Towards an Authentic Male Sexuality

#sex #BDSM #rapeculture

I want more men to (re)claim their sexuality. By that I don’t mean that I want them to boast about how big their cock is* or many women they’ve fucked or how many times each one of those women came. What I mean is that I want to see more men learn to be comfortable with their sexual selves, especially when expressed in ways other than aggressiveness, dominance, and emotional numbness.

I want more men to think of themselves as attractive, or potentially attractive to someone. Yes, many individuals of all genders struggle with their body image and those struggles are valid, but when it comes to men, there’s rarely any acknowledgment that a man’s body can be beautiful or sexy at all. I’m tired of this “women are the fairer sex” bullshit. I want more men to think of their bodies as capable of getting someone hard or wet. I don’t want men to become objectified or expected to fulfill extremely narrow beauty norms like women are; I want them to be able to think of themselves as desirable and fuckable if that thought appeals to them.

That will not be accessible for some men, just like it’s not accessible for all women or nonbinary people–especially when you consider race, disability, and other intersecting identities. There’s no moral obligation to love your body or find it attractive. But right now, our main cultural message about men’s bodies is that they’re laughable at best and grotesque at worst; that the problem with dick pics isn’t that they’re often unsolicited but that yuck who would want to see that; that nobody could ever really want to fuck a man, which is why it makes sense that men have to use coercion to “get” sex. (And that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and that there must be something horribly wrong with women who actively pursue sex with men…) What if men’s bodies can actually be beautiful, can actually be sexy?

I want more men to get to know their own bodies and desires. Nine times out of ten when I ask a man, “What do you like?” or “How do you want to be touched?”, he says, “Oh, whatever you want” or “We can just have sex” or “Just being close to you feels good.” While this may be genuine for some men, I think most are uncomfortable sharing any desire besides to fuck, or they don’t even know.

I don’t buy our cultural myth that men’s sexuality is “simple” while women’s is “complicated.” (Where would that even leave trans/nonbinary people?) While I think that people with penises sometimes have a more obvious or clear path to orgasm, that’s not the case for all of them, and orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal, and maybe there are other paths they might discover, ones that are more…scenic.

I want more men to masturbate not with the goal of reaching orgasm as quickly as possible so they can feel relief from sexual tension, but with the goal of discovering what feels good, or weird, or interesting. I want them to try out different fantasies and watch different types of porn. I want them to try masturbating while reading erotica. I want them to try taking time to touch other parts of themselves first, before ever touching anything that can lead to orgasm.

I want to hear from men more of the things I hear from the women I sleep with–“I like my nipples licked, but not pinched”; “That’s a bit too much pressure, can you use less?”; “Please don’t touch me there because it’s triggering”; “I get turned on when you kiss the back of my neck.”

Feminist men often fall into the trap of thinking that the opposite of male sexual entitlement–the opposite of men using other people’s bodies to get themselves off without any concern for that person’s consent or desire–is to focus entirely on their partner’s pleasure and deny any preferences of their own. No. The opposite of male sexual entitlement is two (or more) people working together–playing together, rather–to create the experiences they want. If you’re the kind of sub who’s only interested in pleasing your partner, that’s one thing. But that’s not the only way to be a consent-aware man. You’re allowed to have your own sexuality.

Most of the men I’ve ever been with did not see themselves as potentially sexy to anyone, not even me. They did not have much of an understanding of their own sexuality; I imagine that even a few weeks into those relationships they knew my sexuality better than their own, because I communicated it. It is very difficult to have a healthy sexual relationship with someone who on some level doesn’t believe you could actually want them. I felt like I had to try and prove it to them constantly, and that emotional labor would quickly end up being too much.

