173 posts tagged sex
My TEDx talk, a fast and dirty summary of the arguments in my book The Sex Myth, passed 10K views over the weekend. That’s double the number of views it had this time last month.
Thanks to everyone who has been watching and sharing it. And here it is again if you haven’t seen it already.
Working my book introduction this morning, I stumbled upon this golden oldie journal entry. It tugged at my heart.
There are, I think, certain implicit and unavoidable problems that arise when one attempts to start a relationship on the back of a pretty dismal relationship history.
Forgive me if I’m wrong - and I know these things aren’t absolute - but I think that when most of us hit adolescence and first become interested in our preferred sex, our standards aren’t generally that high. I, for example, would routinely develop crushes on boys I caught the bus with, without ever having spoken to them or having any idea what they were like. My friends developed crushes on boys they debated against, on boys who sat a few rows behind them in tuition, and of course on boys they spied on across the school grounds.
It wasn’t about deep love, connection, or even any genuine like: it was about a base, usually not even particularly strong, physical attraction, coupled with the desire for a boy - any boy - to be interested in you.
Some of us realised that desire, a realisation that was made infinitely easier if you were one of those girls who attended the cool parties, or you did some extracurricular activity like church, debating, or prefectdom - or even just if you went to a co-ed school.
The second lot of love interests to enter our lives were the first ones we really liked - not just because they were a hot girl or boy, but because we actually liked them. For them. The first people who made us spin around crazy, our first soul mates, the first people to break our hearts. For most people I know, this stage came at around the age of 18 (as it did for me); more generally within the scope of 16 to 20.
For those of us who’d succeeded in attracting the attentions of group one especially, group two made for an extra special delight. The times before, we’d liked people, sure, in that loose sense, but this time around it was actually real and… oh. Just fabulous.
And then it ends.
For me, the problem is slightly unusual. I’ve had my group ones - my boys I liked and dated and flirted with because they were male, because they paid me attention, because I wanted to be in a relationship. I’ve had my group twos as well, but FF was, well, fucked for lack of a better word, MB was gay, and TP was in a relationship.
Nonetheless, I’m familiar with both the bitter and the sweet of unrequited love, the delight of the connection and the thrill in what one cannot have. I’m also familiar with the based-on-nothing-in-particular quasi-relationships most of us have indulged in at one point or another and some of us continue to indulge in throughout our lives for our own reasons. And, you know, I would argue that there is a thrill in that unrequited love, that just because the lips never quite brushed didn’t mean there wasn’t an intense emotional intimacy between the parties.
Like Andy Warhol said, sometimes the most exciting thing is not doing it.
Now, X is my first fulfilled holistic crush. The first boy who ever sent me dizzy over all the wonderful things he was (rather than me doing a quick mathematical equation in my head) that I’ve actually succeeded in going out with. And there’s no question to me that it’s better than my type one pseudo-relationships, but I guess the thing is that while I may know what it is to love and to be loved, and my heart may have little cracks all over it, I don’t really know what it’s like to actually get what you want.
I’m really not explaining myself properly. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t actually have anything to compare this to. That not having had a shit relationship means I’m not as over the moon about having a good one as I otherwise might be, and that similarly, not having had a good one (but yet having fallen in love and had my heart broken) means I lack a sense of realism about it. That you may be able to talk for hours on end, you may count down the days until you see them, you may jump on them and smother them with kisses whenever the opportunity arises, but it’s not a fucking fairytale. You don’t go all giddy over what is in the same way you do over what might be. Or at least I don’t.
And I guess the other thing that makes me uncomfortable is that I normally don’t behave like this. I normally don’t tell people my most intimate secrets (rushed and spluttered though that truth may be), or let them see me in my underwear.
And while it never feels wrong at the time, I can’t help but listen to that niggling little voice in my head that asks, “How do you know you’re doing the right thing?” At what point does it become this big commitment that you can’t change your mind and back out of? At what point should you stop on the chance you might change your mind next month and want to back out of it?
But maybe the thing is that nothing’s a fairytale. Things can be good, and yes, there’s a magic in chemistry and connection, but life isn’t a romance novel except when we’re writing it down and choosing our words carefully. I remember thinking that L’s relationship with E was fairytale-like at one point, but on a few years’ reflection it occurs me to me that she wrote those entries when she was broken up and broken-hearted, a moment at which most of us would be able to find the right words and the right moments to make whatever we were longing for sound like a fairytale.
"Sex doesn’t have to define us. He’s male, but he likes looking like a girl. What else might be true of him? Perhaps he’s studying electrical engineering, but has also taken courses in archaeology and philosophy. He’s a fine tennis player. His favourite novelist is Dostoevsky. He’s a good listener. He is right of centre on the economy - and would like to see tax cuts. He is critical of government subsidies for the arts. He loves dancing, but at home he enjoys Bach. When he graduates he’s planning to take a holiday to the north of France to see the cathedrals. He’s good at saving money and likes to follow the stock market. His sister is a corporate lawyer. Mostly, he gets on quite well with his parents. Sex doesn’t have to define us.”
Image by Nan Goldin, ’Cody in the Dressing Room at Boy Bar,’ NYC, 1991.
My latest at Daily Life. Give it a read, go on.