Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Cuddling on the couch, for one. Or having slow sleepy sex at the end of the day. Or--not to make this sound like "but then I discovered that sweet gentle love was the most daring of all!"--getting beaten some more, not necessarily in a harder or more shocking way than before.
One of the many, many unspoken assumptions out there about sex is that it's an escalating process. Think about how kids talk about it when they're starting to experiment--how far did you go? Did you get to second base? Third? Did you go all the way? It implies a system where oral sex is more sex than a handjob, and should be an experience you have later.
(This ended up being rather hurtful for me when I gave a guy a handjob before ever having a real kiss, and went through quite a bit of "does that mean I'm too dirty and corrupt for anyone to kiss now?" internal strife before discovering that kissing was still available to me and quite nice.)
The assumption doesn't really go away when you grow up. It just adds on the idea that you have to stop at an appropriate point on the escalator, or you'll end up on a slippery slope. ...Which sounds like an awesome waterslide to me. But the point is supposed to be that if you go "past" penis-in-vagina intercourse by too much, you'll have gone "too far" and you might never return.
Then the inclined planes metaphor turns into a drug metaphor, and you get the idea that "overdosing" on sexuality will make you build up a tolerance, and then "normal" sex won't get you high any more. You'll have to start fucking donkeys or something just to feel anything. (I think this has some kind of folkloric connection to the frat-boy myth that vaginas are single-use and will always be the size of the largest object that ever penetrated them.) If your sex tolerance gets too high, you'll keep doing more and more depraved things, until kinky has given way to outright evil, your life falls apart completely, and you become a sex addict and maybe a sexual predator.
There's all kinds of micro-fuckups built into this macro-fuckup paradigm. Like how sex with people of the same gender, people of a different race, trans people, or people with certain disabilities gets moved to the "more depraved" side of the escalator. Or how activities people didn't consent to are counted as moving them up the escalator; or someone's position on the escalator is used as an excuse to ignore their consent. Or, of course, how all this is much more intensely and dangerously enforced against women than men.
Or how something's position on the escalator, rather than its potential to harm, is used as a benchmark of "obscenity." Or how relationships are expected to escalate, and failure to gradually ramp up the escalator to a certain point ("spicy," which is just a couple steps above center) is taken as failure of the relationship. Or how even individual sex acts are supposed to have their own escalation, and after you've started groping you're not ever supposed to go back to just kissing.
Or how child molestation and rape are sometimes described as the end of the escalator, like they're what happens when kinkiness goes "too far." and oh my god fuck everything about that. Or how PIV intercourse is positioned at the exact center, the gold standard which no man should fall short of and no woman should exceed.
Or how lost you can get saying "we shouldn't consider X dirtier than Y," when you ought to be setting the entire idea of sex-as-escalation on fire.
(So it's a baseball game, an escalator, a waterslide, a drug, gold, and it's on fire. Work with me here. Take some Claritin if you can't handle analogy.)
In the end, sex is like... it's not really like anything. Freed from analogies and paradigms and fixed linear progression, sex can get amorphous. There's no order to do things in, no right or wrong (consensual) things to do, no guarantee of how it will or won't change you, no idea how it does or doesn't correlate with romantic attachment, no guide to what will come next. It's not even entirely clear what sex is. Sex could be freakin' anything if the people doing it want it to be.
MAN does this resonate with me. I love it. The "ladder of sex" conceptualization has consequences ranging from boring to dreadful.ReplyDelete
I do feel like I can't completely throw it out, though. I *do* think of oral sex as somewhat of a "bigger deal" than manual sex. I could rationalize and say that's because it comes with a higher risk of STIs, but the truth is I'm not sure what the justification is for my internal scale. And I think of, say, blood play as "higher" on the scale than bondage. I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of some of those ladders, because they help me set my own limits and make sense of sex, in a way.
I think maybe it's okay to have an internal concept like that as long as you understand that that's *YOUR* ladder, not everybody's. Everyone has a different ranking of which sexual acts are in their wheelhouse, which are a stretch, and which are totally out of the question.
I guess this is just another specific case of the general principle of YKINMKBYKIOK - it's okay to have a sexual standard of behavior but be open to the idea that other people might have an entirely different one. Not too complicated a concept, when you think about it.
