Thursday, June 25, 2015

Am I Sex-Negative? (Yet another "coming-out...")

WARNING: This one is definitely NSFW. Some people may consider it TMI; they'll want to GTFO now.

As you can imagine, I've learned a lot in the past year. Some lessons have come easily, some much less so. Some have come as a surprise: I *do* feel jealousy, on occasion; I'm not yet the communicator I aspire to be; and apparently, I am "sex-negative".

I've had a lot of insults hurled at me in my life, but none that surprised me quite as much as that one did. "I've never been sex-negative," I thought, "unless, well, there were those periods where my life tested negative for sex."

What I always, and I mean always, have been is questioning of the place sex has in most people's lives, especially most men's lives. It is reflected in our language. The suffix -er denotes "one who": a runner is one who runs, a driver is one who drives, a hammer is one who hams, and a grocer is one who groces. A "lover" is not one who loves, but rather "one who has sex".
I've found that weird since I first noticed it, which was right about the time I was hitting puberty. We have another one that's even weirder: "to sleep with". Buddy, if you're sleeping, I think you're doing it wrong.
French, incidentally, has the verb baiser, which ostensibly means "to kiss" but which, in almost all contexts, really means "to fuck". I can't speak for other languages, but I suspect what Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory insists on calling "coitus" has thoroughly supplanted other, more "innocent" words in many of them. And I find that odd.

I get that sex is a biological imperative. It still shouldn't, in my humble opinion, have the power it does over so many minds. You need to eat: three weeks without food and you'll likely be dead. Three weeks without sex is no hardship at all, in comparison. But many men claim to think about sex at least as often as they think about food. In fact, I've sometimes joked that "sex to you is like food to a starving man, it's all you ever talk about."
That joke doesn't go over well. Implying that someone doesn't get regular sex is--again inexplicably--a grave insult to many. It's no mistake that among the myriad of euphemisms for "penis" is "manhood". Insult a man's virility and you've kicked him in it.

I don't get it. I am more than my penis. All men are: being reduced to a set of genitalia is offensive. Just ask a woman who has been called a twat, let alone a cunt. (Again, it's considered much less offensive to call a man a "dick". Some guys seem to take it as a compliment.)

Let's keep looking at the language, because the words we use reflect our values. Consider the phrase "friends with benefits" (FWBs).

Ugh. That one really bothers me. What it says to me is: there are friends, see, and then there are friends you fuck. Only the latter kind of friend gives you "benefits".

Tell me that's not sickening. (I asked on Facebook if there was a term even more dismissive towards friendship: one friend came back with "fuck buddies". That one, interestingly, doesn't bother me at all. Take the fuck away and you're still buddies. Take the "benefits" away and why be friends if the benefits are gone?

Ken, you're overthinking this.

Am I? Am I really?

Suppose I told you I haven't had sex in the last three years. (Not true, incidentally, but play along with me here, okay?) You know I'm married. Suddenly my marriage is diminished in a critical way. The automatic assumption is that there's something wrong. Seriously wrong. That's ridiculous on the face of it: there is much more to a marriage than sex. But it's taken as read that there's something defective about a man, or a marriage, without regular sex in it.

I'm supposedly "sex-negative" because I dare to think thoughts like this.

No, let's get even more sex-negative. There is an ongoing, insolvable debate in poly circles as to whether or not any ethical non-monogamy qualifies as polyamory. My take on that is an emphatic no: the Latin for love is right in the term. I'd tell you that swinging, for example, is about sex, and there may or may not be love in it. (Almost certainly isn't: many swingers' resources online warn you in giant flaming letters about the dangers of falling in love with a swinging partner. But enough people have angrily told me they love their swinging partners for me to lighten up on that just a tad.)

Whereas poly, to me, is about love, which may or may not include sex. Human nature and sexual obsession being what they are, it often does...but it certainly does not have to.

This lands me firmly into sex-negative territory online if I dare to say it.

My inability to have sex without love strikes many people as, to put it charitably, highly abnormal. I've called sex, absent emotion,  "fifty pumps, a tickle and a squirt" and a "genital sneeze"--wow, you'd think I was a rapist, given the negative reaction to those phrases. But, for me, they are nothing less than the truth.  (I love relatively easily, it's true, but I absolutely need that emotional bond to even be interested in sex.)

I did cross over the line, the line I try so hard not to cross over, thinking that my way was the better way, not just for me, but for others. I'll cop to that: That's sex-negative. It's just: anything in life without love is flat. Neale Donald Walsch: "Whether it's joyless sex or joyless spaghetti and meatballs", an ingredient is missing. Spider Robinson: "We weren't making love, we were fucking. Nothing wrong with that, just not enough right with it."

Others have corrected me, gently and occasionally harshly. Sex, I've been told, is fun, and certainly doesn't need all that pesky emotional baggage tied to it. (That "pesky emotional baggage" is a huge part of who I am, but again, that's just me.) Some have noted that they invest even their random hook-ups with Can't Help But Fly (The Poly Song) puts it, "It's not indiscriminate fucking, it's indiscriminate loving". That made me feel better about it all, but guiltily so: I'd forced something else into my paradigm instead of making a concerted effort to accept a different paradigm.

 It recently came to my attention that there is a term for people like me: demisexuality. (That description fits me to a T: sexual attraction not a necessary component of friendship, but friendship a necessary component of sexual attraction (former part bolded so my friends don't get all skeeved out);  completely boggled by sexual attraction to celebrities, and so on. I'm not repulsed by sex the way two thirds of demisexuals supposedly are. I enjoy it. But it's not the most critical component of a fulfilling relationship, for me.

I don't care so much about the label, certainly not as much as I care about polyamory. But it is nice to know I'm not alone in the world. It often feels like I could be.

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