We were freshman in college, best friends, and about to hook up for the first time. Jim had more sexual experience than I did. I didn’t know it at the time but he was about to become my second partner and the longest relationship of my adult life. Most who knew us thought we’d go on to get married.
Jim and I were like two peas in a pod.
We went to the gym together. We studied together. We even worked at the same bar together on the weekends. Since we started out as friends, we had a very tight-nit group of mutual friends. We set an example that you can still have fun, be in love, and keep up with your crew. It was the perfect relationship. At least that is what it looked like from the outside.
Fast forward to the week before Halloween of sophomore year.
We were in love. All starry-eyed and happy. We waited almost a year to sleep together. I wanted to be in love when we had sex for the first time.
It was a typical Tuesday night. I was doing homework at my apartment when he messaged me on AIM.
“What should we be for Halloween?” he asked.
I hadn’t given it much thought but time was running out and I would have to dress up in three different costumes. #college
“I think you’ll look hot in these.” he replied along with some links to costumes.
They were all different variations of superhero costumes. I’d never seen him so interested and thoughtful in his responses.
I decided on Superwoman. Of course, in the back of my head, I was secretly excited about the possibility of using these in the bedroom that night. We hadn’t done anything like that. Yet.
The night of Halloween came around and we made drunken superhero love.
He was Batman. I was Superwoman. The night was liberating and fun. We enjoyed trying something different together and took our relationship to a new level.
Throughout the rest of sophomore year, we broke out the costumes a handful of other times. Somewhere along the way, Jim decided to cut a hole in his costume where his “magic wand” could easily come out while having intercourse. Looking back, I thought it was somewhat strange that we were putting more clothes on to have sex than taking off. But I could tell he enjoyed those few times that we did role play in costumes so I let it be.
Then, Junior year Halloween rolled around. Almost the exact same events unfolded. He asked about my costume. I had none. He suggested a superhero. I said I already did that. He insisted that there were new costumes out this season. I had to pick out three outfits anyway so why not have one of them be a superhero.
The amount of superhero sex we had after that Halloween doubled.
Maybe as much as a dozen times. I started to ask my girlfriends if they had ever experimented with role playing. Explain my situation with Jim. They thought it was funny. But not an issue.
I started to feel like it was an issue before senior year. We were doing long distance for the summer. He was on the east coast and I was in Chicago. He sent me a link to a superhero themed male thong. I could tell he was testing how far he could push my boundaries. And I wanted him to feel like he had a safe space to bring up his sexual desires and fantasies. But I wasn’t really thrilled.
During senior year the sex began to change. I was no longer wearing any costumes. Now he was dressing up alone.
He started putting on that thong with a cape. I wanted to take off my clothes, not put them on. Towards the end of senior year we weren’t having sex that much. It felt like we couldn’t do it without costumes.
Then graduation and summer happened. Long distance again. We would travel to see each other. He would bring some form of a costume along with him. I was forced to take his dirty costume to the cleaners. My friends weren’t laughing anymore. I needed to do something.
It went from being foreplay to a full blown fetish.
This was supposed to be my life partner. I didn’t know how to address it.
My own insecurities started coming out. Did he not find me attractive? Was he into men?
We both ended up with opportunities in New York, and he temporarily moved in with me while looking for his own place.
One night, I came home, relieved to find that Jim was out, and I could get some alone time. When I opened up my laptop, the last browser session was still live. It was porn. Gay. Superhero. Porn.
I couldn’t contain myself anymore, and I had to break it off. I asked Jim to move out and knew that I had to move on.
It wasn’t all about the role playing and the porn.
Part of the problem with my relationship with Jim was that I didn’t know what my needs were or how to communicate them, so his needs dominated our relationship.
Since Jim, I have had other partners with fetishes, but now I express my boundaries earlier, and encourage partners to share theirs as well. I don’t let it build to a point where it’s too difficult to bring up later.
Above all things, this experience taught me that, generally, there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to our desires. We all are empowered to identify and articulate our comfort zones. Sometimes, it’s fun to role play. But not when the role we’re playing is a version of ourselves without a voice.
And expressing what I need is my superpower now.
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