Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sexual shutdown: submissive defense mechanism

I like sex. In fact, I love sex. Love may even be a bit of an understatement. In a conversation with my husband I once defined sex as my three top hobbies. Writing about sex, thinking about sex, having sex with my husband. Yep, that's three, isn't it? I have a vast array of other interests; I am easily drawn into subjects. I'm interested in most things, but sex is the top three, absolutely.

I also adore my husband to distraction. He is my true love.

Something happens to me, though, when we go long enough without sexual interaction. I shut down. I've written about it briefly before.

We went for three days without sex, activity or talk, except for a blow job one night, which normally I'd count as sex but in this case really felt like servicing him for his relief rather than mutual pleasure. I was already partially into my shutdown.

I had a very bad day in there, and he was extra-attentive during the day, giving me lots of extra hugs, long soft kisses in the middle of the grocery store, squeezing me close to him while we cooked. In fact, he's done pretty much everything right.

My sex drive still shut down.

I don't deny him access to my body, his pleasure, or the opportunity to do other things. I gave him the blow job freely and willingly, even enthusiastically. Despite my own lack of desire, I wanted to be pleasing to him, to hear his noises of enjoyment. We played video games and listened to music and sat around fiddling with our computers. I don't want to be a chore for him; I want him to enjoy spending time with me, and he does.

My sensual, sexual self is really the largest part of me. Lying naked or nearly so next to him night after night and just falling alseep, or briefly servicing him before he falls asleep, signals my sexual self that she's not needed anymore. She's there, ready, willing, wanting, but he doesn't need or want her, and so she goes into what I can only describe as hibernation. She's not really the sort to throw a tantrum, to take her ball and go home, but she's very much the sort to feel unnecessary and to withdraw, quietly, without being noticed.

I do it in the rest of my life, too. I see my friends having a grand time without me and, feeling completely unnecessary to anyone, I retreat - sometimes physically removing myself from being around them, sometimes just withdrawing emotionally. Truthfully, I'm not necessary to anyone's happiness, of course I'm not. Thank goodness for that since having other people's happiness depend on you is exhausting. At most I'm a pleasant diversion from life, but some moments I feel my basic uselessness more than others and I withdraw, sad.

My sexual self retreats even more quietly. I'm still there for my husband, still submissive, still communicative, still very much in love with him. There's no absence noticed by anyone but me, unless my husband might happen to notice something is off. My entire experience of the world feels dulled, my nerve endings and other sensory inputs reduced to perhaps a quarter of their normal functionality. I feel crippled. Delight in the rest of my life is harder to find. I wander around, feeling like a branch that's been cut for a vase; I show all signs of life but I'm slowly dying inside, disconnected from my source. It looks very much like depression. I pick at meals which I only cook because there are people besides me who need to eat, I struggle to enjoy things I normally do, and I think longingly of the days when he wanted me - when he really, really wanted me. The love he expressed over the sexless days was sweet, good, and needed, but it didn't make me feel desirable.

That's the thing, isn't it? It's not the lack of sex we may have, it's the lack of desire that I feel from him. The days I think of longingly are the ones when we were forced to be apart by our widely-flung places of residence, the days when he'd tell me every day, often explicitly and in great detail, how much he wanted me. Those days, if I'd been naked in his bed neither of us would have slept for a very, very long time.

Of course I don't actually long for those days; they were horrible. I spent far, far more days wandering around in a haze of misery then than I do now. We couldn't even talk to each other with our voices without spending a lot of money, but I was wanted, and I knew it.

So this is my defense mechanism: my needs dry up and go away when they're not met, or made to feel important, and it really doesn't take that long for me to begin to feel that way. It's quite clever, really, because it means I can function, even if at a severely reduced capacity.

The biggest problem, besides me wandering around in zombie mode, comes when he does want that part of me again. She's gone, far, far away. I start to plan things that will work around having sex, just to avoid having him realize she's gone. "Let's play a game! Or you can work on your website!" I know he's easily distracted and it will get late pretty fast if we start doing something engaging, and then he'll be tired, and I can go on with my life without him realizing that she is gone. While it makes me very sad that any of this goes on at all, somehow when the defense mechanism kicks in, I feel a great need to protect the hibernating part of me.

