Though it looks like we’re all broadly the same when it comes to sex, beneath the surface similarities, there lurk a great many differences – which are at the root of all kinds of conflicts, shame, embarrassment and secrets.
To put an end to some of the moralistic talk and easy judgement, we might undertake a strange but useful thought experiment. We might start off by thinking of ourselves not as being fundamentally all the same (and therefore in practice frustratingly ‘other’), but from the beginning, belonging to two invisibly intermingled species, species so different when it comes to sex that we could name them after two related but very contrasting imaginary animals. Let’s call them – for fun – Noukous and Slinkies:
Noukous and Slinkies have disagreements over lots of issues around sex.
Slinkies use porn a lot. It’s designed to trigger their excitement and allows them into a world where everyone else also seems excited about the same things.
But Noukous actually think porn is a bit boring, a bit sad, even degrading… Everything seems too sudden and mechanical. Noukous worry that porn is a distraction from real sex.
Slinkies and Noukous also disagree quite a bit about…
Slinkies feel that sexual desire is so urgent and powerful that it’s impossible to ignore it. Masturbation is a necessary outlet.
Noukous have to be in the right mood; lots of the time they don’t think about masturbating because that’s not how sex is for them; it’s a nice thing you do with someone else.
The two also disagree about
For the Slinkie, it doesn’t feel like sex and a relationship have to go together. It really could be very interesting to have sex with a total stranger. There are just so many attractive creatures in the world to get curious about.
The Noukou prizes intimacy over variety. The idea of getting into bed with a stranger really doesn’t feel very exciting–it’s probably going to be cold and awkward.
And finally, there are
Slinkies like to experiment and push boundaries. They tend to get impatient with people who don’t – and see them as a bit prudish.
Noukous tend to be comfortable with what they already know. And since they’re happy with that, they don’t like the idea of being pushed into doing other things.
(N.B.: It’s essential to assert, contrary to the mistaken views of some casual observers, that the two species in no way easily correlate to ‘male’ and ‘female’ in homo sapiens).
Noukous and Slinkies often get together. And tend to imagine each other in misleading ways.
The Noukou thinks the Slinkie is out of control and a bit dirty. They hope that being in a relationship will calm the Slinkie down.
The Slinkie thinks the Noukou should lighten up, let go of some of their hang-ups, and release their inner Slinkie.
Noukous and Slinkies are really attracted to one another. They make great couples. They each lend each other something the other doesn’t have but truly needs. But they deserve a lot of sympathy when it comes to sex, because they’re starting from such different places.
Both think their partner should be more like them and get annoyed because they’re not. But they can’t be more like each other, because they really are quite different creatures.
If they can stop trying to convert one another, each can get curious about the sexual habits of the other species.
Of course, none of us are ever just one species, we’re a baffling mixture at different points. Nevertheless, wherever we are on the spectrum, it’s always crucial for us to accept that our partner just really isn’t the same—and that it might be actually be okay for them to be the way they are.