Soul Ties Are A Thing: Is Your Sexual Past "Haunting" You?

Sometimes our past sexual experiences are more a part of our present than we give them credit for.


I know. You probably think that since I used the word "haunting" that I'm referring to something eerie like a ghost or spirit. Nope. If your sexual past has you seeing things, I gotta be honest and own that I'm not qualified to help you out with that. Naw, when I'm talking about your past sexual experiences being able to haunt you, I'm coming from the perspective that, no matter how much you try to shake some of them off, they keep coming into your mind and heart, almost like they are taunting you and keeping you from getting on with your life. It could be a particular man, it could be the sexual experiences that you had with a few men or, it could be the act of sex itself.

The reason why I do feel like I can speak on this kind of haunting is because, for many years, I was haunted by different forms of my sexual past. It seemed like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, certain partners and experiences, I just couldn't seem to shake. Because of that, it was very hard for me to emotionally heal and move forward. And trust me, staying stagnant is a surefire way to set yourself up for some pretty unhealthy—or at least totally counterproductive—approaches to life and relationships with other people.

Time is precious; far too precious for sex to be haunting you instead of blessing you. So, if you're reading this and there's something tugging you to not click off of this page, I'd say that's the first sign that something in your past may be taking up way too much of your present. Just to be sure, here are seven spot-on signs that you may be sexually haunted.

You’re Always Making Comparisons


Knock virginity if you want to but waiting until marriage does have its benefits. For instance, there's someone I know who's been married over 15 years now, who used to say all of the time, "I don't know if my husband is great in bed or not. I know he's great to me because I don't know any different."

Those of us single gals who won't have her same testimony on our wedding night might find it to be a little sad that she didn't get to "kick it" before saying "I do". But you know what? I've dealt with my fair share of couples who have some pretty sucky sex lives and, a big part of it is because, their spouse isn't as good as someone from their past. Sure, they love their husband or wife but if they had to pick someone to join them in the bedroom, some other names would come before them.

You can't control the past that you had or even the memories that come from them. But if you're currently sexually involved with someone and you can't enjoy them because you're always comparing them with someone else, this is one sign that your sexual past is definitely haunting you. Not just haunting you but having way too much power over you too.

You Keep Going Back (to the Sex not “Him”)


There is someone from my past who I had sex with, off and on, for years. For a myriad of reasons that are about a book-length long, we knew that being together, long-term, wasn't gonna work out. But that sex was sooooo good (WHEW!) that we kept coming back for more. Then one day, out of the blue, he told me that I was like crack to him and he chose to no longer be addicted. I never heard from him again.

A few years ago, I looked him up to see what he was up to. I discovered that he was doing very well. I left a message on his work phone saying, "This is crack" and I asked him to give me a call if he got a chance. He called that night and we spoke for about eight hours straight. Y'all, he still looks and sounds just as fine as I remembered him. Anyway, when I asked him what made him blindside me with that phone call almost 20 years ago, he said that he was so caught up in what we had going on that it was sidetracking him—"Shellie, I was literally considering leaving college and moving to Nashville, just so we could have sex all of the time. It was getting out of control." He tells no lies there.

The moral to this story—sex is a part of a relationship but anything that is all-consuming isn't healthy. If there is someone you keep going back to and the only reason you've got is because the sex is good, while I hate to say it, that reason isn't good enough. Believe it or not, there are men in this world that can offer you the complete package. Don't remain in a dead-end situation just because the orgasms are good.

You Carry Past Sexual Guilt


I've always been really candid about my sex life. I'm not sure why; I think it's because I'm a pretty open person overall. That doesn't mean that I haven't done some things that I regret (regret means remorse so, it's a good thing to have regrets sometimes). An example is I was once the wedding planner for a couple and I was sleeping with the groom at the time.

How can I share something so low-down? Because, while I am repentant, I don't carry any guilt (or shame) about the situation. It was years and years ago. I apologized to both parties. I've forgiven myself. I've moved past it.

If you have a sexual past, chances are, you've done some things that you're not exactly proud of either. While a certain amount of initial guilt can be good so that you'll learn your lesson and not repeat it, remaining in a state of guilt is bad for your mental health and emotional well-being (check out "10 Things You Didn't Know About Guilt").

