So after reading up on sexiness… This post and all those it links: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/an-exploration-of-not-wanting-to-be-sexy-and-of-never-feeling-sexy/
I realised, I’m unaccustomed to thinking of myself as sexy, and as nice as it is to be appreciated that way… it’s made me rather self-consciousness. Especially since I rarely consider anything visual sexy myself, as in causing the buzz in my mind and lower body that’s a precursor to desire or causing attraction.
So, as celebration and affirmation, here’s a list of what I find sexy.
Minds. Interesting bubbles of humanity. I could be delighted by them and revel in them all the livelong day.
Acts-ideas-agents. The trifecta of the body’s input, the mind’s input and the heart’s input. Done right, any input that works on all three levels and is contextualised as “sexy” can get really intense. Charged.
Sensation. Touch. Just. Works.
So, considering all that, am I sexy? All of the sexiness I perceive is based in interaction, preferably the reciprocal kind. It’s rather hard for me to consider it a personal quality.
Although… If a person is the source of much of it… It does tend to get associated with him. So, perhaps, after being sexy with a person for a while they become it, by association.
*prods the pretty article on sexual development possibly being more gradual than a simple teenage sexual awakening, and starting earlier*
I like this word.
It says that realisation of attraction and orientation, including asexuality, starts at, like, 10. A very, very good reason to be open-minded about it and talk to kids.
I remember there being a lot of ado about boybands in primary school, even before the boyfriends thing started.
Followed link from: http://asexandthecity.tumblr.com/post/134290479956/submitted-by-so-much-depends-upon-a-for
Contains non-graphic mentions of sex and desire.
I desire, more to the point, I desire someone.
It’s neither the easy, mostly romantic crushes I’ve had before. It’s not uneasy romantic-and-sexual attraction I have little experience with or even just fumbling around because I think I feel something. I want this to go somewhere.
The difference is huge. Like trying to go down the highway in fifth gear instead of first. Where before I rarely wished to go up the ramp to speed down that road, I want to now, because I feel I could just hurtle along at close to a hundred miles an hour. Sixty should not be a problem. All just because I want this now, with a person. It’s an odd sensation, and in and of itself enjoyable.
Being at this point, I can also say: I am so very glad I explored my identity.
I have words for what I want in a relationship. I can explain how I want to fulfill my desires, how they arise and how they are best satisfied. I can do this in relaxed late-night conversations because I possess the language and lack the shame.
No, I haven’t talked sexual identity. That’d need a load more trust on my end. I am still in the closet to most people.
Still, it’s good, with a specific partner, just to be able to trace out a road map of what I want with them. What I’ve wanted in general. How it matches their desires. What I’ve done and not.
At once the freedom to have sex and talk about it and the freedom to not have (had) it when I don’t want it.
You’ll notice I have omitted gender. ‘s one of the biggest adaptations I made to how I think of relating to another person in any context. Gender plays a role, to some degree, but like sexual attraction comes secondary to who a person is, for me.
The same goes for the divide between a platonic, romantic and sexual relationship… These relationships have become less… other… from each other. Rather, they act on bunches of different levels, and which levels they operate on develops. Depends on the person, the progress of the relationship, the desires of both (or several) people in the relationship.
Yes, the current one happens to be of the opposite gender, the next one likely will be. But honestly, when it could be one month or five years before I desire another this intensely, and I can’t even know whether I’ll desire them romantically or sexually or both or on another level altogether… The categories are… less relevant.
I do not… lack anything, as I was afraid I would.
I am free to be demisexual, and to me it works like this:
I am attracted to another person, in their entirety. My mind will run ahead of my body. Fantasy, before act. Friend, before lover. Mental as well as emotional as well as physical connection. When it comes, the attraction is intense, and the configuration of desire which I feel and express is unique to each person and each relationship.
Be warned, somewhat explicit stuff. Third part of the three-parter for the September Carnival of Aces.
