I was reading a story, Sherlock (BBC, 2010) fanfiction. I hate Sherlock as a sexual being, so when I came across a sex scene in the story, which came highly recommended to me, I was very, very disappointed. I was ready to set it aside, but I decided to slog through and see if the story could be salvaged in spite of the sex.
And the sex was good. It worked. I enjoyed it. I related this to the friend who had recommended the story excitedly. Practically bouncing in my seat, I stated the following: “It’s sex in spite of sex not because of sex.” This, of course, confused my friend deeply. It made no sense to her.
And so, I set out to explain. In so doing, I discovered something about myself. We’ll get to that in a minute, after my explanation.
There is more than one type of sex, just as there is more than one type of love. For some reason, no one is examining types of sex. Sex is sex is sex. Only it’s not. Not for me. And there don’t appear to be words with which to explain this.
I liken the lack of words to explain to another situation in my life. In high school, I had a friend who was totally colourblind, saw the world in shades of grey apparently. He could not see colour. He asked me one day to describe red to him. I couldn’t do it. There were no words to convey the nuances of the word red without describing other colours. I find myself stumbling similarly in this explanation, so please bear with me.
There are at least two types of sex. There are probably more and I will probably revisit this model as I learn of more with further examination, but for now I will be examining two of them.
The first type that I know is sex as the result of a culmination of physical desire. This requires two (or more) people to be physically attracted to one another and for that attraction to grow until such time as the two (or more) people perform sexual activity with one another. This can happen quickly or it can happen slowly. For the purposes of this model, we will denote sex as a culmination of physical desire as sex(p).
The second type that I know is sex as the result of a culmination of a desire for intimacy. Now, that is not to say that all intimate relationships culminate in sex, but that sex can be perceived as an intimate thing given our cultural standards and that humans desire touch. These two things, the desire for touch and the perception of sex as an intimate thing result in two (or more) people having sex in order to deepen their intimacy. We will denote sex as the culmination of a desire for intimacy as sex(i).
The two may be able to exist in a single incident of sexual activity. I am not sure. I do, however, believe that, while sex(p) can become sex(i) over time, sex(i) would have a much harder time becoming sex(p). I also believe that relationships wherein one person is having sex(i) and one person is having sex(p) can exist, but will never last.
Sex in spite of sex not because of sex refers to an incidence that is sex(i) in spite of sex(p), not because of sex(p). In the fanfiction mentioned above, John Watson had some sort of attraction, very vaguely mentioned, to Sherlock Holmes. It was never made explicit whether or not Sherlock had a similar attraction to John Watson. The sex, however, was sex(i), 100%. That entire section of the story was about becoming closer; becoming more intimate; becoming more, together. And yes, that comma is intentional. It was about becoming more than just the sum of their parts, together. A relationship can become more than the sum of its parts through separate growth. This was a growth in unison, together. The sex itself, the actions taken, were secondary to this growth. And that is the essence, as I see it, of sex(i).
Sex(p) is different. I know the difference when I see it. It’s like knowing what red is. It is a meeting of bodies where the souls do not touch. I use the word soul loosely, so please understand that a soul, for this discussion, is the essence of a person as an emotional being, for lack of a better way to define it. That is not to say that the soul is not touched upon during sex(p). I think that the soul is involved insofar as it determines if this is sex(p) or sex(i), makes tentative grasps for the other soul(s) involved, but if it is not sex(i) then they cannot connect. This is why I believe that sex(p) can become sex(i), but not the other way around. The souls involved can reach for one another, but I do not believe that during sex(i) they can repel one another. I could be wrong.
As an asexual person who enjoys and seeks sex, I have sex(i). I find a person who I care about and I connect with them on an intimate level. Sex(i) is my level best attempt to link souls with another human being. I am a romantic asexual and I have a drive for sex(i). Anonymous sex revolts me on some level because sex(p) does not appeal to me in the slightest. It seems wrong, on some level, because I do not experience the desire for it.
Would every romantic asexual have the desire for sex(i)? Absolutely not. Remember that sex(i) is, at least in part, the result of perception of sex as an intimate thing for cultural reasons. Not everyone’s cultural perceptions are the same and not every aspect of those perceptions is identically experienced by any two humans. I believe, though, that some romantic asexuals other than myself have a drive for sex(i).
The model is imperfect. As I stated before, it will be revisited.
But for now, this is my best attempt to pin down the colour red.