︎Connected with Intimacy
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Original text from the online magazine Great Sex Worker Writings. ︎︎︎ Find it here
It's been a long time since I've written. Unlike previous lulls, this one is because I've been busy and not depressed. Summer has finally arrived after we never thought it would. Here are some hazy glimpses from the past few days slathered in sweat, cloaked in heat.
Flickering light reflects from a mirror that catches a sunrise otherwise hidden behind a curtain, waking me up before I'm ready.
Wondering why I never move the mirror that beams light into my eyes, taking my vibrator and masturbating myself back to sleep.
Trying to remember the exact words my therapist used when giving me my homework task, using my ill memory as an excuse to scrap the whole thing.
Lying in bed trying to fall asleep, comparing the sensation of the tiger balm I've rubbed into my pole bruises with the heat that hangs in the air. How the burn of the balm cools my skin while the hovering heat clings to my body. It cools nothing.
Walking by two laughing men and inviting myself into their space with a joke, for once feeling like an observer and not the observed. Slowly salvaging the recession of my confidence, throughout the months of March, April, May, June? where no matter what I would say, my German was unintelligible through the beautiful, thick mask my friend kindly crafted.
Relishing in the FKK nudist sections of East Germany, promising myself I will never move into another flat-share unless I'm able to walk around naked. At least during summer.
Maintaining a sense of calm even when the light from a man's bike shadowed me, the light illuminating my feet on the pedestrian pavement as I walked home in the dark.
Wearing my favourite kinds of shorts.
Seeing with euphoria my neon pink toes, one in my lover's mouth, four against their distant face.
Extreme polarities of boredom and busy-ness age me faster than time alone should. I've forgotten the task that my therapist has given me. I know it's meant to be a letter that I write to my mother, but the specifics of what I'm meant to write (and not send) are crushed under the weight of the task and ooze out of my mind.
I'm still reconsidering intimacy.
I wish I connected more with intimacy when I was in the throes of what I'll call The First Lockdown (I am anticipating The Second Lockdown soon here, in Berlin). I don't think I managed to traverse the issue of replacing physical intimacy with something intangible, but more importantly remote. I read some articles aimed at people in long distance relationships, which is what me and my friends became.
My relationship framework is non-heteronormative in the sense that it is driven by friendship; if I were to have romantic and sexual partners, this would be in a non-monogamous interpretation. I was not impressed with the dated Cosmopolitanesque articles I found after a frantic and shallow search.
Intimacy is not a trauma bond. Intimacy is not oversharing. Neither are intimate for me or the person who receives/reciprocates/reveals in the first place. Being intimate with myself is knowing with whom to share myself. Maybe the process of refining my filter is an experience of self-intimacy. Maybe my position as a sex worker and writer is a grappling with, a being at odds with the sharing of myself with unknown audiences.
Intimacy is not insisting on knowing someone's birth name. Asking my real name is a route, the fastest way into a forced feeling of intimacy. Knowing another of my names may well be the least intimate detail to focus on, compared to the nuanced ways in which we create the space for intimacy between us. Knowing a name doesn't validate a connection.
A sexual partner and sex doesn't necessarily need to be an intimate experience. The invitation of a sexual partner into my space maintains an intimacy within myself and restricts an intimacy with another.
There are few cases in which I would invite a sexual partner into my space.
One such being that there is no other option (do they have a partner at home? do they live with their parents? is their place inconceivably far away?), with the caveat of: am I horny enough? am I inebriated enough? does the combination of the two make me sweat, dissolving the protective alkaline layer that dusts my skin? If such conditions are met, you might receive an invite into my bedroom.
Another case is that we live together. Or, that we have slept together more times than I can remember, resulting in an unnamed, likely unacknowledged constellation between us.
I think the latter two cases have occurred one time each.
I wonder if anyone else has had the instinct to mimic the expansion and contraction of the lungs of their spooning partner in a bid to forge intimacy. It's a behaviour I can remember when I was younger with my mother. I would do it when cuddling for the first time with someone... Engineering a symbiosis that didn't nourish intimacy at all, and becoming paranoid that its artificiality was obvious. I was convinced that synchronised breath validated (strengthened?) the sharing of space with a person in bed as you were holding each other, imitated or not.