A big part of my (sexual) identity’s always been what I read and imagine. Basically, all of the stories I consume and produce, all of the worlds I’ve lived in, however fleetingly. They allow me to be more than what I am in my daily life and experience more than what I’d be into in actual fact.
The first twenty-five years of my life I did not feel sexual attraction. I wasn’t actually sure of or interested in this fact until after I did experience it and became aware I hadn’t before that point. A large part of it is a rise in confidence and emotional comfort. I do believe this is due to my demisexuality, that emotional well-being affects whatever capacity for a sex drive I have and attraction I can feel indirectly. Crudely put, if I cannot put myself out there, I cannot let others in well enough to form the emotional bond that precedes sexual attraction.
I did have a very rich fantasy life. I read far and wide. I imagined all sorts of scenarios. What drew me to them, I think, was the idea of being that close to a person, a craving for physical sensations and new experiences. They did a little for me, sexually, but never gave rise to more than mild arousal.
It has deeply affected how I experience sex now that I do have a libido. Physical stimulation’s mostly window dressing. I depend almost entirely on mental stimulation. I can and have masturbated fully clothed in public without moving an inch while others presumed me to be staring out a window, bored. I’m also far more easily attracted to fictional characters because they give rise to a deep connection almost immediately, especially if they’re the point of view character.
On the other hand, discovering demisexuality and experiencing sexual attraction to a handful of real-life people has started to affect what I wish to read and fantasise about. I no longer crave the idea of being close to people now that I can be for real, even if it’s platonically. The physical sensations seem less important and few concepts are new or stimulating anymore.
Instead, I’ve started to retrace what I could be attracted to in real life. Romantic relationships rich in emotional intimacy. Ensemble stories that explore friendships and being part of a group. Crushes in which the sexual component is small or comes later or even not at all, to see what in the range between platonic and highly sexual I’d ever be interested in.
It’s made for an interesting change in reading material. It’s also made for interesting fantasies that, were they movies, probably wouldn’t even shock a five-year-old. They arouse less, but engage my interest in far more areas at once, which suits me better.
Another multiparter for a Carnival of Aces, this one for the September edition, about living asexuality and experience… so I wanted to share a little of my current experiences as a demisexual, and in the next two posts, about how my Christian faith and avid reading have affected my experience of my sexuality.
I identify comfortably as demisexual, as belonging to the “rarely to never sexually attracted to another person” part of the population. I have constructed a foundation. On it, I can build an understanding of my interest and behaviour towards potential significant others. I can see the consequences of my deviating desires on a personal, social, moral, intellectual and spiritual level.
Building that understanding will continue during my lifetime and beyond, since it happens within a community and orientation only now defining its vocabulary and parameters. Nevertheless, it’s boon to my mind, which demands to know itself, and to my soul, which is relieved to love itself a little more. Most though to my conscience and curiosity, pleased to understand the human condition a little better and thus improved its capacity to act and explore and dream.
I have spoken of my demisexuality to my closest family. I have spoken of asexuality to some open-minded strangers. Living life as demisexual has affected me, even in the span of a few months. I want to look at the changes it’s wrought.
Atypical – I’ve always conceived of myself as part of a formless crowd, where sexuality is concerned. The post-modern open-minded heterosexual, or something. I’m really not, now. I feel I’ve wandered out into a far field, overgrown and only crossed by a few. It’s made my exploration of my sexuality relevant beyond personal discovery, which helps to keep me writing. It’s also scary, to be other, even in a small way, which keeps me quiet for now, but also researching.
Shameless – I’ve shed the need to feel anything when presented with a sexual cue. I may or may not feel something and that’s okay. It means I feel free to act in a sexualised context as I do in any other, which will probably make me a bit weird but mostly makes me more comfortable. It also means I’m leaning more towards indifference about sex than I thought I was. At the same time, it’s allowing me to discover what I actually do like.