My healthiest sexual relationships have been with people who knew their bodies and their sexual selves–even as that knowledge is, of course, constantly changing and developing. They weren’t magically free of any insecurity, shame, or confusion about their own bodies and desires. But when I said “You make me so hot” or “I want you now” they believed me. They had a sense of their own sexuality that was more complex than just “I want to have an orgasm” or “I want my partner to have an orgasm.” It could be, “Wow, I have a body that feels things, isn’t that amazing” or “I want my partner to feel punished” or “I want to feel humiliated and then comforted” or “I want to feel like my partner has all the control even though I know that actually we both have all the control” or “I want it to feel like my partner and I are writing a story together” or “I want to look at my partner’s face while I fuck them” or “I want to look at my partner’s ass while I fuck them” or “Tonight I feel bad and I just want to be comforted.”

Our deeply anti-sex culture undoubtedly impacts women and nonbinary people more than men, but male privilege–as protective as it is in some ways–does not extend to automatically giving men the ability to engage with sexuality in an authentic, healthy way. They’ll have to work hard to learn that just as the rest of us do. To see sex as a collaboration rather than a competition or a game to be “won”; to see their own bodies as vessels for pleasure rather than tools for domination; to see their partners as partners rather than opponents or targets or prey; to see desires other than fucking as valid rather than irrelevant or shameful–those are just a few of the challenges I want to see men to embrace.

