Some time ago, I came across this post about challenging an all-too-common, self-centered, goal-oriented masculinity in heterosexual intercourse. Having had a lot of sex with a lot of cismen who actually engage in this behaviour as a matter of habit, and having had a lot of not-hot-at-all queer sex with persons other than cismen who still engaged in this behaviour as a matter of habit, I’ve decided to put my last girlfriend on notice for doing it too. It was about the ickiest thing that’s ever happened on my linens. But I’m not perfect: I’ve even done it during a few casual encounters too, and it made me feel like a scumbag in retrospect.
The writing I’ve linked to above has given me a bit more structure to approach these feelings than I have had before. Previously, I’ve had this very vague sense of feeling cheated, ripped off, exploited, used, and objectified, but could only ever express that I felt resentment for being objectified — for being treated as a hyper-sexualized object-outlet neither capable of sexual autonomy nor even capable of consent; and for being treated this way because of my body’s shape, without any regard for how I had been repeatedly dropping major indicators that I don’t experience gender-congruence and don’t want to just be treated as a body part to force a body part into. But it’s important for me at this point to acknowledge that I have actually been able to enjoy sex from time to time, and engage honestly some of the time with my many previous sexual partners. But it’s really only ever been during the first time we were together. Every encounter following the first with every new partner has left me out of the equation, because it always became about either achieving their orgasm or giving me one the way they wanted to give it to me (rather than giving me the ability to take it on my own terms). And that’s where the bulk of the resentment springs from.
It’s as if the first time, we didn’t know each other’s bodies, and we respected that. But subsequent to that first encounter, my partners just started throwing their sexuality at me, and getting themselves off on an abstract, deliberately ambiguous portrait of the sexual partner they always wanted (whether or not that resembled me at all). That’s what I was re-experiencing as I read that article. With a total number of partners (of many genders) I’ve long ago lost count of, some of whom I continued to fuck for a year or more after it first started; somehow splitting myself off emotionally through these repeated episodes so that I could still fall deeper in love with them outside our slippery tangles, in the hopes that they would reach down into me (where I slip deep within myself when I dissociate) and pull me back up — hoping that they would see where I was going and come looking for me (for how to please me) instead of continuing to just use my body as a sex toy. But they never went looking after that first time, and I have been alone for quite some time now, thinking about why I’d rather be alone.
One of these former partners even had the gall to tell me that he doesn’t need to take any tips on giving cunnilingus because he’s doing it just fine, even though I had never given him any feedback at all and he would only do it on average about twice a year. Typically the second time was because I had completely broken down and bared my soul to him about how isolated I felt that he wouldn’t kiss me or touch me there with his hands no matter what I did to entice him or make that part of my body attractive, pleasant, and clean. I told him I don’t want him to do it because I told him to; rather, I want him to do it because he wants to do it. I told him I don’t want him to do it the same night I just had this complete meltdown over it; rather, I want him to do it when we both feel good about it — but he would do it that same night anyway, and I couldn’t find the voice with which I needed to tell him that I just said that I don’t want him to do this to my body tonight. That this feels worse than forcing him whether I know he wants to or not, because now he is definitely forcing me and there is nothing hot about that at all.
But it’s not about consent for him, or even what I want. It’s about giving himself a pat on the back for doing whatever he thinks he’s there to do. And though my last girlfriend and I were only sexually active together for a few weeks, she did the exact same thing to me. It was absolutely awful and revolting to discover that this happens in the throes of what was supposed to be queer sex too. Until the last time she and I were together, I was just in denial that she was fucking me just like a typical straight cis guy would. I had convinced myself that the woman before her, who also did the exact same thing even though we had only had sex twice, was an anomaly because she was bisexual but homophobic — I was presenting as female and in a long-term relationship with a straight cisman at the time, and she told me as soon as the rouge was leaving her cheeks that she’s “not even into women.” She had invited me over for the explicit purpose of seducing me without having her pig boyfriend try to get between us. I told myself she must be an anomaly. I was just lying to myself to prolong my hidden pain.
Here’s the thing about how to have hot sex, no matter what your orientation or who your partner is: it’s not a to-do list. It’s about the plays you make, not about scoring the first goal and packing it in. What makes sex hot is what works for both partners. You can’t get there by refusing to engage your partner’s unique sexuality, relying instead on a static road map constructed from porn and prior experience — I can guarantee you, from literally oodles of direct personal experience with partners who use this approach and with years of experience as an erotica model, that this road map leads to icky sex. What works can and often does fluctuate from day to day, no matter who you are, what your orientation, or for how long and to what depths you’ve enjoyed sexual intimacy with your partner(s).
Some days you just can’t “score” (i.e., reach climax), and if your entire approach to sex is goal-oriented, intimacy very quickly becomes a terrifying place of insecurity and vulnerability (like the time I couldn’t climax or even come close to it for the first two and a half months with one of my long-term partners). All the joy is taken out of it, and it becomes a joy-less mechanical task you grow to resent unless you are particularly talented at compartmentalizing, dissociating, or projecting the lover you wish you had onto the one you do (like throwing that abstract sex at your partner and convincing yourself that this is in any way fulfilling for them). But it doesn’t have to be like this. Sex need not be a recipe for mutual resentment. It can be hot, and it can just be fun to explore it without having a particular goal or set list of accomplishments in mind.
Masculinity in sex, too, can be abstracted from the invulnerable and omnipotent, from the assumed role of Pleasure Provider, and from the assumed stance of all-knowing-ness about this other body to which pleasure is being provided by the invulnerable and omnipotent. Queer sex doesn’t have to be a battle for the top, followed by a hostile take-over. And straight sex doesn’t have to be a fracturing of the psyches of both partners, just to get through the regularly scheduled program of visible back-patting and simultaneous hidden shame.
Some of the best strategies I ever used for trying to entice my disengaged partner to engage my sexuality was finding a way to share my sexuality with them. Granted, this didn’t always work, but at least it was mildly more exciting, fun, and spontaneous; and less of a joy-less or even psychologically traumatic task that can only take place after an appointed hour (such as when I was too fucking tired to be interested any longer that day, and after the lights had been shut off — being pressured to have sex when I’m neither interested nor able to even stay awake through it became a trigger and a whole other source of resentment, on top of everything else). It’s ok to change your mind after you get going. That shouldn’t “spoil the moment”. The moment was gone when it stopped working for one of you. If you can’t talk to your partner or are otherwise unsuccessful in conveying your discontent or reading theirs in the throes of what was supposed to be hot sex, it’s really important to find a way to express the signs of what just happened there before the next time.
Everyone is ultimately responsible for their own sexual health and well-being, but that shouldn’t preclude attentiveness or sincerely engaging with your partner’s unique sexuality. In fact, it shouldn’t preclude even learning to read the body language of someone who is not having a good time but reluctant to express it, or dissociating, or otherwise struggling to communicate something that isn’t working for them. The single most obvious thing that is potentially in the way of you and your consenting partner(s) having hot sex together is a road map to icky sex. So my best advice is to check, in detail, where all those roads in your playbook lead you and your partner(s), and purge that which leads to the bad stuff. It’s already spoiled.