Postcard: Edinburgh

Edinburgh made me think a lot about sex, more the concept of it than having it. Don’t get me wrong, I love having it. 99% of the sexual experiences in my life have been overwhelmingly positive. But what I’m talking about here is more the What and the Why than the When and the Where and the Would you like to. I’ve been thinking a lot about sex, and a lot about language.

When I was young, sex was only ever a positive thing for me. I first had sex when I’d just turned 16, and it wasn’t exactly a hot, sexually gratifying experience, but it was really nice and with someone I really liked and went on to love. It was safe and comfortable and fun. It wasn’t until I was 20 that sex ever became attached to anything other than feeling free and wanted and happy, and it wasn’t long after a couple of bad experiences that it went back to being, on the whole, a free and happy thing again.

But sex, like all interactions with other people, is such a simple thing with so many complications that can end up attached to it. It can be fun and easy. It can be full of love. It can be full of pain, physical or emotional. It can mean anything and everything and nothing depending on how you have it, when you have it, why you have it, who you have it with.

I started this year toying with the idea of celibacy. I know myself pretty well, and I want to spend this part of my journey thinking with my soul/gut/whatever, not with my pussy. I know I have a tendency to cloud my own judgment where sex is concerned, but I’ve also found sexual encounters to be a really interesting space for honest communication. Yes, consent is honest communication, and consent is absolutely necessary to sex. But I mean honest communication about more than just sex, about how we interact as people, because having sex with someone is a pretty intimate thing to do. Even if it’s casual, it’s still a space in which people tend to talk more openly about where they’re at and what they want than they would in, say, casual conversation at a bar.

I’ve since decided not to spend this year celibate, at least not actively so. I’m not going out looking to get laid all the time, but when I meet people and it happens, cool. The one thing I am consciously doing is using sexual encounters as spaces of honest communication. When you’re alone in a room with someone, be it someone you know and love or someone you just met, you can (usually) talk a bit about what you’re doing there and the person might actually listen to you, or at least give you space to speak.

I’m using sex as a laboratory for how I want to interact with people in general. Sometimes being naked and alone with someone is the single hardest place to be honest, and sometimes it’s the easiest. Sex is filled with communication, even if you never speak. You communicate what you like, what you want from that person, what you give to them. You can communicate attraction and desire and love and fear and anger and self-consciousness and confidence and just about anything. And if you do speak, the words you say around sex can mean so many different things. I’m trying to pick what I say carefully, and make it clear what I mean.

When I say, I’m not looking for anything…

Most people who say this mean something like, “I’m not looking for a romantic relationship with you.” Or, more specifically, “I’m actively looking to have casual sex with you without any emotional connection whatsoever.”

What I mean is – I’m not looking for anything. I’m not looking to marry you, fall in love with you, or date you. I’m not looking to have sex with you, casual or otherwise. I’m not looking to talk to you, connect with you, or ignore you. I’m not looking for romance. I’m not looking for no romance. I’m not looking for casual sex. I’m not looking for human interaction. I’m not looking for solitude. I’m not looking for anything in particular. And while I’m open to most experiences, I’m not looking for anything. I’m trying to just interact with the world and with myself and let things happen as they do and be what they are.

When I say, I don’t want any expectations…

Again, most people mean, “I want to have casual sex and not connect emotionally and probably never speak again.”

What I mean is – I don’t want any expectations. I don’t want us being at a bar together to hold any expectation that you will buy me a drink. I don’t want buying me a drink to hold any expectation that I will talk to you. I don’t want talking to you to hold any expectation that we will kiss. I don’t want kissing you to hold any expectation that I will go home with you. I don’t want going home with you to hold any expectation that we will fuck. I don’t want fucking to hold any expectation that we will fuck again. I don’t want fucking to hold any expectation that we won’t fuck again. I don’t want fucking to hold any expectation that we will fall in love. I don’t want fucking to hold any expectation that we won’t fall in love. I don’t want any expectations, other than what I and you actually say we will do, and even then, I want the option to choose not to at any point.

This one gets a bit sticky, because so many actions have so many implied expectations just by cultural norm. For the most part, you can’t just act without expectation and be understood in exactly what you’re doing. You also can’t really stand at a crowded bar and explain to every single stranger you encounter that the entire way Western society treats sexual encounters and gender roles and emotions is pretty fucked up and you don’t want to buy into it. It’s a balancing act.

I’m trying to figure out the simplest, easiest ways to get across what I mean to people in casual conversation, and it takes time to figure that out, and of course, always depends on the person and the context. I welcome any advice on how to do so clearly and quickly.