Encouraging men to get in touch with their bodies and desires might seem like a weird way of fighting rape culture, but in my experience all of the toxic messages we get about sex and gender go very well together, and fighting rape culture means fighting all of them.

~~~

*Not all men have cocks and not all people with cocks are men; not all men want to fuck women and not all people who want to fuck women are men. However, it would’ve been equally presumptuous to write this article about cis/straight men only, because trans/queer men probably experience many of the same pressures of toxic masculinity and much of this probably applies to them as well, regardless of what genital configuration they happen to have.

**Another important note: this was written from my own experience and social position, based on the struggles I’ve observed in the people around me. If it doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t make it “wrong”; maybe your social position is just different.

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Sexual Orientation Can Change

#sex #BDSM #queerphobia/biphobia

Hey, did you know that sexual orientation can change? Mine did!

I was bisexual for years, throughout adolescence and college and half of grad school. Like many bisexual people, my attractions to different genders weren’t identical or equal: I tended to be more attracted to women, but everyone I’d fallen in love with or had a serious relationship with had been a man, so I wondered if I could ever love a woman at all.

Well, I could and I did. Perhaps because of that experience, perhaps not (probably not, in retrospect), my patterns of attraction started shifting.

I’d always experienced a certain…apathy about men when it comes to sexual attraction, but I figured that was just attributable to demisexuality. The only way I could ever want to fuck a man would be if I sort of made myself do it the first time, and then afterwards I’d usually really want to. Sometimes I even thought about men when I masturbated. But it was always tenuous and fragile thing. When I saw male partners after a long time apart, it would always take me at least a few hours to want them again. They’d expect me to throw myself into their arms at the first greeting, but honestly, in that moment I usually didn’t want to touch them or look at them at all. Eventually I would “get into it” again.

But starting about a year ago, even that started slipping away from me. The idea of having sex with men started to fill me with dread, then revulsion. At first I thought I could have mostly-asexual relationships with them, but then I realized that I couldn’t even really experience crushy-type feelings with them anymore. (My last crush on a guy was probably over a year ago, unless you count Jon Snow.)

How much of this is political and how much of it is “biological”? Truly, I have no idea. Maybe I would feel differently about this if every single relationship I’ve ever had with a man, no matter how casual or how serious, didn’t fall apart in the same tangled mess of unexamined assumptions about gender roles. Somehow, no matter progressive they are, it’s only a matter of time before it’s my job to take care of their feelings, and they’re feeling sad because I’m not interested enough in sex or moving in together or whatever, and they’re trying to take charge of my mental health for me without my consent, and “I just don’t understand why you’d even want to be with me,” and on and on and on. Worse, they keep insisting that they’re not trying to get me to change my desires or behavior, but then they consistently act in ways that seem designed to get me to change my desires or behavior. Seriously, anyone would lose interest after all this.

And maybe it doesn’t matter. Even if these negative experiences somehow caused me to lose all ability to even imagine fucking a man without feeling nauseous, I mean, the nausea is still real.

People really don’t like to hear about all this. Straight people get terrified of being “turned” gay; gays and lesbians are terrified of being “turned” straight; bisexual people hate me for “confirming” the stereotype that bisexuality is “just a phase,” since I guess I ultimately did “pick a side,” didn’t I?

I feel that. But it’s not my job to make sure that the things that happen to me are politically expedient for The Movement. It would be awful if someone decides to use my experience as “proof” that bisexual people are all going to “pick a side” at some point or that maybe we really can turn queer people straight, but even though it would be awful, it wouldn’t be my fault. I can’t singlehandedly stop queerphobia, not even if I make sure that my feelings and experiences always align with what’s most politically advantageous.

It would be convenient if I could somehow convince myself (and others) that I was Really A Lesbian All Along. And I do wonder if I would’ve been, were it not for the social conditioning that caused me to believe that I desperately Need A Man. But again, it doesn’t really matter. For ten years I genuinely felt that I wanted to be with men, romantically and sometimes sexually. Now I don’t.

There are exceptions, though. I sometimes enjoy sex with men in the context of a threesome with another woman. I sometimes enjoy cuddling with men. Sometimes, men who exhibit a certain combination of Dom-ness, sweetness, and great progressive consent-focused politics can really turn me on. But the idea of looking for Doms specifically is horrifying, because very few of them have those other two qualities. I’m not looking for some controlling, hyper-masculine asshole who’s actually deeply insecure on the inside. I’m looking for someone who knows how to make me feel good and has the confidence to make it happen. I’m looking for someone who knows how to fuck without me having to patiently explain every little detail. I’m looking for someone who actually knows what he wants and gets it rather than prefacing every single sexual encounter with “But what do YOU like?” (Please do not assume my preferences are universal. I’m a kinky sub, and even then not all kinky subs like what I like.)

But those men are very rare, and even then I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to have a relationship with one.

