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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Finding Sexually Open Spaces after Years of Hiding

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Author Topic: Finding Sexually Open Spaces after Years of Hiding
Teaspoon
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So. I’m 24 years old, male, and more or less bisexual. I’ve never been interested in any kind of romantic relationship, I’ve never been interested in flirting, and to treat sex and sexuality like especially private matters makes me uncomfortable. I grew up thinking that other people were only okay with sex when it’s part of romance, and so for most of my life since puberty, even though privacy feels so suffocating, I’ve tried to keep people from knowing I had any sexual interest in them or developing any in me.

Then, a year ago, about the time I graduated from college, I was convinced that plenty of people have casual sex and that if they’re secretive and indirect about it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ashamed or afraid, just that they want privacy. So now I’m a lot less scared that people will misunderstand or hate me, but I’ve been feeling really lost because they still don’t communicate in the ways I understand. There’s obviously a lot of variation in other people’s privacy standards, and now that I’m about to leave my family again to start grad school, and don’t expect to come back afterwards this time, I’m hoping I can find the social contexts where the least privacy is expected and choose to spend as much time as I can there instead of just hiding like before. But I’m afraid of asking about people’s privacy standards because that itself seems likely to overstep them, and I worry that if I’m cautious and rely on observation, people will think I’m the easily offended one and be more secretive because of me. It’s true I’m also hoping to start having partnered sex somehow, but escaping privacy is way more important to me. So with this post I’m hoping more than anything for advice on how to find and get accepted by more sexually open environments.

One complication worth mentioning is alcohol. I don’t drink it and I’m not comfortable being around other people when they’re drunk, though I could probably overcome that last part as long as most people respected my decision not to drink. As far as I can tell, the environment that would have been least uncomfortable sexually for me so far was college parties, and it was also the most full of alcohol. It sounds like even outside of college the most alcohol-heavy contexts are usually the least private ones, so I guess I’ll have to make that tradeoff, but I want to avoid it if I can.

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Heather
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Welcome to the boards, Teaspoon. [Smile]

I'm not sure I quite get what you're asking here: is it for some helps on how to navigate socio-sexual environments where you are more out and where pursuing or engaging in sexual interactions isn't something you want to be, or need to be, so private about?

Per the alcohol, I don't think that you have to accept environments where people are drinking in order to pursue sexual interactions with people if that's not something you want. There certainly are alternatives, and I'd say there are far more of them out and about in a given city -- if we're talking about living urban or fairly urban -- than you'd have found on your average college campus.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Teaspoon
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If it's hard to understand what I'm asking that's probably because I'm confused myself. I think this is the most concretely I can state it: engaging in, pursuing, or just talking about sexual interactions are things I've never wanted to be private about, and I'm asking for help on how to look for environments where I don't need to. I've sure never been in one, at least knowingly. Well, strictly speaking there was one time, but the circumstances were really unusual and could identify the college if I explained. My college friends barely ever talked about other people's sex lives and even less about their own, and though one of them told me that sexual stares between college students weren't usually offensive (this was right before graduation when I was in the middle of trying to figure this stuff out) I've no idea how I would have known that, assuming it was true. I've been looking all over the internet for indications of where privacy rules are least restrictive, and in the college library until I left, and the only evidence I've found points to parties, nightclubs, and bars. I've never lived in a city, only small towns and totally rural places, so maybe that affected my experience. And I am about to move to a city, and if I stay on the career path I'm on I might live in cities most of my life, but it's not the kind of place I'd choose otherwise.

Anyway, that's all the clarification I can think of for now.

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Heather
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Okay. I still may not totally get it, but I'm going to have a go, and if what I say feels way off track, by all means, let me know and we can reroute this, okay?

Ultimately, I'm not sure there's any spaces where how much or how little privacy people want per talking about sex and sexuality, or having sexual interactions, isn't very personal. In other words, where there are any one set of rules -- or lack thereof -- where everyone feels the same way.

In other words, even at, say, a bar, you're going to find one person who has their own ideas about, and comfort with, given levels of privacy, and probably someone else who is radically different.

Ultimately, I'd say that in most environments, the trick is just knowing what YOU want and need, and then coming to others with the understanding that they may or may not be the same way. So, just like you might with anything else that most people find pretty personal you're going to approach people, be it for conversations or with sexual flirtations pretty gently and gingerly unless they put something really out there at you that gives you a clear indication of where they're at with the privacy. Is this making sense?

If that feels super-obtuse, the answer to some of this might be just exploring different environments and observing other people to get a sense of the general vibe of a place, the people in it, and how they're socializing around this. Just watching and listening to others usually gives us a lot of social cues in any given environment.

In your initial post, you said that people don't communicate in ways you can understand: maybe it'd help if you filled us in a bit more about that?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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You definitely get what I'm talking about, and what you say is to the point. It's advice I'd have a hard time following, but maybe there isn't any better.

I'll try to explain what I mean about people not communicating in ways I can understand. The trouble is I don't know of anything else that is personal for people the same way sex is. The only things I'm not comfortable talking about are things I feel guilty about or that I'm worried will make someone mad, and the only things I'm not comfortable knowing or witnessing are scary or painful things. Before this last year I thought sexual privacy was about guilt or fear too, or else had something to do with romance. I thought that if many people didn't feel romantic about sex and weren't ashamed of it, I'd have heard them talking about it. Now it sounds like there's no particular reason why people don't like talking about sexual things or knowing about them or witnessing them, it's just unpleasant for them. So when I say people don't communicate in ways I understand, mostly I mean they don't communicate. Then when people flirt, I guess they communicate something, but I still don't understand what.

There have got to be ways of talking about privacy with an acceptable risk of overstepping it, or nobody would ever communicate about sex at all. It sounds like that’s what you’re calling “gently and gingerly.” The problem for me is that I don’t know the difference. When I try to imagine talking harshly, all that comes to mind is sounding hostile, and since sexual privacy isn’t about fear, it doesn’t seem like being non-judgmental could be enough.

Observing sounds more possible in theory. On the other hand, I’ve tried to be observant up til now and the conclusions I came to were totally wrong. I feel like if secrecy isn’t hostility I can’t count on anything being what it looks like.

The best strategy I’ve been able to come up with on my own is to always start cautious and try to match any relaxing of privacy from another person. It’s just frustrating to have to leave everything up to other people.

