Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sexuality Rant

I am not sure at all about the validity of someone like me, a thirty-nine year heterosexual cis-male and virgin, saying anything whatsoever as regards sexuality. There is no way I can say something without offending somebody, I’m sure. That is not said in sarcasm or just. This is a very sensitive subject about which I have little basis to be making any commentary. Most of what this rant shows is my own social cowardice and me trying to figure just exactly what I do and don't understand. I very much expect that I'm displaying some hints of privilege of some kind along with a fair amount of lacking self-esteem. So I'm not entirely sure why I decided to post anything regarding this subject at all save that it would be another sort of cowardice to just not say anything I suppose. Granted, I'll likely not have any more exposure on this rant than I do on any of my others.

To start, I will say that I have been blessed in my life to have that rare situation of having a family that would generally be viewed as having traditional, old world values but which has never demonized sexuality. The concept of sex being this dirty, sinful thing was something that came from the outer culture rather than my family. Even then, I mostly find the topic uncomfortable because of the reactions of other people rather than anything else.

Does this mean that my family talked about sex all the time? No, far from it. Most of my family’s discussions were about stuff going on in the day, school, politics, religion, philosophy and just random goofy stuff such as “Warning: Church” street signs. Rather I’d say it is more that when the subject came up there wasn’t an immediate negative tone to things. I ended with the feeling that sex was a rather natural part of life and an intense moment of intimacy with another human being. However, I will say that growing up I’d be as likely to hear about the way some football player filled out his pants as I was to have a discussion of the appeal of a particular female celebrity.

As I entered into adult life, my friendships were similar. The number of women I’ve known who were comfortable with their sexuality is fairly high. I never had those male friends that expressed sexual fantasies that demeaned women. Most of my conversations were on various fantasy and science-fiction stories, gaming, philosophy and other such things. I kept my sexual fantasies mostly private due to a combination of there being more interesting things to talk about and being taught to be gunshy mostly by the vicarious experience of movies and TV. Which seems ridiculous now that I’m writing this. Almost all my discomfort in talking about sex comes from fictional portrayals I never experienced as compared to being lucky to grow up and enter adult life around people who didn’t respond in such ways.

I am a student of language, most specifically the English language, so I am familiar with the historical trend that male-related words tend to become elevated in meaning while female related words often becomes degraded. For a perfect example, regard the term “maid” which used to refer to a young, unmarried woman but these days refers to a “cleaning woman”. In terms of sexuality, we have the female term “slut” and the male term “player.” One is used as an insult for a promiscuous woman and the other is used as a term of admiration for a man who can seduce women. The dichotomy in these connotations is something I have an intellectual understanding of, at least in terms of how the dichotomy came to be, but it is something I tend to find ridiculous.

It is considered a mark of distinction when a man manages to get a woman into bed who has a reputation for saying “no”. In the best possible interpretation of the archetype, methods such as date-rape drugs and forcible rape aren’t part of the repertoire of a master player. Unfortunately, this is mostly because they are viewed as being clumsy rather than because they are abhorrent practices. Even then, it is considered acceptable in these cultures for the “player” to do things like string the woman along into believing that there is a deeper emotional connection and then dumping her once he’s gotten into her bed. Even the term itself is disturbing because it underscores the entire idea that the culture that lauds the “player” views women as some sort of game up to and including posting walkthroughs on how to pick-up women online.

By comparison, the original meaning of “slut” was apparently a woman who worked in the kitchen, but I only found that particular word origin in one place. The most common use of “slut” for hundreds of years was to refer to an untidy, slovenly or dirty woman. The connection to sex was first made in the 1500s but the dominant use of “slut” until about two hundred years ago was basically an “untidy woman”. Which means it likely got linked to sex due to the pervasive historical idea that sex was a dirty and debased practice. In the modern use, there comes with it an implication that a “slut” can’t say no somehow. I suppose that likely comes from the ancient idea of ownership. The idea that a wife belongs to her husband, but a woman who is willing to have sex with more than one person is public property. It is a rather disturbing trend.

Again, I have to say that most of my encounters with this sort of thinking have been fortunately second or third hand. My family and friends have held none of these beliefs and, as a man, I mostly don’t get these attitudes thrown in my face. The men that think in the above manners aren’t going to reveal themselves as often with me. If I were a woman, I’d likely face those attitudes every day of my life. I have experienced the attitudes in a limited fashion via my online gaming.

I almost exclusively play female characters in MMOs and have been cyber-stalked on maybe three occasions. Revealing I was a male player didn’t help any of the instances, only shifting the tone of the violence and disrespect levied at me. In two of those cases, shifting to another alternate character for three weeks and blocking the harasser ended the issue. In one case, the individual had my account ID apparently and what started as getting invite pop ups within five minutes of coming online every time for three weeks ended up with my being verbally harassed across multiple characters from multiple accounts until I had to report the guy to the moderators.