Yeah, I'll agree to that. It's not the idea of scales that's all bad, just the idea that there's a universal objective one.Delete
Yeah, I've gotten into this discussion/debate when talking about kink, when I say that there are no "levels," just a heap of activities that people pick and choose from according to taste.Delete
What *I* mean when I say that is that the general kink culture (in America, anyway) doesn't work like the Old Guard or the Boy Scouts. You don't have to achieve a particular rank before you can move on to more "advanced" activities.
Inevitably, somebody points out that some things are simply more dangerous than others and require a greater level of skill; or tend to be more scary and are more emotionally dangerous to play with if you haven't figured out how you react to scary things.
I'm trying to get better at saying, "There are kind of levels, but probably not the kind you're thinking of."
When I was in high school, one of my classmates asked a teacher how to have sex, and the teacher replied that sex is like cooking potatoes; you just do it. While I think a general how-to can be useful when talking about safety and consent (which I guess could translate to kitchen safety?), I always appreciated hearing that there isn't a right way to do it. Basically, you do what works and if you don't like something than you stop doing it that way. I don't know if the analogy really works because I don't cook potatoes, but it makes more sense to me than sex as a baseball game or an escalator or any of those other things.ReplyDelete
I can confirm that this works for potatoes, too.Delete
Wash potatoes before you put them in your mouth, be careful with knives and fire, nobody else is obliged to eat your cooking?Delete
This is actually a very good metaphor, but not in the way your teacher meant it.Delete
There are nearly infinite ways to cook potatoes, but none are inherently inferior to any others (unless they involve harm.) There are some basic safety rules that should always be followed, and some specific rules for specific situations, but in general, different people are going to have different preferences, and that's okay.
...I was under the impression that that's exactly what Copcher's teacher meant.Delete
That's pretty much how I interpreted it, but I can't say for sure because I didn't ask her to clarify.Delete
I'm imagining, having never cooked potatoes before, someone telling me "you just do it!". So I put them on my head, or throw them at the wall, and never actually figure out how to cook them.Delete
UGH UGH UGH the analogy and Claritin pun is so bad :DReplyDelete
I don't get it :(Delete
Oh thanks! Nice one :)Delete
So very much yes.ReplyDelete
I also think this can lead to some form of competition where you try to get higher up the ladder than someone else, just for the sake of being higher up the ladder. Like trying to get the high score in a game.ReplyDelete
I have some pretty kinky friends, and I sometimes almost feel pressured by them to 'go further'. Of course, it's all wrapped in 'you shouldn't do anything you don't want to *but*' and then lots of 'explore your boundaries' and 'experiment' etc etc. Like, it's not good enough that I'm happy with my first sexual partner, I should try having sex with (or in front of) others. I like my boyfriend to spank me, so I should "move on" to more/rougher/harder. I like it when he tells me what to do in bed, so I should try out a Dom/sub style thing or put on a collar during sex or whatever. And some people just can't seem to grasp that... I don't want to? There's nothing in it for me to 'win' the game, to get to the top of the escalator before anyone else does, or at all, really.
I'm sure loads of people do like to push their limits and experiment etc. But I'm perfectly happy with sometimes just giving my guy a handjob, and sometimes having him hit my ass until I'm amazed by how red skin can be, and opting out of the edgier-than-thou.
Yes, THIS. Wanting a lower (or higher? I can't remember) "purity test" score was A THING in college, and even though that kind of thing can be really fun when it's a silly checklist for a person or folks in a relationship, unpleasant peer pressure to do things you aren't comfortable with lest you be considered closed-minded or prudish is NOT FUN.Delete
You know, this kind of thinking "more kinky equals sexier" really used to hurt my feelings. I'm all for others doing whatever they and their partner(s) want to do, but as for myself I've tried different things and monogamous vanilla sex that is sweet and gentle (albeit not being had with my One True Soulmate since I think that's pretty much bullshit) is really the only kind I like. And since I'm not exactly gorgeous, I used to think who's going to want mediocre sex from a mediocre looking woman, when there are all those gorgeous girls out there and at least some of them love fucking like porn stars? More power to them and all, but how can I compete with that?Delete
Then I realized that some guys actually like my looks and the kind of sex I like to have, even if neither is the conventional male fantasy.
