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Are all your friends hot, or are you just a slut?
- I had my friend Meena read an earlier version of this essay: freeform, stream of consciousness, basically, just a vent about sex and love. She is precise in her wording, incredibly brilliant, gentle in the face of my unbridled angst, always. She called it “very new york, very brooklyn, very brooklyn L train, very L train dating life.” She was right. I have fallen into a cliche, so I rewrote this entire thing. I’m sorry. Another friend told me how perfect it was, for me to read a piece on bad dating, at a venue that had been featured in “Girls.” I’m very sorry.
- The trouble with being bisexual is everyone could be your lover but then really nobody is. It’s amplified loneliness. Never straight or queer enough. The real trouble of course is violence and erasure and more violence and some self doubt but I don’t want to write about violence and erasure from a statistical perspective.
- Attachment feels wildly underestimated. Immigrants have a harder time with attachment because so much is left behind, and no amount of plane travel and money can fill that chasm. It seems ill advised for me to twist the threads between me and others and alter the rules of our friendship, but friends feel safer. Never has a friend-turned-into-something-else wanted more than just that. Attachment is overrated, say these friends, they want the butterflies that come from reckless uncertainty, from the idea that someone may be not trustworthy.
How do you feel about casual sex?
- I’ve heard people refer to demisexuality as “not real,” (maybe I did too, I’m constantly learning how problematic I have been) but for years I have flitted between ace tendencies and moderate feelings of sexuality. The worst is, I’ve fucked through friend groups because I find them more comfortable than getting to know people in the wild, but weirdly, that has made me quite a reputation. Everyone thinks I’m a slut, and everyone, every single person, is having more sex than I am, even if I am currently having sex at the time of census.
- Most sex is mediocre for me because it’s always been about the other’s desire. Well, Barthes would call it the Other, but for me, the Lover is the Other. I want to be the beloved, on the fringes, the lover at the center of all my thoughts and worries. My desire has never been powerful enough to override or compete. I desire desire. I try to find niches for myself in people’s lives and for some, it is sex. I am a vessel of their needs but mine remain buried. This is not to say sex isn’t good but I think sex positivity makes us makes ME feel hollow if we are not being filled. I constantly lie to myself and tell myself I am not in love with people when I am. I don’t ever tell them I’m in love with them.
- I didn’t quite consent to having sex without a condom, but I didn’t say anything either. Does rolling over and showing your soft underbelly make the violent more gentle? Maybe it fills Him with fondness, as it does you with unwanted cum. Abuse feels like attention, but the good kind, the sneaky peripheral glance kind. Nice people sicken me. I described two awkward Tinder dates as being “too watchful,” that is, they just liked me. I asked someone to choke me once and he didn’t. He is the only ex I hold no bitterness towards, just exasperation. He didn’t love me, though recently, he told me, he is still attracted to me, but was so very GLAD I was “chill” and didn’t make a big deal about our past. Who the fuck would call me chill? I am a coward, I am not cool. And why is everyone my ex? Even the guy I fucked once last month is my ex. At least “ex” is an identity that signifies a failure at relationship and thus a relationship nonetheless — while something more ephemeral makes me feel like I’m about to die.
Do you think monogamy is even natural?
- When I was in college we went to the Museum of Sex where we spent a significant amount of time at a homosexuality in nature sort of exhibit, as if to prove, if queerness can happen in the wild — if animals fuck for fun and not for procreation — then it’s natural. What does “natural” mean? Heating isn’t natural. Biological essentialism is a hopeless tactic. Why does something have to be scientifically proven? What’s the point in the efforts to normalize through “objectivity”?
- About half the profiles I see on tinder include the phrase “ethically non-monogamous,” and I highly doubt there are that many ethical people in the world. But, they say they are. I was making out with a guy on his couch and saw the book ETHICAL SLUT on his shelf and groaned, and he became intensely defensive. He, who mocked me for being a jealous person, calling it “the worst of human flaws,” was so riddled with his own jealousy after meeting a friend I once dated briefly at an event where he was also jealous of the performer, that he ended things with me. That is the narrative I choose to believe, but he told me he found my prattle annoying “like Tourette’s.”
- I wanted forever with my Evil Ex because it felt like a nice way to gift wrap a life. Here, it is ours, signed and sealed. Through love we find ways to confront our death drives: what will happen to us in the future? Who will be there til the end? It makes the end seem more manageable. Ought I ask myself what I should do if the end was, say, tomorrow? It would be none of this. It would be celibacy. It would be what I already have.
Are you hot and single, ready to mingle?