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Robin Lee
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Hi Teaspoon,

There's a lot to address here, but first and foremost I'm wondering: What do you think would happen if you communicated in ways that you're comfortable communicating?

That is, starting out slow and cautious when getting to know someone on any level or around any subject is just respectful. And certainly it's sound and respectful to follow other people's cues but you also get to be yourself so long as you're not intentionally being disrespectful in being yourself. So, I think I'm wondering; What does being yourself look like?

[ 07-03-2013, 07:06 AM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Robin

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September
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quote:
Originally posted by Teaspoon:

The best strategy I’ve been able to come up with on my own is to always start cautious and try to match any relaxing of privacy from another person. It’s just frustrating to have to leave everything up to other people.

Also, about this: I'd try and reframe this and see it as more of a collaborative effort. People are more willing to open up when they feel that the other person is open with them as well, and treats them with respect. And you can help create that environment and thus work towards open and honest conversation in tandem with the other person.

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Johanna
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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Robin Lee:
Hi Teaspoon,

There's a lot to address here, but first and foremost I'm wondering: What do you think would happen if you communicated in ways that you're comfortable communicating?

That's a very good question and I'm not sure I know the answer. I guess for some things, say if I retold a dream without censoring the sexual parts, I'm just worried about making people feel really embarrassed or awkward. For things that refer to specific people, say if there was someone I know in the sex dreams and I said who, or if I happened to look too directly at someone I thought was attractive, I think I'd be considered creepy or maybe even harassing. And my sense is that asking whether something like this is creepy would be practically as creepy as just going ahead and doing it.

quote:
Originally posted by Robin Lee:
That is, starting out slow and cautious when getting to know someone on any level or around any subject is just respectful.

I'm not totally sure what you're getting at. On most subjects I either say what's on my mind or don't say anything. That's worked fine so far, especially with other straightforward people. I'm introverted and don't have a lot of experience meeting new people. I've always lived in places rural enough that most people knew who most people were. The only time I had to make new friends from scratch, without having any other friends/family/acquaintances around, was when I started college. But I did make as many friends as I could deal with, and I don't think I made any enemies. So I'm definitely not the most tactful or subtle person around, but I think most people would call me respectful and of course honest.

quote:
Originally posted by Robin Lee:
And certainly it's sound and respectful to follow other people's cues but you also get to be yourself so long as you're not intentionally being disrespectful in being yourself. So, I think I'm wondering; What does being yourself look like?


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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by September:
quote:
Originally posted by Teaspoon:

The best strategy I’ve been able to come up with on my own is to always start cautious and try to match any relaxing of privacy from another person. It’s just frustrating to have to leave everything up to other people.

Also, about this: I'd try and reframe this and see it as more of a collaborative effort. People are more willing to open up when they feel that the other person is open with them as well, and treats them with respect. And you can help create that environment and thus work towards open and honest conversation in tandem with the other person.
Well, that's what I'd expect. I'd sure feel a lot safer opening up if other people were open with me! But with sex, saying what you think is considered disrespect as often as not.
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Heather
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I'm going to pop in here as someone who has always been a very sexually direct and forward person, and where sex has also been my job for long enough that the way I talk about it tends to, in general, be far more candid and relaxed than how other people do.

Here's the thing: if we want to be very candid and direct, we get to be. Almost anywhere, actually. Seriously, sparing things like touching people without asking, or going on about sex or the pursuit of it candidly when it's obviously making someone very uncomfortable, especially when they have asked us to stop, we do.

What we risk, of course, if and when we do that, pretty much anywhere, is that for someone who isn't so direct, comfortable or candid, they'll feel uncomfortable. And that can mean discomfort for them that isn't fun, and, on our end, perhaps not getting to pursue the things we might have been able to with a quieter, gentler approach, whether those things are talking with that person or being sexual with them.

But, of course, the same can be said of people who don't pick up on or respond to things that are more subtle, and who kind of pick for the direct or candid.

So, middle ground? It's often just a thing to try and find. And since that's something we need to do anyway when being sexual with people -- meet each other where we are, and ideally, if we're in different places, somewhere in the middle -- it's just kind of a thing we all need to learn to do.

But too, something like looking at someone? That's not harassment. And you can't really control for someone who thinks or feels it is, you know?

When you asked earlier about what other thing people can often think or feel about the way they are with sex per how privately they want to talk about it or not, how comfortable they are with it or not? The first thing I thought of was death. Obviously, that's a very different thing in most ways than sex, but I'd say people vary about as much around it, and how and where they want to talk about it, etc. as with sex, and it tends to be about as personal as sex for many people.

Now, I grew up with a lot of gallows humor, and have also experienced a lot of death so, like with sex, sometimes I'll find I talk about it in an open, relaxed way that some people are mortified by. if and when that happens? I just back it up, go with their comfort level, and we go from there. No harm, no foul. And if they do feel it was a foul, but I didn't intend to offend or freak them out, etc? Then they get to feel that way, but I don't have to go hide my head in the sand or anything. People don't always connect well when communicating sometimes, including about very loaded things.

I think we can say the same is true with sex when, again, we're not doing things that are, earnestly, harassment.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Oh, and those spaces you're looking for? Really, I think you'll know them as you find them, and observe them. Over time in a given place or group, the mores of it do tend to become clear. It's just often not so easy to figure that out when a place or group is super shiny and new. It usually takes a little bit of time.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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I guess my questions are more or less answered. To summarize/paraphrase what Heather seems to be telling me: Spaces with deliberately loosened privacy are hopelessly unusual, but spaces flexible enough to be manageable for me are much more common than they look. There's no better way to find them than trial and error, but because they're common I will find them that way. I should worry less about offending people unintentionally and concentrate more on getting over my own old anxieties.

I'm not sure how I'm going to reconcile what Heather says about harassment, at least, with the other things I keep reading and hearing. Usually it sounds like depending on how you look at someone, it can be plenty hostile. Whatever. I guess if I've accepted there's such a thing as too much information, I should be used to harder paradoxes. I better just take it on faith that anything that sounds like an attack on me really isn't. Well, at least unless it names me by name or something.

Well, thanks everyone, and I'll check back in case you had more to say.

[ 07-06-2013, 08:05 PM: Message edited by: Teaspoon ]

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Molias
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Hi Teaspoon,

I wanted to check in about the harassment issue: is there a specific sort of scenario you are curious about, or things you've heard are an issue that you aren't sure how to navigate?

