A New Sexual Spectrum

One of the issues that comes across my radar quite often is incompatible sex drives in relationships. I frequent many asexual communities and websites, talk a lot about consent, and generally am interested in making sure that people who don’t want to have sex aren’t forced into having sex.

However it has been brought to my attention that sometimes people do want to have sex, and sometimes those people are in relationships with people who have low sex drives. This causes Unhappiness on the part of every party, and is sometimes used as an excuse for cheating, a reason to open the relationship, a reason to break up, or as some kind of horrible leverage to pressure one partner into having sex with the other. Sometimes it just results in sad resentment simmering while no one has sex.

I also hear that sometimes relationships require compromise, and that since sex is part of a relationship, both parties need to learn how to compromise and have sex sometimes when they’re not that interested or learn how to take a no from their partner. There are lots of advice books and articles out there about these kinds of compromises (some of them that drive me completely bonkers like the ones that say a wife always has to be sexually available to her husband or he will cheat). On the positive side of the advice giving I see people who promote talking to your partner, working out which sex acts feel better and worse to them, figuring out what gets them in the mood, and coming to conclusions about what’s reasonable in your relationship to ask for (some people might be real annoyed if you asked for a blowjob after they’d turned you down for sex, whereas others might see it as a way they can be giving and kind without feeling discomfort).

There’s one element of this that sometimes gets waved at but not really discussed, and that’s the role that sex plays in a relationship. Many articles (especially super sexist ones) like to talk about how sex is incredibly important for men to be able to express and feel intimacy, so women need to be willing to give it up more often. We’re going to ignore that crappy advice, and instead talk about the fact that in long term relationships sex can have different meaning for different people, a fact which is too often overlooked, or when it is recognized is often used to shame people who don’t have the “right” meaning for sex.

But sex is a great and varied thing, and people get different things out of it. For some people it’s just a nice, pleasurable experience like eating cookies. For other people, it’s incredibly intimate and one of the ways that they express and feel close to a partner. For other people, it’s contingent on feeling close to a partner, and only really happens as an extension of emotional closeness. Some people don’t see sex as an integral part of a relationship and could do without it, others feel as if it cements emotional bonds.

All of these different approaches to sex mean that people will feel comfortable with sex in different circumstances. If sex is something you do to feel nice, you might not want to do it when you’re stressed out or thinking about other things. If sex is something you do to feel close, you’ll probably want it more if you’re feeling your partner is distant. But if you see sex as an offshoot of emotional closeness, the last thing you’d want to do when your partner feels distant is have sex.

Ok so what does this have to do with compromises around differing sex drives? If one person has a lower sex drive than another, or is not feeling like having sex, or just isn’t wanting it, it might be a good time to start talking about what sex means to both partners. Especially if sex is something that is deeply connected to emotions in some way, that’s important for both partners to know. And while it’s on both people to figure out a way to make their sex life work, this kind of information can make it easier for higher sex drive person to make things comfortable and conducive for lower sex drive person to get in the mood.

Example: I don’t really feel sexually attracted to someone unless I’m feeling emotionally close to them. Not just that I like them, but emotionally intimate. Have a philosophical discussion with me or tell me your deepest, darkest secrets and I’m way more likely to get physically into you. Some partners like to only express their intimacy with their bodies and through physicality. If we’re feeling disconnected, they might try to initiate sex while the last thing that I’d want is sex. The solution? Talking about it so that they know having emotional discussions or building our relationship in other ways will make me more comfortable and interested in sex.

This might not be a straight line of emotional—>non emotional sex, but perhaps more of a crazy explosion of different attitudes and needs. Many people are proponents of communication around sex, so I’d imagine incorporating discussions of what you get from sex and how else you might be able to fulfill some of those needs would be an important¬†part of having a good sex life. It can also help when you’re having a mismatch of needs to understand what it is that you feel like you’re missing.

Wanderlust and Fear

It’s springtime, and that means that my wanderlust is out in full force. Not just wanderlust for travelling, but for anything new and different. I’ve suddenly decided that I need some new friends and new piercings and new hangouts and new everything. Everywhere I go people look more interesting and shiny than the people I know and love. Different clothes look like they would make for a better persona than the boring one I have now. I’ve thrown myself into TV shows and books as a way to be someone else for a time, but that won’t hold off the need for change too long.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets these fits of longing. I’m not the only one who sometimes gets bored of my life or myself or my relationships, even though I know that the people and places and things I surround myself with are quality. And yet I rarely hear people talk about it. I think we’re often afraid of saying that we’re not loving the space we’re in unless we’re ready to change the space we’re in, because others generally interpret a complaint or criticism as reason to end a relationship, leave a job, or change yourself.

But it’s a very real experience to both want to stay where you are and feel dissatisfied. Human beings are capable of looking at the long run and seeing that the place we’re in is good for us, even if we feel trapped in the moment. But I’m wondering how to balance my need for new and exciting things with the need for security and the fear of losing the things that I love.

I know that at heart I am a bit of a homebody. I don’t actually like things that are supposedly edgy. I like routine. Many of the new and interesting people I’m staring at are probably peacocking and likely would start to drive me nuts after just a few hours spent together. And yet sometimes I’m bored with myself. I’m bored with my need for schedule and structure. I’m bored by the ways I follow rules. I’m bored by the fact that I’ve lived my whole life in the same place. I’m bored by my lack of rebellious teen phase. So what do I do?

One of the beautiful things about life is that it is not a zero sum game. While we do have a limited amount of time and energy, there is no limit on the number of people we can care about, things that can excite us, or places we can love. The difficult part of this is finding ways to keep up contact with your current habits while also trying out new ones. Especially when we’re talking about people (friends, significant others), it’s hard to let them know that you might need to go AWOL for a bit because you’re feeling a bit claustrophobia with your life.

I’m afraid of losing my friends and past hobbies if I let myself explore a bit. I want to know how to have a conversation that says “I love you, but for this moment I¬†want to try something new. You probably won’t see me for a bit. I’ll be back though, I promise.” I don’t know how to continue to grow and incorporate my past into my future.

There is simply so much to do and so many people to meet and love that at times I think I shouldn’t even bother trying to break out of my patterns. But instead I’m going to try to listen to the part of me that says explore. Perhaps I’ll make a few stupid choices along the way, just for fun (because rule followers like me aren’t too good at this). I’m going to try meeting new people and trying out a new hobby and going somewhere new. Because I can, and because I know that the people I truly want in my life are the ones who are willing to be a bit patient while I gallivant off to be myself for a bit.