If you don’t trust your own sexuality, then why would anyone else? 10 steps to trust your primal erotic expression.
A few years ago I realized a big reason I surrounded myself with women who were insightful and distrustful of masculine sexuality was because I was similarly untrusting of my own sexuality. I figured, if I can gain the trust of these brilliant, beautiful women who have been deeply wounded, then I can trust myself to be safe. They were a litmus test I was unconsciously putting myself through.
While this game had its useful lessons, it was a lose-lose situation. Why? Because, if I did not trust myself, how could these women? Would you trust a man who does not trust himself?
Many men, myself included, grow up being taught our sexuality is something that needs to be managed, kept leashed. Male sexuality, particularly young male sexuality, is considered too intense, too insensitive, and too aggressive. If young male sexuality were to be fully expressed, we are told, it would cause a lot of hurt and destruction. It should be carefully hidden in most circumstances.
I learned that my sexuality is, at its core, a burden on society, yet, as a male I should act with bravado and pretend the opposite. I was taught that my sexual needs will only be accepted if couched in gifts both tangible and intangible. If a woman is deigning to engage with me sexually, I owe her something. I should pay for dinner at least, and be available to fix her car, or perhaps offer a life-long commitment to loving partnership.
Female sexuality is at least equally defamed, and often even more so. The women I grew up with were made to feel that by allowing themselves to engage in sex with a man, they were giving something away. To do this without some sort of compensation, or too frequently, meant they were a slut. And if they are too stingy with sexual energy, they were considered prudes. They had to walk an even narrower tightrope.
This paradigm, built on a tradition that sees women as property and sex as primarily a means of male entertainment and/or reproduction, leaves everyone on guard against their own natural sexual drives.
A lot has changed since birth control became readily available and reasonably reliable, and since women began being considered full fledged human beings of at least equal stature to their male counterparts.
And a lot hasn’t changed, and for most of us, the idea that our sex drive is inherently valuable and innately benevolent is something of a revolutionary concept.
Realizing how much I deeply distrusted the idea of my own unfettered sexual expression, I decided to take a long hard look in the mirror and see if I could earn my own trust. It was a powerful process. Here’s 10 steps I’ve taken on this path:
1. I decided to take full responsibility for my actions and their impact.
Erotic energy is the nuclear power of connection. A little bit of it can generate a lot of bonding in a short amount of time. But if you make a mistake with it, intentional or not, it can blow up and leave a mess that will take a long time and a lot of work to clean up. When I decide to engage with erotic energy, I am responsible for full participation in that clean up.
2. I vowed to stop blaming anyone else for my sexual struggles.
Part of owning your own sexual power means taking that power back from anyone you’ve tried to give it to. I often tried to blame my sex partner for why I wasn’t satisfied, subtly and not-so-subtly. That isn’t honest. You are fully responsible for your own experience, and if you are not satisfied it is because you are not showing up fully. If you don’t want to show up fully, or are afraid to, then you need to own that.
3. I forgave my younger self.
Looking back at my younger self, there are things I’ve done, as well as missed opportunities, that I regret, at times. This regret is an indication of growth, learning, and reflection. I now understand that those regrettable experiences got me to where I am now. I also make amends where necessary and possible.
There is a certain amount of arrogance in being ashamed of our past actions, as if remorse is only something other people should have. If we can embrace our younger selves and the choices made, we can have a more realistic, humble, and compassionate perspective of ourselves and others.
4. I created space for new mistakes going forward.
I am still and will always be a work in progress. The truth is, I really don’t expect to stop making mistakes any time soon. But I hope to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.
5. I committed to getting the most growth possible out of my mistakes.
Mistakes are where the magic happen. You won’t learn anything faster or deeper than you will from a genuine mistake. Just a few months ago, when a female colleague posted something on Facebook about her work, I sent her an article that was cautioning against some of the potential pitfalls of that particular sort of work. I honestly thought I was engaging with her in a helpful way. Instead, my unsolicited cautionary article was irksome to her, and I got a quick lesson in what mansplaining is. I owned my mistake, apologized, and took the lesson with me. I will do better next time. Thinking about it now, I’m genuinely grateful to her for the impromptu lesson, (and still somewhat abashed.) I assure you, I will not forget what mansplaining is anytime soon, and I will be keeping an eye on myself around it.
