I have written before about attraction and have tried previously (fairly badly and in copious words) to explain my understanding of it and approach to it. I was reading an entry on sex and disability at My Private Casbah, and started to think further on the mysteries of human attraction and sexuality. Hmm, I see that entry was posted on my birthday… too bad I didn’t read it that day, because it and the accompanying video really are a gift.

Anyway, I really do most often see sexual relationships as a deeply profound mystery. My husband is the only person I have ever had sex with, so my relationship with him is my only reality in terms of partnered sex. In other areas of life where I wonder “how it is” for my friends or acquaintances, it’s usually possible for me to either ask directly, or to peer (when invited) into their homes and relationships and gain some insight to help answer my question. I may not know what it’s like to be a parent or divorced or to have a partner who is constantly absent or at work, or how others experience more mundane aspects of life such as food preparation and housework, or just what life is like in general for another couple or family, but I can experience firsthand at least the most superficial features of these differences from my own life, if not gain a complete understanding. By contrast, the nature of how other couples relate to one another sexually is opaque to me. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not something I would “like” to see; I do not actually want an altered reality where it would be appropriate or desirable to intrude on the most private, intimate moments of my friends or neighbors or random people in the grocery store. But lately for some reason I have been longing to know, to understand, the essence of what it means for other couples to relate to each other physically. What do they do that they call “sex”? But more importantly, why does that work for them, and what role does sex play in their lives? How does their attraction to one another manifest itself? How can it be that even couples who don’t outwardly seem to like each other much still find physical connection to be an important and necessary part of their lives?

I think this wondering explains my recent fascination with material like these films (I haven’t seen any of them in their entirety, and definitely NSFW). Certainly no film or narrative can truly explain what sex is or what it means, but I think these documentaries might be more “true” than traditional porn or sex tips in Cosmo. Mainstream sources might help me understand the purely mechanical ins and outs (ha!) of what society-at-large defines as or believes (or at least what they say they believe) to be “sex,” but don’t really answer my questions. For example, the fact that as a society we are mostly on board nowadays with oral sex and the clitoris is a great thing, but simply knowing how to get yourself or someone else off doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will be able to have sex that you consider great or meaningful, now or in the future. And while knowing how to give a better blow job (though preferably based on your partner’s input, not a how-to article) might be a positive thing for both of you, this improvement is unlikely to be the profound center of your sexual relationship as a couple. Perhaps the general fact that you want blow jobs to be better for your partner is a better outward expression of the essence and meaning of sex in a relationship.

Also, secondary to the fact that mechanics can’t fully explain the meaning of sex and sexuality, as I touched on in my last post with respect to attraction, I think sources like porn and Cosmo may actually be detrimental to a search for understanding. Just as looking at fashion “do”s and “don’t”s in People, following Shape‘s latest spot-reducing workout, reading “hot or not”-type posts on celebrity gossip sites, or believing everything I read about obesity in the mainstream media would tend to actually obscure my ability to understand what is attractive to people as a whole and why people are attracted to one another, absorbing mainstream information about what sex is and what it means seems like it actively leads to incorrect conclusions and incomplete understanding (perhaps largely due to sexism, ageism, racism–e.g. assumptions about people’s sexuality or sexual preferences based on their race or race/gender–ableism, transphobia, and other forms of societal prejudice that attempt to homogenize or prescribe beliefs about and experiences of sex [ETA: I can’t believe I forgot homophobia there. Geez.]).

So instead of being prescriptive about what the parts of the equation called “sexiness” or “attraction” or “love” must consist of for everyone (often-assumed examples include thinness, “prettiness,” and the ability to use the lower half of your body)–an approach that I have always felt is wrongheaded but lately have become more and more convinced is impossibly small and more importantly utterly untrue–wouldn’t it be better to see each sexual relationship as a small miracle? Considering that further, a great book on sex (again, link NSFW) that I have asks, in the context of a discussion of sex and morality, whether it isn’t possible that two unmarried people lovingly sharing oral sex might bring greater joy to God than an unhappy married couple having joyless, compulsory intercourse. Simplified and hypothetical though that question may be, it allowed my views on sex and morality to fall into place when I first read it. Where sex produces joy in both or all parties participating, and is not misused to hurt or to seek only one’s own pleasure, I believe that it is a good thing to be thankful for, and that it brings joy to god (as I understand god, which is to say in a woefully limited way) as well.

The mechanics of how bodies connect to one another are a matter of personal preference and physical constraints (imposed by one’s genitalia, disability or lack thereof, body size and shape, and other factors), but somehow these mechanics when put into practice become more than an engineering problem that can be solved logically for the purpose of allowing people to have orgasms, end of story. Instead, sex takes on a much greater meaning that is a large part of self for many people, and allows a tender, profound connection between human beings who desire to interact with each other in this way–fat people, thin people, mentally and physically disabled people, non-disabled people, people who can communicate efficiently with each other using language and people who can’t, people of different sexes or genders or the same, people whose genitalia don’t “work” the way society says they should. And all of these human beings are pairing with each other in an infinite variety of combinations (I mean, look at that list and consider the two characteristics that are the least likely to be compatible in your own mind, then realize that somewhere there are people with those two characteristics enjoying a fulfilling sexual relationship, and probably a lot more of them then you or I might believe).

I have come to a point, for example, where my former belief that nobody would ever be attracted to me because of my weight is not only something that makes me angry on my own behalf for the way in which it denies my sexuality and attempts to force the world as I experience it into a toxic, tiny, sterile box–but is also a belief that I no longer even understand or can relate to. Reality is just far too complex for that belief to be true or for its premise to make any sense. (Not, of course, that this stops society from hurting, denigrating, and ostracizing fat people on the general belief that this statement is “true” in combination with the idea that discerning what seems to be physically attractive to the majority accurately answers the question of “what is attractive?” Or “what is the essence of attraction and sex?”)

I’m sure I’ll continue pondering sex and sexuality and the meaning of life, probably because I am a living human being and that’s what we do. (For example, recently, I found this thread at Shakesville–also probably NSFW–very nourishing, thought-provoking, and positive as I considered some of my questions.) Sexuality continues to be deeply mysterious to me. I may not understand how it works for everyone else, but it does, and I am thankful for it.