For the most part, I’m sticking with the idea that I do need to explain myself a bit to most people if I want to be properly understood. If my goal is honest communication, I should explain in some way that I have no expectations of them, and I hope they have no expectations of me, and I’m not interested in interacting with them if they hold any other expectations than what I actually say I will do. After a certain point, the other person’s dishonesty isn’t really my problem. You can only do so much, and you can’t ever control other people.

When I say, This doesn’t have to mean anything…

Most people mean, again, “This is casual sex without emotional attachment.”

What I mean is – This doesn’t have to mean anything. As in, any particular thing or nothing or anything at all. It can be meaningless. It can be meaningful. It can have any meaning we give it. But I don’t want to go into any social interaction, be it sexual or otherwise, with the express idea that that encounter means any particular thing. Because it doesn’t. And what it means to me, it may not mean to you. And what it means to me now, it may not mean to me later.

When I say, I’m only interested in honest people…

Most people usually mean, “I want a ‘good’ guy who wants to date me and means it when he says he likes me,” or something along these lines.

What I mean is – I’m only interested in people who speak and interact honestly. If that honesty is, “Hello, stranger, I find you sexually attractive and wish to have casual sex with you tonight and not tell my wife with whom I have two kids,” alright. If I’m attracted to you too and in the mood to fuck, let’s get it on. Your relationships with anyone other than me are your business and not mine. My relationships with anyone other than you are my business and not yours.

I also mean that I’m only interested in people with whom I can be honest. If I explain myself to someone and they ignore me, or refuse to listen, or act in any way that implies either, I’m not interested. I also mean that I will be honest with you. I will explain where I’m at and what I’m doing and what I feel in that moment. I will ask you to do the same, and if I feel I’ve made myself clear, I will take you at your word that you too are being honest.

If you ask me about my life, my relationships with others, be they romantic or sexual or platonic, I may tell you all about them. I also may say, “That isn’t any of your business.” But I won’t lie.

When I say, I’m looking for new experiences…

I don’t know what most people mean when they say this, but a lot of times I think it can be something like, “I want to have lesbian sex! I want to have a threesome! I want to fuck a stranger in a new country! I want to have loads of one-night stands and never call them! I want to fall in love in a foreign country and maybe never see them again!”

What I mean is – I’m looking for new experiences. This is not my first rodeo. Lesbian sex? Been there, done that. Threesome? Same. Foursome? Same. Fucking a stranger in a new country? Yep. One-night stands? Yep. Even loads of one night stands? Yep. Fallen in love in a foreign country with someone I may never see again? You guessed it! Been there, done that too. Yawn. Next?

It’s not that those things aren’t great or weren’t at the time. For the most part, they were and are and they’re things I’m pretty sure I’ll do again. But I’m not actively seeking experiences I’ve already had. And it’s not just about sex, none of this is just about sex, it’s about experience in general. I’m traveling because I want to see and do and be new things. Pet an elephant in India? Yep, done that. Take acid with hippies in France? Yep, done that. Skank my ass off at a club in London? Yep, done that.

How about, go on a silent meditation retreat? Spend a month’s worth of Saturday nights in bed, reading? Live out of a backpack for months on end? Couchsurf with strangers? Hitchhike? Dumpster dive? Grow out my armpit hair? Have a full-on Dom/sub relationship with someone? Be completely open and honest about myself with everyone I meet? Go into experiences without expectations?

These are things I haven’t really done. Some of them I want to do, some of them I may do, some of them I may not. I’m not trying to do everything I haven’t done – that wouldn’t even be possible. Even the things I have done, I could still do in new ways. But I’m just not interested in having the same experiences I’ve already had. And I’m not interested in anything false. And I’m not interested in any experience, any person, anything, that tries to be anything other than what it is.

And maybe being celibate would be good for me. Maybe I’ll try it for a while. But for now, I’m settling for taking things as they come (or cum, as the case may be. Ha.) And there’s only so much I can do to express myself and my intentions to people before their dishonesty or lack of understanding isn’t really my problem anymore.

It’s about you doin’ you, boo, but maintaining a duty of care. Because we usually do have to interact with other human beings in some way at some point, and if we want to have honest and open and free interactions with them, there’s usually some shit we have to clear out of the way first. Maybe I’ll end up wandering alone in the wilderness a la Chris McCandless, maybe I’ll end up married with children, maybe I’ll end up the leader of a revolutionary movement, I don’t know.

I don’t want to know, at least not yet.


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