Survivor Brain

Was it like this before? Did it feel this good to kiss someone?

Did I graze their jaw with my fingertips just to hear their breathing hitch? Did I trace their cheekbone and tilt their face closer? Did I blink my eyes open and see their eyelashes, incongruently delicate, as they bit my lower lip?

Was it this sensual, this intense? It must have been, it had to have been. I fell in love with sex long before anyone fell in love with me.

I supposed it doesn’t matter what it used to be like. It is like this now.

Did I use to be like this? I remember raking my hand through my hair, first to keep it out of my eyes, and then because I realized men liked watching me do so. I remember that I wanted to feel this sexy, wanted to feel this powerful and desired and desiring.

And maybe I did, in moments when my insecurities were too busy to notice. A girl kissed me at a party and I stopped worrying, too distracted by her narrow mouth to compare my belly to her flat stomach. A boy bound my wrists for the first time, and I felt that original surge of confidence as I chose to submit. At sixteen a crush danced with me at a friend’s house, dragged my hips back against his erection, and I looped my fingers behind his neck and discovered this charge, this thrill.

I was like this before, I know I was.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.