If you feel like you have a hard time reading people's reactions to you or having feel of how a certain social group might take a certain level of sexual discussion, I think it's a good rule of thumb to get into those conversations slowly: enter at the shallow end of the pool, so to speak.

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Teaspoon
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I guess this'll take some explaining to be at all clear.

I don't have much trouble with offensiveness/harassment issues when they're about being physically invasive. Things like touching someone without asking aren't things I'd ever do or that I'd typically welcome. It's when transfer of information gives offense that I'm confused. The scenarios I've mostly heard of for that are sexual stares and sexual compliments or comments, and then sometimes it sounds like telling one person what you feel about a third person can also be a problem.

There are two different problems for me here. One is to make sure I don't give offense. The scenario where that looks trickiest is with staring. I mean, it's obvious people do look more closely at someone they're attracted to than they would otherwise, but it also sounds like most people at least some of the time (not me) would be bothered, for example, if they noticed someone staring attentively at their crotch. But short of that anybody's boundary could be anywhere, as far as I can tell, and it's even harder to guess how big a deal it'll be if I cross it by mistake. Up til now I've usually been hyper-cautious and tried to seem as equally uninterested in everyone's body as I could while still noticing what they look like. I know that's overkill and it's mentally exhausting and it feels dishonest. That's why I want so much to be among people with clearer and ideally less restrictive standards. I'd have similar concerns about sexual compliments, except I don't hand out any kind of compliments very lightly, and speech is more deliberate than gaze anyway.

The second problem is to tell when people are just talking about this kind of harassment and when they're prejudiced against people who are interested in non-romantic sex. See, when I first learned words like "objectify" and "harass" I was still being told that it was bad to be interested in someone sexually unless you were interested romantically too, and it made sense to me that if you think it's wrong for someone to desire you it feels degrading to know you're desired. Now I understand, intellectually anyway, that people can have no problem with being desired and still be offended by knowing about it. But in discussions about creepiness or harassment it's usually ambiguous whether people are condemning the desire or the information transfer and I still tend to feel attacked when I run into them. If it's on a website like this one I can usually reassure myself that the criticisms aren't targeted at people like me because the site has other pages that say so, but when it's a face-to-face conversation or I usually don't know what the people's attitudes are, so I can't even be sure my fear is irrational.

Anyway, that turned out even longer than I thought it would, but I hope it clarifies why I brought up harassment.

While I'm at it I might as well clarify something else, why I'd rather look for sexually open groups than individuals if at all possible. Taking each person individually sounds discouraging because it sounds like the best I can ever hope for is a few friends I can feel comfortable with, and I'll still have to censor myself completely when anyone besides them is around. That's something, but it seems like a pitiful little reward for a lot of trouble.

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Redskies
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Hi, Teaspoon. There are quite a lot of discussions in various places about objectification and exactly what it is, and some of those discussions are definitely a little muddled. I think that the most helpful way of thinking of objectification is that it's when someone -as an object- is more important than them being -a person-. For example, if we're only noticing someone's body or only interested in our physical attraction to them, that becomes objectification not when the physical is more important To Us, but when we don't remember or don't care that there's a person inside and don't, in the grand scheme of things, grant their personhood and humanity a higher status than our own thoughts about them. Does that make sense?

I think that that ties in to why most people would be uncomfortable with having their crotch stared at. If someone's staring at one part of our body, it seems like that body part is the most important thing to them and the only thing they're really noticing. Even with physical attraction, attraction and desire is usually about much more than one body part. Most people would rather that someone acknowledged they were more than a body part, and more than a collection of body parts.

I wonder if you're missing something when you frame the situation as either/or "desire or the information transfer". When people talk about creepiness or harassment around comments or stares, often the actual problem is neither of these things. Unfortunately, often in our society the "information transfer", as you put it, is not the neutral act it sounds like. Take an example of a stranger shouting a sexual remark at someone across the street saying that the stranger approves of some sexual part of them, finds them attractive and wants to have sex with them (I realise from what you write that you know this bothers people and I'm not suggesting that you do this, only trying to illustrate something): what's Really happening there? People who do this often argue that they're "just saying" or "it's a compliment", but they're being disingenuous. It's a complex social phenomenon that we don't have definitive answers to yet, but it seems like what the stranger is doing is demonstrating that they Can say that, in many cases demonstrating power, demonstrating that their opinion of someone else's body should be relevant to the world and should have an impact on the person whose body it is, or they're enjoying getting some kind of a response from the person. They know that most people don't like it, but they do it anyway. That's selfish, and objectifying, and because they're involving the other person, it's harassment. It isn't simply a transfer of information.

Does that help clear any of this up a little?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Redskies:

Does that help clear any of this up a little?

Eeeh, maybe a little but not very much. The first paragraph is exactly what I've thought since I was sixteen. The second one loses me. I mean, a friend of mine once remarked on how embarrassing it is when a woman has something written on the chest of her shirt and you read it and she thinks you’re looking at her chest. It confuses me that you can read someone’s clothing without reducing them to letters on cloth but you can’t look at their breasts without making them think you’re reducing them to body parts. Obviously there are differences but I don’t get why they’re relevant differences.

I’m also confused by your third paragraph. At least on the surface it looks circular: sexual compliments are taken as insults because that’s how they’re used, and they’re used that way because that’s how they’re taken. But there’s got to be some reason why somebody in the interaction feels it’s naturally offensive. All I can think of is that people instinctively don’t like knowing what someone else thinks about their body (the “information transfer”) and so other people know they can insult them by saying what they think. Goodness knows there could be something else I’m missing.

Anyway, I’ve been an eyewitness to this sort of thing only once or twice that I can remember. With those times and some of the real-life examples I read about on the Internet in trying to understand, or things I’ve seen in fiction, there’s other context that makes it clear the “complimenter” doesn’t mean it in a friendly way. So it’s quite clear to me that the people who are blamed for this kind of thing do mean to be aggressive, and that’s comforting to know in one way, but it’s frightening in another to see that an argument I could see myself making in good faith is only ever made disingenuously. But with less detailed stories, or hypothetical examples (and offline what I run into is almost always hypothetical examples) I just have to assume.