I so know what you mean. My current boyfriend is my first sexual partner, and he's had roughly 80 sexual partners before me. So at first there was this whole "But he's done everything already with women who are much more experienced and much better at it than me, how could I possibly be interesting??" worry in my head, until I found out (fairly quickly, luckily) that hey, just because he's done a million things already doesn't mean that 'just sex' is no longer fun.Delete
THIS, exactly. It's why I loathe the term "vanilla". My pleasures are my pleasures, and I have no more time for the "oh, how boring, what a prude you must be" brigade than for anyone saying kink = sexual predator in the making, or all the rest of the stuff Cliff described. It sounds like massive insecurity on both sides, with people unable to enjoy what they enjoy unless everyone else does, and then getting all judgemental about those who don't.Delete
Thank you so much for this post, it really resonates with me and is something I needed to read. Both in general and very specifically to address a current anxiety. I am going to link this to so many people.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this post. For various reasons, my partner and I can't have PIV sex right now. It's been really discouraging to feel like the things we are doing are somehow "lesser" than PIV, because they're lower down on the escalator. And therefore that we have to compensate by doing more "perverted" things higher up the escalator, otherwise the relationship isn't real or something. Not that those "perverted" things are bad, or not desirable for us, but the pressure to do them to meet some arbitrary "real sex" quota really sucks a lot of the joy out.ReplyDelete
So I guess what I'm saying is that I've been spending a lot of time recently unpacking some unpleasant preconceptions about what sex is and what it means, and this post has added some much-needed perspective. Thanks Cliff.
When my mother first found out, a long long time ago, that I was kinda into slightly kinky stuff, she warned me that I had better keep it to occasional or 'real' sex wouldn't be good enough for me, anymore.ReplyDelete
Took me a long, long time to figure out how full of shit she was.
I love this! You're so right. It's incredibly frustrating to me that in all of the relationships I've had, "just kissing" is completely left out after we've started having sex. I've been more turned on by making out and dry humping than I have from actual PIV intercourse many times, but it seems like people believe that once you're an adult/PIV sex-haver, that stuff is stupid. (In my experience, anyway.)ReplyDelete
Good timing, Cliff. I just finished reading a paranoid rant from a little while back about internet porn by famed fearmonger Josh McDowell (for those who are blissfully unaware, he makes his living peddling books on Christian apologetics, mostly to parents like mine who wanted to super-insulate their children from corruption.).ReplyDelete
His hypothesis was that the average consumer of porn naturally progresses from watching het piv to anal to oral (THE HORROR) to teh gay stuff to bestiality to kiddie porn. And then of course proceeds to real-life trafficking of children. Cause that's just how the pr0n of Satan works.
It's amazing how fundamentalism can take mainstream weird ideas about sexuality distill them down to 190 proof crazy. It's cultural Everclear. So glad I managed to get out of it.
Also, I'm still ridiculously happy about meeting you in Pittsburgh and getting hugged. I had to eat a full pint of ice cream to calm down after that.
A few days ago, Fred Clark had a good takedown of Josh McDowell's... curious statements, and he points out how that entire viewpoint is totally theologically nonsensical.Delete
This is really brilliant -- I wrote you a random ask on your tumblr recently that seems oddly related -- the idea of 'light BDSM' from your last cosmocking is definitely part of this mainstream sexcalator concept, the 'spicy' stair.ReplyDelete
I particularly like your calling out of the drug metaphor. I've had to deal with "You did X with your last partner [or, more fraught still, you do X with your other partner] so will you expect me to do X?" I cannot imagine anything less sexy than a partner fighting down revulsion to do something they find totally unsexy because they think I require that box checked.
It's part of an overall commodification of sex, or at least objectification of it. Because the underlying assumption is that I need all these interchangable acts from each person to be satisfied -- when actually, I'm getting nothing the same from any two partners, because even the same act is totally different with different people. Fuck the escalator. I'm not on a stairstep, I'm in bed with a person.