I don’t really have much of a label nowadays; I tend to use “gay,” “queer,” or “homoflexible” depending on the context. I know I’m not comfortable claiming the word “lesbian,” since most of the interactions I’ve had with lesbians about this suggest that they want nothing to do with me unless I either 1) agree to never ever fuck or date a man again, or 2) can qualify for their bullshit and often transphobic-in-context “Gold Star” rule. Well, I can’t, so you can keep your label, I shan’t sully it with my ambiguous sexuality.

(#NotAllLesbians, surely, but you can’t deny that as a community, they haven’t been very supportive or welcoming to women who can’t always define their sexuality.)

Where does all this leave me? Confused and lonely, mostly. I feel powerless to find solidarity among others who have had similar experiences, even though “used to date/fuck men and no longer interested in dating/fucking men” seems to describe many queer women. But there’s no label for it, so I don’t know how to find them.

Although some of them still identify as bi, in practice, I don’t find that I have much to say in bi spaces. Almost every bi woman I know is either in a serious relationship with a man, or is looking for a serious relationship with a man. Therefore, most bi women I encounter are often talking about dating and fucking men. Of course, that’s 100% their right: they’re still just as queer, no matter what some bullshit xoJane article says, and they don’t owe anyone any proof of that. But it does mean I don’t feel that I have much in common with them, and right now I really need spaces where men are decentered. I just really need to not hear about fucking men for a while. (Both in the adjective sense, and in the verb sense.)

I love blogs like Autostraddle for this reason, but in terms of finding community and people to talk to, that’s a lot harder. I don’t think most of my friends (let alone my partners) really understand what’s going on with me, and I don’t know how to explain it any better than I’ve already done.

To be fair, I don’t really understand what’s going on with me, either.

I will delete any comments that tell me that I’m wrong about my identity, or otherwise try to invalidate my personal experience.

Yes, that includes telling me I’m “actually bisexual.”

Half-A-Sexual

#sex

For a while now I have noticed that I don’t experience sexual attraction to people I don’t know fairly well. That moment when you see someone across the bar and feel a spark? Never happened to me. Meeting someone sexy at a party and going home with them? Ew. Going on a first date and wishing you could just kiss them right now? Never.

At some point I learned that there’s a word that people like me use to identify themselves: demisexual. It’s as if we’re “half” asexual–usually ace, but in some situations not.

For a long time I did not use that label because people shamed me out of it. People online love to hate on demisexuals because they think we’re sitting here claiming that being demi makes us as oppressed as Black people or trans people. I’m sure someone somewhere can be found claiming that, but as for me personally, I don’t give a fuck where I fall on someone’s Oppression Olympics ladder; I just care that this changes my life in a number of ways and having the language to talk about it with people is helpful.

But people make me feel like a pathetic broken idiot for using the word, so I stopped. There, I stopped Boxing Myself In With These Useless Labels and Inventing Silly New Words For Things That Don’t Need Words Anyway. Happy now? Well, I wasn’t. I felt like an anomaly, a fuck-up.

Using the word helps me remember that I’m not the only one who’s like this; it’s not an individual quirk but a way of experiencing sexuality that many other people share, including a few of my friends and partners.

That said, I hate being demi. Unlike other identities I have, like queer or atheist, it adds absolutely nothing positive to my life. It does not make my experience more colorful or interesting in any way. It only makes things harder.

I feel like all of these experiences and feelings that most people get to have are something I’m completely cut off from. Sexual negotation and communication becomes fraught as I try to articulate that I’m not sure if I want sex, or don’t know when I will, or might want to try it or might not depending on my mood or fatigue level or number of remaining spoons.

More often than not, I start to panic–not, thankfully, because I worry that people will disrespect my boundaries, but because often I don’t even know what they are.

(I’m aware, though–how could I not be?–of how lucky I am to be in the types of social circles that I’m in. If I were friends with normal people, this would all be a nightmare.)

Here’s what I do know: if I followed the “standards” of affirmative consent when it comes to my own boundaries, I would’ve never had sex with anyone at all, and I would’ve missed out on a lot of great times. Because the first time I have sex with someone is usually less “I NEED YOU NOW” and more “I’m kinda curious, let’s try it.” I’m grateful that my partners respect my agency enough to hear that as the “yes” that it is.

After I’ve slept with someone once or a few times, my brain seems to learn to associate the pleasant sensations of that with actual, sexual desire–in the sense that I think about them when I masturbate or have the urge to send them sexy texts or otherwise behave like someone who wants to have sex with them. And then it’s great. But until then, it’s quite awkward.

One thing that is basically impossible thanks to my demisexuality is dating. How does dating typically go? You meet an Intriguing Stranger, at a party or on OkCupid or whatever. Someone asks the other out. You go on the date to Find Out If You Have A Spark and want to keep seeing each other.

Well, I have never felt any spark with anyone I barely know. (Actually, not entirely true–the first time I fell in love at age 14 happened that way, and that experience was so uniquely horrible that my brain seems to have kept me from repeating it.) That hasn’t stopped me from loving many people and sleeping with even more people, but the fact is that if I’ve just met you, I probably don’t really care about you.

So dating becomes tricky. How do I decide if I want a second “date” or whatever? What do I tell them if they ask me where I think this is going? All I can say is, “I feel no sexual attraction towards you, but you’re the sort of person that I might get attracted to with time, but I also can’t guarantee that, so I understand if you don’t want to stick around and wait”? Hot.

