This is the third essay in Anatomy Of A Mango, a series where Dani peels back the sweet, tart layers that have led to her “fruitful”, healthy sexuality.
My first time having sex sober was one of the most frightening, intense moments of my life.
For so long, I had come to sex with the aid of alcohol and drugs. They acted as a lubricant, a bridge toward believing in my own desirability and sexiness. Alcohol, my drug of choice, especially gave me a feeling of tallness and invincibility that extended into all facets of my life. When I drank wine or some fancy cocktail I thought myself more refined, I felt the bones in my face sharpen and my poise stiffen into an elegance. I wasn’t just Dani anymore, I became confident and sexier, people were charmed by me and I was more open to their flirtations.
I already recounted it in the first essay, but my first time having sex I was very drunk. That night I had roughly twelve shots, a few beers, and a couple of glasses of wine. The woman that I had sex with had been drinking too, and while we both were under the influence it is still one of the highlights of my sexual life. In that case, I knew I wanted to have sex with this woman, but I didn’t have the bravery or confidence to make a move without alcohol.
My college was celebrating what we called Springfest, so most of my day was spent sitting around drinking with my friends, running from house to house with open containers and laughter spilling over our shoulders. What I remember of that night was not only the sex but the pulsing of the blood through my body, I swear I could feel it rushing through my brain, the cacophonous evidence of my living. The alcohol seemed to light up my body and make every touch more pronounced.
Of course, this feeling of sharpness never lasted very long, because I craved more of it always. I drank until I ran soft and languid; until I could barely stand anymore.
When I had sex under the influence there was a dizziness that I could never shake, but sometimes that dizziness felt giddy and airy. My eyes were all I could feel. It felt as though I were watching a POV version of my life. There was nothing like kissing someone else and getting the faint taste of liquor or wine on their tongue. Or to languish in the building of sexual tension as you both share a drink. Even though I’ve been sober for over two years, it’s still exciting to think of walking into a bar with the intention of meeting someone and going home with them, or inviting someone over for drinks and knowing what you’re in for later.
The problem with drunk sex is that nothing gets easier when you’re drunk.
When I was in college, I had heard through a rumor mill that there were a couple of women that thought they were bisexual and they wanted me to be the first woman they were with. One of them was bold enough to make a move. We were partying together and drinking heavily when the group of women we were with decided they wanted to go to a bar. M was sitting on my lap, and we rose to walk down the hill hand in hand. When we were just inches to our destination, we turned to each other drunk and desire-ridden and decided to head in the opposite direction toward my dorm room.
My head was spinning from the work of the tongue and the alcohol — I didn’t want to stop pleasing her, but I had to stop from time to time to scream into the skin of her thigh.
Once we got back there, things unfolded quickly. We fell onto my little twin-sized bed and began taking our clothes off. I remember thinking M was a great kisser and pretty good with her mouth for someone who had never been with a woman before. She climbed on top of me and we began to eat each other out. My head was spinning from the work of the tongue and the alcohol — I didn’t want to stop pleasing her, but I had to stop from time to time to scream into the skin of her thigh. Things were going fine until M abruptly stopped and started to head naked to the bathroom. I stopped her and we spilled out into the hall with robes barely on, laughing at ourselves. In the bathroom, I sat on the windows ledge and waited for her when I heard an “uh oh” and the sound of a splatter.
M and I were both far too drunk. I ran back to my room to get her things but the booze had finally got to my head, I swerved, knocking into my dresser and the microwave barely balanced on top of it. My body buoyed onto the bed, my back landed on the mattress, and my legs hung off. I passed out that way and woke up in the morning with my door open, everything in my room slightly skewed to the left, and clothing strewn across the floor.
That night was one I will never forget and for all the wrong reasons. It was one of the ones where I vowed to stop drinking, but the next time a drink was presented to me, I took it. I always started drinking to gain that sharpness and confidence, but very quickly jumped passed the goal line. That was until I built up my tolerance and was able to achieve the illusion of control. Drunk sex was my first, and all I could think to engage in, the idea of taking my clothes off in front of a stranger or even someone I vaguely knew seemed impossible without the veil of liquor, its guard and its bolstering.
