- Full programme for Alternative Manchester Pride Festival published today - 26 August, 2020
- Britain’s top 10 musicals for the last 20 years revealed - 7 July, 2020
- Magical Harry Potter cocktails from Aldi – 100% bigotry-free - 30 June, 2020
I’m often very vocal about dating and relationships, and perhaps I can be a little bit too neurotic and opinionated at times. But if these types of interactions were easy and straightforward, how interesting and meaningful would they then be? One aspect that I still haven’t written extensively about is probably one that’s the most important when it comes to dating; namely sex.
I personally find it surprisingly easy to separate dating, relationships, and sex – and perhaps this isn’t the healthiest approach, but one that I believe the modern world has designed for us. We can have excellent sex and not be in a relationship, we can have a relationship without sex – dating can come before sex, but it can also be the result of a drunken one night stand. Needless to say, sex plays a huge part in these interactions.
In the LGBTQ community we are fortunate to have common identities that form important political and social voices, which are used efficiently to negotiate our positions within society. However, beyond our identities for sexuality there are also a myriad of identities for sex. You can be a top, bottom, versatile, dom, sub, voyeur, exhibitionist, sadist, masochist, pony, puppy, slave, master – the list is endless.
Having sex is great, and whatever you are into with other consenting adults is brilliant – but what I find so tedious are the sometimes very rigid sexual identities within LGBTQ culture. If a poll was to be made on the most commonly asked Grindr questions I would put a lot of money that ‘What are you into?’ would make the top 5.
I always find it quite difficult to answer that question – in the context of gay men, being a top, bottom and versatile is for me completely contextual. Furthermore, it’s not something that I see as an essentialist part of my sexual identity. Encountering all these gay men who apply these roles so heavily into their interactions with each other seems to me so limiting.
I’m in no way dismissing anyone’s sexual practices, but I do loathe the idea of sexual practices turning into rigid sexual identities. Rigid sexual identities are exactly what the LGBTQ community should avoid – let’s not mimic heterosexual culture where essentialist ideas of femininity and masculinity are so ingrained in the construction of sexual practices.
I normally don’t like using the word ‘heternormative’ – it’s become such an abstract academic buzzword that’s often thrown around for good measure to the point where its use has almost become a norm in itself. However, in this context I do find it quite a useful way to articulate my anxiety about sexual identities. My problem is that some LGBTQ people use their sexual practices to form inherently heteronormative ideas of what sex means.
I’m not an angry anti-identity person. On the contrary, I would normally vary between being top, bottom, and versatile, which depends on the person I am with at the time. I don’t see this as dishonest, but for me these identities are just easily interchangeable depending on the context.
You’re probably thinking this has already been discussed to death, but the reason I’m bringing this up now is that something recently happened that made me realise just how arbitrary these sexual identities really are. I’m steadily approaching 27 and have had a considerably healthy sexual history for a single person my age, but recently I had a hit of something so rare I can barely bring myself to say it – chemistry.
I’m not talking about a good relationship or friendship with another person, but an ecstatic and almost otherworldly sexual compatibility – you can almost see the sparks flying around the bedroom. It’s not even about having objectively ‘good sex’ but just a connection that is so amazing that you forget space and time – I imagine this is what Beyoncé and Jay-Z have.
This sensation is so unfamiliar I wasn’t even sure what it was until the person I’m currently dating actually articulated it – chemistry. It’s been so scarce for me that I’m always so shocked and surprised when it does happen. What I’ve never managed to successfully do though is turn this amazing sexual chemistry into a meaningful relationship. Perhaps it’s our culture that easily separates dating, sex, and relationships that can also make it difficult to successfully combine them.
More importantly, what I realised with my recent injection of chemistry is that sexual roles and identities doesn’t matter if you have good chemistry, which is exactly why it makes me sad to see people limiting themselves to their sexual role(s). Imagine if you miss out on the best chemistry of your life just because someone isn’t the top to your bottom or vice versa. That would be a true loss, trust me! In my experience sexual chemistry have been completely unexpected so attempting to predict it through these roles, or someone’s physical appearance, wouldn’t work.
Perhaps sex isn’t about being a top, bottom or versatile, nor about being a sub, dom, pony, or puppy – but perhaps it is about chemistry. I’ve been in some of these positions (note; not pony or puppy), but have not found them to be an inherent part of my identity, and I don’t believe them to be a very useful way to dictate your (sex) life with. Perhaps we should treat them as practices rather than identities so that we don’t end up limiting ourselves. Let’s advocate open-mindedness in sex, and remember that chemistry always trumps sexual identity.
I don’t know what will happen with Mr Chemistry, but at least we’re off to a good start.