I want your sex

4 10 2008

I found (via Feministing) this mutual interview between Gloria Steinem and Suheir Hammad, and homed in on this comment by Hammad:

. . . [I]n the nineties you had the sense that you could sleep with anyone you wanted, and we thought we knew enough about safe sex. And there wasn’t any reference to the emotional reality of sharing yourself with people you didn’t trust. Some of my friends are able to make the distinction between love and sex.

I used to say, semi-seriously, that a woman should sleep with someone earlier rather than later, to find out if he (or she) were worth the emotional investment. So when I read this I thought, Yeah, I remember thinking that.

Now, I was never much of a slut. (Was that because I practiced self-control—or because I lacked opportunities?) Regardless, I was impatient with the notion that sex had to mean anything other than pleasure. Sure it could be about getting closer to your partner, deepening intimacy, blah blah, but hey, couldn’t it also just be about a fun toss?

I really wanted to believe that. I liked the idea that sex was simply another form of bodily pleasure, akin to the pleasures of a good run or workout or dancing or any other physically happy endeavor. There was no reason to make it more than it is.

Except I never believed myself. Sex was—is—different. Why? Why the hell is sex different? Is it about the vulnerability, that one is, literally, naked before another person?* Why is physical nakedness more meaningful than emotional nakedness?

(*Nothing against threesomes or more. I’m just trying to capture something about the act the way most of us do it most of the time.)

Ah. Maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s where I got tripped up: I wanted it to be different from emotional vulnerability (with which I have my difficulties), so tried to strip (sorry!) sex down to its bare (okay, that one I did on purpose) essentials.

No more snarkiness. What I mean is, I wanted to be able to have sex without having to worry about any emotional entanglements. I didn’t want it to mean anything, wasn’t sure I wanted the other person to mean anything to me, wasn’t sure I wanted to mean anything to the other person.

Still, this hardly explains why sex matters, or even, really, that it matters. Maybe it really is about the emotional component, and the difficulty of separating the emotional from the sexual. In other words, I was right, in a way, before: sex is just sex, and the issue is with its shotgun rider, emotion.

Hmpf. This post is all over the place. If anyone is reading this, can you PLEASE chime it to say if sex matters or not, and why?