For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for February, 2011

Compromising positions

I’m going to start with the disclaimer that this is not my particular field. In the past, I’ve displayed a lot of visible privilege in the area of asexual/sexual compromise, being non-repulsed and also probably poly. Sometimes, I’m afraid that my comments on off-hand sexual compromise and polyamorous polygons are akin to ‘let them eat cake’ in the obvious privilege stakes. So, essentially, feel more entitled to tell me I’m wrong when I talk about this than you do when I talk about, say, how sexual aromantics aren’t evil.

I think the word compromise has massive connotations, both positive and negative. I’m of a generation that was always taught compromise is the maturest thing you can do. If you’re not willing to compromise, if you’re not willing to meet someone halfway, then you’re the worse party. At the same time, I grew up with language like ‘compromising yourself’, the idea that any form of compromise is selling out, that compromise tears something from the very marrow of your existance.

And this incendiary word is not always the best word to apply to the gunpowdery world of sex, especially mismatched sexual desires. I was thinking about this some more, and I’d like to propose a typology. This largely comes after reading Greta Christina’s explaination of why some sexual act are like tofu and some are like broccoli (worth a read), and trying to apply it to some of the concepts I’ve heard in the Sexual Partners AVEN thread and on Elizabeth’s blog.

Enthusiastic consent:

Sex acts which you like doing, primarily for  your own pleasure. In my opinion, this could include your psychological pleasure, if there’s some sex act which you love which doesn’t happen to tickle any of your nerve endings. Things you’d miss, if you didn’t have them.

Secondary enthusiasm:

Sex acts which you enjoy, but not in an especially sexual way. For instance, sex acts which you like seeing your partner get off on, but you wouldn’t be bothered about if your partner didn’t like them.


This can happen as part of secondary enthusiasm. The example which most obviously strikes me is a foot fetishist and a non-foot fetishist and a foot massage. One activity can often be deeply sexual to one person and completely not sexual to another person, and this is an important practical point.

Relationship maintanance:

An act you put about as much into as the hoovering or the washing up. I really don’t want to come down on the side of good or bad with this. On the one hand, I think for something to be what I would consider ‘sex’, both people have to get something from it, that’s what makes it meaningful, and if you can find SOMETHING you want out of some sexual activity your partner wants, I think that’s the right way to go. On the other hand, I can easily imagine a relationship with two sexual people, both of whom love recieving oral sex and both of whom are really not phased by giving it. Their sex life ends up better if they both indulge in maintainancy-type sex.

Sex you don’t like having:

See next category.

Sex you don’t have:

A category which is definately worth identifying, and building on as and when you see fit. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

This is just a rough sketching out of some ideas, but this is how I tend to see sexual ‘compromise’, and there isn’t actually that much compromise in there. I can’t really see where it would happen. Because neither party is ‘giving up’ anything, both parties are coming together to see that they can have sexual (or potentially sexual) activity that appeals to both of them, in whatever way.

(And that is, actually, quite an asexual way of looking at a relationship, starting from the assumption that there is no sex and seeing if there’s any compatibility from there. But I’d argue it’s also a feminist, queer, sex-positive way of looking at sex, NOT starting from the assumption that there is kissing and [] minutes of ‘foreplay’ and then intercourse. I’d argue it’s a much richer way of looking at sex in relationships.)

Penes, and the joy of living

So we had our first lecture on the law of negligence today. Our tutor, who I think deals mostly with first years because he’s one of the few vaguely capable ones, has a way of choosing cases that illustrate a principle while also being memorable, and telling them in an iteresting way. Today, for example, we had the case of a man who helped someone onto a train, who then dropped his luggage, which turned out to be full of fireworks, which went off and dislodged a sign, which then hit a woman over the head. The woman attempted to prove that this was a ‘forseeable consequence’ of the first person’s actions. Laughing at other people’s misery enough that you remember it is an important part of a law degree.

The last case went something like this:

“Now, all the boys in the audience are going to wince at this one, and all the girls will titter… (lots more rambling, this guy rambles a lot)… He had his genitals chopped off in an industrial accident.”

*shocked gasps from the men, laughing from the women. A general feeling that this is the worst thing ever*

Boy behind me: I’d commit suicide!

Tutor (observing people of various colours in his audience- the second time in two lectures today that I’ve felt like a white-haired, white-skinned law professor is subtly othering his coloured students while trying to be P.C.): And notice that’s a multi-cultural reaction- people of two genders in all cultures reacted the same (he didn’t say it this succinctly).

I’m fed up of male = penis. I’m fed up of inability to achieve sex being inability to achieve life-goals, especially when you’re a male-bodied individual (and, at some point, when I’ve done the legal research and considered it from a disability angle, I’m going to look at the legal advocates who will try the ‘sex is fundamental to the life of every man’ card at the drop of a hat- whether to gain disability benifits (imo: generally a positive outcome), or rape allowance (‘he’s a man, you can’t blame him’)). I’ve seen this expressed on Yadaforum in the last few days, and Charles also mentioned it recently, but the prospect of having functioning genitals is not something everyone is bound to. Personally, I’d be perfectly contented with some way to urinate hygenically, some way to have or raise children and, if it ever came to it, access to sex toys.

This annoys me like ‘God, I’d hate to date someone like you!’ annoys me. It’s a reasonable sentiment. “I’d hate to live without a penis” is a powerful thing to self-identify, especially if you’re cis, and a perfectly reasonable thing to identify, just like “I’d hate to live in a sexless relationship/one without mutually enjoyable sex as a key component”. Great. Tell the world.

But don’t insist that everyone is like you. Because what you’re doing there is invalidating your statement. When you make sure that all men insist they’d fall on their sword as soon as they loose sexual function, then you’re invalidating the massive variety of opinions people really have about their genitals, sex, and their relation to these things, and your opinion is one of these. This argument isn’t really for the benifit of asexual or trans people, who are the groups I’ve identified so far as being likely to have complex relationships with their genitals or their sexual activity. Because the people who are most likely to have complex relationships with their genitals or sexual activity are cis sexual people. Wonderfully nuanced, amazingly detailed, fabulously rich opinions and conversations and emotions. And that, really, is what you’re blocking off with your hegemonic opinions.

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