Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Catching Feelings"

You know, for somebody with some non-traditional ideas about relationships...I have some very traditional ideas about sex.

You see it in non-monogamy forums fairly often. Occasionally even in polyamory forums, the few of those left that talk about relationships and not politics.  "Oh, no, I [hooked up with a couple/have been seeing my FWB ("friend with benefits")/ was with my play partner] and now I think I might be catching feelings for him/her/them. What do I do?"

I will continue to rail against "friend with benefits" no matter how many downvotes I get doing it: that term is obnoxious as hell. But "catching feelings" rivals it.

As if feelings are some kind of disease. Maybe contagious.

For the newbies here: I am demisexual. "Demis" are on the asexual spectrum. We vary widely though in what that means and how it affects us. Some of us might only have one or two sexual relationships in our lifetimes and are otherwise disgusted at the thought of sex at all. Others have rabid rabbit sex drives. The one commonality is that we are unable to form sexual relationships with people we don't feel emotionally close to.

Note: I said unABLE. I'm not "picky": if I were picky, I'd be unwilling.'s actually not possible for people like me. A naked supermodel could give me a lap dance (yeah, right) and I would have no physical reaction. Well, actually I would: revulsion. I certainly wouldn't develop any kind of erection.

Us demis generally pass for normal until sex comes up, which in this society never seems to take very long. When it does, my abnormality shows up in a hell of a hurry. It's assumed I'm asexual (or to put it in derogatory terms, "broken"). Or that I'm gay -- I get that a lot, since I don't respond to images of naked women (other than the ones I love), I must be gay, right? Except I don't respond to pictures of naked men, either. I not only don't, I can't understand why "normal" people do. And when I hear that this is supposedly biologically hard-wired into human men? More proof I'm either not human or not male.

I don't mean to be smug about this, but in this age of #MeToo, my demisexuality is a feature, not a bug. I don't objectify women, I certainly don't reduce them to genitals, and never mind rape, I simply don't imagine consensual sex with the vast majority of them. Not because I think I'll be "forever alone" -- haven't believed that for about twenty five years -- and not because I have a poor self-image (even though I do, sometimes). No, it's simply because I don't know you. Not knowing you...well, I'll have feeling for you, because I'm an empath, but I won't know....feelings.

My demisexuality, as you can probably imagine, really gets in the way of analyzing this objectively. There are blind spots, many of them. Having never been 'normal', I don't even know what 'normal' really is, and I'm apt to mischaracterize it, rather harshly. But then I find myself wondering if I might be on to something.

There was an infamous short story published in the New Yorker nearly a year ago called "Cat Person".  Before I link it, I'd better put a trigger warning in: it's the story of a first date sexual encounter between 20-year-old "Margot" and a much older man, in that murky, alcohol-soaked area where consent is assumed by both parties. It doesn't go well.
People have killed entire forests analyzing this story. The point that gets made over and over is that even if this wasn't rape or sexual assault per se. it was stunningly bad sex. Margot feels like a sex doll, not a person, and that to me is VERY MUCH the fault of her partner, not her. I want to make that very clear: as I see it, the fault for this lies with "Robert". He did recognize she was drunk and offer up token resistance to the idea of taking her back to his home. It should have been much more than token resistance. He never should have agreed to fuck her, "nice tits" (ugh) or not.

But this is what happens on first dates now. And this demisexual wants to scream at both of them: YOU DON'T KNOW HER! YOU DON'T KNOW HIM!

If they'd had a larger number of dates -- I'm not going to pin an exact number on it, but enough so that there wasn't a single reservation in either head -- "Margot" would have been able to coach "Robert" on the kind of sex she enjoyed and made him a better lover. (Oh, who am I kidding? Couples married for years don't do that, they just go and cheat on each other, and my, Ken, aren't we feeling cynical today?) Point being though that maybe sex shouldn't be, you know, just part and parcel of a first date, a mere bodily function that comes between ingesting the dinner and  shitting it out.

It's always struck me that this is what sex is to many men: a bodily function, something like a sneeze. It sure seems as if that's the case, given the urgency so many men place around the deed (goddamnit I gotta sneeze NOW!), the seeming indifference to where the sneeze happens (check dating sites, anything vaguely like a tissue pussy will do) and the hurried wipe and toss afterwards.

Except woman aren't tissues. Whodathunkit?

Two things stand out to me as"Cat Person" unfolds.. One is the length "Margot" goes to assuage her date's feelings. Because that's what women do, right? They subjugate their own feelings to those of men, and thus do they remember who is really important. (Puke.)

And two, the ambiguity of "Robert"'s feelings. What is she to him? He's almost old enough to be her father, but putting that aside, it seems to me as if he's mouthing all the right things but not really feeling them.

At the end of the piece it becomes clear exactly what "Robert" thinks "Margot" is. Not for the last time I find myself struggling. Of course "Margot"'s not a the old joke-that's-not-a-joke goes, a whore is a woman who's having sex with someone who isn't you. (There again is your hot male take on women, the hot male take that makes me physically ill each and every time I encounter it, which is at least daily, even now.)

But what DO you call it when --  for all parties concerned -- sex is completely shorn of its intimacy and becomes just another transaction (in the moment, at least)? No feelings, please: we're fucking here. We don't even know each other. It seems to me like both parties are whoring themselves out.


Here's the thing: you really gotta work to  take feelings out of sex. They're hard-wired in.  During climax, both men and women release oxytocin, the "love" hormone, also released in huge quantities during childbirth. It's a powerful bonding agent. Men also put out something called vasopressin, which has been dubbed the "monogamy molecule". It triggers feelings of protectiveness and a desire to stay with one's partner. Of course you can consciously override the effects of these hormones, but...why would you? To get your dick wet, only to do it all over again with another stranger next week? I feel very much like for men, that's not sex but some kind of conquering. For women? I don't have the faintest clue. One self described sex addict once told me she loves to feel needed. Well, hell, most of us do. I wasn't going to ask her what I was thinking, which was are you sure it's you they need? Or just your holes? I already feel responsible for one suicide too many, thank you.

But people, increasingly it seems, disregard all this. "Feelings" become things not just to be minimized, but to be avoided  entirely and stomped on if they show up. Say what?

Maybe it's me. It's probably me. But in my experience, sex plus those awful "feelings"  is always going to beat sex alone. Always. Sex alone is a want; the intimacy that (I believe) ought to accompany sex is a need for human beings...add love, which so utterly dwarfs fleeting physical pleasure, to the want and the need and you have something transformational, something forever.

I'm going to close with part of a quotation from Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God. Every time I mention this series, I feel a pressing need to tell you it would be the FIRST thing to inform you it's not to be taken as Holy Writ. The author repeatedly asks "god" if this entire dialogue is just in his head, and receives various responses that boil down to "maybe it is. So what?"

"Yes, choose sex, all the sex you can have!...Yet don't choose sex instead of love, but as a celebration of it. "

I've done sex without love. There's no "there" there. I'd much rather catch my death of feelings....

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