Does that in anyway equate what women go through in daily life? No. Those three instances account for less a total of less than 24 hours of my life. I’d be surprised if they even accounted for a total of 8 or 12 hours of my life. I only had the issue online and had the option of logging off to get away from it. In the same way, my occasional encounters with racism while living in Korea or the wide-eyed stares I get from children and the occasional adult here in Japan can’t equate with the sort of experience a black man or woman receives in America.

For that matter, I can’t say that I’m innocent in being part of the problem. A while back, maybe ten years now, I did a fan fiction that was basically just serving as the excuse for me to have various anime characters in “sexy cosplay”. The idea was a transformative magical “virus” that made people into sexy versions of various mythical creatures. This came along with a reduction in inhibitions resulting in several characters getting into some heavy petting situations. I never got past heavy petting for the scenes though I’ve implied some fade to black behavior in a couple of places. It was mostly a silly sexual transformation fantasy. However, when I got around to naming it I first called the series of stories “Slut Virus.” I’ve been told that for most part, the only thing wrong with the series of stories and art is that name, and I must have known it at the time since I used the abbreviation “SV” rather than spell it out in many cases. My re-visitation of the concept abandoned that name entirely.

A lot of my sexual fantasies involve some combination of empowerment and reduced inhibitions. The triggering factor is usually external to the involved characters. If it something they use deliberately then the shifts that follow are largely unintentional or self-inflicted. I am not aroused by degrading scenarios though stories of people pushing their boundaries either on their own or with encouragement do get my interest. There is a big difference between someone gently pushing a character to get over some unhealthy inhibition and someone using some mind control method ranging from real world date-rape drugs to fantastical telepathic or magical mind control.

To my mind “reduced inhibitions” does not equal “can’t say no.” As far as I’m concerned a character that literally can’t refuse sex is just as inhibited, if not more so, as an average person. They’re just inhibited in a way that produces behavior that is considered uninhibited by the average person. It seems to me that it’s a public misunderstanding of sexual addiction and conditions like nymphomania, the descriptions of which I have heard are horrifying.

I think part of my issue in this regard is that inhibitions are a big obstacle to my life. People around me are comfortable with their sexuality, or at least seem to be, but I am largely not. Beyond that I likely have mild self-esteem issues that also get twisted up into things. I am not interested in a casual relationship, but I fear that I would not be very good at a long term relationship. I get too wrapped up in my personal projects. I make too little money. I am their friend and don’t want to make things weird. I am a rather out of shape fate, white virgin, very much the stereotypical D&D gamer. I have a long list of reasons for why I am a poor prospect and, on the off chance that I don’t get rejected, that I should not put the burden of me on someone I ostensibly care about. These are all at least partially irrational, of course, there’s no way for me to know unless I try, but I continue to not try.

I am also not a fan of the messiness of biological functions and mechanics involved in sex are no exception. While I certainly have the normal heterosexual reaction to the image of an attractive woman, the thought of actually inserting of tab A into slot B tends to kill the fantasy a little. I am also not fond of physical contact in the first place. There’s no triggering background for it, no trauma to explain it, just touching people makes me really antsy. This is to the point that when people offer “hugs” online as a method of comfort I get uncomfortable despite the fact that it’s not really happening. I’ve had to tone down this reaction since dealing with small children, so my usual reaction is to freeze up rather than to visibly freak out because I don’t want to hurt people. In any case, outside my family there are very few people I’ve been comfortable being contact with over the course of my life.

Finally, I just don’t think about social interaction most of the time. It isn’t something I find distasteful or horrible, I quite enjoy being with people who talk about the same things as I do. Conventions are always a wonderful thing to attend because of all the people you meet who have similar interests. Similarly this is why I liked hanging around the local comic shop. However, unless I deliberately think about it, the idea of doing something socially will not enter my head. I’m not sure if some of my friends are aware that I push for get-togethers, mostly online these days, because I can very easily turn into a hermit and lose contact with pretty much everybody without realizing it.

So, for me, a reduction of inhibitions is an empowering fantasy where I can escape the mass of psychological self-image issues and manage to successfully start a relationship. It’s that lazy, cowardly hope that some outside force will solve all these hang-ups for me. It’s less about this fantasy of some woman who can’t say no to me and more about this fantasy of being able to say yes to things I think might be worthwhile but am too hesitant to try. Another potential fantasy is that of the aggressive woman who takes a liking to me and pushes resolutely past all those barriers.

