Monday, January 24, 2011

So what is this "sex" stuff anyway?

A close companion and ally of mine recently brought up something that was starting to formulate in my mind, but hadn't reached fruition: how the hell do you define sex, anyway? What does it mean when you say you've had sex with someone?

Answering this is important to me as someone who questions what "sexual attraction" is in the first place. How could I say for sure whether I experience sexual attraction if there isn't a clear idea of what sex is, in the first place?

Now, if the hegemonic idea of sex is when two or more people stimulate one another's genitals, then sexual attraction would mean (at least in part) that you are attracted to someone because you want to stimulate/be stimulated in the genital region. One of the problems with defining sex as genital stimulation is that what is involved in "stimulation" is rather blurry. Do you have to touch someone? What about cybersex? What about some forms of BDSM, where no one is touching at all, and maybe not even speaking or acting in ways that (for others) might be perceived as sexual?

I also have to wonder if genital stimulation is even a necessary component of "sex." What if you get a good foot massage from someone you're interested in, and you feel an intimate connection but you're not on the road to Orgasm City?

My friend suggested that sex is anything which one or more partners involved decide is sex. In that case, I can look back at many things that have happened in my life and now redefine them as sex. Which would mean that, rather than saying I've had 5 sexual partners, I would have to change that number to 10 or maybe 12. Sometimes making out with someone could be considered sex, or being tied up, or even just looking into someone's eyes for a long time can be totally hot.

I'm totally willing to leave the word sex open to interpretation, or even begin using a different word to describe the things I want to do instead. Maybe "experience intimacy" would be better, since the word sex is so historically laden with concepts of genital penetration.

I still think that sexual attraction is defined by specifically being attracted genitally, which I think is part of the reason I reject sexual attraction (conceptually) and consider myself asexual. I mean that I repudiate hegemonic concepts of sexuality so much that my asexuality is in part a way of rejecting that whole institution.

If you could redefine sex, how would you?