TRIGGER WARNING: I talk about sex, masturbation, hypersexuality, and being molested as a child
This topic has been getting quite a lot of “press” out there in WordPress-land-for-bipolarzzzzzzzz, as well it should be. We bang on about stigma and stereotyping, and how it sucks to be judged in these ways, and the truth of it is………….. “They” don’t get it. “They” don’t understand. Society has painted a picture of how we should conduct ourselves. As women. As men. As mothers. As fathers. As husbands. As wives. And the minute any one of us deviates from these “preferred” ways of BEING, there is judgement. And the judgement happens because we’re taught that our world operates in binaries. Good/bad; right/wrong; man/woman; normal/abnormal; virgin/slut; stud/geek – what the actual FROCK is THAT about? Surely, SURELY, oh beloved brethren and sistren of the world, we know that its simply not that SIMPLE? Nothing is ever black or white.
Anyhooooooo, that was a bit of a tangent, but I was merely setting the stage for my train of thought…. What NEEDS to happen is we need to start talking about SEX. Its one of the symptoms of bipolar no one wants to talk about. And why is that? Because there is an enormous amount of stigma attached to individuals engaging in indiscriminate sex with multiple partners, and even more so when those individuals are women. I’m not going to get into the whole discussion on why THAT is, rather I’d like to talk about my experience of hypersexuality (or whatever you want to call it) during a manic, or even hypomanic, phase, in the South African context.
You may not think that there would be a distinctly “different” context to hypersexuality in South Africa as opposed to elsewhere in the world, but there is. As there would be in other countries too. The obvious distinction, for me anyway, is the prevalence of HIV infection within the country. Its high. Very high. And as we all know, HIV does not differentiate between race, gender, sexual orientation, or education. It doesn’t care if you have a primary school education or a tertiary education. Although, having said that, there are other forces at play that ensure that rates of infection are higher among the “un(der)educated”, but HIV doesn’t care about those systems either.
Another factor, obviously, is the fact that women who are “over-sexed” are looked down upon – how very DARE you have a rampant sex drive! Women who are overtly, or overly, sexual are dubbed “sluts”, “whores”, “nymphomaniacs”. Let me share a little secret with you, and please feel free to share this secret with every single person you know in this world…….. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SLUT. Oh, I caps locked that alright! You betcha. Say it with me my lovelies…. “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SLUT” – there you go! Don’t you feel better now? I know I do!
Ok – enough rambling… Lets get on with my story. And those of you who are easily offended or judgemental, here’s your hall pass… You may leave the building.
So here’s an interesting article on masturbation – in children…. http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/masturb.htm
It’s perfectly normal for children to masturbate, and by all accounts I was probably a pretty “normal” child. Pretty normal, in that I know I used to masturbate as a child – maybe slightly less “normal” in that I can’t tell you when it started, because I remember having always masturbated. I was always very, how shall I put this?….. sexually aware. I was molested from the age of 4 (I’m not sure when it stopped) by an intellectually disabled adopted family member – he was probably about 14 or 15 at the time. We would play “mommies and daddies” and I remember thinking to myself, “Why is he weeing on me?” – obviously I now know that it wasn’t wee. I wasn’t traumatised by this at the time because, you know, it felt nice. It was only when I was a bit older that I realized I was being abused.
My first “real” sexual encounter with another person was when I was 10 years old. It was not penetrative of course, because it was with another girl of the same age, and we wouldn’t have known about all THAT. So, now, having only been diagnosed with bipolar about 10 months ago, looking back on my life and my behaviour, I realize that I have ALWAYS been bipolar, and that my youth was lived out in a mostly hypomanic, hypersexual, state. Even as a young child, I just wanted to FUCK. I would fantasise about having sex (with boys), and masturbate… a lot. I wouldn’t just masturbate to orgasm once, and then go to sleep… I’d keep on doing it because it felt soooooo good, and the fire was not being quelled.
