28 November 2007

Sexuality Getting in the Way

I have had a couple of female friends get very upset, when talking about the issue of sexuality in general, and seeimingly magnified by the issue of homosexuality, because as they see it, our society is so hung up on sexuality that it kind of ruins everything.

Why sexuality is a problem:
It creates false icons we all want to look like.
It kills the beauty of relationships by overfocusing.
It seems to derail people so often from the gospel path.
It taints all conversation in our culture.
It maims puppies and kittens.

...or something like that.

They're astounded at how much people seem to focus on sexuality. They're dismayed when sexuality is always mentioned as a component of a relationship. They're confused at why the idea of lack of sexual intimacy is even such a big concern for so many, including gay men considering marriage as a possibility.

I must mention that these girls are, in fact, girls, and that one is a self-proclaimed asexual and the other having experienced physical attraction of a remotely sexual nature only two or three times.

I don't get that.

At all.

OK, kind of. There WAS that whole time in my life when I suppressed my sexuality because it couldn't POSSIBLY be geared towards boys for real. Back then, I marveled at people's stupidity over sexuality. Now, I'm stupid, too. Dang.

So I guess all I'm trying to say is: what's love got to do with it? Wait, not quite. I'm saying: I think they have a point. As I discussed in my post, Regaining Perspective in a Lovesac, there's a lot more to a relationship than mere physical gratification.

So with that in mind, doesn't it kind of make the whole dilema those of us of a less heterosexual persuasion have about getting married to someone of another gender seem less troublesome? I mean, if sex is just a small part of a relationship, what's our deal? Why don't we just go for it and overcome our "nature", which everyone has to do in some way or another, to do what God so clearly wants for us: in this case, an eternal marriage?

Some thoughts:

1) That's assuming God really does want everyone married in this life. Is it possible he did, in fact, have other roles in mind for some of us for our days on the earth?

2) Acting against one's "nature" in favor of some doctrine requires a fairly strong "testimony" of that doctrine. While many have a testimony of the gospel in general, you'd be hard-pressed to find some among even them who do not have doubts and/or questions regarding certain points of doctrine, at least as they apply personally. That doesn't exactly "excuse" inaction or "disobedience", but maybe it helps temper our judgement of others as we allow them to live by their own individualized timeline, which may frustrate you or me but may well be along a path on which God may be leading that person. That person's voiced frustrations and hesitations may be only the tip of a very large iceberg of personal experience and perspective.

3) While I intellectually understand that sexuality is, perhaps, icing on the cake of a relationship, I also know that my mutual attractions with guys have been more enlivening, invigorating, intense, joyful, and humanizing than my attractions to the few girls I've been attracted to. It's more complete. Feels more "real". More genuine. It's not just about the physical attraction, it's just different. Not sure I can describe it.

Maybe I'm fooling myself and it's just physical. But it doesn't feel that way. And don't get me wrong: it's not that I don't feel a genuine connection with the girls I've been close friends with, some of which I have been attracted to on some level. It's just hard to choose the lesser attraction.

I don't think it's just about sexuality. That's the most obvious difference, though, to point out. Especially for those of us who thought ourselves to be devoid of sexual and fully romantic feelings but then discovered a whole new aspect of life we had been vigorously suppressing for so long, and when we finally acknowledge it, it's a bit like a kid in a candy store, for lack of a better description.

But ask anyone what makes a romantic partner different from a really close friend or exciting new acquaintance. There's just an added dimension of attraction, and it's not only about sexuality. Or is it? Hey straight people, you tell me. I guess I can't say with much authority...


Potentate said...

Have you read "The History of Sexuality," by Michel Foucault?

The first two volumes show that the focus on sexuality has grown enormously and ceaselessly since 400 bc, including in the Victorian age (famous for its supposed sexual repression). I'm just waiting for winter break to start the final volume, which gets into the nitty gritty hows.

Let me know if you wanna borrow 'em. They're a bit dense, but worth it--knowing why we're focused on sex(uality) demystifies it, and therefore makes sex(uality) into a smaller issue.

