: This post refers to sexual trauma & trauma responses to solo pleasure in the abstract, but does not contain details of consent violations or acute trauma responses.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted about the genesis of my Wank Journal. I did say that it would stay private for the time being, since it’s a tool to help me reconnect with my body and my sexuality in solo settings where my pleasure isn’t “for” anybody else. And I intend to keep its actual contents private (partially for the above reason, and partially because my handwriting is atrocious even when I’m not writing immediately post-wank) for now, but I thought I could explain exactly what a Wank Journal is (or might be) and how I use it (or how you could use it).

I bought my Wank Journal from a fancy stationary place. Its iridescent blue/pink cover gives me good autism (in other words, I find it a uniquely pleasant sensory input) and its lined pages make sure that my writing stays legible-ish so I can revisit it another day. It also has a section in the top right corner for the date (appearing like this: _ /_ / _ ), which means I don’t forget to date my entries and satisfies my autistic love of consistent formatting.

And regarding formatting: I put information into my Wank Journal under four subheadings, which I write out each time I make an entry, rather than pre-writing them and finding I’ve left myself too much space for some subheadings and not enough for others. After all, every wank is different, and I can’t predict how many lines I’ll need for my ‘Context’ section for every one of my next however-many wanks. If I were/you are recording my/your Wank Journal entries digitally, this is less of a consideration, but I’ve pre-filled aspects of journals before (like writing future dates at the top of every page of a diary) only to find that I’d over- or underestimated how much I’d write on any given day. Opting not to pre-fill pages in any way means that I can allow myself flexibility and spontaneity, so I could change my subheadings or the level of detail under a subheading on a whim.

The subheadings themselves are quite straightforward. The first is ‘Context’. This is where I note down any pertinent information about my day, my feelings and my surroundings. This can include where I’m at in my menstrual cycle, whether I’m at my own house or that of a partner, whether I’ve been under the weather… Really, anything goes here if I think it’s of relevance to the wank in question.

Subheading #2 is ‘Implement(s) Used’, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin. I write down the names of any toys I’ve used and denote whether or not I used lube. You could be as detailed as you like here: for example, you could write “hand”, “left hand” or “left index & middle fingers”, depending on what sort of sexy solo statistics you’re looking to garner. Since I just like reflecting on successful wanks and having a sense of how I might replicate them, I list toys by brand names or nicknames I’ve given them, and I don’t need much information about what I do with my hands unless it was especially mind-blowing.

The third heading I use is titled “What I Did” and involves, you guessed it, descriptions of what I did to get myself off. This is one of the things that helps prevent me from dissociating after wanking since it keeps me grounded in reality rather than allowing me to “check out” and forget I even have genitals. Again, the level of specificity you use really depends on what your objective is – if you want to connect with yourself and your sexy solo experiences, I’d just outline which body parts you touched and what made you climax/brought you the most enjoyment; if you’re looking to collect data on how you jack off to construct the perfect wanking experience for yourself, or just because you’re a nerd about sex stuff, you can get more nitty-gritty about it and write down all of the movements you used, which positions you masturbated in, and anything else that you deem noteworthy. Nobody’s grading you on this.

Fourth, we have the subheading “What I Thought About”. I don’t usually use porn or erotica when I’m getting myself off, but this is where that would slot if I ever I did, along with an outline of fantasies I had that were particularly hot and/or memorable. I use the term “fantasies” in the broadest sense here – I could have constructed an entire sexy universe in my mind, along with nuanced characters and a compelling story arc, or I could just write down “dick veins.” and call it a day. Generally, my input into this section leans more vague than specific, mirroring my sexy thoughts themselves, but again, you could dictate your every thought into your phone to transcribe at a later date, or take the “dick veins.” route according to your needs.

Lastly, we have the section titled “Aftermath”, which might not be of use to you if you’re using a Wank Journal to record wanks, rather than to explore your trauma responses and thoughts about said wanks. Here I write about any dissociative symptoms I’m experiencing, whether I have the shakes, any emotional reactions I’m having and anything else that seems to be a direct result of the wank itself. Sometimes this section is overwhelmingly positive and sometimes it’s not, and that’s fine. The important thing for me personally is gaining insight into my wanking and wanking-related trauma with the aim of making masturbation less difficult and more enjoyable. You might find an “Aftermath” section useful to gauge the relative intensity of your wanks, to explore your emotional reactions to certain kinky fantasies or porn, or to unpack negative associations you too might have with wanking in order to work through them.

However you use your Wank Journal, I recommend getting one with a water-resistant (or rather, let’s be real, a cum- and lube-resistant) finish to it – something plastic-y or at least waxy to keep your journal safe. (It was for this reason alone that I didn’t select the pink and fluffy journal that was also available and similarly formatted.) I also recommend having it near where you’re wanking, along with a pen, so that you can record your thoughts and feelings whilst they’re still fresh in your mind – you’d be surprised how quickly your recollection of a wank can fade! Of course, if you’re keeping a Wank Journal digitally, you needn’t worry about its material makeup nor its location – but I selected a real life paper journal specifically for its physicality. I find that the process of writing with pen on paper requires focus and prevents me from checking out of my body, keeping me mindful and present instead of dissociating with a vibrator still on my belly. If you’re thinking of using a Wank Journal to tackle sexual trauma, the physicality of it is 100% something to consider.

But at the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to keep a Wank Journal, just as there’s no right or wrong way to wank. Kate Sloan writes about sex spreadsheets and tracking sex-based data more broadly here, in a post I found fascinating – so I hoped y’all would find this insight into my sex-related data collection fascinating, too (even though I have no colour-coding to speak of). You do you, and as we head into 2019, I wish you all happy wanking.