When I got sober, I was warned that I should stay celibate and single for a while. I was able to hold on to this sentiment for about two months before I got jealous of a roommate who was actively hooking up with someone and decided I should be getting some too. I jumped on Tinder and met the woman I talked about in the last essay, J. J was about my height and incredibly muscular. I led them to my bedroom and we sat on the edge of my bed. We briefly talked about her tour and her band, I offered her a glass of water because the room I was staying in was incredibly hot, and mostly, as a motion to stall taking my clothes off. Without the coursing of alcohol through my body, I found myself playing with my nails and grasping at conversation instead of my usual, self-assured, “did you come here to fuck” attitude.
I was piercingly aware of every hair on my body, especially those hairs in forbidden places. I suddenly became insecure at the fact that I did not shave. My outfit, which I once felt sexy in, now clung to my body in nagging ways. J touched my thigh, it was already after midnight, she gently said: “It’s late and I don’t really have much time before I have to leave again.” We began kissing at that urging, an urgent kiss that fit both of our mouths, her lips were soft and searching. J gripped my thighs with a ferocity my body had never been dealt and I moaned into her mouth. I remember the distinct feeling of wanting things to move slower, but being caught up in the fervor of having a first, and so moving forward.
Sex with J was hot with its own helping of awkwardness. I remember laying on my back and succumbing to that old feeling of fear of not being able to orgasm. I repeated to myself that it was impossible and I wouldn’t be able to do it. I masturbated, let J touch me, but couldn’t get out of my head enough to thoroughly enjoy what we were doing, how we were connecting. I got her off, and our night ended with a sweet kiss on the front porch of the place I was staying and a promise to connect if she was in town again.
To describe my relationship with alcohol, to say it gave me courage isn’t enough. Alcohol was me, my whole personality was built around being the one that was always drinking wine, the one at the party who fell out of her shoes. From the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep, all I could think about was the fluid levels in the bottles of wine I had at home. My obsession and anxiety welled each time I poured myself a glass, the fear of running out ruled me. I felt entirely inept in everything until I had a drink to calm my nerves, and then another to shake off the jitters, and then another to smooth out the kinks. I had some idea that I had a problem, but being sober was agonizing to me. At the core of my drinking was a desire to be someone else.
I had some idea that I had a problem, but being sober was agonizing to me. At the core of my drinking was a desire to be someone else.
I was always under the influence when I had sex with my first love. Whether it was alcohol, pills, or weed, I always had something in my system in order to feel good in my body. Yes, I loved her, but I didn’t trust her entirely. How could this blue-eyed, fit, blonde want anything to do with me? I had to be drunk to believe it. Once I was on such a different cocktail of alcohol and drugs I began hallucinating in the middle of sex. Often, the combination of intoxicants I was on made it harder for me to orgasm and left me in sexual situations feeling guilty and bereft. These instances, while they caused me shame, didn’t deter me from drinking. I needed to, it was a part of me, I had no other choice but to listen to what my body needed.
The second person I had sober sex with was R. I talked about R in the first essay. We had met on tinder after a brief exchange of championing each other’s fat bodies. The first time we were together, the room was completely dark, which I think aided in my ability to relax in my body. There was also the fact that R was fat, and being with someone with a similar body type made me feel even more at ease. I remember being chiefly excited about R because they are a Taurus, and I had heard Tauruses were especially good in bed.
The stars were not wrong. Having sex with R was much more freeing than the first time with J. I relaxed into my body and let myself be pleasured and explored with a vigor that shocked and delighted me. R devoured me and I held on to the sheets with white knuckles. Their tongue moved in ways that felt foreign and exciting to me, so much so that I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming “what are you doing to me?!” I thrashed around on the bed as R brought me closer and closer to orgasm, finally relenting to their touch and their tongue. When R was done, they came up and laid on me, their arm thrown under my breasts. We stayed there like that for a while, until it was time for me to go home. I still wasn’t keen on spending the night with casual hookups and I wanted to spend some time by myself to think about what had happened.
