Not In The Mood

Sometimes I’m tired or my anxiety is consuming eighty percent of my energy, and sometimes it’s the week before my period and my body hurts and I feel bloated like a inflatable raft. Sometimes I’m just not feeling it. Sometimes I’ll be feeling it and then my partner will say something well intentioned but that makes the whole thing seem like a lot of effort for my tired soul that just wanted to have sex and an intimate moment before bed and I’ll flip over, not into it anymore. There are nights that I want to wrap myself up like a burrito and pretend the world doesn’t exist. Sometimes I wonder if my sex drive is just particularly low and if actually there are people all over the city ready to go at any moment. I sometimes wonder if I’m just a weirdo with an extra sensitive vagina that gets sore often.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that saying no to someone is going to make them angry. I’ve always felt guilty for not wanting to, over apologizing and freaking out that my partner, who I’ve been in a committed relationship with for over a year, will be mad or hold it against me, even though he has never done either of those things.  

I never see people turn down sex in the movies. Usually when people would offer reasons for why I wouldn’t want to have sex with them, they were along the lines of ‘you’re scared you’ll get attached,” or “you don’t want to make it awkward later.” It was rarely just, oh, you might not want to and that’s totally okay and we’ll just cuddle and eat noodles. If I didn’t want to, I would compensate by apologizing, promising sex later at a different time, worried that the person would be offended or lose interest or the very worst, kick me out of their apartment in anger. I was terrified that my perceived rejection would result in an even larger rejection. I was scared that the other person would go into a rage and just go out and find someone else.

Eventually, I realized that having sex when I wasn’t in the mood wasn’t worth it, just to avoid judgement. There were exceptions, when it felt like I wanted to do it out of love for someone else and their need at that moment, but generally, I started to back away from having sex on nights when I didn’t feel like it, especially when I was doing it out of worry that the other person would be angry. Please, I would whisper to myself, let me tell you this without you judging me. I’m so tired and just want to cuddle. I wanted to be the cool girl, the fun and sexy girl, always up for it, but not as much as I wanted to be the girl who did what she wanted, who could say no and mean it and not eat herself alive with guilt.

The key is communicating to a partner the why behind the decision. As someone who has initiated sex before only to have the other person say they’re not in the mood, it’s easy to feel that it’s a reflection of how the person feels about you. Taking ego out of it is hard, but clearly explaining the emotions and thought process behind it can help the other person understand what’s going on in your body and soul.

I like to either set expectations at the beginning of the night, if I know what kind of a mood I’m in, or take the time to walk the other person through what’s on my mind. For example, the other day I was in the mood for something quick before work; my boyfriend was interested in a longer and more focused interaction. I had suggested it and had mentioned that we were short on time, so I thought we were on the same page, and when he asked me if we could focus on me for fifteen minutes, I felt immediately stressed. Instead of feeling thankful that he wanted to focus on me, I felt pressure to enjoy it and validate him; I felt stressed for time and as though he hadn’t heard me when I had suggested having sex quickly to start the day off. I was frustrated that his perception of what would make me happy wasn’t matching up with mine. I felt like it was more about him wanting to do something for me that was actually for himself, and his vision of what I wanted, than it was me asking him to do something for me because it was what I wanted. It’s a very fine line but is different. I felt like I would have to spent those fifteen minutes enjoying myself when in reality, I had too much on my mind to really be in the moment for more than a few minutes.

Eventually, the situation deflated and it was clear that I didn’t feel like it anymore. Later, when I was explaining it to him, I tried to communicate that I didn’t want to experiment in a moment when I had expressed stress. I had felt like I was already making an effort to find time for us to have the experience, and that nothing I did would be good enough, that I would never enjoy myself enough or make enough time. Explaining to him the subtleties of what I read from the situation versus what he did allowed us to openly communicate about why I went from being interested in sex to not being interested in sex.

It’s okay to not always be in the mood. Saying I don’t feel like it is a completely  valid reason. And people who make you feel like you’re being judged for not being in the mood, because they’ve somehow never seen a person not want to have sex, are taking it as a rejection of them, rather than a move for you and your body. Sometimes sex just isn’t what’s on the table for the night. And that’s okay.

Saving Myself For Marriage

I am nineteen and I am still a virgin.