Maybe I'm just weird in this, but I would have thought that "you do X with your other partner" would lead to, "Thank goodness your X needs are met, because ick, and so you and _I_ can just do Y and Z." Of course, this assumes that the partner in question also has acknowledged Y and Z needs.Delete
I worry a lot more about what my partner has done with past partners when, for various reasons, we're physically unable to do those things together (acquired disability since that prior experience, for instance) and I'm uncomfortable with the gold standard or "normal", so . . . angst. In our fictional fantasy world (story-telling can be really sexy, I think, even if physical aspects are restricted) I pretty much encouraged my partner to have somebody for PIV needs, though actually dealing with such things in reality would be way more complex.
I've been on the other side of this lately - starting a new relationship with an amazing person, who's into some things that I haven't tried, and am happy to try, but suspect won't be my thing. For me, the fear wasn't "Will she expect me to do X even though I don't like it?"; it was "If I don't like X and as a result we don't do it together, will she be left feeling unfulfilled; and, ultimately, might it lead to the relationship not working out?" Which I realise is - I dunno, possibly a silly fear? Because it's not like a kink is the defining quality of a relationship for most people, and I know I'll be perfectly happy if she's not into some of the sexy things I am - but I couldn't help being worried about it nonetheless.Delete
And for my part, I'm with second anon: when I asked her about it, and she told me that she has a few (non-partner) kinky friends she plays with, it was a big relief, because now I know that it doesn't matter if I like her X or not - if I do, and it's something we can do together, then that's great; but if not, she's got other avenues for it.
My partner and I are both autistic and kinky. How far up on the escalator do we move every time we have sex?ReplyDelete
(Off the "you're dirty and you shouldn't be having sex" or the "you're dirty and dirty liars" edge depending on what assumptions people have that day, I'd think.)
Let's stop thinking about baseball and start thinking about pizza: http://www.ted.com/talks/al_vernacchio_sex_needs_a_new_metaphor_here_s_one.htmlReplyDelete
Thanks for beating me to that - it's exactly what I was thinking the whole time I was reading this entry!Delete
"Or how lost you can get saying 'we shouldn't consider X dirtier than Y,' when you ought to be setting the entire idea of sex-as-escalation on fire."ReplyDelete
...right along with the idea of sex/kinkiness as dirt!
There's also that weird thing that once you're in a relationship you have to have sex at least X times a week or there's something wrong with you. I got comments from friends when I told them that I don't have sex that often - once every two or three weeks is perfectly ok for me - and they got all "omg, you poor thing" and "have you talked to your gyno about this?". Or a story from my flatmate - her long distance boyfriend visited and they spend an evening reading some books together. It was something one of her friends simply couldn't imagine - why not sex, is everything ok with the relationship?ReplyDelete
And what's the bet if you said you had sex every day, or several times a day, they'd think there was something wrong with that, too?Delete
There's also how that ladder is so arbitrary. I remember that when I grew up (Sweden, the nineties), oral sex was considered higher up the ladder than PIV. Then I discovered to my huge surprise that in American culture it was the other way around. I think it might be the other way around in Sweden too, nowadays, since we become more and more influenced by American pop culture all the time. But that example really goes to show how arbitrary it all is.ReplyDelete
There's this weird thing here where a woman giving oral sex to a man is lower on the ladder than PIV, but a man giving oral sex to a woman is higher up the ladder. Arbitrary is exactly the right word.Delete
That's exactly what the Romans thought. For a man to give cunnilingus was an ultimate debasement. Not only was he taking on the "woman's role," he was doing so with an actual woman, rather than a higher-status guy.
Really, the entire notion of the superior penetrator is endemic to at least the European-derived conceptions of sex.
Ever read Gayle Rubin's article, "Thinking Sex"? She talks about sex pretty much in those terms; a place where there's a "good side" and the line is thin to get to the "bad side". There's also the "charmed circle" of good sex, versus the "outer limits" : http://blog.lib.umn.edu/puot0002/politicsofsex/Screen%20shot%202011-03-01%20at%2010.57.13%20PM.pngReplyDelete
And it's overall an excellent read. AND it's from 1984, and still basically applies to 2013. I highly recommend it!
