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Desire can be a bitch.

There is so much our brains can give us. My capacity to entertain myself with my own thoughts is infinite. My imagination can be provocative, delightful, engrossing, and complicated. Over the years, I even developed the ability to create fantasies in my mind that entertain myself and others (as seen by my various books of erotica).

Which is all fine and good — until it isn’t.

I was talking with someone a few months ago, and they asked me when the last time was that I had sex, and I said, “Actual sex?”

And they looked at me like I was crazy. “What’s actual sex?”

I realized, mortified, how foolish that sounded. But to me it made sense. In terms of “actual sex” my life is a desert, but in terms of imagined sex, well, that’s a whole other thing. I could tell you stories.

But real life is rarely like it is in the movies, and it definitely is rarely like it plays out in my head. I know this. Which is a large reason why I started writing the erotica in the first place. What life would not give me, my brain could.

I’m so cerebrally stimulated anyway that it was not a huge stretch to compartmentalize my sexual needs. Sure, physicality is a blast. Touch is intoxicating. But when you don’t have it? At least you have your imagination.

However, like most bargains I negotiate with myself, this one, too, was fraught with peril.

When I’m not dating someone, it is easy for me to detach. To have a “virtual” sex life built exclusively in my mind. To accept the fact that things like physicality and touch are not manifested in my day-to-day interactions. I adjust. I recalibrate.

When dating someone, though? Then all my clear-cut boundaries fall apart. Then I remember the tremendous importance of desire. Of, specifically, being desired. I dated a guy for a couple years in college who didn’t desire me. The desire faded gradually, which is how I came to accept it as status quo, to internalize it, to blame myself. I tried to seduce him and failed. It must be me, I thought. I’m not attractive or desirable. And I accepted it, the way we do with most struggles in life, as simply the way things were.

Until one night, a friend of mine hit on me. He knew I was taken, but the moment was too opportunistic. It was late at night, we were in a deserted parking lot, the moon spectacular. He made a move, and I was less shocked that a friend had made a move than that someone had.

Was I desirable after all?

The concept blew my mind, and I broke up with my boyfriend shortly thereafter.

And then I made a promise to myself. I would only date people who desired me.

Now, along the way, this road has not been perfect. My last relationship desired me, but in a thoroughly lazy and lackluster way. I shouldn’t have put up with it for as long as I did, but we get comfortable, we compromise, we prioritize. I told myself that desire just wasn’t that important.

Until I realized that it was. Until I realized that, for me, it was a non-negotiable component. Because when I am not desired, I am thrown right back into that college relationship, and I am reminded of how thoroughly shitty it feels to crave someone’s body and touch and need, and not to get it. To get an easy, desire-less physicality. A chaste kiss, an affectionate handhold, but no all-consuming lust.

This may sound petty. This may sound irrelevant. Kindness, intelligence, compassion may be more noble things to require. But I have decided that I also require lust.

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