Gregory, 28, Hartford, CTWhenever I get into any kind of sexual situation, I usually need to voice my insecurity. I have a lot of body insecurities. I have a lot of sex insecurities. I just have a lot of insecurities in general, and they’re really at the forefront of my mind. I'm kind of forced to bring them up, because I know my partner would pick up on them, anyway.
I didn't want to admit that I was having feelings like jealousy or insecurity. They‘re just so painful and miserable that I pretended they weren’t there.When I have brought these things up, it hasn’t gone horribly, but it has made sex a little less satisfying. Women are generally reassuring, but still, once it’s out there between us, it’s just hard to work with. I feel like I can't assume the role of the strong, confident man anymore. Once I’ve had sex with a partner a few times, it does get better, but not completely. I find that once I’ve put all that shit out there, it defines the dynamic between us, and pigeonholes me into this role as a ball of insecurity. And that isn’t a sexy vibe to me. It’s associated with a lot of shame, because I learned from the culture that sexual insecurity is something men should be ashamed of. With my previous girlfriend, there were a few times when we were first together when I couldn't get hard. We talked about it and she was sweet and understanding, but her sympathy made me feel ashamed and unattractive, so it killed the spark. After we had a sex a few more times I stopped having the problem, and our sex got better in general. Later, we talked and laughed about it, but to me, it still felt like, by being so vulnerable early on, I could never fully escape my shame about it.
Kevin, 30, Lexington, KYFrom the outside, I probably look like someone who is pretty comfortable with sex and dating. In many ways, I am. Flirting came naturally to me, and I’ve mostly had a pretty active dating and sex life. I had a good deal of casual sex in my twenties, but it was rarely good or fulfilling. I would show no vulnerability. It felt like this performance that I was going to be judged on, and I was obsessing constantly in my head about if my partner was enjoying it. I had so much anxiety around it, but I never communicated any of it. I just thought that if I showed or talked about any of that, it would be really unattractive. A lot of my sense of self-worth was tied up in how attractive I was to women. Casual sex, to me, was more about the validation of being wanted rather than the sex itself. That just felt more like just something I had to do, almost as an afterthought. Even in longer relationships, I tended to not want to admit insecurity, because it just felt so embarrassing, and I thought my girlfriend would lose respect for me, lose interest in me.
People would sometimes underestimate or overlook me because I led with my feminine side.But It wasn’t only that I didn’t want to show it—I also didn't want to admit to myself that I was having feelings like jealousy or insecurity. They‘re just so painful and miserable that I pretended they weren’t there. Only very recently did I start to admit those feelings. With my current girlfriend, things are better. I feel a lot more open and free with her, sexually and romantically. I let her know when something she does makes me a little jealous. It’s really hard for me to do, but she’s been really nice. I’m starting to see my insecurity as just proof that I love her, something a little painful but natural.