- My best friend (I have 10 best friends, I am in love with them all) told me that my first serious relationship was one of the worst things he had ever heard of in consensual sexual relationships because it happened to me and I seem to know my mind. I know my mind about systemic issues, I guess, and am a good observer, but a terrible participant. That particular ex would demand access to my body and mind and didn’t let me do things like go out to dinner with friends. He copiously edited my writing and left entire baskets worth of comments for me to copy+paste in line. I pretended the sex was kinky.
- When I see a conventionally attractive person who I do not find mentally appealing I try to construct a story around it. Other people want this person therefore I want this person therefore I find them sexually attractive and I will flirt. However, it is not a sustainable approach, and often, during sex, I find my mind drift off and think about how weird bodies are and casual sex is. It’s like itching the air. There’s no substance and I feel exactly the same after. I think I mostly fuck people with dicks because I can just lay there, and I am not comfortable with protagonism, which is not a good thing to know about myself.
- A few years ago I learned about positive resonance — about limbic revision, the ways we change ourselves when we love someone else. We can model our patterns on theirs: a layering. I love this one best friend so much. We used to sleep in perfect brackets next to each other. I facsimiled his best traits. I hope he doesn’t feel like I stole them from him. I hate when exes do that. He made me cool. When we had a falling out, I started dating someone with similar mannerisms. That wasn’t enough! When we started friend-dating again, it was thrilling, an achievement, a reminder of what truly stays with us, of how we can transform.
Do you want love, or a love story?
- Flitting from lover to lover (non-lover to non-lover) I create microcosms of love but they do not last but one still lasts and I hate that it does, because of all my exes, he is the Evil Ex. Half of our relationship to each other has been in absentia. I even have a counter on a subreddit of how many days I’ve been no contact with him. I broke it to send him a hate mail he opened many times. (These are the things I check: did I matter? As measured by open rate.) My breakup with him has defined some of my newer friendships. I have been so vulnerable and my skin so thin. How could anyone answer my devotion with betrayal? Actually, apathy, the absence of attachment.
- I’m a freelancer in both life and love. I’ve been published everywhere, but not one place in particular, not for long. My work contract is ending in a week and I started working harder than ever when they told me I would not be coming back. I wanted them to know, no confusion, what they were going to miss out on. I turned into the most perfect partner in the week my Evil Ex started threatening me with leaving me for someone who “inspired” him. (I wanted him to be inspired all on his own: a trying incompatibility.)
- The only way I can let people go is when I holistically realize they do not miss me. I was never a part of their story. I recently re-watched Blue Valentine again to soothe myself. It could be worse. Love is an animal, soft and stupid. Natural.
Is dating culture the problem—or are you?
- I am only an expert in talking about sex and I resent that my friends sometimes call me a Carrie but I did get a necklace with my name because I found it deeply ironic but also helpful since I have ten different monikers and even people I’ve known for a while don’t know what my name is. But I need to stop fucking Americans. Including myself? Yes. Dating culture here is all about bodies and bodies as commodities and people as tradeable items, worse, disposable items. I’m a paper plate in this country. You can’t even wash me off and reuse. I am sad when my friends move on quickly from breakups. Under late stage capitalism we are all paper plates. The romantic is dead.
- I meet people from the Internet sometimes and most of them are queerdos and we explore our theoretical attractions to one another through metaphor in person. One of them didn’t know my real name when we met and ate tacos on my floor. The next month a magazine came out and placed our essays on either side of the same page. When they left they told me goodbye and said there was nothing left to be said. I wrote them a letter and they never responded. Once I met someone who I thought I could mentor and she said “I love you” under her breath, and appeared even younger than I thought she was. I texted my friend, a failed Tinder relationship, to come rescue me, the same guy who would tell me a year later I was simultaneously too mentally ill and smart to date. Too much.
- I tried to keep a journal about the Evil Ex. I tried to write a thing a day about what I loved most about him. I recently found the notebook, banished to some unholy catchall bag. It had one page written in it: it’s [baby name]’s way or highway! A stupid ass catchphrase about how obstinate and unrelenting and cute he was. The rest of the book was empty and my coworker best friend urged me to not throw it away. It was too perfect, this reference to his disregard hanging in the air in solitude, like a whisper you weren’t quite sure you heard. A ghost.
Do you even like men?
- Feminism has gotten me so far that no cis man will want to be around me for too long. I don’t want to be their mother or their daughter. I thought our arguments would be about his race or economic status, because the Evil Ex was both white and born rich, but it turned out to be about his gender. I asked him to stop spreading on my roommate’s sofa and he told me couldn’t stop being a man because I told him so. He would wear earrings to obfuscate his gender and confuse people into thinking he was safe. Like that meme: my creativity is queer but my sexuality is straight (so you can invite me to your LGBTQ+ events).