Inevitably, the week will end, as it did this time. I managed my avoidance tactics on Friday, we played video games and he fell asleep. My sexual self rolled over a little when he began toying gently with my nipples, but ultimately she never woke up, and we fell asleep. Saturday morning is another issue entirely. With nowhere to go and our little one not yet up, he started playing with me, stroking my body, kissing me, holding my wrist tightly and slapping my inner forearm, spanking my breasts. All things I generally enjoy quite a lot, but this time, while I didn't stop him, I wasn't really feeling anything. I wasn't responsive; it didn't matter to me. I moved when he nudged me, did what he told me, and let him do what he wanted. He's a pretty bright fellow, though; he knew I wasn't into it after a little bit and he stopped, confused.

Then we had to have the conversation I'd been avoiding for two days. I feel like such a failure when I shut down like that, like I am throwing a tantrum. It's not a tantrum, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. It's a failsafe to protect me so that I'm not throwing myself at someone who doesn't want me and getting even more hurt. It's doubly needed because as a submissive woman, it's so so important to me not to force my own desires onto him. I can't temper my needs, but I apparently can shut them off, send them away completely. I can recognize it for what it is, but I can't change it. He gathered me into his arms, feeling pretty terrible himself because it happened at all.

This happens. This is a thing. I have read other people's blogs and heard them talk about experiencing something very much like this. Feel free to chime in with what your experience is like, I'd love to know I'm not alone.

Saturday afternoon, we came home from an outing and spent two hours in bed making out. He kissed me until I melted into a puddle of want. "I'll do things to you tonight," he told me as I whimpered longingly into his mouth. That part of me? Yeah, she's awake now.

Turns out, it's been a pretty bad week overall for us, in all kinds of arenas. Hopefully we can start turning that around tonight.


  1. I possibly don't have much to say about this cos I don't think I've experienced anything quite so similar.

    However I DO know that with my ex boyfriend there came a time when all he wanted from me was a blowjob every now and then. And even then he didn't let me finish him off. He'd signal when he'd had enough (as if humouring me for a while since he knows I like BJs) and then take matters into his own hands, literally.

    The result of which was that I became disinterested in having anything sexual to do with him. We stopped making love way before the relationship was over.

    He had insisted I sleep naked so by this time I was feeling all sorts of resentments - I HATED sleeping naked. And in my head I was screaming - if you're not going to touch me and have sex with me and fondle me, then what's the POINT of having me naked in bed with you?

    Well I'm glad that ended tho. I hear you about the needing to feel and be desired. That's all I'm about too - my recent emotional outburst was about just that.

    *Hugs* Hope tonight works out good for you and the sexual you and the man who loves you to bits!!

    1. Oh, wow, what an incredible asshole you were with. I can only imagine the torture of being in a relationship like that. (Have my own asshole stories, but not like that.)

      Thank you for sharing.

      And it worked out beautifully. :)

  2. This is a thing. You are right about that. This does happen. Sometimes, sexual you just needs a break. Especially when you are processing stuff.

    Even when you love and need and have access to sex. Breaks are okay. That's one of the reasons we get married, so they will still be there on the other side. Right?

    If it is any consolotation, these last days when you were gone, I missed you. I felt every day. I wish I could make it easier for you when things are tough, but you have great real life resources in your man and your boy. Those won't change.

    Accept their strenghth. :)

    (Loved all the links in this, BTW.)

    1. PS - Your top three favorite things are sex?

      Hilarious. That.

    2. I don't know if she needed a break, but she certainly took one. :)

      You are so incredibly sweet to miss me. I missed me, too. And it does help to know. My man and my boy are wonderful, indeed, and they tend to pull me out of funks eventually. :)

      I figured I needed the links to perfectly illustrate.

      And....yeah. My top three hobbies are sex. It was a Zobmondo question, back when that was a game. "Would you rather give up your top three hobbies -OR- lose your sex drive?" I said it wasn't a fair question, since it amounted to the same loss for me.

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's top hobbies all involve sex! :)

  4. I often feel like people don't really need me, but I realized just after my birthday actually, that is not the case. I had a friend who kept writing me on facebook, saying we should talk on the phone. She is one of my oldest friends, and we went through almost seven years of not hearing from each other. So I called her, even though I really didn't feel like it, and it turned out her boyfriend had broken up with her, and she hadn't told anyone and really only wanted to talk to me. Me! This has made me reevaluate myself and my relationships with people in my life. Maybe I have been sending signals telling them I don't want more without knowing it?