No, I am not Christian, and no, I am not asexual. I had one guy ask me, “How could you give him a blow job, and not have sex?” He said it as though I am some sort of prude alien. The truth is, I just never felt comfortable taking things that far. After one boyfriend, some pointless dates, and a drunken hookup, I have decided to save myself for marriage. Actually, I am quite proud of my decision. Is this some sort of contractual agreement I have made with myself? Absolutely not. I have no idea what is in store for the next five years of my life. What I do know is, this is where I stand as of today, and it is going to take one hot Brazilian model or Australian surfer to change that. Much of my generation has felt pressured to lose their virginity, and lose it early. Seemingly, everyone around them has. They feel as though it is an achievement they must reach, like a level in a video game.

You are in control of your own body, and no one can tell you otherwise. If you are in a relationship, you are ready to have intercourse, but then change your mind; you are not a terrible person for doing so. I cannot tell you how many times I have been called a tease.  I have had my fair share of rejection because I am a virgin, too. Boys do not want to risk me getting attached afterwards. Which, does happen very easily for me. The rejection has been hard. It makes me feel as though that is the only thing they are after. That if they were to take my virginity, they would scurry away once they got what they wanted. I want to share that moment with someone who I care about, and I know for a fact those feelings are reciprocated. That person may be a boyfriend or a total babe you swiped right on. For me, that person is a husband.

So, if you are sixteen, twenty-six, or forty-six and have not lost your virginity; have no fear. There is certainly nothing wrong with you. Besides, there are many ways you can keep yourself, and your partner, satisfied; without going all the way. Hand-jobs and blow jobs are excellent alternatives. If you are worried about giving oral to your partner, be open with them about your concerns. Communication is key. If they care about you, they will be honest and understanding. If you do not currently have someone in your life, masturbation is another option (and completely healthy!). If you are eighteen, vibrators and other sex toys are available at any adult store. Depending on the type of vibrator, they are relatively affordable. You can purchase one through Adam and Eve for as little as twenty dollars. The choice is 100 percent yours.

Some may say that virginity is just a word. But to me, it is much more than that. It is something I am choosing to hold sacred until the day I walk down the aisle towards the one I love.

Desiring Asian Women

Feeling beautiful has always been a challenging aspect of my childhood and still is. When I was 10, I was transplanted from a world where everywhere I looked, people had my nose, my eyes, my skin to a world where everyone was white. Immediately, I believed I wasn’t beautiful. The sad part was I was only 10 years old when the process began. At my public school in suburban New Jersey, almost everyone was white. I saw beauty as thin, blonde, with blue eyes. I equated beauty with whiteness. Even at age 10, I was worried that my differences made boys not like me in the same way they liked a white girl. There was nothing in the media for me to look up to either. There was no show on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel that featured an Asian girl who I could relate to, who I could find inspiration in. All I saw were girls that resembled the white girls in my classes. I wanted to be one of them. I hated being different.

As I grew older, I slowly began to notice that being an Asian woman had other connotations as well. Before, I just didn’t want to be the nerdy, ugly Asian girl. Now, I realized that Asian women were considered sexy and exotic. But, I also realized that those were the only roles Asian women could take on. Either, her looks were degraded as being less desirable than white features or her looks were hyper-sexualized and exoticized. I can already hear some men lashing out saying “what’s so wrong if I find Asian women to be beautiful? Isn’t that a compliment?” As an Asian woman, I can attest that there is nothing worse than feeling like someone’s attraction stems from their curiosity for being with an “exotic” person. Being fetishized is being degraded to just your sexuality. Asian fetishes are eerily connected to connotations of domination and colonization. That goes for all white folks who fetishize people of color. To desire someone purely based on their skin color is no more admirable than to hate someone purely based on their skin color.

I wanted to be desired but not fetishized. As I grew older, I became more confident in my own beauty. I finally saw my eyes, nose and hair as being beautiful, but the desire I received from boys often times made me uncomfortable. I remember the summer after my senior year of high school, I was at a party with my then boyfriend. One of his friends went up to him drunkenly and said “Is that your girlfriend? Good work man! she’s not only hot but she’s Asian so her pussy must be really tight.” My boyfriend told me about the incident. Initially, my reaction was to laugh it off, but I soon grew uncomfortable. How could someone take one look at me and immediately think “her pussy must be really tight”. I felt so small. It was a a creepy generalization about the sexuality of Asian women that sounded like a compliment. I felt like my pussy was this object to be leered at by the men who fetishized me. This is an experience that all people of color can relate to, especially women of color. It was such a brief moment, but it has not left my mind.

The Asian woman’s body has been colonized in the US media. in Hollywood and in pornography alike, Asian women are represented as docile, dominated and exotic beings. They’re often the lovers, the counterparts, the dominions of white men. It’s not only a fetishization but also an attempt to align being Asian with whiteness, or at least with being better than other minorities. I do not condone my body, my sexuality to be something that’s conquered and objectified. I am not a fetish. I am a person of color, and I do not desire to be aligned with whiteness. We are not undesirable because of our distinct features. We are not sex objects either because of our distinct features. Our bodies are ours and not tools of sexual gratification for others.

