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We Don’t Need No Definitions

January 20, 2011

Allena Gabosch (the co-founder and Executive Director of The Center For Sex Positive Culture) and I enjoyed a Slutty Redhead and a Moscow Mule as we discussed fomenting sexual revolution. There are worse ways to spend an evening – but not many better ways. (There were also mussels and brussel sprouts, but those names don’t have debaucherous double entendre.)  It was one of those conversations that will take many blog posts to relay, but one thing that became abundantly clear is that the way in which we – all of us – talk about sex, limits the way that we – all of us – experience our sexuality.

The idea that language is a powerful tool is hardly new to me. As the General Public song says, “words like conviction can turn into a sentence.” It’s true. Once we define ourselves, we very often serve out a life sentence as that thing. Not only because we believe it, but because other people keep us there  with the power of their perceptions.

When it comes to sexuality, words lead to politics that define and confine us. Gay marriage, for instance, is considered different – at best – than straight marriage, even though the expectations, routines and obstacles are exactly the same. The relationship itself is identical, but we treat it differently because “they” have sex differently than “we” do.

Now, if we could peer into the bedrooms of every house on any given street in this country, I’d be willing to bet that every single sexual relationship we’d witness is different than the one in the house next to it. Some people have the lights off and are silent, some are tied up, some are using toys, some are hitting each other, some are oral, some are….  But gay is different. Because we gave it a name.

We could give them all a name? Kink Marriage? Bi Marriage? BDSM Marriage? Watersports Marriage? Anal Marriage?  Please, that’s ridiculous. Right?

But wait, we do use all those labels. We use them to sort ourselves out. We use them to find “our” people. And there’s probably some degree of usefulness, or we wouldn’t do it. Or is there?

This came up for me a few times in the last couple days.  Once,  as I was gazing into the alarmingly blue eyes of someone who I was desperately wishing was not wearing clothes. I was only paying attention to every 6th word or so, and as such have no idea what he was saying. (That sounds bad, but it’s a compliment.) Until I heard him say, “I’m not kinky.”

Huh? Panic? What? Shit. But then I replayed previous scenarios that led to this moment of my wishing he didn’t have clothes on.  (Memories are like promises, when it comes to sex.)

I believe that he meant that statement, that he believed it. So what we have here is an issue of vocabulary, because I can still hear his swift smack on my ass, gasp remembering how tight his hands were around my neck, and am still sporting at least one bruise.
So, what is kink?

In another recent conversation a might-be lover asked me what I was into, and I couldn’t answer him. Honestly, I couldn’t. I told him that I have done a few things that I know I won’t do again, (okay, only one,) but other than that, since he and I have never been lovers, I can’t predict what I’ll be into with him. I’m more fluid than that. I think that sexuality is a lifelong exploration of things that are possible. Every time you bring new people together, there is a chemical reaction that creates something altogether new.

Again, these definitions are just useless. They’re traps, in which we can get stuck too easily. That we use to limit the pool of potential lovers. Those ruts we all get in? I’m guessing we get in them because we have decided that we know what we like, to the exclusion of discovering new things.

I told him, eventually, that I fall for people, not sex acts. Once there is trust and honesty, we can begin finding out what we’re into. Not just what either one of us has been into in the past.

So Allena and I are talking about all this. And more. We’re talking about the new Not So Secret site, and that we are trying to capture as many perspectives as possible. Which led, naturally, into discussing terms like gay, straight, bi and queer.

I never know which one of those to pick for myself. I hate the question, so I just say “yes.” But really, I dunno. I like men. I’ve only ever fallen for men. I love men. I couple with men.  I have never wanted a girlfriend, but love having a boyfriend. Generally, when I fantasize about sex, it’s about men and their yummy man-parts.

But, I like having sex with women. Usually with my guy, so she’s a third. But I have never felt the “urge” to couple with a woman. Just, like a toy only way better.

Which immediately calls into question the whole monogamous vs. polyamorous question. A question that I also hate. When I am in a relationship with someone, I am not comfortable with either one of us having experiences without the other person. But what we do together, that’s limitless. (I know this because I have tried, it has not worked for me, in the past.)

So, what am I?

And what does it matter? Why does sex have to be anything? Why do we have to fit into any category at all? As long as we know what we want, right now, in this situation, and can communicate openly and honestly about it with our partners, isn’t that enough?

Which led us to Allena’s beautiful description of the sphere of sexuality.

We often hear people refer to human sexuality as if it is a linear thing. On one end there is celibacy and heterosexuality. On the other end there is kink, and homosexuality, and there are myriad spots in between. But human sexuality is not that linear. Even that, right there, needs at least 4 axis.

Allena described to me her vision of the sphere of sexuality. In the center is you. You are strong, your mind and eyes are open, you are centered and in control. All around you, in any direction that you look, there are limitless possibilities of things to try.  As you reach out and find new partners, then new parts of the sphere open up to you, and you can try them. Each new relationship is a new path through the sphere. You can bring some of this, and some of that with you, from any place you can reach. Each new experience is like a journey of your own world. It’s not a line, there are not pit stops. You don’t pass through one to get to another. One person is not more “advanced” or repressed than another.

No one, ever, has to try anything that doesn’t feel good to them. Some of our spheres are larger than others. I know that mine is larger than many, but it is so much smaller than so many people I know. Our spheres are all different. It’s not about what you do, or even how, but about how freely you move in your own sphere. With how much joy and confidence.

That’s what I want to create. I want my daughter to live in a world where she is, simply, an empowered sexual being with no definition or orientation at all. After all, the very word “orientation” implies that there is a destination, a right and wrong. Being disoriented means being “off” in some way. You orient yourself to a direction.  You make progress in a given direction to which you are oriented.

Imagine a sphere, and orient your gaze to one spot. Now, imagine how much you are missing, not even seeing.

I want my daughter to live in a world where the terms gay, straight, bi and queer don’t even exist. Neither does kink.

It’s all just sex, and everyone does it differently. It’s the journey that matters, because there is no destination.

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