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.
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.
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.
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.)