If you're having a hard time being in a relationship or having a satisfying sex life and you know it's tied to some sex-related guilt that you're holding onto, I'll share with you one of my favorite definitions of forgiveness that I once heard Oprah share—"Forgiveness is accepting that the past cannot change."

Guilt keeps us looking backwards. Release it so that you can move forwards.

Or You Hold onto Past Sexual Fear


When I speak of fear, I don't mean the kind of fear that may be connected to sexual trauma. If your sexual past is haunting you due to something like that, you are warranted and I encourage you to see a professional and reputable therapist. Counseling or even trauma healing can be life changing; they really can.

Actually, where I'm coming from is the acronym for fear—False Evidence Appearing Real. Another indication that your sexual past may be haunting you is a past partner may have made you feel self-conscious about your body or sexual performance or, a sexual experience that you built up in your mind ended up not being all that you fantasized and that has hindered you from fully enjoying sex now. You don't want to show your body, you prefer to have sex in the dark and/or you build up a wall so that you won't be disappointed…again.

Your current partner is not your past one. Unless he gives you reason to think that things will be like before, make a conscious decision to give him the benefit of the doubt. When fear knows that we don't believe what it's telling us, oftentimes, it tends to fade away.

You Constantly Use Sex as a Way to Move On


I've shared before that a saying that is truly like fingernails on the chalkboard to me is, "The best way to get over someone is to get underneath someone else." It files right up there with "If you like it, I love it." (Because we usually say that when someone is doing something stupid or self-destructive. So no, I don't love it.) Anyway, if you're someone who believes that rebound sex is the best way to move on from someone who turned you out and/or broke your heart, do your future a favor and check out "We Should Really Rethink the Term 'Casual Sex'". The oxytocin that surges throughout your body during sex has no idea if you're doin' it and doin' it well (shout out to LL Cool J) with someone you're in love with or someone you just met.

And since oxytocin is designed to bond you to your sex partners regardless, well…if your way of getting over someone is to be with someone else, I hate to break it to you, but all you're actually doing is adding more men to the list that you'll have to get over—one way or another. You're setting yourself up to remain sexually haunted for a long, long time.

Sex Is Your (Main) Self-Esteem Booster


Who doesn't want to be told that they are good in bed?! Anyone who says they don't care is LY-ING. However, I'll raise my hand in this class and admit that when it comes to about half of the 14 sex partners that I've had (I break all of them down in "Each of My 14 Sex Partners Taught Me Something New"), a part of the reason why they were able to "get in" at all is because I had seasons in my life where I thought that the only thing that would draw—and hopefully keep—a man was my sexual performance. The problem with that is 1) all of us have more than one thing that makes us special and relationship-worthy and 2) that is a lot of power—too much power—to relinquish to one particular aspect of your life.

Take it from me, if you are in the habit of using sex—or your sexual performance—as a way to feel good about yourself, there are a ton of men who are just waiting to manipulate that breakdown in your psyche. Not only that but, during your sexual dry seasons, you could find yourself in mild bouts of self-hatred or depression because you aren't able to rely on your "fix". And since you've convinced yourself for so long that sex is the only way to remedy the issue…do you see the vicious cycle that you've created?

Sex Is Your Coping Mechanism


Speaking of sex being a "fix", if you run to sex, because you don't know how else to deal with a bad situation or difficult emotions, that's a sign that you're misusing sex more than you're actually embracing it. Sex is proven to reduce stress and make us happier, but if you don't know any other way to handle what's transpiring in your life, not only are you setting yourself up to have "haunting feelings" about sex itself but you could send yourself on the path to becoming a diagnosed sex addict.

So, what should you do when life seems to be a little painful or out of control? Get still and don't be afraid to feel what you're feeling. Do something like take a bath, listen to some relaxing music or even take a nap in order to give yourself a bit of a break. Then try and come up with a plan of what to do next. Then actually follow through with said plan.

I know this isn't the kind of topic that gets explored a lot. But it should be. Sex is too awesome for it to be out here haunting you. Exorcise the past so that you can openly and freely get on with your sexual future!

Featured image via GIFS

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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