And though I really do want to understand these issues in theory and it might help me feel more confident in other people’s rationality, it might not be enough to solve the practical problems: how to avoid giving offense, convey that I’m okay with looks or comments that other people might not be, and tell whether I’m among people with an idea of objectification like the one I grew up with or one you said.

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Heather
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Maybe let's start with this: in any actions you've taken or thought about taking, do YOU think you are seeing or treating other people as objects? Do YOU think you are harassing anyone?

Let's set aside what other people might think or say about these issues or possibilities, particularly if they are not people saying they personally feel you are harassing them: what do YOU think?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Maybe let's start with this: in any actions you've taken or thought about taking, do YOU think you are seeing or treating other people as objects? Do YOU think you are harassing anyone?

Not at all.
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Robin Lee
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Okay, so you don't think that you currently harass people or have in the past. So, you're not, as far as you know, a harassing person to be around.


Are you, then, afraid of something theoretical instead of something you know yourself to have a habit of?

I'm wondering if part of this may be being able to accept that no one can predict every social situation, or how to handle every social situation, and that we're all going to make social gaffes every once in a while. our responsibility as human beings, I think, is to be kind and considerate of other people, not to be perfect all the time.

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Robin

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Heather
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Personally, given that solid no, I'd lobby for doing what you can to let go of the level of concern you're having about all of this. I'd say you just go with your gut, behave the way you want to behave, and see how it goes.

Like I said earlier, if we're being good about consent -- we're not touching anyone without permission, we're not pursuing anyone sexually with flirtations or requests who have made clear to us that isn't something they want? I, personally, really think it's all good.

Might you -- or anyone -- overstep unintentionally or accidentally sometimes still? Yes, but not in any huge way, and life goes on when people overstep in small ways. Whether we're the one who overstepped or someone overstepped with us like that, it truly is not a big deal. It happens, we say, "Sorry, misread you there," or whatever, move on, and everything god on, no harm, no foul, you know?

I'm reminded a bit with this of this question and answer -- the second one in the piece -- from a while back: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/double_feature_harassment_and_flirting Perhaps it might help?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Teaspoon
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Well, I read the question and answer months ago, and the practical advice contrasting more appropriate and less appropriate things to do looks really hard to apply. Besides the privacy issue, maybe it's because the question and answer is about flirting and I don't want to flirt. Anyway, to me the supposedly appropriate ones sound more manipulative, sometimes more invasive, and definitely less like I would want to be approached than the inappropriate ones.

It's true this is about predictability. I mean, I've already had to ignore assumptions so basic I didn't know I was making them just to believe that most other people aren't my enemies. It makes sense to me that small, accidental mistakes wouldn't be a big deal for anyone, but it's hard for me to convince myself that I would only make small mistakes, or that people would believe they're accidental, and it's still a little hard to trust that people would tell me I'd made them. I'm sure that as long as I make a good-faith effort to respect people's boundaries, especially if I try to go slowly, I'm much more likely to undershoot them than overshoot them. But then it seems like I'm bound to do one or the other, and by a lot, unless I can get them spelled out for me somehow.

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Heather
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I'm not sure what you mean by saying you don't want to flirt. can you explain what you mean by that to me?

Do you mean you don't want to express sexual interest in subtle or nuanced ways, but be more direct? If so, I'd say being direct can be flirting, too. Or, you don't have to call it that. (Honestly, I'm not sure I ever have for myself, if that helps, though my impression is that more direct approach is still often perceived as flirtation by others it's directed to, because what it is is still just being friendly and expressing a sexual interest, which is, effectively, what flirting is.)

I also hear you saying you're worried you'd make more than small missteps. Can I ask why? Are you honestly worried, for instance, you will be unable to stop extending a sexual invitation to someone after they have declined it? Or that you won't be able to keep yourself from touching someone when you don't have their express permission to do that?

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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I'm not sure what you mean by saying you don't want to flirt. can you explain what you mean by that to me?

Do you mean you don't want to express sexual interest in subtle or nuanced ways, but be more direct? If so, I'd say being direct can be flirting, too. Or, you don't have to call it that. (Honestly, I'm not sure I ever have for myself, if that helps, though my impression is that more direct approach is still often perceived as flirtation by others it's directed to, because what it is is still just being friendly and expressing a sexual interest, which is, effectively, what flirting is.)

I only have the vaguest idea of what people mean by flirting except it doesn't normally sound like anything fun. Needing to be direct is at least part of it, though. Also that so much of it is nonverbal without being exactly sexual. I don't read body language very well and I doubt other people read mine very well either. Actually, I've been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome because of that and other things which I've mostly already mentioned, and I know lots of people with Asperger's have trouble with flirting. But on romance and privacy they don't sound any more like me than anyone else does.

Maybe the clearest way of explaining where I am on this is to react to the question and answer point by point, then summing it up at the end.

When in doubt, it's best to start with two-way communications that involve words. So obviously that part makes perfect sense to me and is right in line with my preferences.

questions like "I like talking with you, do you want go sit over here alone where we can talk some more?" or "I'd like to sit a little closer to you, is that okay?" make your interest clear Like a lot of the recommended stuff, this sounds friendly enough, but doesn't come across to me as having much to do with sex.

A lot of flirting also involves making clear you're interested in the other person as a whole person, and actually want to connect with them, so asking about themselves and their lives are basic parts of flirting. I definitely care about people's feelings and don't want them to feel bad, but I don't typically want to know random stuff about their life, unless I'm trying to make friends for the long term - not just be friendly. Like I already said, I'm introverted, which is another typical Asperger thing of course. If making a social connection is part of flirting, then I can't flirt sincerely. If I didn't have such clear evidence to the contrary, I'd think this sentence meant you thought all sex had to be romantic. And if somebody drew me into a long tiring conversation and then it turned out the reason was they wanted to have sex, I think I'd be kind of annoyed.

When you ask about those things, you want to aim to ask about things you think most people would openly share with each other. Asking what they like to do when they're not at school or where they're from, for example, is fine. Asking them if they've had sex before or if they're wearing underwear? Not so much. Of course privacy makes this a little weird. It's true I don't openly share those things either, but it's not by my choice, only because I've been scared of how people would react. And they're at least more relevant than the other things. So going out of my way to avoid them is uncomfortable, though of course doable.

