Once I had a lover who admired my faces. He claimed that my flinch, my moan, my contortion increased his pleasure greatly, and I found this so flattering that on one occasion I let him take pictures. I wish he had never told me, because now in the throes of ecstacy I'm often thinking of what my face might look like. Does this lover have the same appreciation as that one did? What if this one thinks I look pained, or monstrous, or silly? Sometimes I think I might like to go back to that one, temporarily, just to feel like I'm really being looked at.
The faces-loving lover also liked toys. Once he tied me up and blindfolded me, and used a glass instrument to elicit my pleasure. He had introduced this particular tool before, which he wielded with some skill, but I look back on its use with mixed emotions. It was so impersonal. It could be warmed, but often wasn't, and went in so cold. It felt medical. I grew to resent his affinity for it, because I felt like he liked the experience - the faces, the toys, the power - more than he liked me. Which I suppose was his prerogative to prefer. The nature of our relationship was not one of love or adoration; it was a bargain between people of like-minded proclivities. If I wasn't willing to put in the emotional legwork, I couldn't expect sex not to be the focus of all our interactions. I got what I paid for, so to speak.
The demise of our arrangement marked the demise of my ability to carry on a fulfilling casual relationship. It can be argued that I never found it all that fulfilling, I just told myself I did, but that's another idea entirely. When I have a friend with benefits, I want them to also be my friend, otherwise the benefits lose their luster. So when he stopped agreeing to see me for anything other than sex, I lost interest in the whole idea. There's a fine line between being objectified and being desired, and I'm sure I've confused it before, but having it thrown in my face was unappealing. This experience, coupled with others that I'll get into in a minute, led to my current uneasiness about including toys in sex play; I feel like objects equal objectification. That the things I "should" feel or want to feel should be attainable through "normal" sex. I know this is flawed, and I don't agree with it in principle. Just in practice.
What troubles me most is that I didn't always feel this way. When I was young and first started masturbating, I would use practically anything I could get my hands on. I felt little shame, and I don't think it was an effort to debase myself; I was simply curious. When I was 15 I started going to church in an effort to scandalize my liberal, new-agey mother, and stopped masturbating for 8 months because it was supposedly sinful, and not conducive to my new holier-than-thou attitude. When I finally couldn't stand it anymore, I learned how to get myself off using a combination of thigh-pulsation and Kegel exercises - if I wasn't touching myself, it wasn't masturbating! Or at least wasn't as sinful! Or something! This was a labor-intensive process, though, and eventually laziness brought touching myself back into my life, though it was guiltily repented for, every time. Soon enough, boys were also introduced, and the churchiness began to dissipate; intentional hypocrite I am not, and if I was going to fornicate, I'd rather not have to apologize for it every time.
So, in summary: church-inspired irrational guilt + an emotionally distant boy with a treasure chest = me feeling uncomfortable with "marital aids."
Over a year ago I was given a well-meaning gift certificate to the best sex store in Seattle. I never used it. It's either expired or depleting in value as we speak. How sad.