We speak to Anaïs, a woman in her late twenties, about the multifaceted sexual personalities she has discovered in her bed and in her own self.
Most people don’t understand my kind of sexuality. It’s not clear nor acceptable to them. I might be a nymph at heart. I’ve been called a whore by some; an angel by others. But it’s long ago that I stopped caring about titles. They mean nothing to me. I might be a killer with one person, and a drooling pet with another. Place the killer label on my head and it will only be half true.
I started experimenting with the notion of power and sexuality when I was 23. Rather, I used my sexuality to explore bigger questions about myself and perhaps society as a whole. Why? It felt natural to do so. I didn’t exactly choose it. But, in retrospect, sex is perhaps the only environment—along with art, and perhaps war—where rules are so easily, and willfully, broken.
I had always heard that power is the most powerful drug, but I never really understood it until that certain age. But in the quest for power, I discovered something else: a forest of selves. Not only of my own self, but most selves. My own self has now developed into this ever-changing and renewable maze, but for the sake of tracking down this labyrinthine notion, I shall describe how it all started.
I was a pretty, introverted, naïve little girl. I was a young beauty, I am told. My puberty changed me—I became chubby. And in chubbiness I lost my naiveté. Yet, some boys still lusted after me during the chubby years. My best friend at the time, poor little Ben, wrote me a letter with his own blood. It read a simple and large ‘I love you’ on an A4 paper. Then followed my first real relationship with a young man my age. It lasted five years. Five of the most closed up, sanctioned, yet didactic years of my life. I was abused, less physically and more so verbally, by my teenage partner. But, as weird as it may sound to you, I always felt that he was more powerless than me. He was the tortured one; not I. I held a secret, internal power over him—and I was punished for it. But that just might be an excuse for why I spent so much time tolerating a twisted love. Or, who knows. I might just have been the powerless one. Is power something concrete and singular?
After ardent efforts to pull myself together and put an end to a bout of anorexia and self abuse, I gained my liberation from abusive dependence and faced myself anew. I spent three consecutive nymphic years. But I was not the usual, careless nymph. Every man I went with had a story; I was interested in knowing that story. I always wanted to talk with my men. Get to know them. I was fascinated by the uniqueness of every person’s sexual habits and needs. I judged no act—no twisted sexual instinct. Perhaps I was lucky: all of them were very sweet and kind men. I read them, intuitively, and managed—after few brief encounters—to open them up and thus got to know very private and complex fragments of each. Most people will never open up to anyone because of the fear of criticism, you know. Sometimes we didn’t even sleep together at all. Some men simply wanted to stare at my naked body and masturbate. Some recited poetry to me. Some painted me. Others wanted me to collaborate in their artistic projects.
I became an anthropographer-a personographer—through my own body; a canvas on which men (and some women) felt free to expose parts of their internal or shameful selves. Some—the very few people who love me for what I really am—tell me I have a gift. I open people up.
Five years ago I met an exceptional, very giving man who became my boyfriend for three years. I put an end to my active sexual life then and there, and was happy to settle for simple flirtations and very sparse sexual encounters with others. Yet my power and allure over others only seemed to grow with time. This was a power I took immense pleasure in, but I remained—in heart—faithful to my man.
And then came Adam. A sturdy, tall, dark-skinned musician whose look would pierce me and I’d feel his presence around me just from receiving the unexplainable jolts of his gaze. I’ve always had a knack for those random, chance encounters that happen in life between people who are drawn to each other. And such fateful encounters happened frequently in the first year after we made each other’s acquaintance. Slowly, we started talking, exchanged telephone numbers, and became friends. Or, rather, confidants. After some short and alcohol-free meals together, over salads, hummus and pita breads, where I did most of the talking, I started feeling a strange sort of familiarity towards this man. I didn’t exactly feel drawn to him. I found him only slightly attractive and perhaps a little mysterious—but nothing more.
As time went by and we started discussing more intimate details about our sex lives, a switch was turned. His sex life was as intricate and complex as my own. He also had a short history of violence (but only during sex, and as a perpetrator). I intuitively noticed a sparkle in his eyes and a tingle in his laugh when I narrated some of my abusive stories with my first boyfriend. More sparks and tingles when he heard my nymph stories. But we always parted with a friendly pat on the shoulder and a kiss on each cheek. Then a summer interrupted our meetings, I found a new and time-consuming job and focused on my beautiful boyfriend. And, apart from some sparse texts every four or five months, I disappeared from his life for a whole year. And he disappeared from mine.