Despite this highly sexually charged little body of mine, I only lost my virginity when I was 15 (about three months before my 16th birthday) – not for lack of trying to lose my virginity way before then! I just so happened to have a boyfriend at the time who didn’t really care enough to be more respectful of my body than I was at the time. It was true love though my pets. After a few months of going out with this young man (he was 18), my parents took me to the doctor to get me on the pill – they knew he was a rough one. He looked like Billy Idol. For realz. He looked EXACTLY like this (but with a few pimples ;-) ):
We were madly in love. He was a high school drop-out. He smoked weed. He introduced me to weed actually – at the age of 15.
Anyway. Once my cherry had been popped, that was me – like a racehorse out of the starting gates… Chomping at the bit, we’d have sex everywhere. Then my parents decided to pack up our lives and move from Natal to the Cape. George, to be precise. I hated it. I hated my parents. I thought they had done it specifically to break me and Billy Idol-look-alike up. They hadn’t of course, but I was 16 – of course that’s what I thought!
And then I became a slut. Well, that’s what everyone else thought, right! There IS no such thing as a slut, and I was definitely not one. I was trying to fit in, and lets be honest… There was not a lot for young people to do in George back in the mid-80’s, besides drink, smoke weed, and fuck. I ended up LOVING being there, because you know… drinking, smoking weed and fucking were things I loved doing. But all that came with a lot of stress. We were beginning to hear about this HIV and AIDS that killed people – and you got it from having sex. But my 16 year old brain didn’t really process that well, so there was a lot of barebacking going on (no ‘domes y’all).
I kinda got a bit better at protecting myself a bit later on, but I still took chances. A lot of them. And along with all those reckless, unprotected rendevoux’s came the fear of contracting HIV. And then I became very, very ill. I thought I was dying. No one wants to go to the doctor and say, “Hey, can I have an HIV test please”, because, you know… STIGMA! But that’s what I did. I was certain my years of fucking around had resulted in me now dying from AIDS, and infecting all the men I had slept with. Thankfully, the gods had been smiling down on me, because I had not in fact contracted the virus! The prospect of having to make a list of everyone I had had carnal relations with scared the crap out of me. It would’ve been a long list.
Now, to the mere mortal, these shenanigans simply spell out S.L.U.T. Am I right? But when you understand that these sexual urges during mania or hypomania are nowhere near akin to being “horny”, or just having sex for sex’s sake (which I also did, to be fair), you will understand that there is no controlling the obsession, or the compulsion, to act on those feelings. There is no controlling it, and there is no dousing the fire. And it’s dangerous! No matter where you live in the world, it’s dangerous, and it’s reckless. Not only can hypersexuality lead to you having indiscriminate sex with complete strangers, it also places you in very real danger of being raped. And no, that is NOT what we would be “asking” for, or “deserve”.
I think one would have to be a special kind of “stupid” to subject themselves willingly to such reckless and dangerous behaviour, and to the possibility of being raped. Who would do that? Seriously. Think about that for a minute. To all the “normies” out there who may be reading this: Try to understand that there is nothing rational about “dealing” with hyper sexuality. When the bipolar brain is in a manic phase, there are surges of dopamine heading straight for the pleasure centre in the brain (the amygdala). And with faulty circuitry, the filtering systems that should be in place to curb inappropriate urges shut down, and we’re left with uncontrollable, mind altering, compulsions to obey.
I would like to encourage you to read this post by Bipolar First Bipolar Together. Claya has a way with words that enables her to accurately describe what hypersexuality FEELS like. I envy her talent so much, but more than that, I applaud her honesty and her ability to convey such a tricky concept in a way that is really SO easy to understand.
I would also like to encourage you to read this post by Bipolar Compass. And this one; and this one; and this one; and this one. My lovely Jess Melancholia has been fighting the demons of hypersexuality just recently – she is a brave and wonderful warrior. If you are not already following these two amazing voices in the fight against stigma in bipolar disorder, you should really head on over to their pages and hit the follow button. You won’t regret it!
Let our bipolar network stand together and shout from the mountain tops that we WILL be heard. That we are not monsters, or sluts, or weirdo’s. We are strong, beautiful, resilient, and we will continue to resist the stigma and the stereotypes placed on us because we have been “othered” by our mental health status.