I've seen that diagram before, and I can't agree that it "basically applies". Or maybe it still does in really conservative circles, IDK, but... For instance, non-procreative is in the bad outer circle, but NOBODY (except super-duper-extreme conservatives, and I grant that you probably have more of them in the US than here) thinks there's anything wrong with using contraceptives.Delete
Regarding the rest of the stuff... I think it's a bit more complicated than some things being considered good and some bad. I mean, there's this idea that BDSM is bad, for instance. But there's also this idea that a little bit of BDSM is cool and sexy (just check out Cliff's Cosmockings), and someone who's totally not into ANY of that AT ALL is boring and prudish. So it's more like... there's no right way to be, really. Or there's perhaps this super-thin line you ought to walk between obscene and boring, but it's virtually impossible not to fall off it on one side or another.
Bestiality is missing... is that charmed or not?Delete
I put the charmed circle as an example within what Rubin elaborates, but it's really the whole article that's worth the read. As for a "modern retelling" of that circle, you'll find one in "Rewriting the rules", a book by Meg Barker, who works a lot on non-monogamy in academic circles.Delete
I love this post! It's relevant to my life in so many ways. For me personally, watching porn really wasn't an escalating process at all. When I just invented scenarios in my head, I found they became more and more extreme since I didn't have real bodies to set boundaries as to what things were realistic, comfortable or possible. But when I saw stuff in real life, most of my fantasies scaled wayyyy back when I thought about real life people doing them. Its absolutely possible to expand one's sexual activities repertoire without having that become the standard. Kinda like, "Oh it feels good to do this, let's try some other stuff that feels good." I don't think that's the case for every sex having person though. Some people do really escalate, but not as many as the common narrative leads us to believe. The rest of us probably just think that's the way its gonna be.ReplyDelete
"PIV intercourse is positioned at the exact center, the gold standard which no man should fall short of and no woman should exceed."ReplyDelete
I loved this post, but especially that statement. One of those "why we need feminism" moments.
You know, there a lot a lot of things that you say which I don't agree with.ReplyDelete
And a lot of things I do agree with (unique things that other people don't say and that I'm thankful you say)
This goes in the latter group: "someone's position on the escalator is used as an excuse to ignore their consent.". This. This. This.
In general I agree with this, though I'd like to make one small point about the use of porn. I think for some people, like my ex, it is in fact possible to get so wrapped up in the use of porn that it precludes having a sex life with another person. Sex with another person isn't "intense" enough, when compared with the gratification that can be obtained from a self-selected masturbation session with the perfectly tailored fantasy. Again, for some.ReplyDelete
Sorry to totally avoid the actual conversation topic, but "take some Claritin if you can't handle analogy" is really really funny.ReplyDelete
There's not an escalator, just two floors. "Stuff my partner and I both like" is on this floor, and "stuff one or both of us don't like doing" is on the other floor, and we have lots of fun on this floor.ReplyDelete
(it's not as if we've tried everything on this floor yet, either.)ReplyDelete
Best post ever you excellent person.ReplyDelete
I still feel bad about not being poly. I've tried it, and it just makes me feel horrible. But I feel like, if I was a good, generous, loving person, I'd be happy when my partner was having awesome sex with someone else. I feel like there's no reason to be monogamous, other than "because I'm jealous and possessive and insecure." Why is it any more defensible to say "Boyfriend, you can't have any other sex partners than me" than it is to say "Friend, you can't have any other friends than me", which we would all recognize as horribly controlling?ReplyDelete
Because if you say "you can't have any other friends than me," you're cutting someone off from human contact. If you say "you can't have any other sex partners than me," you're still allowing them many kinds of meaningful contact with others.Delete
And because the impact on you--in terms of health risk, lover's available time/energy, and simply the magnitude of emotional impact--is a lot bigger with a lover than a friend.
Thanks Cliff. You're awesome and you make a good point. I still feel bad about my feelings though, if that makes sense. I don't want to be a jealous, insecure, possessive person, I want to feel happy for my (hypothetical at this point) partner's happiness - but I know I couldn't if it involved them being in love with, or even having sex with, someone else. And I realize I can't be like "jealousy, insecurity, and possessiveness are bad, therefore I will stop feeling them," but I still feel bad about feeling them - which is stupid, but then emotions aren't rational, so I guess neither are emotions about emotions. I guess you might say "who cares if you're not even in a relationship" but I've been reading and therefore thinking a lot about this lately.Delete
I'm a different Anon, and I used to have that argument with myself a lot. After trying out a couple of poly situations, I realized that I simply did not have the ability to focus on more than one person in a romantic way at a time.
