According to a 2017 report by the CDC, nearly one in six men has experienced “contact sexual violence” during his lifetime. Robert Kelly is one of those men.
“In my early 20s, I was sexually assaulted at a party by a few guys who I thought were my friends,” Kelly writes in a brave new article published by Vice.
Kelly says the attack left him “traumatized” and “robbed of his independence,” and for nearly five years he lost all interest in sex.
I just stopped having sex, period—not because I didn’t want sex anymore, but because my anxiety surrounding the act put my sexual imagination on the fritz. The gay fantasies that used to drive me wild now produced nothing but a dull sense of numbness, and without much of a sexual imagination, well, it’s hard to actually go through with the act. It felt like—and was, in effect—a years-long crisis of desire.
He also lost interest in dating and watching gay porn.
What if things went south, and I had to endure another assault? What if things went well, and I had to explain that I’m not comfortable with the whole butt sex thing? Not to mention how triggering it was to even watch anal sex after the incident.
It wasn’t until he made a rather unlikely discovery that Kelly was able to being healing from his assault: lesbian and queer porn.
“Though I’m a gay-leaning queer man, the first step toward reclaiming my sense of sexuality came when one of my friends, a queer woman familiar with my situation, casually introduced me to some bomb-ass lesbian-produced queer porn after brunch one Sunday.”
The site she recommended featured feminist, inclusive porn, not the hardcore girl-on-girl stuff most people think of when they think about lesbian porn, and it completely changed Kelly’s perspectives not just about sex, but also about lesbian erotica.
Until that point, I thought lesbian porn was the sole domain of straight dudes. In my mind, it was what happened when sexy coeds at Phil McCavity Institute or whatever become bored with all the fake studying they’ve done and have a long, sensual pillow fight. After experimenting with their sparkly dildos, they decide it’s just not for them, but they’re super glad they tried it.
But, he quickly learned, that wasn’t the case. The videos were much kinder, gentler, and more empowering.
“I remember my reaction the first time I saw them and heard their voice: butterflies, the good kind,” he writes. “I felt like a teenager discovering sex for the very first time.”
There was something almost spiritual about that moment. For too long, I had thought that sexual part of myself was completely broken; reconnecting with it after such a long hiatus was a renewal, a rebirth. It felt like baptism. It was the dawn of my new sexual preference: cis and trans girl-on-girl scenes. And it’s understandable to view that as strange, given my preference in real life and porn until that point had always been gay men.
Ultimately, Kelly says, the videos provided him with an an environment “where I can safely set my feelings of fear, anger, and hurt about male sexuality aside. It’s a place where I feel safe enough to reactivate and explore my imagination again.”
And reactivate it did!
While he’s not yet ready to jump in the sack with a random guy from Grindr, Kelly says he’s able to enjoy porn and exercise thoughts of sex in a way that he hasn’t been able to do for the past 5+ years.
“I find sex in lesbian and queer porn to be more dynamic and compelling than the formulaic sex I’ve seen in mainstream gay porn,” he writes. “Getting turned on again was a big step for me.”
He says he still has work to do when it comes to trusting people, but he’s getting there.
[Lesbian porn] makes me mindful of the pleasure I receive and intentional in the pleasure I give. And maybe that’s ultimately what made queer and lesbian porn such an effective tool in getting over my crisis. It’s taught me that the best sex isn’t stilted or forced, gluttonous, or passive, necessarily penetrative or even anywhere near what most of us imagine when we imagine “sex.” It’s human and joyful and celebratory. And that’s exactly what I was missing for all those years before.