Monday, January 28, 2008

Something Different.

I want something different. The only sexual intimacy in my life these days is occasional drunk encounters with near-strangers. I don't want to say that there's anything necessarily wrong with those encounters -- and I'm not unaware of the possibility that my refusal to judge is indeed the problem -- but I want something different.

Lately I have framed this question (of how intimacy figures in my life) as part of my larger inquiry into what it is to be an artist, what an artist does, what kind of a life is ideal, or productive, or available to an artist, what kind of a domestic life an artist needs in order to work, etc. One of the answers I came up with not long ago is that I am more at ease with the management of my life if I explicitly prioritize the work over relationships. (I do this anyway, but to do it openly reduces my anxiety about what I should be doing.) I decided I didn't have any use for a boyfriend or whatever you call it.

So, theoretically, casual sex works. And in some ways it works on a practical level too. I am having fun, is what I mean. But there are too many pitfalls, and I'm kind of thinking lately that it's not worth the risks.

There's emotional risk. I had this idea that it isn't the length or seriousness of the encounter, or how well I know the guy, that is important, but rather my attitude or intention. Meaning that I want sex to be a way to express affection for another human being, rather than a means of feeling better about myself for a few minutes. So I've worked at that, with some success. I don't always get it right.

And there is the health risk. Or I should say, the whole host of health risks. With partners whom I don't care about beyond that moment it's much more difficult to 1) stick to boundaries regarding safety, i.e., what level of risk I'm comfortable with, or what I will and will not do, and 2) know what I'm getting into. (I know they say you should always conduct yourself as if your partner is HIV positive, and that's wise advice, but we all know that the better you know someone, the more likely you are to know something about his disease history, and there are lots of other diseases besides HIV, many of them much easier to catch. I find the whole risk thing to be less like a contract and more like an extemporaneous dance.)

So what is it I want?

There's a guy I see on the bus almost every day. He's tall and muscular with a wide smile and a crewcut. We're in a class together. He noticed me reading one of the books from that class one day last week on the bus, and he said something, we chatted for a few minutes. He probably plays football, is probably from a small town, probably goes to church every Sunday, he has that look. I find myself staring at his chest and thinking how nice it would be to just lay my head there. What is wrong with me?


Anonymous said...

Does "casual" need to always equate to "anonymous"? There is a tremendous range of experiences between a fleeting sexual experience and a boyfriend or long-term relationship...

Steven said...

You mean along the lines of friends-with-benefits, etc.? How does that work? What's the venue for making those connections?

Craigslist and other online sites offer no incentive to do the extra work to make a real connection, because the prospect of an anonymous hookup is constantly being wagged in your face. (Not that I expect it to be handed to me, but I'm wondering if there's some outlet that's more conducive to a richer experience.)

I know a lot about the extremes (serious relationship and anonymous quickie) but not the in-between stuff. Do I have to join a church or take up birding?

m00nchild said...

i like what you write about in the post. especially the part obout managing your life better if you prioritize one thing over another.

it's got me to thinking. i might be on the opposite end of the equation here. i've always prioritized work over relationships. in doing so i'm alone often and that has induced a degree of loneliness in my life with which i'm no longer comfortable.

so when i read what you wrote, something unlocked in me and i realized that i need to prioritize relationships. i'll be happier.

thank you for the 2am epiphany.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in the friends-with-benefits line, yes. How does it work? I don't know. Only you can determine how it works, because you're one of the people involved. Shouldn't it be different every time? People are not formulae.

I can't see why there would have to be a specific venue for making this kind of connection. It's more about a mindset and communication of what that desire is, and culling people you meet for that type of experience. I know, I actually have to put out effort.

I think one place to start might be to look at in what environment you meet people and how you structure that meeting. That, alone, might affect the tone of the interaction from there forward. I doubt that's the only answer to the question.