Aware – I haven’t felt the need to educate myself as acutely in years. Here were aspects of identity and experience essential to people’s sense of self, and I had no idea. I’m still learning and I’m loving it. All of the new words, all of the new concepts!
Lonely – The largest and most recent discovery, or more an articulation of a formerly indistinct and un-articulated desire: I want. Not sex, but I have a longing for connection and company and intimacy usually associated with sex and relationships with a sexual component. I’m still discovering how I want to fill that gap exactly.
I’ve stumbled into a cul-de-sac with this series, which is what this post moans about. The next two posts will be a two-parter for this blog post series about the Gay Pride, because it was a rather life-changing event.
I think the joke’s on me… I started “I Want to Have Sex Like…” with the honest intention of discovering what sort of sex I’d want, if I ever came to the point where I chose to have any. Yet in my analysis of Captain America and Sherlock Holmes I find myself focusing on characters’ relationships, emotional engagement, treatment of each other, whether consent happened… Which are related to sex, but don’t exactly help me discover what I’d like between the sheets… Not to mention that what I find attractive in fantasy or reality.
Not sexual fantasy
I have found writing about this subject, ignoring what others say I should feel, very helpful. I’ve spent a lot of time going through forums and articles and videos and blog posts, and find that I’m starting to get a grip on demisexuality, at least as an identity I’m comfortable wearing. So I will continue this series.
But I’m muddying the waters if I pretend it’s all sexual fantasy.
Why’ve I called it that up until this point? Well, because I wanted to know what I have in the place in my mind where most have the thing labeled “sexual fantasy”. What you might use during masturbation. What hits you on a visceral level when consuming media. What people trying to get a date salivate over. Why selling things related to sex, or selling things by pretending they are sexy works at all. This thing I do not understand.
Besides, this exercise was not meant to flesh out what I’m supposed to think, but what I actually feel and imagine to be attractive. So. What does that mean for the future?
We’ll continue the analysis of items of pop culture as planned. From this point forward, I’ll focus on attraction on different levels consciously. I believe this broader focus accurately reflects how I experience that which is attractive, what I would desire and what I’d want in a (sexual) relationship. Sex is just… a potential part of it, and has no priority.
Different levels of attraction will be distinguished. For example, what’s gorgeous is aesthetically attractive. What I want to touch is sensually attractive. A person whose mind I want to assimilate like a Borg… intellectually attractive. Romantically attractive is a bit vague to me… so I’m probably going to mix that up with calling people emotionally attractive.
A second distinction which I’ll hope to get across is between that which I might fantasise about, and that which I would wish to do… or at least try. So, the distinction between what is attractive and what is desirable. The former is a far larger category than the latter.
So after reading Hanna White sigh over how demisexuality isn’t noble1, I feel I should add that nope, demisexuals are not just destined for epic romance. Here’s a short list of potential relationships I can see myself having as demisexual, keeping in mind that I am primarily emotionally attracted to people, rarely sexually and need a long acquaintance.
Relationships that at some point involve sexual acts. Note these can be between two or more partners, people from the same or different genders and open or exclusive relationships.
Long-term relationship, including marriage – let’s start with the traditional one, shall we? You date long term, you fall in love, you find yourself sexually attracted to your partner, you move in, you may become engaged, marry, procreate. Congratulations.
Friends with benefits – a pool of potential sexual partners is your circle of friends. If, at some point, one becomes sexually attractive, then yes, you can totally have a fling or a casual sexual relationship with a good friend.
Inter-office romance – a second pool of potential partners are the people you see the whole day, every day. Though you like and trust colleagues on a different level, it may form a connection strong enough to spark some sexual attraction as well.
Because demisexual is on the asexual spectrum, and non-sexual relationships are totally a viable option. Note these can be between two or more partners, people from the same or different genders, open or exclusive relationships.
Short-term dating – relationships that don’t last, for whatever reason, likely won’t become sexual.