If we don't know someone well or aren't certain they want sexual or romantic attention from us yet, it's wise to consider anything overt around those things off-limits with flirting. "You've got a great rack," "You seem like you'd be fun in bed," or "Just so you know, I give really good head," isn't usually going to hit it out of the park with people who aren't already in an intimate relationship with you, aren't already very comfortable with you, or who don't have interest in being sexual with you. Comments like those are usually to feel like harassment to people outside those spheres, especially those who are members of groups which are more sexually vulnerable or more routinely or institutionally harassed or objectified. Sometimes you might hear straight guys say they'd love to hear those kinds of comments, but in reality it probably wouldn't be as great like it might seem, especially when those kinds of comments were things you heard all the time, often came from people you didn't like, have interest in or feel safe around yet, or if that was the only or primary way the world seemed to see and interact with you. Partly I get this. I wouldn't want everything people said to me to be about sex, either. And this isn't dangerous for me because I don't usually give spontaneous compliments about anything. But never hearing stuff like that makes it hard to believe that anyone could be attracted to me at all, let alone interested in having sex. Especially when people are giving me and each other the most trivial sort of non-sexual compliments all the time.

On the other hand, comments like "You have a great smile," "You're a lot of fun," or "I really like to dance, do you?" are generally a lot more welcomed, more appropriate and are unlikely to harass anyone, especially if when they don't respond or don't respond warmly, you walk away and give them space, figuring you threw a ball out there and they decided not to catch it, so it's a no-go. Again, these sound like they only have a little to do with sex and they sound just as annoying to hear over and over. And I don't usually respond warmly to trivial comments of any kind.

Making direct eye contact is a way to show your interest and invite someone else's, and doesn't tend to push boundaries or be perceived as inappropriate. Someone can always just look away (and if and when they do, that's usually a cue that they're not interested). On the other hand, staring at someone's bottom is a different story, especially since their bottom can't stare back: it's a one-way interaction. Remember: flirting is about interactions we intend to be two-way. This is totally the reverse of my comfort levels. Making eye contact doesn't just invite a response, it forces one, and with no time to decide. I can make eye contact, but if someone makes eye contact with me without warning I'm bound to look away just out of startlement. Besides which, there's any number of welcome or unwelcome things it could have to do with besides sex. But if someone was looking at my butt, I might not even notice, it would be easy to ignore, and there would be plenty of ways to respond if I wanted to. So to me it doesn't seem very communicative, but also not very intrusive.

Smiling at someone is often part of how people flirt, as is having open body language, like not sitting with your arms crossed or your body turned away from them. You cam smile at them and see if they smile back; you can turn towards them and see if they turn towards you or turn away. Again, these could have to do with tons of things besides sex, I don't often notice them, and I don't react to them if I'm thinking about something else. If someone tried to flirt with me that way, there's no way they wouldn't think I was rejecting them.

Big picture: For me to approach a possible sexual partner this way would feel like too much of a chore to possibly be worth it. If someone else approached me that way, it's unlikely I would have any idea they were interested in sex and very likely they'd think I was turning them down.

Actually, if this is really how people act even about nonromantic sex, it's a reasonable guess people have already tried to flirt with me without my ever noticing. The only time I think someone was trying to flirt with me and I did catch on wasn't any more obviously sexual than this, but it was more obviously not ordinary friendliness.

As for how I'd look for a sexual partner, given the opportunity, I'd ask straight out. It's hard to envision details since it's so hypothetical, but I imagine it going something like, "You know, I've been thinking I'd like to have sex with you. You figure it's a good idea?" But I don't know when, if ever, I can expect anyone to consider that a reasonable question.

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I also hear you saying you're worried you'd make more than small missteps. Can I ask why? Are you honestly worried, for instance, you will be unable to stop extending a sexual invitation to someone after they have declined it? Or that you won't be able to keep yourself from touching someone when you don't have their express permission to do that?

No, not at all. I was thinking of things more like, I don't know, if someone was staring at my crotch or whatever body part, and I thought it was okay to look back at theirs, but something about the context had changed that they thought anyone would know was relevant, but I didn't, and they accused me of insulting them on purpose. Or if I thought I was on open enough terms with someone to ask whether they'd ever had sex with some particular other person, and they weren't nearly as comfortable as I thought they were, and they thought I was humiliating them on purpose. It might not be a rational fear at all. I think it's more that after having gone so long without anyone even telling me they thought non-romantic sex was okay, I have a hard time trusting they'll tell me anything else I need to know.
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Heather
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Hey, Teaspoon.

I was just checking things quickly before heading in for the night, but I'll touch base with you again tomorrow. This is a lot, obviously, and I'd hate to shortcut.

I had wondered, from some of your posts, if you might be on the autistic spectrum, and knowing that diagnosis is helpful; I think we can help a bit better now that we have that information.

If it's alright with you, I'd be comfortable, too, talking candidly about having been someone who, personally, has never really been one for subtlety myself, and has also often been pretty clueless about it when it's the way other people are operating in this regard.

In a word, this?

quote:
I'd ask straight out. It's hard to envision details since it's so hypothetical, but I imagine it going something like, "You know, I've been thinking I'd like to have sex with you. You figure it's a good idea?" But I don't know when, if ever, I can expect anyone to consider that a reasonable question.
Yep, totally get this. I'd say that sounds like my native language, too. [Smile] (The good news is, there really are people who think that's a reasonable question and are fine with that kind of approach, IME.)

I just always like to ask and check before sharing more personally first to be sure I don't overstep with a user, and that's something they want and feel comfortable with.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Hey, Teaspoon.

I was just checking things quickly before heading in for the night, but I'll touch base with you again tomorrow. This is a lot, obviously, and I'd hate to shortcut.

I had wondered, from some of your posts, if you might be on the autistic spectrum, and knowing that diagnosis is helpful; I think we can help a bit better now that we have that information.

If it's alright with you, I'd be comfortable, too, talking candidly about having been someone who, personally, has never really been one for subtlety myself, and has also often been pretty clueless about it when it's the way other people are operating in this regard.

In a word, this?

quote:
I'd ask straight out. It's hard to envision details since it's so hypothetical, but I imagine it going something like, "You know, I've been thinking I'd like to have sex with you. You figure it's a good idea?" But I don't know when, if ever, I can expect anyone to consider that a reasonable question.
Yep, totally get this. I'd say that sounds like my native language, too. [Smile] (The good news is, there really are people who think that's a reasonable question and are fine with that kind of approach, IME.)

