Intimacy beyond sex
Positive sexuality a good thing but not the only thing
A lot of talk around sex positivity foregrounds sexuality as inherently a good thing – something to not be ashamed of and even as a way to enact self-love and community-building. This is wonderful, and I see this as a very positive force in many people’s lives.
However, for myself, physical touch is rarely something I desire and often can result in feelings of stress rather than comfort. I’ve come to understand myself as somewhere on the ace/demi-sexual spectrum. I don’t hate sex, but it’s never been a primary form of sharing intimacy for me.
When I hear friends talk about their sex lives, I’m glad for the kind of openness being fostered but too often feel the pinch of not being able to relate to the joy they feel. When I express this, it is often met with you’ll meet someone someday, or you’ve just got to get out there more.
The thing is, I have met people before. I have had deep relationships filled with love, where sexuality was barely a part of it. I’m afraid when I hear love being correlated so closely with sex.
I live in fear of the words of cultural theorist John Berger, who poetically describes being in love as “a completeness which only the act of making love can temporarily accommodate.” This statement has always felt to me like it erases the expansiveness of what intimacy can be.
Being in love for me is walking through art galleries, losing yourself in a painting with another person; it is sharing sandwiches in the (now closed) conservatory; it’s reading through the novels that formed each other as teenagers and laughing at all the clichés; it’s moments of physical touch that melt into the landscape of everything else.
I’ve been afraid of my body, of the bodies of others. There is trauma tied to my experience of sexuality, but my preferences for space are true and not less than the desires of others.
Not desiring physical touch does not mean I am disconnected from my body. I am deeply interested in exploring new forms of embodiment. In the fall, I moved into an apartment with a large living room with windows that let in streams of light.
Despite having no training, I’ve been practising dancing here. I’m trying to explore the possibilities of how my body interacts with space, getting to know the new aches, pleasures and forms of motion that my body is capable of.
Sexuality as a form of exploring embodiment sounds beautiful and fun. It’s also not something that I see bringing the kind of fulfillment I want.
If sex positivity means removing the shame that has kept so many people from exploring the potential for joy to be found in their bodies, why can’t that encompass something even broader?
I want to explore expressions of joy in my body and how it interacts with others in a way that does not centre on sexuality. I do not want to feel pressure that only through sexuality is my love and intimacy valid.
Jase is a queer non-binary student and writer who lives on Treaty 1 territory.
Published in Volume 73, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 14, 2019)