Long-term romantic relationship, including marriage – because while you may become sexually attracted to your partner in the long term, you may not, and you may choose never to have sex, though it is a relationship on every other level, that may even include a permanent commitment.
Queer-platonic relationship, because you may have a significant other with whom you do not have a sexual or romantic relationship, but share a deep emotional, intellectual, sensual, companionable bond with…
So I hope I gave you something to think about. Mulling it over has certainly given me some breathing space. Look at all the possibilities! Though your orientation and preference for polyamory or monogamy will likely point you in a certain direction. If you’ve suggestions or questions, leave them in the comments!
Facing front, my eyes catch the back of your head. Messy, short, I always wish to ruffle it like my brother’s. Not today.
Later, my gaze lingers on your profile, not handsome but memorable and able to invite the whole group in on how you feel. You make us laugh, a moment between one task and the next.
But today, my laughter flushes down to drain into a warm belly, clenching up. Down into tingling feet that wish to flee the scene.
Break’s over. My face masks that my mind has turned inwards to check. No – my opinion of you hasn’t changed. No flush of gibberish to mark a crush. Just a slow, low boiling I do not know.
We finish and I leave, analysing. Mild arousal, I guess. You, its cause.
Rough brick hugs my back in support when I lean against it. So, this is what it’s like. So, I can feel it towards an actual person.
I slap my heel against the wall, launching forward to clap my feet against the street, applauding the joyous occasion.
My mind clutches two new questions. What does this make me? What do I want? It rattles its new toys, but as yet, no answer follows.
Diving into the Media
Sherlock is a modern-day adaptation of the 19th century series of short stories Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s fast, it’s witty, it’s action-packed. The two main characters are good friends who meet, become roommates and partners in investigating crime. They have various romantic partners.
Of particular interest is that Sherlock Holmes seems to be asexual. It’s under discussion on Goodreads1, Benedict Cumberbatch said so2, more on that on the AVEN forum3, though Steven Moffat begs to differ4, and last but not least, Anagnori wrote a well-structured essay arguing Sherlock Holmes is asexual5, a post that also contains links to pointers for people wishing to portray characters as asexual themselves.
So I figured: I’d want to have sex, or a relationship, like Sherlock… right? Well, no. I actually prefer John’s love life. To recap: John Watson, soldier, doctor and heterosexual, has a significant girlfriend in the first series (season), dates throughout series one and two and is engaged and married to Mary Morstan in the third series. Sherlock, consulting detective with an indeterminate sexuality, claims to be “married to his work” at the start of the first series and has a girlfriend in the third series, and a does-he-doesn’t-he crush on Irene Adler in the second series. That Sherlock and John are regarded as a gay couple is a running gag throughout all three series6.
Sherlock and Mercenary Sex
I’ve never been simultaneously so in awe of a narrative and repulsed by a character’s action as in Sherlock. During episode 3.2, chronicling John’s wedding, Sherlock’s usual rant on the minutiae of people’s lives, in this case, the suitability of all male wedding guests for a roll in the hay, didn’t scare the bridesmaid he talks to off. It made Janine flirt with him, and him with her. She’s his girlfriend at the start of episode 3.3, but it is later revealed he started that relationship simply because she’s Magnussen’s PA, and he wanted access to the blackmailer’s building.
In other words, he had sex for a case. While he’s mimicked emotional reactions for cases before, this is the first time we see him use sex, and actually pretend to be in a disgustingly honeymoon-phase mood. It’s unusual on TV, to have sex included in undercover roles. More incongruous in this case because Sherlock was not having sex before this point. And because as viewer you’ve been led to believe Sherlock was developing social skills through his friendship with John, Molly and Lestrade, to the point where he could be ready for a relationship.
The only previous clues lie in his interaction with Irene Adler, who seems to have a crush on Sherlock’s brain, while Sherlock admires her brain and notices her physical proportions, but never seems to move beyond that into love or lust, though he does mourn her death (the first one).
