The semantics of sex.
“I have not had sex in four months.
I am having the best sex of my life.
Both of these things are true.” –Anya Kless
As you were no doubt on the very verge of guessing, the words above were not written by me, but by a woman maintaining a polyamorous dynamic with Odin and Loki. Yes, them. Her blog, by the way, is fascinating.
The quote sits with me these days. To be fair, it doesn’t have much to do with me and my current situation unless you look at it from a certain, basically incorrect and completely mundane, point of view1. See, I’ve been having some incredible sex lately. So incredible that when I slip into bed at night, visions of things that have actually and recently happened slap me and draw wetness. At times it almost feels like I’m cheating on imagination with recall.
There also hasn’t been a penis inside my vagina2 since 2011. May 2012 is almost over, people. I haven’t been actively avoiding it or anything; things have just worked out that way. There was a not-distant time in my life in which I would have considered this a mitigated dry spell, framing the amazing sex I’m having now as some version of “not having sex”, calling it “foreplay”, “messing around”, or similar. I was not unique in this, did not invent the concept that some partnered, orgasm-inducing activities should mysteriously be considered more sex-like than others. It’s fairly common. I even suspect that some part of me is vaguely on board with this still, even though I can’t understand why or how I am or ever was. Emotional remnants will defy logic.
I am a huge advocate of people defining things for themselves. You know, if they want to. If you have very specific ideas about how having sex, fucking, and making love are distinct and discrete activities, that’s fine. In fact, I’d like to see an infographic or something3. And if you personally choose to define sex as penis-in-vagina intercourse and you’re not imposing that distinction on people or using it as an elaborate way of lying to yourself or others, I am not here to crack your stone tablets. But that definition simply doesn’t make sense to me or for me anymore. On the most practical level, after any sexual contact with someone, I would want to notify/be notified if an STI turned up. It only makes sense to me, then, to count anyone in said notification group as a sex partner. On an emotional level, am I meant to just not count the increasingly significant proportion of my lovers who don’t have penises? Does it make any sense whatsoever to stratify each sexual experience based on how closely it conforms to the heterosexual, procreative model? A black and white, exclusionary definition of sex doesn’t jive with the way I do things anymore.
Queerness really grays things up, you know that? I’m finding it’s very hard for me to define sex lately. Challenging myself to come up with something, I suppose my personal working definition is that sex is anything I’m doing with a partner (or partners) that may result in intentionally getting one or both of us off, although that is both vague and potentially inaccurate for any number of people. For example, some people have lots of sex and do not have or attempt to have orgasms. For another, if I’m calling something “sex” that my partner calls “foreplay”4, is only one of us right? And how much does that matter, if at all?
At the same time, I think I do still attach special significance to intercourse with a penis. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, considering that’s how my sexual cosmology was ordered for a very long time. We do, after all, live in a world where you can refer to “going all the way” without making people screw their foreheads up into question marks. If I didn’t still buy into this paradigm on some level, I probably wouldn’t treat penis-in-vagina sex differently. As it stands, I have the tendency to want to build more trust and take more time getting to that point with someone, compared to my patterns with most other kinds of sex.
It is also a kind of sex I absolutely love. It’s something I’ve often missed over the past several months. And I should tell you that I write this with the distinct feeling that whatever this period is: famine, favor, or furbelow, it’s been looking sickly lately. I’d be surprised to see it make it through another month.
- And from that point of view, it has been longer than four months for me. [↩]
- Nor any other part of me, including my mouth, until very, very recently. [↩]
- Love those things. [↩]
- Under my system, is foreplay even a thing? Does it just mean “anything we happened to be doing before the sexing started?” [↩]