6. I committed to facing my own limitations, and letting myself grow beyond them.
We all have limits. They are what keep us safe and comfortable. Get to know yours, and get comfortable with them. They aren’t an issue except when we aren’t aware of them(then we usually project them onto others). Once you know where your limits are, and begin to accept them, you will see them start to shift and expand. You don’t actually have to do anything to make them expand, except get to know them and get comfortable with them. Life, particularly a life with an engaged sex life, will do the rest.
7. I stopped hemming myself in with the limitations of others.
Let other people enjoy their limitations and be comfortable with them, but don’t limit yourself with them. I had a tendency to be drawn to people who would prevent me from growing too fast beyond my own comfort zone. This unconscious behavior set up relationships that inevitably bred resentment, and the potential for nuclear meltdowns. If you do this, see number 1, and help with the clean up. But try not to do it, and remember number 2.
8. I asked for trust, and was curious how to gain it.
I will never forget the day when I was first able to ask my wife for her trust, not out of need for validation or reassurance, but out of sense of being worthy of it. I was able to really be interested in what was blocking her from opening up to me, instead of seeing her own blocks as evidence of my flaws. I was able to meet her in her distrust from a patient place and care for her needs, instead of feeling hurt and defended. She immediately grasped the change in me, and it was a pivotal moment in the deepening of our relationship.It takes guts, but, when you are ready to live up to it, once you trust your sexuality, ask for the trust you deserve. You can’t force anyone to trust you, but you can become worthy of it, and you can stand openly in that conviction. You can be curious about why someone might not trust you, and explore how you might address the concern. You might find an opportunity for growth, and a chance to bring more integrity into your life.
9. I accepted trust when it was offered.
This is another constant process, and, in many ways, the big payoff. Every time I accept more trust, the stakes are raised. The more deeply I am trusted, the more people from whom I accept deep trust, the more I feel the razor edge of my integrity. It gets harder to fake authenticity, and I have to become more humble, more genuine, or get exhausted. And I have to lean even more into those I trust for support.Seek those who can give you the trust you deserve, and those you can rely on just as safely. There is nothing more precious in this world than trust, and, sometimes, nothing harder to accept. Step towards it, and let it hone your integrity to an even sharper, more resilient form than trust for yourself alone.
10. I commit to repairing trust when it gets broken.
There are mistakes, and then there are breaks in integrity. When you make a mistake, you can repair that with a good apology and minimal lasting damage to trust. When you break from your integrity, you break trust with everyone you are connected to. Your integrity is aligned with your deepest knowing of your self, humble, clear, and sincere. It is the quiet part of you that knows your intrinsic truth, and offers no arguments. Breaks with integrity can also be repaired, but it takes a long time, and a lot of work (like cleaning up a nuclear meltdown). Do it. Get help if you need it. If you make it through, the trust will return, and be built on a firmer foundation.
Bannigan McDade is a mad scientist of love, pushing the edges of human capacity for connection and intimacy. Through a combination of lived-experience, profound training, and professional service he has come to be regarded as an expert in the realm of modern human relationships. Bannigan has the rare ability to quickly ascertain where any relationship is stuck or struggling, and offer clear, simple steps to create powerful shifts toward more expansion and deeper connection. He is constantly teaching (and learning) emotional intelligence, the foundational strength required to achieve the full potential of love that is our birthright.
Bannigan’s credentials include a M.A. in Integral Counseling Psychology and California State Certification as a Sexological Bodyworker. His relationship counseling and sex therapy practice is based out of Santa Monica, CA, serving clients throughout the United States. Find out more about what he is up to at banniganmcdade.com.