I had a big debate with my friend cowboy over sexuality and whether it was unique. This is someone who knows and respects me, but we disagreed pretty fundamentally on the nature of sexuality. To her sex is a sort of fundamental experience, it attains a level of emotion and a level of connection that nothing else can.
Now to me this idea seemed a little demeaning, because if sex allows access to this uniquely sexual universe of emotion then there’s a whole universe of intense feeling that I just don’t have access to. I’ve heard similar things from my other sexual friends as well, that there’s nothing in the world like sex, that it’s a whole other level of connection with someone. We see this a lot within the sexual binary- the idea that certain intense emotions and intense relationships only happen when sex is involved.
So if my friend is right, and she does really experience a ton of enhanced emotions only around sex, then one of two things is true. Either I’m just not experiencing a whole level of humanity, or I’m experiencing stuff without sex that my sexual friends aren’t.
Is it that sex involves some special neurochemical cocktail that unlocks a secret part of human psychology, or that it involves a set of emotions and desires which my friends keep reserved for their sexual partners and I spread around my community? Probably both, but it’s important to keep in mind.
There’s no debating that sexuality does a lot of chemical things to the brain and that a lot of those chemical things that it does to the brain have an affect on relationships. What I haven’t seen much research on, and I’m not an academic expert in any way, is whether the things that sex does to the brain are unique and if so how unique? Are there chemicals which are released only during sex and if so how much do those chemicals have an affect on thing that matter in relationships: how we feel about people, how much time we spend together. Are sexual people basically just tripping on a bunch of chemicals that we’re not?
On the other hand, how much is it about sexual people giving a type of meaning to sex that we’re not? To a sexual person having sex means that you have access to a particular kind of sexual relationship where all kinds of interesting things can happen. There’s the possibility of forming a family, there’s the possibility of being committed to someone for the rest of your life there’s the possibility of even dating them, with all of the things that that means. When you don’t have sex, for most sexual people, that isn’t a possibility and the kind fo relationship that is possible when you have sex affects how you emotionally feel when you have sex because that sex means something. If having sex lets you give yourself permission to feel a certain set of things for people then you limit those emotions to a particular subset of relationships in our life. As asexual people we’re in a tricky position because we can’t use sexuality as a system to limit where we feel things and how we’re vulnerable. We can use other systems, but we’re forced to feel things at times when sexual people aren’t forced to feel them, because sexual people limit a lot of their emotions to relationships where they have sex.
If sex is magical for sexual people then for us that magic is taken out of sex and distributed somewhere else. That means that we are feeling things in relationships that a lot of sexual people aren’t going out of their way to feel and experience. This puts us in new territory that is potentially interesting to sexual people. A lot of the reason why sexual people get so worked up about sex is the magical emotions that are associated with it, and if those emotions could happen without sex then it might make them a little easier to deal with.
Here’s one way to think about it: when asexual and sexual people form relationships what do sexual people do with those “extra” sexual things that they feel, and what do we do with the “extra” nonsexual things that we feel? How incompatible REALLY are the sexual things that they are feeling and the nonsexual things that we are feeling, which gets back to the core question I was asking Cowboy- is sex unique? Is it magical?
This is an interesting question, because I know a lot of sexual people who seem extremely hesitant to ask it. Seriously examining the mystery around the uniqueness of sex is taboo to a lot of people who pride themselves on not having taboos. It’s where a lot of our modern concept of virginity comes from, the idea that you need to try it (or maybe try it again with the right person) in order to even participate in the discussion. I am reminded of this every time the topic of my experimenting with sex comes up around my friends, many of whom still jump at the fantasy that I will undergo some epiphany and fall in line with the established norm.
If our community is going to survive in the long term, if we are going to carve out a place for ourselves that is rich with possibility then there are a lot of tricks that we will have to pull off. One of these tricks is going to be getting a lot of sexual people out there to start questioning their assumptions, to start asking themselves why they limit so many of their strongest emotions to the realm of sexuality and to start imagining what would be possible if they didn’t.