The thing is, being poly or mono is like being gay or straight. You can't control or change what gender/s you're attracted to just because you think a different attraction profile would be better. Same goes for the poly/mono spectrum.
Okay, you're wired to be mono. That doesn't mean that jealousy, insecurity, and possessiveness are a given. You can still be open and communicative in your relationship (whenever it might happen). Through communication, you can make sure that your -friend is also happy to just focus on one person at a time.
Basically, if you find another mono person to date, then they won't *want* to have sex/be in love with other people, they'll want to focus on you. Luckily, there are tons of people wired that way out there.
First Anon: The thing is, when you're in a relationship, you want to do things for the person you're in a relationship with that don't make them feel jealous, controlling, unhappy, insecure, and possessive. That's what communication is about. In poly relationships, it's common for people to say things like "It makes me unhappy when you sleep over at other people's houses." So why would it be wrong for you to say "It makes me unhappy when you sleep with other people"?Delete
Some poly people make it sound like mono people just "aren't enlightened enough", but the truth is that we're all different and we all have different comfort levels. And those comfort levels can change. I'm not saying "when you actually have a relationship you'll get comfortable with sharing", I'm saying that everyone comes into a relationship with their own idea for what behavior they need from a partner to make them feel loved and trusted and safe. And "not sleeping with other people" is a perfectly acceptable boundary.
If you're in a relationship with someone who cannot make the promises you need to keep you feeling loved and trusted and safe, then that relationship is not for you. It doesn't necessarily make either one of you wrong. Needing your partner to be monogamous is not a ridiculous boundary to have; in most places it's the most basic barrier to entry. You do not have to try everything to know you won't like it, and you don't have to do something because people on the internet or your friends or someone in a magazine article said it worked for them. Try to forgive yourself for having human needs. It's okay to not be poly. You deserve a relationship that respects that.
I think you all basically made great responses to the first Anon, so this may sound nit-picky, but I have a bit of an issue with the analogy between mono/poly and gay/straight. I think that if people feel that, for THEM, mono/poly is an orientation, that's probably true for THEM, because they know themselves best. But I've always felt that for me, it's a choice I make based on reasons, and there are others who feel like that as well. And please don't "but then it's like being bisexueal". I am bisexual. That means I get attracted to men as well as women, not that I make a choice based on reasons about which gender to sleep with or date. Doing so doesn't even make sense, whereas it does make sense to choose based on various reasons whether to have a mono or poly relationship with someone, if you think there are advantages as well as drawbacks to both.Delete
I've had a poly relationship before which I was quite happy with, but now I've been in a mono relationship for fourteen years and I have no wish to change that. Did it mean I went from enlightened to less enlightened? Obviously not!
Finally, one really shouldn't conflate "wanting one's partner not to sleep with others, but feeling happy and secure as long as zie doesn't" with "fretting about suspected infidelity all the time". The latter really does reveal that someone is possessive, but the former does not.
My own example: I think the advantage of poly is that you can live out your attractions and crushes on other people (I'm the kind of person who gets attracted to loads of people all the time). The general advantage of mono is that being with just one person, sexually and romantically, is in many ways simpler and less energy-consuming.Delete
I used to feel that the advantages of poly outweighed the advantages of mono. When I met Husband though, it was different, since he's the one and only person in the world I wanna spend infinite amounts of time with; I just never get enough of his company. Also, for Husband, mono is a deal-breaker. Although he presented this fact as "I've thought about this and I really don't feel good about being in a poly-relationship, I'm sorry but you really must choose between being mono with me or not being with me at all" rather than "You MY woman now! MY woman no sleep with other people! Grunt grunt!"
Hi everyone! I'm the first Anon, back again. Thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses - you really did help me feel better.Delete
And I do hope I didn't come across like "boo hoo hoo, it's so hard to be mono." Obviously poly people have to deal with all sorts of lack of legal recognition, social stigma, etc, which I never will.
This all makes me think about how sexual relationships are seen as an escalator too- first you start dating, then you get exclusive, eventually you marry, and even if you've been married for twenty years and had an awesome time for 19 and a half of them, if eventually you go your separate ways then it's failure and disaster, and the only "success" is to stay married till death, never mind how miserable it makes you. Though hopefully I think American culture is starting to grow out of this idea.
