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?



2 responses

5 10 2008

Yeah, sex does matter though I’m not exactly sure how. I have similarly always repeated the mantra that good sex does not necessarily have anything to do with love. The notion that the two are necessarily related always seemed to be one of the things girls are taught to control their sexual behavior. For me, sex seems to matter most when I think there is a problem with it since it seems to act as a barometer for other aspects of a relationship. If things are going well, no problem. However, if for some reason there has been little sex in my relationship (once a week or less), the lack of sex becomes a presence in the room that sucks up all the oxygen. I don’t know why other than it seems to become some kind of measure for something–closeness, intimacy, trust, general satisfaction? I have HUGE trust issues that have never seemed to manifest themselves in my sex life but I’m sure they have. I wish I could think about this more philosophically and less personally but I’m tired and taking the easy way out. I may post again later but I wanted to say something because I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and I really enjoy it. I don’t want you to stop posting so I thought I’d weigh in–even if I’m weighing in in the feather weight class with this first comment.

5 10 2008

Hi Mari
Thanks for commenting. I keep thinking I have coherent thoughts about basic matters, but when I unspool those thoughts, everything gets tangled. Hell, at least your thoughts, however affected by exhaustion, are clear.

That said, I think we’re both hitting on a similar idea: that sex rarely exists in and of itself, but attracts all these other meanings. You try to wall off ‘trust’ (recognizing that you can’t, quite), just as I try to wall off emotional vulnerability, but we both see that these sneak their way into coupling.

Intimacy, I guess. Doesn’t that cover vulnerability and trust and closeness and satisfaction? Can one be sexually intimate without intimacy?

You’ll note that I’m avoiding the whole ‘love’ thing, not least because I think vulnerability and trust come before love, or are components of love; thus, for me, the questions about sex really aren’t about love. (This is woefully under-argued, I know. Perhaps I’ll figure out a way, later (way later, as it were) to talk about love.)

Anyway. I happened upon this blog entry— http://orvillelloyddouglas.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/friends-with-benefits-article-2/
—this morning, and while the whole ‘friends-with-benefits’ phenom wasn’t my topic, the people interviewed express a similar kind of puzzled ambivalence.

So. Back to the beginning. *Sigh*

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