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SEX SPECTRUM
Column by Jen Frankel!


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Column

by Jen Frankel

Once, I lived across the hall from a really interesting guy. He was a Deadhead, and loved music and cooking, and had a really cool cat. I knew he liked me, and I was flattered.

The thing I wasn't was turned on. I enjoyed being his neighbour, but otherwise, I was just little me at nearly eighteen, out on my own and virginal. I didn't want to explore sex, not now, not with him. Not that I didn't think he was attractive and fabulous. I just didn't feel it.

So when he invited me over to dinner, I carefully stuck my fingers into the noodles and ate with my hands, as messily as possible, trying to gross him out so sex would just vanish from the items on the table. It worked. . . I didn't end up sleeping with him until a couple of years later when the stakes seemed very much reduced by my greater experience.

At the time, though, sex was the last thing I wanted, and I would have done almost anything not to have to even deal with a proposition.

When I go out to a bar, I realize just how much of the interaction is caught up in the dance of sexual courtship. It's easier to notice now that I'm not trying as hard as I probably used to, without even realizing I was doing it. It's easier to notice, especially, now that I'm not an eighteen-year-old girl trying hard to be fabulous.

Even back then, though, I was pretty clear about what I did and didn't want, or rather, who I did and didn't want. They were just as clear about me. I might have had more opportunities at eighteen, but I was no likelier to say yes.

No matter how oversexed a person might be, there are always going to be advances that are just unwelcome. Sexuality isn't an absolute -- you can be very sexual and still have lots of triggers for both turn ons and turn offs. And you can be basically asexual with little interest in sexual contact, and still meet a person who really, really turns you on.

There are times when I fall out of sexuality altogether. There are others when I realize I have no idea what I thought about other people, especially those of the opposite gender, before sex was at least an option with a y/n checkbox beside it. There are women I've found strangely attractive, and men who rub me so far the wrong way I couldn't have a sexual thought if you hit me over the head with Gerard Butler.

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What thoughts like that really lead me toward is the realization of how much of a spectrum sexual feelings actually are. We kind of want to slip every sexual thought into a neat box -- gay, straight -- but when desire can ebb and flow between the yes and no boxes, who's to say that a little variation isn't normal within them as well?

Sex is kind of like coffee, I guess. Some people, you can't shake from their donut shop - large - black, and some need the kind of variety you can only get by mixing it up with a soy chai latte or a carmel something or other.

Another reason sex is like coffee, I guess: some people need it like they need undies and socks, and others enjoy it, but don't absolutely need it to function. And, I guess, some people don't touch the stuff. Who's really to say what's normal and what's not? I only really have my own experience to judge by, and the upshot of those is that if I can say yes when I want, and no when I want, I feel like it's all good.

The biggest hurts in my life are, lucky for me, a mismatch between my yes and someone else's no. I'm sure there are guys out there who were hurt by no's of mine that I don't even remember. And of course, I've gone a few places I later regretted. Some of them a lot.

I stay intrigued with sexuality, as much about not having it as about diving in. Why do I feel how I do, when I do? We have statistics about how much we think about sex, divided by gender, age, orientation -- but how often do you really think about what sex means to you, and the place it holds in your life?

Anecdotal evidence would seem to say that of all forms of sexual behavior, the idea of asexuality is the one we talk about least. But it's true that some people, have no interest in having sex with another person (although many of these seem to have no trouble with arousal or masturbation). The concept of asexuality covers a wide range of sexual behaviours, but the common denominator is this: an asexual does not want to have a sexual anything with someone else.

The concept of asexuality is also not particularly a foreign or surprising one to me. Perhaps I have never had trouble with the idea of homosexuality, for example, simply because I always believed I was wired slightly differently than most people. I always recognized variety in sexual behaviours around me because I saw that I myself didn't fit a comfortable stereotype.

faceIt's always off-putting to hear people claiming to have the inside track on the ONLY ACCEPTABLE FORM OF SEXUALITY. Part of a free society is supposed to be the idea that you are what you are, and, short of hurting others, you should be free to exist as you are and express yourself with a measure of honesty. The ability of individuals to be what they are without fear of repercussion or repression is the definition of freedom.

To put a personal viewpoint to the matter of asexuality, I must admit that a boy once took me to a movie and, distressed by the fact that I just wasn't interested in him, stood up and announced to the entire theatre that his date had "the sex life of a plant!"

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I have actually defined my sexuality as "a" -- with occasional carnal leanings. I am not asexual. I am picky, but that's a different thing altogether. Still, I have no trouble with the concept of a person being asexual. I would be far more surprised if no one was. There are those of us who are celibate and those who are Bill Clinton, but sexual desire is a spectrum, not a dual-position switch.

And I may have been voted "Most Likely To Pay For Sex the First Time" at high school, but I took it as a compliment to my desire to do everything as professionally and efficiently as possible.

In the end, what I really believe is the only kind of sexuality to fear is the kind that seeks to repress others, or hurt them (unless that's really what you're into, and god knows a little extremity can be a terrific amount of fun). We in the so-called free world have to remember that liberty comes with a big price, and that's the price of our own tolerance. Being disgusted with the choices someone else makes (they're called fetishes BECAUSE they're off the beaten track, people...) or believing that everyone needs to make the same choice as you is the very definition of repression.


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