Thursday, September 8, 2011
I heard my new roommate (I have a new roommate, by the way) masturbating today. She had a vibrator going and was making surprisingly loud grunts and gasps by masturbation standards. I don't think she meant for me to hear; she just has a not-very-soundproof door and probably didn't even know I was home.
What I felt, hearing this, was absolute neutrality. It was just "Oh hey, masturbation. Fancy that." I wasn't aroused, nor awkward, nor grossed out. It was like noticing that she was brushing her teeth. Look, it's a thing people do, and there's a person, doing it!
I only noticed my lack of reaction because that's a relatively new thing for me. It used to be that other people's sexuality always provoked something in me, whether it was jealousy or lust or head-under-the-pillow "oh god tell me when it's over" avoidance. The further back I go in my memory, the worse it was; when I was past puberty but not yet having sex, it was agonizing sometimes, even when it wasn't actual sex, even when it was just seeing someone wearing a little less clothes than normal. Sometimes that agony was horror and sometimes it was fascination, sometimes it was uncontrollable giggling; but it was always a reaction. It was always emotionally heightening and attention-monopolizing.
I've seen a lot of naked people since then.
And each time, it's dulled my response a little. Each time I'm in a room (or a bed) with people fucking, it's gotten a little less "OH MY GOD SEX" and a little more "oh. sex." Each time I've had a conversation with a buck naked attractive person, it's gotten a little easier to maintain eye contact. The fact that they're attractive registers with me, and it still makes me happy, but it's a level-headed and low-key happiness, the kind of happy you might get from a pleasant cup of tea. The enjoyment is still there, but the excitement is gone.
I think that's a good thing. And I think that it's a good thing even though I've lost something in the process--I've lost a lot of the frisson of sex, the pounding pulse of anticipation, the electric intensity of even the suggestion of sexuality. But what I've gained in exchange is much more important--I've gained the ability to think rationally about sex. Not losing my shit over the mere idea of fucking has made me much better at negotiating sex, at thinking lucidly about sex, at accepting other people's sex lives even when they're not my cup of tea, and... well, at not losing my shit.
I don't think our problem as a society is being oversexed or undersexed, exactly. I think our problem is valuing the frisson over the ability to keep ahold of our shit. We value passion over companionate love, and wonder why relationships always seem to go cold. We value spontaneity over clarity, and wonder why our sexual communication and safety suck. We value innuendo over education, and wonder why kids grow up with completely fucked-all-to-hell ideas of what their sex life as an adult is going to be like. We make sex into a Big Hairy Deal, into practically all the good and bad in the world, and then wonder why it causes Big Hairy Problems.
By a nudity taboo, by a language taboo, by slut shame, and by terrible education, we've created a world where sex keeps its dark, intense mystery--and good fucking luck coherently negotiating what kind of dark, intense mystery you want to experience.
The feeling of still being hyperaroused by sex is delicious (or was), and it's a genuine sacrifice you make when you start thinking and talking lucidly about sex. But I can tell you this: when you're used to seeing naked people and don't make a big deal about it... you get to see a lot more naked people.