My Struggle with Self-Pleasure
Self-care is an act of becoming
by George M. Johnson
Earlier this year I wrote a story disclosing my HIV status to the world in effort to release a weight I had been carrying for over five years. It was during that time I realized that we often suffer in silence with personal issues we are going through, never realizing that many others may be experiencing the same type of thing. For that reason, I have found it important to be as transparent as possible when discussing any of my struggles, knowing that I may not be going through it alone and could be helping someone else who is suffering. So, with that said, I struggled for many years to pleasure myself.
It was around 2011 when I first started noticing this struggle. It didn’t matter whether I was using a visual aid, i.e., porn, or my imagination, I struggled to get an erection or if I could get one I couldn’t keep it up long enough for it to be enjoyable. I remember often hearing stories from other dudes about how often they would masturbate and think to myself, “What the hell is wrong with me?” From that time on, the times I would even attempt to pleasure myself decreased at a rapid rate until I reached a point of hating masturbating at all.
Oddly enough, I never experienced this issue during sexual intercourse with someone else, and, trust me, I have had a lot of sex with no issues to prove it. This often led me to wondering what the problem was, to the point that I almost asked my doctor about it. Then I realized there was no need for me to waste money speaking to a doctor when I truly knew the issue the entire time. See, I had never really dealt with my diagnosis properly. I was also never happy with the body that I had, toned but on the lean side of things. These two problems created a place that when I looked in the mirror, the reflection I saw was not one I would ever want to be with. There was nothing about myself that I found sexually attractive. As much as my body could arouse others, and again there were plenty of others, I was unable to see what they saw and get those same feelings.
It’s funny how we are often taught to love others before we are ever taught what self-love and self-care looks like. We wander, looking for our better halfs, not filling the voids ourselves. Although that is not necessarily a bad thing—to have someone help you on the journey—but it is a problem when you take that trip never addressing the problems yourself. My refusal to do so made my sexual life quite interesting. I could easily go weeks without sexual intercourse nor masturbating, which in turn made me a bitch to be around. As testosterone is made in the testes, my refusal to release often made me more aggressive and quick-tempered and I noticed it, as did my friends. I would literally say, “I need to have sex or I’m going to hurt someone,” knowing that blocking the natural bodily function of ejaculation was driving me nuts. It was finally about two years ago or more when I decided to really address the issue head-on.
It was during that time I took an assessment of my self, and decided to work on the things that would make me attracted to me. I started a new job and a new career, which made me a much happier person in my work life. I began taking the gym much more seriously, which helped build confidence, my health, and pushed me toward the body I always wanted to have. I changed the way I dressed, got the tattoos I always wanted, and started to live life with purpose. I noticed that when I looked in the mirror I began seeing a different person. One that I was attracted to and could smile at and be sexually turned on by. The things I saw in others, I was finally able to start seeing in myself. The erection issues I had when indulging in self-pleasure slowly began fading over time.
Now, at thirty-one years old, I have learned to love and appreciate the things I once saw as flaws within myself. Not only because of the changes that I made to the person and physical being, but to the circumstances around me that blocked me from being who I was supposed to be. Something to take away is to always remember that we are more than your status, body shape, and attractiveness to the opposite sex. It is important to remember that the first person we need to love is the one we look at every day in the mirror.
George M Johnson is a black queer journalist and activist. He has written for Ebony, TheGrio, JET, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, Black Youth Project, and several HIV publications. Follow him on Twitter @iamgmjohnson.