I can’t get a bead on his sexuality, but that’s alright. What I wouldn’t want is to have such a love life, or sex life, or sex as a tool in an arsenal, myself. The flirtation with Irene was alright, as fantasy material goes, flirting with bad girls or bad boys feels good as a fantasy. The prostitution of self for professional purposes in the third season does not. And yes, I do mean to imply he abuses himself for the sake of his work. It squicks me on a visceral level, and I think it’s mostly the calculation in it. I’d want to have sex for love’s sake. For pleasure’s sake (if I can find someone who could pleasure me that way). Or hell, even to poke around genitalia to see what they do. Not lying back and thinking of England.
John dates many girls. It’s implied that a good number of them he dates to get them between the sheets. There are two who get some more screen time. The first is Sarah, girlfriend and colleague in the first season. While many women leave when John answers Sherlock’s summons a lot, Sarah stays with him through quite a bit of date night no-nos before the relationship ends.
Mary Morstan takes it a step further. She likes Sherlock, to the point where she can side with him against John when she happens to disagree with John and is actively amused by him. Though it’s later revealed it’s a false identity and it’s all tied up with blackmailer Magnussen, I do like that the affection between her and John eventually survives that humongous deception. Their relationship is portrayed as established without being boring, and they are capable of loving each other while feeling betrayed.
What I like about John’s relationships is the honesty in them. He’s bumbling around life, first trying to build it as a freshly returned veteran, later as the roommate and partner of a mercurial detective and later still through all the emotional ups and downs of domesticity, marriage and intricate plots bred by genius villains. Especially with Mary there’s an emotional depth I cannot help but appreciate.
Bromance and Amatonormarivity
John Watson gets married, and Sherlock loses his partner in life and solving crime. It’s an oft-used cliche in romance stories: families and friends dealing with the male or female lead entering marriage, prioritising that relationship above all others. The bromance ends where the romance begins.
I think it’s here that Sherlock is ‘coded’ asexual: John is, for all intents and purposes, his platonic significant other, and effectively ending that part of their relationship in favour of starting one with Mary. Resulting in nerves before the wedding and a huge amount of nostalgia during the event on Sherlock’s part. I like that they let him feel that without letting him be less of a Sherlock.
It’s not Sherlock who’s feeling abandoned later, however. John goes a little psycho at the start of episode 3.3, while Sherlock works a case and appears to have a girlfriend. And throughout that last episode their friendship is still very much intact, to the point where, at the end, I’d say Sherlock’s on his way to becoming Mary’s friend as well as John’s, if only because she’s his wife.
I like how, on the whole, the friendship is not shoved aside for the sake of the romantic relationship. They are both allowed their depth, their emotional intimacy. I think it’s very healthy to show both that relationships impact each other and that it’s not a competition, that they can coexist.
I like John’s relationships best, especially with Mary, because of it’s depth most of all. Again, it’s the emotion that does it for me. Sherlock’s treatment of sex feels just plain wrong to me, which is weird, because I’d expected to identify with his outlook on sex. What I do identify with in Sherlock is his relationship with John, how platonic relationships, familial, friendship or romantic, are crucial and enriching and important, especially if you are going to want sex rarely or never. I need sex and love to be real, emotionally deep and honest.
- Goodread’s discussion: Is Sherlock Holmes asexual?
- Benedict Cumberbatch says Sherlock’s asexual ’cause he’s workaholic, in a Mirror article.
- AVEN’s forum thread on Cumberbatch’s view on Sherlock’s sexuality
- Steven Moffat considers Sherlock to be celibate rather than asexual.
- Anagnori’s tumblr post linking to her essay on asexual Sherlock and writing asexual characters.
- Playing with the idea that characters might be gay without committing to it is known as queer baiting or gay baiting, read more on Fanlore.