Hi first anonymous! I struggled with feeling uncool and like I might be a horrid immature jealous person when I started dating my partner, who mentioned that he is drawn to poly and might want to explore that at some stage. I actually nearly ended our budding relationship with him because I didn't want to hold him back from what I thought he wanted (poly), which I knew it wasn't for me. I'm bi and kinky and I think of myself as a pretty non-judgmental and supportive person, but he was my first partner and I wanted to share the lovely unexpectedness of our new relationship just between us. The thought of poly didn't scare me, but it just didn't... turn me on or do anything for me. I had no curiosity about whether I would get jealous or how we would communicate and make things work; it just wasn't a relationship form that interested me. Even though I do get attracted to other people and play kinkily with other people, having a formalised poly relationship didn't sound appealing. And I knew that if I did give poly a whirl, I would be doing it for him, which seemed like a bad start. Anyway, we talked about it and he opined that for him, trying poly would be like dating a scientist - something he has always had curiosity about and thinks might be cool, but not necessarily to his sex / love life or happiness. Anyway, I pretty much got over feeling uncool about it by just remembering that ignoring my inner voice and forcing myself into a dynamic which seems like a lot of work right off the bat, and un-thrilling work at that, isn't self-loving, self-aware behaviour (and probably wouldn't be that kind to my partner in the long-term, either) and that I can be non-judgmental and supportive in a mono context. And that there's no way to Relationship wrong if everyone's being honest and respectful.Delete
I think it is really harmful to equate monogamy with jealousy and possessiveness and polyamory with no jealousy and no possessiveness. While there might be trends in those directions, I can tell you that after identifying as polyamorous for eighteen years, I've seen plenty of polyamorous relationships that have jealousy and possessiveness and plenty of monogamous relationships that don't. I think that ultimately, the relationship form isn't what is important, and generally should be considered a matter of taste that everyone gets to decide for themselves. What is important is trying to be a better person and partner, which usually does involve trying to be less jealous and possessive and insecure, no matter what relationship style you end up choosing. One of the best guides I've read on this topic is on a polyamorous site, but I do think it really can apply to any relationship type and I hope it helps you, even if you ultimately decide that monogamy is what is right for you: http://www.morethantwo.com/becomingsecure.htmlDelete
@Cliff -- Exactly so, and a very good point. (I'm a different Anon, by the way.) I was in a relationship once that started off mono, but the other party wanted to make it over into a poly relationship, and I didn't. I asked him if it was about sex, and he said it wasn't. So, I asked, why he couldn't just have very deep, intimate friendships that didn't involve sex? He'd had these relationships in the past, and I hadn't found them objectionable. And he said he wanted to be able to act on his sexual feelings. So it is about sex, I said. No, he said.Delete
That was some batshit fuckery.
Hey original Anon, as to "you might say 'who cares if you're not even in a relationship'"... nah. Bless you for thinking these things through before getting into a relationship.Delete
I figured out my own limits (poly, but with certain limits... which is another thing that sometimes gets glossed over, that there are more ways than one to be poly) when I actually was in a relationship. I believed that having any limits to my poly-dom was a sign that I wasn't open-minded and cool and enlightened enough, and so convinced myself that I was okay with stuff that I was really not okay with (even though it wasn't intrinsically bad stuff, just not for me)... and so my eventual realization that nope, this is not for me, involved gobs and gobs of drama and hurt to multiple people. You are definitely picking the better approach.
As someone who falls in the subset of people who is just hardwired poly, I can't stand the more-evolved(or is it less and justified by primate sex?)-than-thous. (And to clarify, it's not that I am hardwired to be unsatisfied by a single partner, but that I get zero emotional payoff from keeping one all to myself... I just don't get it, but I accept that it's what some, maybe many, people want. It makes Romantic Comedies / Dramas... okay it makes a whole lot of movie plots look totally ridiculous.)Delete
I do see value in getting people to think about actively CHOOSING monogamy rather than defaulting to it. But I'm happy for my friends who've found what works for them, and I don't need to convert anyone to poly. (Please, save some heartache all around and don't do it just because you think you 'should'.)
