Why I Cry During Sex

Content warning: mentions of abuse

The first time I cried during sex, I was taken by surprise. I was with a guy I liked, engaging in consensual activities. We stopped immediately and he apologized, though neither of us was sure what he was apologizing for. Was he too rough? Was I under an exceptional amount of stress at work? Was it hormones (ugh!)? I didn’t have the answer, so the issue was politely ignored. When we stopped seeing each other not too long after (amicably, and for unrelated reasons), the episode was forgotten.

The second time I cried during sex, I was in a longterm relationship with, quite frankly, one of the worst men I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. It was one of those times you look back on and seriously question why you put yourself through that, and why the people around you allowed it. When I cried with him, he would get frustrated. It interrupted sex and prevented him from having a good time. It seemed to completely escape his notice that I, clearly, was not having a good time either. I found myself apologizing to him for crying, which he insisted was my way of intentionally ruining the moment. 

I cried many more times with that partner, both in and out of the bedroom. He used sex as a tool for relationship politics, where we were almost always fighting for different things. He was the kind of person who could never be wrong. When he was particularly upset over a perceived slight, he would tell me outright that he wouldn’t accept an apology unless it was delivered during sex. Any sexual act between us became a transaction, where I was submitted to any indignity necessary to make him like me again. Not that it would ever last for long. (And, might I add, the sex was terrible even outside of the emotional manipulation).

By the time we broke up, I had an extremely unhealthy relationship with sex. It had become a power struggle, one which I was required to lose. And, let me tell you, I am not someone who is used to losing. It took me a long time to find myself back in a space where I trusted another person enough to have sex with them. For me, sex is a deeply emotional activity. I still like it, and I can still have fun during sex, but I am now almost hyperaware of any sense of disconnect between me and my partner. I am constantly looking for warning signs that could lead to an undesired imbalance of power, which is tricky to navigate in an activity that so often relies upon dynamics of dominance and submission.

Today, I am in a healthy and loving relationship. But I still cry, almost more than ever. I can never predict when it’s going to happen. The difference is that I no longer need to apologize for it. I feel supported with my partner, and I know that my comfort and enjoyment is just as important as his. 

Sometimes, sex can be frustrating and imperfect, even with a loving partner. Sometimes, people cry during sex. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pinpoint the exact reason I cry, or if it will ever stop completely, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself. The tears are insignificant when I’m with someone who I know will make me feel safe and respected. I know now that I will never settle for anything less ever again.

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