We met again in a dark bar sometime in the winter. For the first time, alcohol was introduced in our relationship: dark rum. Straight up. He wore a blue long-sleeved shirt and, for the first time, he seemed charming in a palpable way. He confessed he is a person with a developed, strong sense of self-control because he knows how easy it is for him to lose it. I found the statement puzzling and gravely recognizable. He was an experienced, restrained, even stoic man. I felt like I wanted to test that hard exterior. Risk breaking it. We parted in a rum-infused haze by confusing which cheek to kiss first and ended up kissing the tips of each other’s mouths.
After the incident, however, three months passed in which I fell with renewed fervor into my own relationship. I was still in love with my boyfriend. My catastrophic sexuality had not yet revealed its ugly head. His presence, the sight of his body, his voice on the phone moved me. I’d felt shudders when I had first met him – and the afterquakes of my intense love-at-first-sight still endured. The morbid, slightly destructive erotic flower had not yet blossomed inside me—it was still just a bud.
His lovemaking was beautiful and very giving. I felt complete in my wrecked erotic selfless self. I worshipped him. Yet, a small, romantic and scared side of me wanted to break free from the chains of being in love – of being powerless. And you know what? a nymph, no matter how good the sex with one man is, will sleep with others. I’d even dare say that the better the sex with one man is, the more greedy a woman like me will become. My boyfriend was a powerful, creative and amazing lover. An amazing man. Perhaps this is what led me to flee him. I couldn’t match him.
Then, one day, I slept with Adam. My bed became witness to the most strangely replete, wild first-sex-encounter of my life. This man was an animal—but in a very real way. His touches (or, rather, his spanks, strong grabs and suffocating grips) were penetratingly effectual. He was wild. Our meetings were like volcano blasts.
Many times followed, but I always resisted him at first. This drove him mad. He sent me maddened text messages in the middle of the night. Then disappeared for a while. Then I’d call out to him and he’d come back. He almost raped me one time. I cried, and when he saw me break, he kissed me and asked me whether I’d want to become his girl. But I didn’t. This power game, this sexual tension, this gushing ego play, I told him, can only live on the fringes between love and hate. I couldn’t normalize him inside my everyday life.
So, I became single again. And somewhere in these spring months, when hormones and plentiful eros abounds in the air like hay fever, the end of my relationship came. Panic attacks, sorrow—melting. Darkness. Then Adam found another woman and stopped talking to me. Summer came and went, leaving me melted and stuck on the sheets of my bed. And then I decided to go out. I met George. And Yanni. And Niko. And Stephanos. And Ishmael.
Older men in their majority, at least by two years. They weren’t simultaneous to each other and I didn’t sleep with all of them. I now make very careful selections about whom I allow in my home and in my body. All of them taught me something new about myself. New fragments of me became known to me with every new private encounter. It wasn’t about power anymore. It was a quest, a sort of meditation. Ultimate truth—myself-through the body.
All these faces—person pieces—of such diverse personalities, as well as certain parts of their bodies which specifically clicked with mine, have incised themselves on my skin. I carry all of them inside me. I’ve been called a white rose, a dirty little tramp, a spider, an angel, a devil, a conniving trickster, a princess, a selfish bitch, a calming power. I’ve collected numerous appellations relating to my person in this past decade of my active sexual life, and looking back to draw some sort of conclusion of who I am, I see how fascinating it is that every single man—and a brief crush I had on two women—brought out a completely different part of myself. I was a million different little selves into this one body, hiding behind these two eyes, talking behind these two lips and thinking in so many little voices in my brain. Man, in the general sense of the term, is a whole population.
I feel I’ve succeeded in connecting intimately with the meaning of freedom—at least my own version of it. Complexity; I embrace it. I’ve tried writing down my life through small experiences jotted down in notebooks in order to assemble all these pieces and create a portrait of who I am. But it’s elusive, this portrait. It’s so different than what it used to be. It seems to change all the time. Now, I’ve learned to embrace this multiformity and see it as an immense forest hiding an array of minute, mini microcosms.