Therefore, I don’t really date; I make friends online and sometimes those friendships develop into more. The distance means that there’s no pressure to decide whether or not I want to fuck them, at least not for a while. By the time I finally see them in person, we’re usually close enough that I’m interested in experimenting with sex, and usually I like it and keep doing it.

But that means that my partners are basically always long-distance, since I’m not willing to date in any sort of “traditional” way.  OkCupid (which I consider traditional at this point) is even more useless than other ways of meeting people to date, because there’s even more of a pressure to Decide What This Is. Is it Friendship? Is it Friends With Benefits? Is it Dating? God, who the fuck cares.

In general, it’s impossible for me to predict when sexual/romantic feelings will happen, and with whom. Once I became interested in my best friend after we’d known each other for four years. Another time I became interested in another best friend after we’d known each other for two and a half years. Once I had an online acquaintance that I honestly couldn’t stand at first but then they changed or I changed or something happened and we fell in love.

So when I’m sitting across the table at the coffee shop with some random person who’s basically a stranger to me and they want to know What This Is, who am I to say?

Feminism, BDSM, and Me

#sex #BDSM #NSFW

The debate over feminism, BDSM, and whether or not the two are “compatible” has a cyclical nature: every once in a while, it explodes, and people discuss it passionately, and come to some sort of resolution; but a few months or years later, all is forgotten and the debate explodes again.

Here is how I feel about it.

Yes, the feminists who oppose BDSM, or who call themselves “kink-critical,” have one very good point: our desires do not develop in isolation from sociocultural influences. What is sexy to you is not some intrinsic property of The True You that is formed from some idiosyncratic combination of genetics and the uterine environment. It is formed through interactions with the world, from childhood onward (yes, children can very much have a sexuality, and many kinky people say their kinks developed prior to adolescence).

It is facile to claim that your sexuality has nothing to do with your environment, nothing at all.

But then the kink-critical feminists lose me, because they seem to think that the solution to this is to…not do the thing? Think about how Bad it is every time you do it? Somehow force your desires to change? (Is that even possible?)

And why don’t they seem to have a problem with dominant women or submissive men, or with people doing BDSM in queer/transgender contexts? Or with people who get off with water sports or certain foods or crossdressing? Or do they assume that male Doms and female subs is the only way it’s ever done?

Refusing to fuck the way I want to fuck isn’t going to bring down the patriarchy. It’s going to make me and my partners miserable while distracting me from doing the work that might actually help demolish stereotypes about women as passive and weak.

I also think that some of these critics haven’t spent that much time talking to people who enjoy kink and BDSM, because I don’t think they understand the headspace that we’re in.

Here are some reasons I like being submissive during sex:

I like not having to worry about ok what are we doing next what do you want to do what have you been fantasizing about lately do you like doing it this way do you like doing it that way what do you want to do now?

I like indulging in that feeling of completely trusting someone, of knowing that I’m okay with anything they could do to/with me. (By the way, this is only fun because we’ve set limits beforehand and agreed on safe words, which is what most ethical kinksters do.)

I like feeling that my partner finds me so desirable that they “can’t help” but to hold me down and force me to submit to them. (This, too, is only hot because it’s an illusion.)

I like giving someone I’m very fond of everything they want.

I like the physical sensation of having my movement restricted, of being held down forcefully, or being spanked (hard), of having my hair pulled, of being bitten, of being scratched, of my muscles straining, of having my limbs held in awkward positions to make me capitulate. Those things hurt, but they also feel good. I also like how they make me feel mentally.

I like not having to think or worry about when I’m going to have an orgasm or how to accomplish it. (As much as I love the fact that feminist men are generally concerned with their female partners’ pleasure, I really wish this would stop manifesting itself as so are you going to come I really want to make you come I’m just worried that you’re not having a good time what could I do that would be more likely to make you come. For the most part, I don’t care about coming. I don’t have partnered sex for the purpose of having an orgasm.)

I like having this one part of my life where I don’t have to make any decisions or take any initiative.

Yes, I’m quite sure that part of the reason I like all these things is because they have been presented to me from infancy as “sexy.”

But for what it’s worth, I also enjoy domming, and I like plenty of other things that women aren’t “supposed” to: lifting weights and building muscle, messing around with computers, playing video games, having sex with women.

So clearly my interests and desires aren’t just about gender roles, and I don’t think sex is either.

The personal is political in the sense that “personal issues” can reflect political ones, and in the sense that sometimes, personal choices influence other people and that can build a political movement.

But the personal is not political in the sense that I have the obligation to view every single act as political, or to reshape my personal life to be more in line with my political beliefs.

I’m especially uncomfortable with telling people how to fuck. Yes, how you fuck reflects society, and if you want to be a more politically and socially conscious person, it’s probably a good idea to at least spend some time thinking about where your desires might come from, especially as they concern race, gender presentation, body types, things like that.

But no, there’s nothing empowering about forcing yourself to ignore sexual desires that can be expressed safely and consensually.