By Lauren R. D. Fox

If you’ve ever used mascara by Too Faced
called ‘Better Than Sex’ you’ve probably chuckled because in some instances the
mascara is indeed better than the unfulfilled sexual encounters some of us have
had. On top of engaging in less than satisfactory sex, some of us have dealt
with toxic partners who spew false rhetoric about our sanity, needs, bodies or
genitals, making us feel small and confused about our sexual experiences. Psychology Today
classifies this as gaslighting.

 Preston Ni, Professor of Communication Studies reports.

“Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth.”

I experienced this last year when I had sexual
intercourse for the first time and began to have sex regularly. The guy I was
dating at the time seemed ideal on paper with his six-figure salary and
impeccable resume. However, his moods often ping-ponged between highs and lows
that left me feeling drained. This affected our sex life greatly, especially
when he complained that foreplay shouldn’t be longer than ten minutes or that
my vagina was too tight and curved. As you can imagine, the sex with him became
increasingly painful and I started to
avoid it at all cost.
When I shared this information with my best
friend Raquel, she immediately told me that he was using gaslighting tactics.
She went on to say since his behavior was less than subpar, my vagina (and
I) wasn’t sold on him hence the
sandpaper sex we were having. My other best friend Yetunde agreed and exclaimed
without hesitation, “Girrrrl, you know these men are crazy! They do that all
the time,” while proceeding to tell me about the men she was intimate with who would make her question how her body functions if she wasn’t
sexually satisfied.
Since I was newly minted in the world of sex, I was
shocked to learn most women I know shared similar stories. One married woman
who wishes to remain anonymous shared this story with me: 

“I remember having sex half sleep[sic], and him
throwing my panties to the side. I woke up and was like well that was good
where’s my panties. He was like “What was good?” I said the sex…he gonna
[sic] gaslight me and said we never had sex. And I’m like so why my panties
off? Totally made me feel crazy. Til this day he denies we ever had sex. This is
my husband mind you. And [this] started
a long list of him trying to gaslight me throughout the years.”

Another woman, Nia, told
me a past partner of hers said “only lonely hoes” use sex toys after trying
to encourage him to use them to arouse her. Nia continued, revealing one of her
friend’s tried to use sex toys while dating a man who told her she could not
use them without him because he considered that to be cheating. He also had to
approve the toys she could use around him.
Nicole, a friend from
high school expressed to me that she loves having sex in various places and
positions. She’s successfully done so with men who matched her tall frame and
were of different sizes. So when Nicole began dating a local musician whose
confidence was a bubble you couldn’t pop, she was surprised when he began to
blame her for the reason why they couldn’t do doggy style properly. She says, 

“I’m bent over which is actually my best position ‘cause I’m workin with a whole lot but I digress; he was behind me struggling and gonna [sic] tell me I’m too tall for him to stick it in. Now, all the men I’ve had sex with were tall men and they never had a problem. But the difference was he ain’t have enough d-ck and instead of playing up his strengths and finding a position that worked for him, he blamed me.”

Journalist Dee Eastside wrote to me about a past lover who was twenty-years plus her senior. She thought his age would make a difference but that proved to be wrong.

“When I tried to explain I wasn’t aroused enough for P in V sex and could he finger me he goes, ‘I’m thinking she wants my fingers more than my d-ck?’ He was 45. I want to know how he reached that age with such a weak pipe game? No wonder you’re divorced. Dummy. For someone with pierced nipples he was surprisingly clueless about sex. Or at least when it came to his partners pleasure.”

All women surveyed unanimously agreed that sex education from women they trusted (older female family members, medical and wellness experts) helped them realized their partner’s controlling and disingenuous nature. It also pushed them to speak up when their partners try to downplay their needs or even memory of events.

If gaslighting is not dealt with firmly, you lose the sense that you can negotiate your sexual relationship. When that happens, Dr. Elizabeth Boskey states in her Very Well Mind article you won’t feel like you have control over your body. And not feeling authoritative over yourself will make you feel like you don’t have a firm grip on anything else.

Can you relate?
Lauren R.D. Fox is a Guyanese-American pop culture/beauty editor and writer who has an undying love for soca fetes, poulorri, New Orleans and deep conditioners. After graduating from SUNY Geneseo with a dual concentration in American and Black Studies, she became a journalist and social media manager. Lauren has previously written for MadameNoire, Mayvenn Hair, Wetpaint, Enstarz, Her Agenda, Zora Magazine and B.Couleur Magazine. Follow her at @LOLOTHEFOX.