Sex is an issue that when explored in terms of widowhood is far too often characterised as self harm or the clinging to the relationship lost. I do not doubt that this may be the case for some newly widowed, but I would like to speak for those who fall outside this stereotype in their desire for sexual expression. In short, I call bullshit for the rest of us.
Prior to meeting my husband I had been in a long term relationship that was sexually unsatisfying. I was young, and assumed the issue was my interest in sex. After ending that relationship and going on a 6 month sexual self discovery I realised it wasn’t me at all. I realised I really like sex, or to be clear, I really like great sex. And I realised that I didn’t need to be in a relationship to experience it.
Upon meeting my husband I found that if you combine the emotional intimacy of a relationship, with someone who is as interested in your pleasure as their own, it’s an incredible other dimension. In losing my husband I yearn for that connection, that I cannot deny. I would love to have the person back who could see me in my tracksuit and Ugg boots, greasy haired and with no makeup on, and still want a piece of that action. But I have to stress I also just want sex. Plain, uncomplicated, no strings attached sex.
This want is not harmful. It is not an attempt to bandage emotional wounds. It relates to the fact that hormonally, once a month, I struggle to think of anything else. It happened before I met my husband, it happened while with my husband (a phenomenon that he quite enjoyed), and it happens now in my grief. I am not trying to replace him. That idea disgusts me. In all honesty I would prefer to have someone who was only there for that purpose and then would leave straight after. I have become very concerned that my beloved vibrator will soon bail on me too if I continue to place it under such pressure. I want someone who will touch me to bring me pleasure, not out of sympathy, just for a change. It’s true to say that I have been hugged by more people in the last 6 months than anytime in my life (I am NOT a hugger), and not one of them has felt anything but pity for me.
When I have raised the idea of my finding a person solely for the purpose of sex I get told ‘It’s too early’, ‘You have plenty of time for that down the line’. But the truth is I want it now, so therefore it is not too early, and I resent anyone telling when I can and cannot feel anything on this journey. There are only 2 reasons I have not dived into the seedy underworld of Tindr to find this person: I fear the recognition, and that the person with try to use it against me in my forthcoming news headline making capacity, and the safety of my children. They will always be my first priority.
But it leaves me asking the question: why is it so scary for others to hear that I want to meet my sexual needs? Why is this need less important than my other needs? And why do I feel the need to ask permission? Why am I so scared of what others will think if they find out? All these questions lead to the same answers – people need me to play a role, a well defined role (I’m giving you the stink-eye silver linings playbook), and I am deeply concerned that if I don’t it will construed that I didn’t really love my husband, that I am not really consumed by grief.
I love my husband. I struggle to think of anything in my life that isn’t coloured by the force of this loss. To want sex is simply to want to be sexually fulfilled. To meet a physical need. And I wish I was strong enough to fight against these harmful stereotypes, that I could scream from a rooftop ‘ I loved my late husband. I am still a sexual being. One does not rule out the other’. But I am not strong enough. Yet. Watch this space.
And for all of the young widows out there who dare to stay in touch with their sexuality in their grief: I see you, and there is nothing wrong with you.