I can’t really remember how old I was when I became truly conscious of sex and sexuality. There are few memories of mine that stand out, but they don’t really focus in on a particular age. I remember watching Time Trax with my parents and being super embarrassed because one of the characters said something like, “Do you always think about sex? Are you a 13-year old boy?” and I was 13 at the time. I remember crying all night long when I was 15 or so because I had an orgasm and had now betrayed Christ and my future wife. I remember at the age 12 thinking a “wet dream” was when you peed the bed (something I did until I was 13) and having no idea what a “boner” was.
My formal sex education was pretty abysmal. I had a couple courses in school throughout the years, but my parents never even mentioned sex. I just knew that being gay was bad, sex was only for married people, and even having sexual thoughts were evil. This prohibitionist approach left me both ignorant to healthy sexuality and obsessed with it. The more I tried to not think about sex the more it came to my mind, and my relationship with others (particularly women) suffered because of it.
During my school and military years, I viewed women primarily through a sexual lens. Even after I had sex for the first time at 23 I was still kind of obsessed. I went from sexuality being completely taboo to a grand desire to “make up for lost time”. I really didn’t start to have a healthier view of relationships until late in my college career. My relationships with women stopped being exclusively sexual, but they still had a sexual component. But I don’t think that is a bad thing.
We all have a sexual side that I find interesting, but my relationships with other people are much more well-rounded. I used to see a person and through them into one of two categories: want to have sex with and don’t want to have sex with. People in the first category got more of my attention and interest. I realize this was pretty shitty of me. I had a lot of growing up to do and very little exposure to healthy sexuality or alternative points of view.
It really wasn’t until I went to Burning Man and had some deep conversations (thanks, MDMA) that I got a healthier view of sexuality. Now, when I see a person I recognize that they have a sexual side but it isn’t my primary driver for getting to know them. This has opened the door for me to have stronger bonds with people that I find sexually attractive because I see them as complete individuals. I want to know about their sexual interests, but I also want to know about their philosophical views, artistic passions, life aspirations, and favorite type of ice cream.
Seeing people as more than just “would bang” or “wouldn’t bang” has also given me opportunities to grow closer to people that I am not initially sexually attracted to. As those relationships grow I learn about their sexuality too. Guess what, “unattractive” people have a sexual side that is just as fascinating and passionate as “attractive” people.
I think there is a danger if you view the world from the two extremes. We shouldn’t view people as primarily sexual beings, but we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that people are sexual. Sexuality is natural and beautiful and we should be comfortable discussing it openly. We can easily talk about our favorite food, movies, or Continental philosopher (note: I don’t know what a continental philosopher is but I have some well-read friends that I hate them… I think, maybe they love them), why can’t we discuss sex just as easily? When someone tells me about how they love rock climbing I don’t assume they want to go rock climbing with me, and I shouldn’t assume they want to bump uglies with me just because we are talking about sex. I think life would be better if every subject was open for conversation and we agreed to be explicit about our desires and interests. Oh, and maybe view every person as a deep and complex individual who can teach us something.
PS: Dearest friends who I viewed primarily as a potential sex partner. I’m sorry about that. I am glad you stuck with me and overlooked that side of me. Some of us have had some great sex in the past, some of us might in the future, and some of us probably never will. And that’s okay. Just like it is okay that some of us have a history/future/no future of cooking together, discussing our favorite X-Men, skinny-dipping, and hiking together. I value you each in my life for the beautifully diverse tapestry that you present. You aren’t just genitalia, a brain, a body, etc to me, you are all those things combined. I still struggle with this, it is still a knee-jerk mental reaction when I see an attractive man or woman to think “damn, I’d like to get up in that”, but I catch myself and try to correct my mental course. It is a struggle, but with the struggle comes improvement. I love you.