- Feminism is a tool the cishet man uses to improve his sexual marketability. He loved to regurgitate theory at me and when we were in the courting phase, tried to question my notions of gender, to which I had to tell him, I am kind of not really binary, and then I was hotter to him. I became a conduit to an art scene for him; maybe, a form of authenticity. If you can’t fuck queer you fuck a queer.
- I wonder how many people feel strangely savage toward me; the internet shows me that people with borderline and people who identify as bi are, in a venn diagram of descriptors:
- Not enough (An assumption)
Do you talk about sex too much?
- Careers are boring or jealousy provoking or vent inducing. It’s easier to talk about not being loved because at least there’s some truth to that. It’s easiest to talk about shitty dating: single people commiserate, coupled people gawk. We only talk about our jobs as jokes, asides. How is writing about nonsense a job? It somehow is mine, but it is not generative. Sex is safer than love. It is a performance and love is silent.
- Maybe it’s my fault, the wiley bi, or maybe it’s just easy. There’s always an electricity to the conversation. Sex is funnier than jokes. I was talking about my body hair to my friend’s girlfriend (both comedians) and she asked me if I was trying to turn them on as a joke and then I realized at least 50% of my outward artifice is a ploy to turn on anyone because to be sexually interesting but not particularly available helps me write a narrative where yes, I could be loved but I am not right now and I am clearly okay with it.
- If sex is defined by talking, is love defined as listening? The Listener is the Lover, and they create a space of perfect understanding. Maybe misfits treasure love because they’ve never been listened to.
Do you really just want to be a baby again?
- I should tell more people I’m in love with them so that I can write over my breakup but I do not find it easy to move on because severing attachment means severing my attachment to being alive. I find it hard to unlove someone I have been my baby persona around. Clearly they were my parent at some point. Every love is an opportunity to reparent, to imprint. He moved on immediately, mostly because he was cheating on me, but also because he found someone who writes and has the same aesthetic. It’s sad because clear there was a bob-shaped void in his heart and to me he was special. But also, he reminded me of two other people I’ve been in love with so maybe he was just a version of them, and thus my dilemma was compounded. To hate him would be to hate the others. And to hate myself, for loving him—
- My friend went to a party and met who he called a “baby man,” an adult baby who spoke to him in baby voice and wanted to defecate in his diaper. My friend told me he didn’t want to kink shame but I told him that his consent had not been requested. I then told him about my baby persona. Every long-term ex of mine demanded their own baby name, as if they needed to be part of every story I construct.
- Why do we exalt the virgin love story? Romeo/Juliet, Heer/Ranjha, Layla/Majnun. It is innocent love free of jaded, self-guarded behavior. Maybe it is the purest form of romantic love, we hope, before we became pessimistic about outcomes and fallings out and grief. It is so cute we want to bite it. It is puppy love which Sigrid Nunez in THE FRIEND tells us is a reference to how we feel about puppies, not puppies loving on another. It is love that quells the death drive.
Did you believe in the ‘one’?
- More than sexual availability I am afraid I broadcast emotional availability which renders me both vulnerable and unfulfilled. My intimacy with my friends is so deep it feels sexual and better than with lovers who leave you, so do I need more? As my baby persona would say, greedy! I made out with a “very gay” best friend and he checked in drunkenly later to make sure I was “okay” and I wonder if I look like I’m always yearning. I always wanted to be an alpha but I readily hand over the reigns of power, consent, even morality, to anyone who has the affectation of confidence that forcefulness masquerades as. It’s weird to have fantasies of nonconsent. Maybe intentions do matter more than action. My pining for the absent lover has everything to do with domination. The absent takes up all my oxygen.
- I have shared Mitski with at least three exes and when I listen to her I revisit my failures with them and hate them all. Some art is only for sharing with people who have left us. I hate longing but it makes me feel like at least I have lived and there is something beyond this day to day worth wanting. But my practice of gratitude is keeping me in New York nestled comfortably among my failures. (If there’s nothing here, there’s nothing there — I bring with me my own imperfect air.)
- Is love simple? It seems to be the most complicated thing but attachment feels nonsensically mindless. There is simplicity there. I thought I’d write a list of all my exes but then I felt bad for them because some of them didn’t consent to being my ex and some of them are still my dear friends. I want to retire into the arms of all my best friends in the twilight and know that our threads of attachment are still strong. “Love” is not an action but an animal. It is soft and warm and alive and you have to actively kill it to get rid of it. It is hardly a verb—never a past tense.
Gem Blackthorn is QMT's Sex Columnist, and the author/curator of Lust Thrust Thursdays. Send her your submissions and questions at sexsexsex [at] queenmobs.com