MoHoHawaii said...

A couple of comments:

1) Asexuals exist. These are people for whom sexuality/romance/etc. plays a very minor role. They wonder what the big deal is about sex and love. I have several asexual (women) friends. They end up getting cats. I swear one of these friends seems to have a closer relationship to her cat than I have to my boyfriend.

2) One of the biggest misconceptions about homosexuality is that it only concerns sexual desire. In fact, for most of us it's mostly about love. It determines who we can love more than who we can have sex with.

Sexual/romantic love is an important part of a healthy pair bond. I think it's what causes the asymmetry in mixed-orientation marriages. Even if there is a lot of friendship and devotion, even if some level of sexual accomodation can be reached, the romantic 'spark' is missing. (In my case, I felt like an impostor when I was married to a woman. I could play the role but it was never natural.)

Good luck to you.

Neal said...


I've also known a number of women who really didn't want sex at all, similar to what you mentioned about your friends. In women, estrogen is the primary sex hormone, and is involved in cell metabolism throughout the entire body. In men, testosterone fills this role. But for BOTH sexes, testosterone is responsible for the libido. In women, small amounts of testosterone are made in the adrenal glands - just enough to give them a healthy sex drive. Its probably easier for something to go wrong in a woman that would cause her to have too little testosterone, and it probably wouldn't have any outward signs (other than no interest in sex). If testosterone production shuts down in a man, however, the results are dramatic and affect many more systems because testoserone is being used as part of the energy engine in all his cells. And his sex drive goes bye-bye.

As far as the importance of sex, I've had several straight, married friends tell me that sex slides from near the top of the "list" when you're first married to a much lower place of importance later on. Especially after you have kids. These are happy, fulfilled, well adjusted people - so I think this natural "re-ranking" is probably normal for most marriages. Sex is one dimension of the relationship, but its not the WHOLE relationship.

I think Ben's latest post with his interview of the wife of an SSA brother brought home something really important, at least to me. The center of that couple's relationship is the Lord - not themselves. I think this probably makes all the difference.



Annabelle said...

As a straight, single, LDS female in Utah all I can tell you is that sexuality is important to me. (I've been told time and time again, however, that I'm not your typical girl). I think that relationships are much more deeply based than just sexuality, but like you said: sometimes it's just the icing on the cake. I don't really know where I'm going with this so I'll stop now. Just felt the need to add my 2 cents. :)

J G-W said...

I guess I would say, if sexuality is not important to you (or if you have no sex drive) you are pretty free to make relationships however you want without it.

If sexuality IS important to you (not "should" sexuality be important or unimportant to you in theory, or in someone else's opinion) then you are probably going to have a hard time adjusting to a relationship in which sexuality plays little or no role, or to a life in which there is no proper outlet for sexuality.

I think our culture does tend to slam down the gas pedal and let way off the brakes when it comes to sex. And this does have an impact on us, I think generally negative. I've found my sex life with my partner FAR more satisfying since I've stopped looking at porn, and started to make wiser choices about what magazines and TV shows I look at. But, push comes to shove, America is a capitalist system, and we find sex everywhere because, HEY! People buy it. If people stopped buying it, then other people would stop selling it. So is the seeming sex-drivenness of our culture a cause or a reflection of inherent human sexuality?

I've come to believe that one of the most vital functions of sexuality is literally to pull us out of our shells and motivate us to connect with others. Sexuality and Sociality are very, very closely linked.

Max Power said...

While I intellectually understand that sexuality is, perhaps, icing on the cake of a relationship

And who wants to eat cake without icing? That's just plain old boring bread.

Kengo Biddles said...

depends on the cake, depends on the icing, Max. I have to say that if it's store-bought cake with about 5" of nasty frosting on it, I wouldn't want the icing...just the cake. :) And that metaphor extends to sexuality, too. Sure, there's a part of me that wishes I'd acted on my SSA and that I knew what it was like to kiss a man, but I'm happy in my marriage and I know I wouldn't trade my wife and kids for any temporary happiness this world can offer.