This post is part of an ongoing series called Community Stories, where I share the questions, conversations and diverse interactions that have enriched my own story, after shared our story with a wide spectrum of people during more than twenty years of speaking engagements around the country. Click here to view other posts in the Community Stories series.
One of our very earliest speaking engagements was for a Gay Men’s Prostate Support Group at a large city hospital in the heart of Manhattan. As we entered the hospital’s community room, we were greeted by Mike, the facilitator of the group, who had coordinated our appearance. After welcoming us, Mike lowered his head and asked rather sheepishly, “I hope you don’t have any problems speaking to a group of gay men?”
This was more than ten years ago, when homosexuality was just beginning to come out of the closet, so the question was pertinent—although I have to say, I thought it was a little late to be checking! Fortunately, Keith and I had no biases regarding sexual preferences, and had already discussed between the two of us whether our book would be relevant to gay men. We had agreed the issues Keith and I struggled with would be similar in a single sex relationship. Doubts, fears, hesitations, and embarrassment are universal emotions relating to sexual performance—to all sexual preferences.
We assured Mike we were perfectly fine and took our place in front of 30 faces ready to hear us in the small tiered auditorium. After a short introduction, Keith and I told our story in our usual, honest manner: exposing our fears, embarrassments and rockiest moments, ending with how we learned to regain one another’s trust and reframe how we made love going forward.
When we opened the floor for questions, I admit I was stunned by the candor of the first question that was directed specifically to me. “Virginia, did you have a feeling of loss of power and control when Keith was able to get an erection without your assistance?”
For a few seconds I was silent as thoughts traveled through my mind at warp speed…to the prompt realization that I did, in fact, feel a loss of power and control and of no longer being needed, once Keith could achieve an erection totally without me
I answered the question by offering a sincere, “Thank you. Thank you for helping me identify a nagging emotion I have been feeling ever since Keith got the shots. I was unable to articulate it until now. Yes. I did feel a loss of power and control, and that I was no longer needed.”
They say that once you can name your fear, you begin to take some of the power away from it. But you have to name it. I will always be grateful to the man in that auditorium who helped me name my fear of feeling unneeded. Because of this awareness, Keith and I realized yet another aspect of our love making that needed to be reframed. We shifted the timing of when Keith gave himself an injection to after we played and caressed, because of this new, deeper understanding that an erect penis didn’t equate to arousal.
Even now that Keith has an implant, he still—in fact more so—needs me to help his mind and emotions catch up to his erect penis. He needs my kisses, caresses, and my own arousal to excite and entice him.
But without that brave and insightful question, we might not have realized this for a long time…or ever.