I just always like to ask and check before sharing more personally first to be sure I don't overstep with a user, and that's something they want and feel comfortable with.

Be as candid as you like. After all I've gone on about privacy I'm sure you've guessed there's no discomfort on my end.

[ 07-14-2013, 06:59 PM: Message edited by: Teaspoon ]

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Heather
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Seems we keep different hours. [Smile]

So, one of the things I used to say when, now and then, people would say they couldn't tel if I was or wasn't into them, because they couldn't "read my subtle signs," was that that's because I probably don't have them. I'd sometimes simply say, "If I'm into someone they'll know, because I'll probably jump in their lap and say, "Hey! Let's go fool around!" or something to that effect. [Razz]

In other words, I get it: I get being more comfortable being direct, and I also get not picking up on it when other people aren't. I know for sure from experience that there have been times people have tried to get this kind of attention from me for hours, even weeks or months, and only when they actually said something did I get it. And sometimes they would voice that they didn't know how I didn't get "the hint" until they said something.

Again, my answer to that was that I'm a direct, to-the-point person, subtlety is not my art, and that means I'm not good at it coming from OR at me, for the most part.

So: is everyone okay with direct in this regard, including when it doesn't involve something that probably IS invasive sometimes, like hopping on someone's lap? Nope. I know that my directness has been a turn-off for some people, or intimidated others, or just not been what some people wanted or were comfortable with. Some folks -- and not just out of shame or shyness, but just out of all of us wanting different things -- simply prefer, or like better, a more subtle, nuanced dance. That's okay, they get to. [Smile]

On the other hand, other folks have been just fine with my directness, or more than just fine, matching it, making clear they prefer it, etc. Again: different strokes. We're just not all the same people, in this regard, just like any other.

Let's be real: me jumping into people's laps I don't know well without asking first? Something that that actually can cross a boundary. My bad, and I've learned better since.

But I really don't hear you voicing the aim to do anything like that, let alone crossing big-time lines like being sexual with someone when they have declined, or doing anything in this regard if and when someone has told you they're not comfortable or it's not wanted.

And I truly think that's all any of us need to be worried about. It's also really all we can control. Sometimes, people are going to be turned off by us, whoever we are, or not like our style of approach. Sometimes, people aren't going to be comfortable with sexual invitations, be they direct OR subtle. And all we can do when that happens is apologize, back off and move on. When we do that, I think it's safe to say everyone usually just shakes or laughs it off and lets it go.

So, with some of the things you commented on:

One thing you brought up was that talking to people about something other than sex seems to you to be not about sex at all. But that bit where we're talking about how people can feel objectified? One way that can happen is when people don't feel seen or acknowledged as whole people, not just people who might provide sexual opportunities for someone.

I think it can help to remember that sex and sexuality aren't some part of who we are separate from everything else. They involve who we are, in a very unionized way: in a lot of ways, they're really pieces of all of who we are.

Too, because sex and sexuality are intimate things for most people, most of the time, to develop comfort talking about them, most folks will need to build some kind of trust or rapport first. So, establishing that usually means talking with them about less personal, private parts of their lives or who they are first.

And, if and when absolutely none of that is interesting to you, that actually can be a cue maybe you're not really seeing them as a whole person, you know?

Same kind of goes with you saying that you won't know someone might have interest in you sexually if they don't talk about you sexually, in a very intimate way, like with complimenting a part of your body as sexy. That is something a lot of folks are going to save for after they have established a rapport, both so as not to overstep, but also because often, compliments like that are things we kind of only feel when we've gotten to know someone at least a little. Especially if we, or they, really are seeing people as more than body parts or avenues for sex. Is this making sense?

I wonder if you might have, or make, some friends who you can ask to help you with some of this. In other words, wingmen (or wingwomen, whichever), who perhaps are better at picking up some things you aren't, or just observant in different ways than you are, to help you navigate some of this. Friends like that, too, can sometimes help us feel a lot more comfortable, and less worried about overstepping, because we can have them to be observers with us, rather than going it alone.

You might also think about if, perhaps, especially at first, you might do better with something like online dating or connecting for sex. That way of communicating, because it's text, is obviously way more literal and direct. Things like trying to follow eye contact, etc. are non-issues. And of course, all someone has to do if they're not liking or feeling something you say or put out there is close the email and not contact you again: no harm, no foul.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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I do understand and respect that for most people, most or all of the time, sexuality is like you said it is. But let me make this as clear as I can. For me, sex is not intimate. I can't speak from experience about partnered sex, of course, but I've had plenty of sexual attraction and it never had anything to do with wanting to make a social connection. I know that no two parts of a person are completely unaffected by each other, but these parts of me are further apart than any others I can think of. This is how I am. If I could have learned to be different, I would have, because everybody who told me anything told me this was impossible, and I sincerely trusted them back then.

I don't know if this will make me sound any better to you, but I'll try my best to explain. There have been people I really enjoyed talking to, and I'd have helped them out if they needed it, even if it would have been a lot of trouble for me - people I see as whole people if there's a person in the world I see that way - and I've happened to think some of them were pretty sexy too. But there's no time I was less conscious of it than while I was having a good chat with them. Those just aren't connected impulses in my mind.

The best analogy I can think of is sports. If there's a game of Frisbee announced, say, and I decide to go, I don't necessarily expect to know the other players all that well, and I don't expect to get to know them much better. All I expect is some basic trust that we can agree on a set of rules and try to follow them. If we do get to chatting and some of them do turn out to be people I want to know better, well and good. But if I thought I was going to be obligated to make friends with everyone, I doubt I'd go. This isn't hypothesis, I do play Frisbee and suchlike now and then. Maybe sometimes people have thought I'm a little odd for that approach, but I've never had any evidence that anyone feels insulted or like I'm not treating them as a person. I'm certainly not saying anyone else has to feel the same about sex as frisbee, but I am saying I do.

Now it's understandable that other people, so far as they're different from me about this, don't want me to act towards them the way I feel like acting. That's okay, I don't intend to. I don't want them to act toward me the way they feel like acting either. I don't want to talk to someone unless we want to learn from each other for its own sake. I don't want to have sex with someone unless we like each other's bodies for their own sake. Mostly, I think people are willing to respect that as much as I respect them. But it would be much better all around if I were out of their way and they were out of mine.

