one of the ways humans connect and bond is through eye contact. we’re told that children thrive through eye contact with their caregiver, especially their mother. and we’re also told that a lack of eye contact means fear or alerts us to people who may be lying to us or who aren’t comfortable in our presence. we’re told to avoid partners who won’t make eye contact since this is a sign they don’t want to be vulnerable with us.
when i look back on all the sex i’ve had in my life, one constant has been the inability to open my eyes and look directly at my partner. i don’t quite know why or when eye contact became something i avoided, but i suspect it has to do with trauma and a sexual assault i survived when i was 18. i also think my own body image issues and attempts to disconnect my emotions from sexual activity has also contributed to my fear of eye-intimacy.
in fact, i’d say that feeling pressure to avoid (perceived) romantic intimacies like eye contact with partners probably started early on for me – maybe around the age of 19 or 20. i never really had a problem with casual sex or cared about what others thought of my sexual behavior. i’ve always unapologetically enjoyed sex. but i learned quickly that things like eye contact, making a follow-up call too soon, or lingering too long at someone’s apartment were read by many dudes as “clingy,” or as the kids say these days, indicative of “catching feels.”
sure, i did catch feels for many of them. hell, i slept with a lot of guys hoping they’d fall for me after i bedded them. i got myself hurt MANY times and even though i foolishly thought i could change their minds with my bedroom prowess or something, i found that this strategy was not… a thing.
that said, sometime in my late twenties, i realized that you can’t reveal your feelings like that and you *definitely* can’t use the word “love” or “crush” or “care for” or “romance” or “date” or “boyfriend” to describe any of this activity or the people involved. to do so would open the possibility that the sex we just had was actually… GASP… emotionally intimate and therefore meaningful in some way. ORRR… that the sex we just had was actually emotionally intimate and *doesn’t* mean i want you to put a ring on it.
i’m not the only one thinking along these lines. red hot suz recently wrote this twitter thread and i found myself nodding in agreement. please go check out the whole thing!
it can very difficult to navigate these competing emotions. how do we deal with desire and intimacy outside of an established relationship? and why are we so afraid to be emotionally vulnerable with both casual partners and those with whom we share a committed relationship? maybe we’re struggling with how vulnerable it is to seek release and escape through pleasure. maybe we’re afraid of what might be reflected back in the shine of our lover’s eyes? do we love that sacred part of ourselves enough to let go and just BE without category, without judgment?
lately i’ve been trying to make a better effort to open my eyes with my partner. i often open my eyes for a split second and see him looking at me, watching what his body is doing with mine, trying to catch my gaze. i’ve become conscious of how emotionally vulnerable it makes me feel and sometimes i become disappointed with myself and wonder if he realizes how SEEN i feel when he looks at me that way.
i want to be SEEN, but i’m afraid to be SEEN.
i want desperately to connect, but i’m afraid of being so tender and soft. the world has told me all my life that i’m supposed to be somewhere between tough as nails and sweet as sugar. unfortunately, truama teaches you that tough as nails is what will protect you. you spend all your energy protecting yourself, no matter what losses you endure to stay safe.
so here’s my challenge to myself:
be softer. be more tender and loving and brave.
connect. merge. create.
it doesn’t matter where this is going or how it gets there. the past and future don’t exist. all we have is this moment. turn off the thinking brain.
now, open your eyes.