As a young girl, my father told me that, were I to have sex with multiple people I would cleave myself up into separate pieces. For each person I slept with, I would give a part of myself away. As a result, I’d become fragmented; reduced to a lesser version of me.
I grew into adulthood imagining myself a piece of beef tenderloin; one whose value, were I to allow anyone to feast, would rapidly decrease. With each nibble into my juicy flesh, my stocks would fall, until eventually, they’d crash.
I learned that my worth as a woman was tied to my virtue. I was sold that sex, especially of the extramarital kind, takes something away from me; that it will dirty and break me in irreparable ways.
On the contrary, I was never told what would happen to the men, were I to give them a piece of me(at), but as implied, I assumed that while I dwindled, they’d expand proportionally. I read between the lines that a man’s worth increases at best, and, at the very least, remains unaffected by their body count.
My father’s words stayed with me. I stored them somewhere along with the other dogma that I never fully embraced—at least not intellectually—yet they managed to seep into every fiber of my emotional body. As much as I rejected these ideas, I held fast to the image of my sexual self as something to be kept unscathed.
While I failed to remain entirely so, I was still just chipped at by the time I entered my thirties. Then, everything changed when I split from my husband; the one I’d previously chosen to preserve my prudence until the end of our days.
As I set foot in the garden of earthly delights, I decided it best to keep a journal of my mischiefs. First, I convinced myself that I needed this record to remember moments and the people I’d shared them with.
Recently, I looked at my list and realized that what I see, still, are pieces of me(at) with names and numbers attached to each of them. It dawned on me that a part of me is holding onto this list in order to keep track of each missing morsel—should I one day attempt to track them down to piece myself back together again.
A friend asked me what I wanted to release for this week’s full moon. I thought about it for a bit, and my log came to mind.
In the end, I decided to hang onto the physical list, because sometime in the far future, I can imagine glancing at it to be reminded of all those glorious moments of aweless lust and passion. What I’ve decided to release are the beliefs associated with this record.
From now on, when looking at it, I will no longer see pieces given away, but experiences gained, with the knowledge that nothing, or no part of anyone, was lost in the process.
Further, I’ve long accepted the saying that shared joy is double the joy. I believe this to be true for sex as well, completely independently of who and how many people you choose to do it with.
Amusingly, whenever I make a case against my puritan roots, I happen to find the perfect verses in the Bible to support my claims. Behold, Luke 6:30 from the New Living Translation:
I hereby release the guilt and shame associated with my sexuality; and the idea that any action or other person has the power to diminish my value. I know and believe that I’m not a piece of meat that gets cleaved up and handed out.
Replacing my outdated beliefs is the knowledge that I am whole. I am me, and no less so, no matter how I choose to use the precious gift of sexuality and this vessel I’ve been given. Whatever I give or share, on my own terms, will not depleat me, but return to me in full and make room for more!
-Ena Dahl (this story originally appeared on Medium)