I think I hear you (Heather) suggesting that caring about a person implies wanting to know everything about them, and if that's so, then by your definition I do objectify. But it's clear that I don't see anyone differently than I see myself, and also that no matter how much I took their wishes into account there's no way I could see them differently than I do. If there are reasonably similar people in the world (and I'm a good deal more confident there are than I was two years ago), and we had a way to sort ourselves out from the rest of you, there would be no harm done at all.

I can tell you've giving a lot of honest thought to helping me make my life better, and I wish I could make a more grateful-sounding response. It's just conceivable that I'm making a big deal out of nothing again, but things like this wear my suspension of disbelief a little thin:

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:

And, if and when absolutely none of that is interesting to you, that actually can be a cue maybe you're not really seeing them as a whole person, you know?

So if you believe that something I think, rather than something I do or intend to do, can be ethically wrong, there's really not much advice you can give me.

[ 07-15-2013, 10:47 PM: Message edited by: Teaspoon ]

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Teaspoon
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Double-posted by accident. My browser was slow and I wasn't sure it was going through the first time.

[ 07-15-2013, 10:50 PM: Message edited by: Teaspoon ]

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Karybu
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Hi Teaspoon. I hope it's okay if I offer a couple of thoughts here, I definitely don't have all the answers but maybe a slightly different perspective will help. (If none of what I have to say is useful or is totally off-base, though, let me know.)

You've said sex isn't intimate for you, and that's fine: it doesn't always (or ever) have to be emotionally intimate. You can have sex with someone and not have any desire to ever see them again, and as long as that's okay with both of you, then yay, you've had fun, you get on with your life.

What any kind of positive sexual encounter DOES need is respect: of personal boundaries and limits, of likes and dislikes. It's important to most people to know that whoever they have sex with (whether they just met them five minutes ago or have known them for years) will listen when they say no, or will understand when they say that they'd rather not do something. Both parties have to feel that they can trust the other one not to do them any harm, essentially. For example, if I meet someone in a pub and I find them attractive, but all they can do while I introduce myself is stare at my breasts and seem not to be listening, then how do I know they'll listen if we're having sex and I ask them to do or not do something? The message I would get from that is that I am just a body and that the other person does not have any level of concern for my well-being. Not someone I'd want to have sex with. There's no way to know for sure, but communicating in a non-sexual setting first, at least a bit, is a fairly good way of finding out whether someone will be a safe and positive sexual partner.

You don't have to feel a deep connection with someone to have sex with them, but you do need to recognize that you are having sex with a whole person and you'll have to respond to their wants and needs as well as expressing and having your own wants met.

Edited to add: I'm wondering if it might help us help you if we knew what it was that you were looking for in a sexual encounter. What do you want out of partnered sex? Put another way, if you could design your perfect sexual experience from beginning to end, what would it be like?

[ 07-16-2013, 02:57 AM: Message edited by: Karybu ]

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Heather
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I think Karyn moved this forward really well.

And by all means, if you don't think I, personally, can be helpful to you, I can certainly bow out here. But I also feel like a big leap has been taken per the idea that I think there is something unethical about your thoughts. For one, I don't think that's a sound assumption about what I think, but I'm also not sure this is even a conversation about ethics (which are, of course, personal anyway). It was my impression this was a conversation about the how-to's of social interactions, and how to engage in them with other people, particularly around your voiced concerns about either offending other people, or not connecting in the way you'd like.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Teaspoon
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quote:
Originally posted by Karybu:
Hi Teaspoon. I hope it's okay if I offer a couple of thoughts here, I definitely don't have all the answers but maybe a slightly different perspective will help. (If none of what I have to say is useful or is totally off-base, though, let me know.)

You've said sex isn't intimate for you, and that's fine: it doesn't always (or ever) have to be emotionally intimate. You can have sex with someone and not have any desire to ever see them again, and as long as that's okay with both of you, then yay, you've had fun, you get on with your life.

What any kind of positive sexual encounter DOES need is respect: of personal boundaries and limits, of likes and dislikes. It's important to most people to know that whoever they have sex with (whether they just met them five minutes ago or have known them for years) will listen when they say no, or will understand when they say that they'd rather not do something. Both parties have to feel that they can trust the other one not to do them any harm, essentially. For example, if I meet someone in a pub and I find them attractive, but all they can do while I introduce myself is stare at my breasts and seem not to be listening, then how do I know they'll listen if we're having sex and I ask them to do or not do something? The message I would get from that is that I am just a body and that the other person does not have any level of concern for my well-being. Not someone I'd want to have sex with. There's no way to know for sure, but communicating in a non-sexual setting first, at least a bit, is a fairly good way of finding out whether someone will be a safe and positive sexual partner.

You don't have to feel a deep connection with someone to have sex with them, but you do need to recognize that you are having sex with a whole person and you'll have to respond to their wants and needs as well as expressing and having your own wants met.

Edited to add: I'm wondering if it might help us help you if we knew what it was that you were looking for in a sexual encounter. What do you want out of partnered sex? Put another way, if you could design your perfect sexual experience from beginning to end, what would it be like?

This is a good example of what kind of concerns do make sense to me around sex, because I see them as practical and not about emotional connection for its own sake.

What I originally asked about was environments, not sexual encounters, and that's still what I'm trying to get at. Maybe I'll say a little about ideal encounters and then expand out to ideal environments. It'll be mostly guesswork and generalizations because with the one exception I've never seen anything remotely like any of it.

I guess this would be typical of the sort of scenario I'd imagine. I'm setting it in a college sort of situation because that's where I've been most recently. I'm heading out of the academic building in the same direction as another student I sort-of know. Maybe we're still talking about class. She says: "... but I missed some of that first part because I got to class really horny for some reason and couldn't concentrate. Guess I still am a bit, now I think about it." Me: "Yeah, I was too actually. Don't know why. [pause] No - I guess it probably didn't help you were sitting across from me. And [name]. And [name]. [pause] You know, I've been thinking I'd like to have sex with you sometime. You figure it's a good idea?" And maybe she says, "Sure do! If you're free around seven tonight, you could come over to my room. But here's the point I was trying to make about the homework..."

