Sex and Not Sex

It’s ok not to have sex. It’s ok not to have sex even if you get turned on, and it’s ok not to get turned on at all. It’s ok to not be able to find a partner to have sex with. It’s ok. It is all ok.

However, to me, it often seems like it’s not ok. In the words of Andrea Dworkin:

In Amerika, there is the nearly universal conviction – or so it appears – that sex (fucking) is good and that liking it is right: morally right; a sign of human health; nearly a standard for citizenship. Even those who believe in original sin and have a theology of hellfire and damnation express the Amerikan creed, an optimism optimism that glows in the dark: sex is good, healthy, wholesome, pleasant, fun; we like it, we enjoy it, we want it, we are cheerful about it; it is as simple as we are, the citizens of this strange country with no memory and no mind.

To not want sex is highly suspect – a sign of poor health, either physical or mental. It is counter-evolutionary! After all, the human race relies on sex. However, we also only ever use the “naturalness” argument to justify *having* sex, never not having  it.

While having sex is undoubtedly a human urge, there are also times it is natural to not want sex. In animals, we see sex drive decline during food shortages or other times of high stress. Additionally, it is natural for humans to age out of high sexual desire – with menopause being the most obvious example. However, there is never any discussion of sexual normalcy with respect to low desire during menopause. In this case, we have produced a bunch of *unnatural* medical interventions to help women extend the life of their high sex drive, and to help men maintain potency. Which isn’t to say any of this is wrong – I just mean to point out that our culture’s investment in sex is far deeper than an expression of “natural” human urges.

And, despite our overt obsession with sex which seems to be getting worse, American are having less sex than ever before: ( which is apparently extra true if you’re white or Asian ( or if you’re young (

What’s going on here? Let’s start with the assumption that humans are not broken. For me personally, this has been a big assumption. Nearly all of my relationships have ended after a period of sexual anorexia due to my own lack of desire, of which I am always deeply ashamed. Usually, my partners have encouraged my belief that there was something wrong with me, because it was more palatable than considering that there was something wrong or undesirable about them.

But, what if there’s nothing wrong with me? What if there’s nothing wrong with us?

Then, we perhaps we are having less sex because we are in an environment that does not foster our sexuality. All of that porn, and all those tits, and asses, and slutty halloween costumes are making us less horny even if we pretend otherwise. Despite our nation’s declining sexuality, I only ever hear my friends talk about HOW GOOD their sex life is. Public displays of affection are on the rise, as are sucking face facebook photos. We may be having less sex than ever before, but we certainly feel need to publicly project the rare occasion when we actually “get lucky.”

Thanks to the internet, by the time the average American loses their virginity they have probably seen many depictions of sex without ever experiencing it. Not many accurate depictions, of course, many pornographic depictions – with big hard dicks, big hard tits, blonde heads, and hairless chests. They have seen sex that judges 99% of the public wordlessly by excluding them. Pornographic culture conveys the message that sex is not for you to have, only to watch – a message it is within the industry’s best interest to foster since less actual sex and more virtual sex leads to more profit.

In this environment, sex becomes about ego reinforcement rather than connection. People care more about being one of the “sexual haves” than they do about seeing the deep truth about who their partner is. People care more about having sex with someone beautiful because it reflects their own perceived worth back to them, not because they have an innate appreciation for this beauty. We have become isolated from each other through our own narcissism.

I remember once, some guy was going down on me, and I said “I feel like I’m going to cry,” and he said “Don’t cry!” He didn’t care how I was feeling, he cared about “being a good lover.” My crying would contradict that in his head, so he said “STOP STOP STOP” when I tried to connect my authentic experience to his. After that, my body froze up, and we ended our sexual relationship soon afterward. However, nothing was *wrong* with me. My body was protecting me. As soon as I realize that the person I am with doesn’t care about my experience, my body refuses to cooperate. When I was younger, I have tried to override it – but now I understand it’s saving me. I have wasted years with people who didn’t give a shit about me, and my mind may not have been willing to admit it, but my body knew and wouldn’t fuck them.

Our bodies are saving us from this culture. This culture is toxic, and our minds are ignoring it, but our bodies know it and they are refusing to play along. Sex without connection is not worth it, sex where we are resented by our partners is not worth it, sex we do not enjoy is not worth it. It is better to be abstinent. Our minds pretend to enjoy it, but the body doesn’t lie.

Femininity Depends on Masculinity Depends on Femininity

I often find lesbian culture to be an interesting place to look at masculinity, because you can isolate being “masculine” from being “male.”

Here’s an interesting thing that happens (or, is part of the gay cultural narrative anyway.) There exist masculine identified lesbians who only want to give sexual pleasure (usually, to feminine identified lesbians.) “Stone butch” is generally what it’s called, and here’s an article by someone who identifies as such. The phrase “stone femme” seems to usually indicate a desire to only receive sexual pleasure. The concept of a feminine person who receives her pleasure from *giving others* pleasure is very unusual.

There are several ways that seem usual for femininity to manifest:

– Recipient of pleasure

– Giver of pleasure for reasons other than sexual gratification (love, fairness, mental imbalance etc.)

– Giver of pain (this is the usual manifestation of female “dominance”)

Conversely, a feminine woman who *enjoys* giving her partner pleasure seems to find herself squarely in the cultural narrative as “slut.” Sure, many things can make someone a “slut” – but, the idea of a horny woman who goes over and blows some guy and heads out? That sounds like exactly like the type of stuff someone would would get the “s” label – usually with the implication there was something “wrong” with that woman. (Clearly, she has daddy issues, is just trying to please a man, etc.) Incidentally, I’m fairly sure many men hire *male* escorts so they can blow the escort – it’s totally cool for gay dudes to be into putting out, just cuz they like putting out.