If you have a monogamous partner, you'll both be happier doing what you want to do. If you have a poly partner who is willing to compromise because you rock their world... then that is ALSO their freely-given choice. (Please run if they attempt to guilt-trip you into changing terms later, especially if you call that out and they think they're right. DTMFA that has nothing to do with poly.)
Same goes to everyone who insists that all men like anal play and should just try it. I know plenty of (non-homophobic) men who don't, some of whom have tried it, all of whom I trust to self-report what they want and don't.
Pleeeze explain the Claritin thing. Their marketing line is "Live Claritin Clear," which I guess sort of could have something to do with analogies, but I'm not seeing the brilliance referred to in a couple of comments...ReplyDelete
Excellent post -- it made me think about how differently society treats sex to other activities/hobbies. How silly would these views look if they were applied to food? Like if you go out for a degustation menu it must mean that home-made macaroni and cheese is no longer something you'll enjoy. Or that that "ethnic foods" are somehow more adventurous and "higher" up the food scale.ReplyDelete
Actually that last one does tend to get expressed and bears an uncomfortable parallel to your idea of anything outside of sex-between-cis-white-opposite-gendered-people counting as "more" sexual...
I almost hit a home run, but the ball hit the top stair and the pitcher slipped and fell down the waterslide, the cather got beaned with a gold bar and the home plate caught fire. Man I was high as a kite afterwards.ReplyDelete
"Take some Claritin if you can't handle analogy."ReplyDelete
I....died a little. This just made my day xD
You might find this TED Talk by one of my high school teachers/mentors really interesting. He's developed a new "model" of sex that actually promotes healthy sexuality and destroys all the things that are wrong with the baseball/escalator/etc models. It's 8:21 long.ReplyDelete
"Take some Claritin if you can't handle analogy."ReplyDelete
"Freed from analogies and paradigms and fixed linear progression, sex can get amorphous. "
"Squishy," even :D
Is it okay to be thinking about having sex on escalators now?ReplyDelete
Really sad admission: this idea is a large part of why I haven't tried any of the kinky stuff I know I'm into in real life. I'm afraid that I might find I like them too much to find 'normal sex' enjoyable any more.ReplyDelete
(To which, I suppose, the obvious response is: "If you really do find kinky sex that fun, why would you ever *want* to have 'normal sex' any more?" Which is a pretty good point I guess... I didn't say it was logical.)
Bit late, but:Delete
You're quite right, that is a sexcalator idea. Stop thinking of it that way: it's not normal sex and super sex. Think of it as a dinner menu.
I love macaroni cheese, it's probably my favourite food in the world, which makes it doubly irritating that I can never get the consistency right when I try to make it myself. But I'm at a restaurant which has duck a l'orange on the menu. I've never tried duck a l'orange before, but I'd really like to, I think it sounds delicious. But wait! If I try duck a l'orange and it turns out that I do love it, will I only ever be able to eat duck a l'orange in the future? Will I forever mourn the loss of macaroni cheese?
No, I won't. Because duck a l'orange is expensive and macaroni cheese is easy, so sometimes I won't want to bother with duck a l'orange. Because eating duck a l'orange all the time would be boring, so I will often eat macaroni cheese and, shit, probably curry and fish and chips and all sorts, and I'll enjoy all of them. And because some days I'll fancy a bit of sophisticated duck a l'orange, and some days I'll fancy a bit of warm comfort food macaroni cheese, because that's the way enjoying things works: you don't have a hierarchy of things you enjoy, and you don't feel ripped off if you ever do something that's not at the top of the hierarchy.
So the obvious answer isn't "Why would you ever want to have normal sex again?"; it's "Why would sometimes having and enjoying kinky sex mean that you wouldn't also want to sometimes have and enjoy non-kinky sex?"
Completely and utterly off-topic: where's that photo from? That looks like the most beautifully designed escalator of all time.ReplyDelete
So true. So well said.ReplyDelete
(I'm always sad to realize how internalized those thoughts and feelings are. Even when you're so different from the norm and quite like yourself that way, somehow it's still there. A little bit. The fear of being different. Of liking things too hard and too much. Because what will be there after? And how spoiled will you be? But then the moment passes, and there are articles like yours and everything is well and as should be. :D)