Generation Of Validation

Numbers are taught in early years of elementary school to be the most accurate, objective measurement of essentially anything. Rulers measure length, graduated cylinders test volume, scales calculate weight. Numbers are concrete facts. It is easy to believe numbers are the purest way to measure anything– even human beings.

Every community has a set of standards and expectations for people, typically defined by identity. Social norms and cues can regulate these standards. People who follow expectations are often praised and accepted, while people who do not fulfill social standards can be instilled with shame. I have always felt social pressures to change who I am throughout my life, but never saw the benefit of conforming to other people’s expectations. But when I went away to college, I witnessed immediate gratification.

College culture gives easy access to external validation. Class appraises through grades. Organizations, especially Greek life, create exclusivity and therefore the feeling of privilege once accepted. Clubs boost up resumes along with leadership titles. On a non-academic level, having plans to go out at night meant popularity; which everyone would be aware of through social media. Binge drinking, especially on a school night, signified having it all together. How could one have the time to blackout if they were not getting by in school? Participating in hook-up culture meant one was attractive enough to participate in the realm of casual sex. Attendance at the gym exemplified caring about health (even if one took 7 shots of $10 vodka the night prior).

I quickly craved doing it all, not because I wanted to, but because of the reward, I would receive by doing those things. I was always taught that doing well in school, participating in extracurricular activities, being accepted by peers, and being physically fit would make me a well-rounded person. Now, I had an explicit method to prove to everyone, and myself, that I was the genuine, hard-working, dedicated person I always believed I was. The grades I got in class, the number of activities I was involved with, my social life, the number of guys I slept with, my weight— they all became measurements of my worth and happiness.

I was able to hold it all together at first. I made the dean’s list. I joined a sorority. I took part in clubs and organizations where I held titles and positions. I would drink 3-5 times a week while averaging about 150 likes per Instagram post when I would go out. I was single but seeing multiple guys, while playing the persona as the detached cool girl. I trained and ran a half marathon.I did everything I believed would make me a well-rounded, successful, happy person.

It felt fulfilling in the moment. I was proud of everything: my work, my involvement, my social life. But in the dead of sober nights, I felt my accomplishments stripped from me. Nothingness started to culture inside of me. Who was I? What was I worth if I wasn’t being measured by external things? At first, I thought this meant I wasn’t trying hard enough, so I pushed myself to escape the emptiness. Pressuring myself then developed into unhealthy habits: staying in the library until the 2am closing, volunteering to do more than I had time for, running the extra mile even when my body was aching, taking the extra shot, sleeping with guys I was disinterested in, calculating calories so I could maintain a deficit of 1,200 per day (including alcoholic calories). It all caught up to me in waves of anxiety and depression.

We wonder why mental health is an epidemic on college campuses, but don’t see the toxic culture that is in place. College culture teaches students to be exceptional humans through external validation. Classes are about getting good grades, not learning. Greek life is focused on reputation. Binge drinking and fitness are an ongoing conflicting battle. Social media allows for 24/7 validation and is used to portray acceptance and happiness. Party culture and hooking up becomes a numbers game.

An involved college community can be positive and powerful. But somewhere along the way, It starts to become personal. We are taught that our successes on campus make us better people, thus more happy and worthy people. We start evaluating people based on the surface. We start to believe that people are only as good as the recognition they receive.

The problem with external validation is that it never adds up. It is passing. It is never enough. The desire to be validated becomes stronger and stronger until we start to do things because of the immediate gratification we receive in return instead of doing them because we want to. It becomes mindless and robotic.

I don’t think the need for validation is exclusive in college culture. I think it is only a taste of reality; a preview of how the rest of society is structured. Numbers accurately measure concepts and objects. The one thing numbers cannot precisely measure are human beings. The complexity of humans cannot be compared and contrasted. Lived experiences cannot be calculated. Humans grow and evolve in too many ways to be classified in a single, linear path. Why do we insist that the things outside of ourselves make us better people?
External validation convinced me that my most vulnerable self-was dark and ugly. That I was nothing without everything around me. For a while, I feared the person I was when I was stripped of my achievements. But now, in the middle of the night, when there is no one around or nothing is going on, I reflect on the person I am. Seeing myself with nothing- as nothing- has made me realize there is so much more to me than what is sitting on the surface.