At first, I had trouble reconciling the idea of “stone butch” with straight masculinity. Straight male masculinity seems very involved with male pleasure, while stone butches clearly are not into receiving physical pleasure. However, what they do both have in common, is the feminine party is supposed to be receiving pleasure from the masculine party. A lot of straight male phobias (am I big enough? can I last long enough?) seem to stem directly from the conflation of “masculinity” with “ability to please a woman.”

Conversely, the narrative of men who like to receive is very difficult. There’s a concept of a man as “rapist,” who will force sex on a woman against her will (so he is clearly not concerned with her pleasure in that case) but there he is still the active party.

One case of male passivity and female action is in the case of BDSM relationships. However, there the woman is usually giving *pain* to the male party, and not pleasure. Another thing I’d like to note is that there are a lot of submissive men who want to be “feminized” – i.e. to be dressed up in feminine clothing. I’ve dated a few guys like that myself, and part of what I think it is is that there’s not an easy way to square “being masculine” with “being receptive” or “being desired” so many of them skip the “being masculine” part in their fantasies.

Ultimately, feminine sexual agency for the pleasure of *another* person still seems troublesome for our society. Many feminists (male and female) seem to identify “sexual reciprocity” as “both parties receive as much pleasure.” However, it’s also sort of “known” that women are harder to bring to orgasm than men.

There’s almost become a new type of chivalry, where a man appreciates he’s going to be doing most of the sexual “work” – an idea which is reflected in areas of lesbian society that mirror traditional gender roles where “butch” lesbians (in theory) provide pleasure to “femme” ones. But, this leaves feminine women who enjoy giving pleasure out in the cold.

It may also be a way of maintaining traditional masculinity over femininity power dynamics. Power generally falls to the person giving the pleasure, the receiver is dependent on the giver. The fact that one of the more comfortable ways a woman can be “dominant” is to “give pain” is to deny her some of the power she’d have if she gave only pleasure. (Fewer people enjoy receiving “pain” than “pleasure,” so she becomes more dependent on her submissive partner than a fellatio expert would be.)

The tying trait, in all of these, seems to be creating structures for the feminine person to become dependent on the masculine person. And yet, femininity stands more clearly *alone* than masculinity does (Dresses? Feminine! Pants? Masculine?). If masculinity is explored by needing a feminine person to please, in a deep sense, masculinity is dependent on femininity. (I’d like to take a moment here to note that masculine gay men are often great at projecting their masculinity probably because they *don’t* rely on femininity to define their masculinity. Few straight men feel comfortable projecting a masculine sexuality to that degree.) This masculine dependence, however, is very uncomfortable for many masculine people – and I am inclined to think it’s a big cultural force for sexism in our society, but I have a client meeting and gotta wrap this post up so that’s a topic for another day.

Feeling Sexy

About 2 minutes of research on google reveals that when straight women say they’re feeling sexy, they mean they think they can turn someone else on. When straight men say they’re feeling sexy, they mean they’re feeling horny.

In the middle of the night, I had this epiphany that I communicated to my friend in gchat in the morning.

Me: Oh my god, I just had an epiphany. So like, I date all these people who express an asexual masculinity who are only able to express their sexuality through attraction to me.

Friend: This is not a coherent epiphany. Learn to write, plz.

Me: Ok. Ok – so, what I mean is, when I date people, I’m responsible for bringing all the sexual energy. Like, I have to look sexual enough to turn *them* on, but also have to be horny enough to be turned on *by* them when they’re not even trying to impress me.


Friend: Also, you are very smart and pretty, and have been looking very in-shape lately.

(May not be transcribed exactly.)

One of the marginally irritating features of my life, at least as a woman in her 20s (soon to be 30s,) is that people *always* perceive me as sexual. I’ve been sick for months, and regularly go out in vomit colored egg sweatshirts, and I still propositioned nearly daily. I have a whole setup of sun glasses and ear phones to block out the world and signal DON’T TALK TO ME when I’m walking down the street because it’s a big problem in my life.

I have talked to some of my male SF programmer friends, and the way they describe walking down the streets is totally different. Words like “ignored” and “lonely” come up a lot. And, that sucks. I can’t even really imagine what it’s like to be honest.

But what happens if I start dating someone who expresses an asexual masculinity (i.e. they’re masculine, but repress aspects of themselves that may be read as sexual – “business casual” male is a key example) is that, for the first time in a long time, they have a place to express their sexuality. But, it’s completely tied to *my* sexuality, it doesn’t stand alone.

(On a side note – I don’t mean to just call out men. I see this sometimes with the dapper/vintage masculine lesbian look. Personally, I find it to be a strangely asexual due to its historical associations, but it could just be me.)

And, on some level, society is hard on men in this way. But, on another level, many men have chosen *respectability* over *sexuality*.  And, that’s fine – but, if you’ve chosen to be respectable rather than sexual, you have to anticipate that this may have an affect on the people you date. Have you heard of the low-libido crisis in American women lately? It’s always blamed on women (they work too much! they’re too tired! birth control!)

But, how many men do you know that put effort into being sexy? Do you think men being completely uninterested in impressing women could be linked to women being uninterested in them? (Or, they want to impress women with their awesome career – the adult version of impressing that popular girl in high school with your good grades.)

Did you know, if you’re a woman, dying your hair blonde can vastly increase the number of responses you get on a dating website?  It’s not because men prefer blondes (or, so I tell myself as a brunette.)  It’s because dying your hair blonde signals something. Something sexual. Similarly, a motorcycle or stupid hat can do the same thing for a guy.

Think about it.

(Don’t actually get that hat.)