An action performed alone does not inherently ordain it as intimate. I want to explicitly differentiate between an act done privately or a thought kept to myself in the name of intimacy — and another in the name of shame. Contrarily, opening up about my shame to another is a form of intimacy.
Being seen naked is not a form of intimacy for me, anymore. Perhaps if I were to be seen naken by someone from whom I wanted acceptance — someone who makes me quiver — perhaps this could replicate a sense of intimacy. Ultimately, however, I think this is a false intimacy. A mistranslation of intimacy.
I joke that I couldn't be in a relationship with someone who doesn't love the way I smell as much as I do. Or is at least as intrigued by my smell, as willing to inhale deeply into my armpits as I am. What began as a joke evolved into an arbitrary measure of someone's capacity for intimacy with me. I don't mind that this is a flawed parameter.
Regrettably, I've not archived how my body has transformed as an agent, a vessel; secondary to forming intimate connections, or as integral to them. I am sure, though, that being a sex worker has influenced this.
I used to wrestle with the idea that as a sex worker I would benefit from keeping, and that I needed to keep, some of my own personal sexual practices and preferences for myself. It wasn't an easy concept for me to stick to. I noticed that it was easier for me to express how I like to receive pleasure in a work context (unafraid of rejection) than it was outside of work (shrouded in self-doubt and vulnerability). I felt a sense of guilt after first describing that I like [REDACTED] in [REDACTED] way. By sharing this information, I thought I betrayed my own intimacy and jeopardised the intimacy I could have with personal sexual partners. I realised that this notion would have some merit if the sharing didn't occur so naturally to me, that maybe there was some underlying whorephobia or puritanism that told me: "This is something you do at work, and this is something you do at home. Never the two shall meet."
An intimate moment doesn't need to be reciprocated or validated by another person, it can exist and occur stand alone. An experience of intimacy can happen when I'm avoiding eye contact with a person. I can't make eye contact with them because I feel too overwhelmed and insecure to talk to them — I have a crush on them, their presence is too much. Or, have I confused intimacy in this moment with an otherwise named emotion? Maybe I've made a linguistic mistake. The problem is that intimacy is not an emotion but a condition with many emotional reactions, and that the range of emotions felt within intimacy are not exclusive to this condition.
Being washed by someone I love may not be an intended expression of intimacy but is one of my favourite occurrences of intimacy. I wonder if this is a requited feeling for the lover who washes me or if it's devoid of any intimacy for them. Is it as intimate for you as it is for me? Probably too ridiculous or too laborious to be mutual...
As Junglepussy says: "We don't fuck, he just pick me up from Trader Joe's" — and I think this encapsulates the notion of a non-sexual intimacy that isn't necessarily shared, or is disparately shared, based on an exclusive model of devotion.
It might seem like things are kind of back to normal in my part of the world. That if I avoid large gatherings and stick to the rest of the rules, I can have a little intimacy as a treat. I think it's important now to reflect on the dearth of intimacy I felt in the first lockdown and prepare how to cope in the second. To name the intimacy that occurs within myself, recognise where it is possible with others and what elements of it I am/am not resistant to evolving.
Is intimacy in an intra-COVID-19 context persistently checking in? Replacing touch and shared body warmth with the meals you leave on a lover's doorstep — should they live within the same radius as you?
If this is the case, is intimacy found in the smell of fennel seeds popping in oil whilst you think of your lover, knowing they are still there even though they aren't there for you to touch? Is it long and exaggerated love letters that, in a socially near society, could be considered too much, too melodramatic?
My heart would have been fuller in The First Lockdown if I'd put down my phone and written my friend a love letter, delivered it to their mailbox and waited for their response before texting them again. Could this have created the intimate condition, elicited an emotion akin to those I feel when I embrace a friend? It would have at least counteracted the constant availability of social media, which was only heightened by lockdown.
Maybe I have ignored the potential of oral intimacy... Toying with my voice to create considered and conscious tones, breath as arresting punctuation, employing pauses and silence not only to think. Using the familiarity of my voice as an instrument of intimacy. Would this add a texture to what I was lacking before?
I feel too resistant to the inevitable change of how we interact with one another. It fills me with anxiety both practical and existential. I'm in mourning for the (absolute false sense of) stability of my income stream and more so, the accessible familiarity of intimacy pre-COVID.
Mia is a Melbourne born and Berlin based stripper, full service escort, and writer.