    1. Isn't that interesting? I often try to tell myself I'm being ridiculous, and my husband says "You should call x, he/she'd really LIKE it!" but I can't. I feel like I'd be intruding.

      Kudos to you for calling your friend and being there for her! It's very possible that feeling unneeded leads us to send offputting signals. It's something I try very hard not to do - always letting people know how much I enjoy them, but it's hard not to just fall into the silence. Definitely something for me to work on.

    2. Yeah it is hard, getting over one self, as I call it. I still only do it with people I grew up with. I have a hard time calling somebody because I always feel like I need to have a good reason. A 'new'friend told me the other day that I should just text her because she knows I don't like to call. How sweet is that?
      And I definitely am a firm believer in sending out signals, good or bad.

    3. I technically prefer to talk, but yeah, texting feels like far less of an intrusion, doesn't it? That's a pretty awesome 'new' friend you've got there. :)

  5. What I like most about you besides your top 3 interests is your honesty. Your willingness to explore everything. Thank you for writing about this.

    I do it. In all aspects of life, as you describe. And that's not going to change. I'll be 58 in August and I haven't led an unexamined life. I've always tried to see myself clearly and change what I could. This won't change.

    You can shut down. I shut down a (huge) part of me for 25 years. I married vanilla and don't regret it, even as he enters the last stages of a long incurable illness. I love him. I had to shut down a lot of ways to get through this. I thought being as dead as I could and still function was the way to go. But the heart doesn't want to be dead. It fights. I woke up, decided I'd wasted an awful lot of time and let the hunger guide me. I've found spank and sex and joy again, can't remember ever feeling this good or this bad. I'll take it. I want it.

    I'm going to try to link a wonderful song that I never do successfully, but you know what I'm talking about.

    1. And godforbid you be necessary to my happiness but you add to it and I missed you. Pish tosh.

    2. You give me warm fuzzies too, thank you for that, and for sharing your experience.

      The heart definitely does fight, and a good thing, too, because if it didn't we'd be sitting around in miserable zombie mode, mired in our own misery, missing out on indescribable joy we can experience even in the midst of grief.

      My heart goes out to you. Here's your song. :)

  6. yes, this happens with me too. ((hugs))
    it isn't pleasant, & feels very depressive, except I'm not so much numb as tearful and deeply upset all the time, when it's in it's worse form.

    I'll have to think about it a bit & order my thoughts to fully articulate how it works with me...

    1. Sometimes the deep upsettedness hits me too, and I seem to recall a lot of tearful episodes in the past. These days I try my best to keep up a normal front when around others though.

  7. That defence mechanism ...... I do it too. It's something I just can't NOT do. It just happens. I can literally feel my desire flow away. And when I hibernate, I hibernate from everything.
    And then it all comes back..... And 'I' come back....
    makes me kinda dizzy..

    Dee x

    1. It is a dizzying experience, and you're right, you can't shut off the shutdown. Sometimes I try to hang on to the need, just slips through my fingers, flowing, much as you describe, like water.

  8. So, I see others have commented on this as well...but what you said about retracting from your friends when you don't feel like they need you...that's totally me. I can 100% relate to that. I go thinking that nobody really likes me or wants me, so I sometimes even feel guilty when someone is super nice and does something kind for me, or when friends reach out to me and invite me places. I don't know why, I'm just like that. My mom always tells me I'm ridiculous and that everybody likes me, but it grates on you, no? And it does transfer to the bedroom, when I don't feel like I'm doing some great deed, I feel like I'm not enough. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, or even if I've interpreted your post correctly, but if I did, then, I can completely empathize. I have no great words of advice other than, remember all the times your friends or your husband asked you for something or called you up to talk...did you feel that they were intruding? If not, then they probably wouldn't think you were either.


    1. Thank you. Of course everyone likes us - look how awesome we are. ;)

      The logic is sound, and my husband uses that on me too - but, while I can look at it logically and say "That makes sense!" I can't quell the anxiety I get when I feel I'm imposing. I just try to offer help and companionship freely when I can, so they know I'm there for them.

  9. I can understand your feelings. I think at times we all experience a shut down. It's just more or less human nature.

    1. Perhaps it is, to a certain type of human.

      Other people, friends of mine, are just always on. I admire them as they work a crowd of strangers, and immediately have a bunch of new friends. They make it look effortless.

      I suppose that's the stuff politicians are made of.


Thank you for reading. I hope you'll let me know you were here - I like friends!