Or maybe she says, "I'm pretty busy today. I might still be interested next week, though. Remind me to tell you on Monday if I forget." Or maybe she says, "Eeh, not really. But here's the point I was trying to make about the homework...," and in that case I probably don't expect to ask another time. But in any of those cases, we show up to the next class like nothing has happened. And that's the key point, that in all these cases nothing particularly important has happened. Maybe we keep on meeting for sex now and then afterwards, maybe we don't. That's not relevant either.

Now for the environment this happens in. Very likely it will be common knowledge that I wanted to have sex with this other classmate, and whether we did - even if we never said anything about it, people will have overheard - but it also might not be, because nobody really cares. Staring in class is bad manners, because it's distracting and indicates distraction, but it tends to happen wherever else the conversation gets slow or wherever people are gathered to wait in line or something like that. Now and then a particularly spontaneous person might go "Let's make out!" and, if their neighbor responds positively, go at it on the spot. None of this is anything anyone spends much time and attention on in this utopia - they aren't some kind of sex zombie - but wherever there are a lot of people in one spot, you'll notice some of it.

So much for ideals. I don't think there are real spaces that are much like my ideal, but some are definitely closer than others. College was closer than anything I saw in my hometown. Within college, the dining hall was closer than a classroom and, from what I pieced together out of hearsay, internet lurking, sociology books, and very limited eyewitness experience, parties were closer than the dining hall, whatever nonsexual drawbacks they might have. Even my observation is good enough to tell that much. But these are all places I stumbled into pretty much by accident, with no idea what the norms were beforehand. What I'm trying to do is take some control, so that even though I can't get my ideal I can at least make sure I'm in the best alternative available.

@Heather, what I was reacting to yesterday was that you seemed to be saying that if I wasn't finding it interesting to talk about non-sexual stuff with someone attractive, or if I was noticing their body enough that I could honestly compliment them on it before I knew anything else about them, and I still claimed not to be objectifying them, I was probably lying or deluded. I was getting that mostly from this:
quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
And, if and when absolutely none of that is interesting to you, that actually can be a cue maybe you're not really seeing them as a whole person, you know?

and this:
quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
compliments like that are things we kind of only feel when we've gotten to know someone at least a little. Especially if we, or they, really are seeing people as more than body parts or avenues for sex.

Were you trying to make a point more like Karybu's?. That sounded very different to me because she said that in her hypothetical situation, the other person was not just uninterested but refusing to listen to her, which would be disrespectful whether or not sex was involved.

I'm not trying to get you to leave the thread, whether or not I misinterpreted. I did think it might be pointless to continue the thread at all, and I wanted to clear that up before responding to anything else, but I was probably wrong. There was a good deal more in your post to respond to besides the part that worried me, and maybe I'll respond to it later on, but this has already gotten way long.

There have been a lot of different issues brought up on the thread and I've let it wander, but I'm not mainly trying to learn more about sexual expectations in typical places, or looking for the best way to find a sex partner. I'm trying to find out where the gap is smallest between what people expect, on average - including people who I'm not pursuing as close friends or as sex partners - and what I'm comfortable with.

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Teaspoon
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Take-home message of everything I said about ideal environments and encounters: I don't want sex-related interaction - whether it's about communication or information, or about actually having sex - to be a big deal emotionally for the people I'm interacting with, because it isn't going to be one for me. Given that, I don't need much else to be a certain way.

As for "wingpeople," I'm almost sure that at college some of my friends would have been willing to help me navigate things if I hadn't been hiding. I certainly hope that'll be a possibility in the future, but it really depends on what kind of sexual culture I'll be living in, and I don't know that right now.

And connecting online - it might be a more manageable and (socially) safer way to find a sex partner than others, but it also wouldn't help me do anything about privacy. May or may not be worth it - I never made up my mind before and I haven't now.

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Heather
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I'm just heading out, so only something brief for me today.

I think outside of very specifically pre-arranged, pre-negotiated settings like certain kinds of sex parties or, again, utilizing certain online ways of meeting people and interacting to set up something sexual (and even then, the dynamics can always change for people mid-stream), there's simply nothing anyone can do to assure that anything sexual isn't going to be a big deal emotionally for someone. I can't even put sex workers in that exception, because for many, parts of sex, or certain dynamics or approaches are ALSO a big deal, they'll just often, when they have that relative luxury, not voice those feelings to clients.

That just isn't something anyone can control, or often even predict in most, if not all, to one degree or another, environments and interactions. People are messy, kind of as a rule. And sex, also as a general rule, tends to be a place where a lot of people are or feel particularly messy.

Long story short? Sex, or at least some parts of it, or some ways of engaging in it, talking about it, approaching it? ARE an emotionally big deal for, I think it's safe to say, most people. Unless I'm misreading you in spots, it seems that that's true for you, too, or has been true, with some aspects of this. If not emotionally -- though it seems like it is in some ways -- then certainly intellectually. And emotions or thoughts, it's still all mostly about our brains, so in some ways, it's kind of the same difference.

There's just really no getting around that, so it kind of keeps sounding to me like what you are probably going to need to do here, rather than trying to avoid that somehow in a lot of ways, is learn how to work with it.

[ 07-17-2013, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Teaspoon
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I think I do agree, at least up to a point. Hiding what I think/feel, and having other people hide what they think/feel from me, is a big deal emotionally, because it feels dishonest and anything to do with honesty and dishonesty is a big deal for me. I'm sure that if there was any other desire people communicated about so differently from me I'd be upset about that too, especially if it developed as late as sex does. It's the specifics of who's attracted to who and whether they're having sex that don't feel like a big deal. That's why I'm so much more unhappy about privacy than about not having partnered sex.

And I do accept that to some degree I have to work with how people are. But it also seems like social expectations about sex are a rudimentary sort of "pre-arrangement" even if not everybody is on the same page, and dealing with how people are will be hardest where the arrangement is hardest for me to understand. So even if I'm not involved in anything as rare or stigmatized as sex parties, I [edited for typo] ought to be doing what I can to choose intelligently where I spend my time and to stay away from the kind of culture that freaked me out so much in the first place. And if I felt a little safer some of the time it would probably be a little easier to deal with the harder situations.

It might be that friends could give me the most relevant advice on how to make that happen, but of course that's provided I make friends that are supportive and open to talking about this in the first place.

Anyway, I hope that makes enough sense to tell where I agree and where I don't [edited to add:] and whether there's anything more to say.

[ 07-18-2013, 08:20 PM: Message edited by: Teaspoon ]

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