I used to fall in love with men. It was what I was meant to do, to fall in love with men. But it wasn’t falling in love, it was falling in love with the idea that I could be a part of normality.
An interview with Cristina.
Cristina | Age: 39 | Location: London, UK | Occupation: Designer | No. of sexual partners: 4
Why did you take part?
I’ve been sexuality myself for the last 10 years through therapy. It helps me to be more open to myself from just talking.
What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?
I come from a very patriarchal family and a culture that’s very religious and traditional. Sex was never talked about. A few key moments influenced me. When I was very young and I was with a lot of boys outside the church playing football. Hanging out with the kids. I was about 10. This boy who was a retard touched me in front of everyone, put his hand on my private parts. I remember the shock of not knowing what was happening. It was very embarrassing. Then when I was 5 or 7 I remember getting a lot of attention from this very beautiful 12 year old girl while we were at summer camp. She really looked after me. I remember one night sleeping in the same bed with her and her sister. I remember feeling an attraction, fantasising; I think I was wet but I didn’t know what it was. It was very confusing. Gay or bisexual stuff didn’t exist when I was growing up. I used to take my bicycle to this shop that was run by an old guy. He used to touch my leg. The first time I didn’t know what was happening. I was wearing a skirt. I was unable to protect myself. I felt guilty and ashamed.
At 14 I started masturbating in my room and then I discovered the bath. The bath made it better since sex was dirty in my culture. The bath was balancing things out. I had also discovered my brother’s porn tapes and started watching porn. I never talked about sex with my parents. When I got my period my mum explained it to me but just in practical and not emotional terms.
I was always taller and slightly bigger than my peers. I always felt different and I think I made myself look different by becoming big. Back in Greece I was always taken care of and knew what to do - which was not to get fat. At 18 I came to London at 18 on my own. I was free and I didn’t have my parents telling me not to eat, to be careful. It was great to be free but that’s when I gained most of my weight. I didn’t know how to take care of myself because I didn’t know myself.
I used to fall in love with men. It was what I was meant to do, to fall in love with men. But it wasn’t falling in love, it was falling in love with the idea that I could be a part of normality. When I was 16 I thought I was in love and became friends with the guy. But then he started to go out with my best friend and that was really hurtful.
Up until I came to England I was very closed and sex felt like a dirty thing. I then started to see a world that was a bit more free, with more recipes for how to live. I started to become more open-minded. I saw gay men - they were kissing and hugging and there was something very attractive about it. I had thought that I should be a regular heterosexual woman who has kids and settles but that started to change. It was a very slow process. From clothes to holding hands with someone of the same gender, being part of a world where you’re not being judged was really powerful. I started reading more about lesbian sexuality and started to wonder if that was me. I started to question myself a lot and started to accept the possibility of being gay. At 28 I started therapy and it helped me to accept it. I came out to myself first. And then to my friends so that I’d feel safe before I started exploring. It felt important. I never told my first woman that she was my first. I was embarrassed and afraid I wouldn’t be accepted. That I wasn’t cool enough. I regretted not telling her but I wasn’t ready to be open. At 30 I started seeing this girl. Up until now I had 3 relationships with girls but all them have been 3 months top. Now I’m working more on how to be more intimate and open. To be close to someone beyond sex. Understanding and accepting myself has been powerful. Normal doesn’t exist but everyone is normal.
This year I had my first experience in my own country. That was so hard. I felt like I almost went back in time. I’d never been with a woman or kissed a woman in my home country. It was more than geographical. It was immense. I grew up thinking it’s not right, that I shouldn’t do it. And there I was with a partner who was also English - England being my other home it brought everything together. It helped me grow so much. To understand who I am and my sexuality and to be comfortable with myself. It was a very important experience to have. Otherwise it would still feel half-full, as if something is missing still. I’ve come out to my friends in Greece and my mum and brother but not my father. It’s all about acceptance and feeling good about myself. It’s liberating. Whenever I go back now I can be myself - I used to pretend to be someone else in my own country and my own language.
What does sex mean to you?
It’s almost like a tool to be in an intimate relationship. It’s not the most important thing but not any less important than anything else in the relationship. It’s a space for two people to connect and communicate intimately, emotionally and physically.
What’s difficult about sex?
Being comfortable with my body. I always considered myself big and fat. That played a big role in my sexuality. I always worried if the other person would like my body. I think I appeared comfortable with my body. My last partner complimented my body a lot and it made me a lot more comfortable. Sometimes it still comes up but more in the moments when I’m sabotaging myself, hurting myself. I’ll go back into food then. I feel a lot more comfortable now and I love my body although it’s not what I used to think it should look like.
What do you most enjoy about sex?
The intimacy. The discovery of pleasure for myself and my partner. Mostly getting to know my partner’s pleasure points. Sometimes I ask them, sometimes I just listen out for the noises and feel the body moving. I try to understand that whole communication. The body can ask for what it wants.
Do you orgasm?
I come every time. Not too much vaginal, more clitoral.
How often do you have sex?
I only have sex when I’m in a relationship. My relationships aren’t long but when I’m in them there’s a lot of sex.
Do you masturbate?
Sometimes it’s 2-3 times a week, sometimes 1-2 a month. Usually before I go to sleep. Might be when I’m stressed or I can’t sleep or I’m missing my ex. Either just myself with hands or with a vibrator. I used to watch porn - gay porn, but porn is like eating really bad food. When you’re on your own you’re discovering your body and yourself. With porn you just get aroused by something fake.
How do you see female sexuality portrayed in the society?
There’s more and more awareness about female sexuality. In the Guardian they do Vagina Dispatches, which I love. I like that there are more people trying to explore it. It’s making women more comfortable with their sexuality. Also I feel like there is no longer just the female and the male sexuality. There’s so many different genders, people don’t identify as female or male only. We are different in our bodies but how we identify is varied - we should relate to one another as just being different.
What’s your advice to women?
It’s so important to understand yourself, to accept who you are, and to take care of yourself. The rest will unfold whether it’s about sexuality, appearance or fitting in the world. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. Self development is the most important thing you can do.
What’s your advice to men?
My best friends are male but really in touch with their feminine. They’re more sentimental, more open. More understanding about everything really. I wish more men would get in touch with their feminine sides, it would help everyone including them.
Is there anything you want to explore?
I’d like to explore being in a longer relationship. To explore intimacy on more levels.