When I got home, I took a shower to wash the stickiness from my body. In the shower, as the mountains of suds rolled over my shoulders and thighs, I was able to reflect on the beauty of the moment I had just experienced. Not only had I succeeded in having sex with another person sober, but I had enjoyed it. The initial discomfort I felt had disappeared into a few moments of unfettered bliss. The sex seemed to imbue me with new confidence and comfort that I hadn’t felt before. I didn’t feel shame in my body — instead it felt like this was something I could do, more than once, again and again.
There were others after R, but the one that sticks out to me the most is A. I had met A before at one of my performances when they were dating a friend. We followed each other on Instagram shortly after and had cordial if not innocent exchanges afterward. One day I fell prey to the dozens of thirst traps they had posted and decided to make a move when they were back in town. When they did come back, I invited them over to my place.
A was incredibly nervous, more nervous than I was. They talked about horses for what seemed like an hour until I finally broke the air between us and asked if they were interested in hooking up. They said yes, and we started making out on my couch. Their lips were soft and curious; I ran my fingers through their hair and over their back. They asked me if I could take off my dress and I complied. They took off their carabineer and jeans. It didn’t take long for things to progress passed the strength of my little fold-out couch so we decided to take things to the bed.
In my bedroom, we took time to slowly run or fingers over each other’s bodies. They were soft caresses and silent affirmations. I ran my tongue over their tattoos and felt the light hairs all over their body tickle my tongue. We continued this way for a few minutes — I remember feeling struck by how open and vulnerable I felt, allowing myself to be touched that way by someone who wasn’t a long term partner. I topped them, riding them until I was ready to explore more of their body: I marveled at their ass and thighs, left some marks of my own. I wanted to sink my teeth into the smoothness of their skin.
A climbed on top of me and pinned my wrists to the bed. We kissed more, there was so much pleasure in those kisses, so much of me was alive and able to feel them. Nothing was dulled or flattened by the onslaught of drink after drink. I was able to feel every touch, every stroke of their tongue.
Nothing was dulled or flattened by the onslaught of drink after drink. I was able to feel every touch, every stroke of their tongue.
Sober sex has become the only way I have sex now. It not only allows for deeper intimacy between me and my partners, but it allows me to revel in the experience of giving and receiving pleasure. When I used to have drunk sex, I often would find my mind hovering above both of our bodies as I watched myself please another person. I was just a vessel of other people’s desire, I was hardly my own person with fantasies and needs. I often found myself ignoring what I wanted and instead, being what another needed me to be. I felt so detached from myself and what I wanted that I gave in to whatever was asked of me. Drunk sex was my way of being just a body without any emotional reckoning.
Even one-night-stands have a spirit to them, but I wasn’t willing to confront that until I stopped drinking. When I did, I was finally able to place my mind right within my body, to touch and be touched without fear. Having sober sex was a way for me to unravel the contempt I felt around my body and my sexuality. Having grown up in an environment where exploring myself was seen as a sin, when I did start to have sex, I still carried some of that bias with me. It was ingrained in the way I viewed my own nakedness and that of others. I thought I had to get drunk to overcome it. It took getting sober to get to the center of these issues and start to pull back the hard shell of it.
When I’ve approached mangoes in the past, I’ve always viewed the pit as a problem. A tough, white, barrier between the flesh and the juice. I always wanted more of the fruit and felt that the pit was taking up much-needed space. Now, I am able to see that the pit is meant to hold the fruit together and to protect its most precious asset, the seed. I used alcohol as a means to protect myself, from my body shame, my sex shame, my fear. The pit of mango has its use, just as alcohol had its use. Once they both have been used as proper protectors, it is time for them to be discarded. Before that can be done, the flesh needs to be stripped away, torn away by the teeth or a knife. We must reveal the strength beneath, reveal its purpose, its tawny white husk, and meditate on why it is there.