Realistically, my assumption is that my reaction to such a mental shift is likely to range from extreme discomfort on one end to outright horror on the other end. The real world possibilities for these fantasies involve alcohol or other mind-altering substances which I consistently avoid. As to getting targeted by an aggressive woman who likes me, I expect I’d either react defensively or else completely fail to notice the attention. Yeah, the chance of something to happening on this avenue without my doing something is probably less likely than the chance of Jim Butcher deciding my Bridal Shower fan fic is canon to the Dresden Files. There is no easy answer to this and as I get older I fear I’m just going to be more stuck. Which is itself another irrational excuse not to go with anything. I think I’ll end that topic for now before I hit my self-esteem any more.

Which comes to the question of my choice of characters in sexual fantasies I suppose. It’s usually a lesbian affair. I mostly put that down to being a heterosexual male. An acquaintance of mine who enjoys yaoi (American anime-fan slang for fiction involving male homosexual activity) hypothesized that it’s partially because we don’t want to imagine any competition in the scenario or the idea that throwing someone into the fantasy with (for us) the wrong set of genitalia sours things. Other than that I haven’t put much thought into it. It might be possible to say that, given my fantasy about removing my own hang ups, that one of the girls represents me, but really, in most cases it’s just a ridiculous scenario with no deeper meaning to it than “sex seems interesting.”

So far, everything I’ve talked about has been focused around the concept of sexual fantasies rather than a complete story. While sexual fantasies can influence and appear in more complete works and even tales of erotica can have incredible depth and complexity, a sexual fantasy is, to my mind, a plot-what-plot? scenario that exists just to get some arousal going. The premise is usually ridiculous and unrealistic. The only way most of these would happen is if you and a significant other deliberately set it up. For me, this often involves transformation in some form or fashion because I’m rather fascinated with the concept of shape changing.

To put it frankly, I have never seen, heard of or had a sexual fantasy that cannot be considered creepy in some way. After all, you’re imagining a scenario where all the individuals involved are at your complete control. The characters of such fantasies will always be shallow objectifications, even if they modeled on real people or fully fleshed out (I actually typed that without thinking about the pun…bleh) fictional characters. I assume that’s natural and I certainly know that both women and men have the same fantasies. Talking about these fantasies just out of the blue is inappropriate, never mind the idea of actually making someone act them out for you. Sharing fantasies with a lover and doing a give and take on acting out each other’s fantasies seems perfectly healthy. I have literally zero experience to base that on, but the experts on the issue seem to encourage it.

In my short stories, novels and longer storylines sexuality has often come up but is rarely the primary concern. There is also a difference between sexual activity and sexuality. Lucretia is characterized as being rather loose and tends to project sexuality in casual interactions, but there is actually very little sexuality behind her sexual activity and I tend to cringe when thoughts of her sexual escapades come through my head, because I know the psychology going on in her head during those times and it is not pretty. Even those casual interactions where she is acting heavily sexual there aren’t actual sexual thoughts going in her head. It’s an act, something to make people uncomfortable and put them off their guard. There are reasons she doesn’t normally touch people and almost can’t show much skin due to psychological blocks. Her claim for both is that that’s for amateurs, but the truth is otherwise.

In Divine Blood, there is implication that both Whelan and Eowyn have had a number of sexual encounters, not with each other, but the only thing confirmed in any story is Whelan’s relationship with one Roisin from the short stories which starts with them waking up together. There is also Darrin Marsh who is a would-be teenaged Lothario who’s trying to get a start at establishing a list of conquests. Mao's stance on romantic situations is clear, she's not interested in casual relationships and isn't looking for another long term relationship since her last partner died of cancer (off the top of my head, I'm not sure I stated the cause of death). But aside from the smarmy British bully, the vague implications of the off-duty habits of two mercenaries and the attitude of a bereaved single mother; the majority of the romantic stuff is teenaged awkward crushes that aren’t being thought all the way through to the romping stage, though one relationship is planned to eventually be polyamorous, I mostly am looking at that as post story stuff. Most of the stuff driving the school plot right now is teenaged social status stuff and when/if I get to the world falling apart around them there's going to be other things driving issues.

Even if I create a setting for purpose of doing mostly goofy and slightly raunchy storylines, I tend to get a bit more introspective on things. The setting that I reworked and retitled the earlier mentioned fan fiction into is Pandora Pox (which will likely be expanded with a male version now that I think about it. Adonis…something, will have to find something suitably silly to call it.) One of the moments of humor I want to have is the main character commenting on how amusing it is when normal humans try to hit on a pandora the way they hit on a human, oozing out the charm and pheromones, trying pick-up lines and the like when they’d likely have a lot more sex walking up to them and just flat asking “do you want to have sex?” Because while it is something they enjoy, the greater amount of emotional attachment to the act is gone. On the flip side, the same perspective character also complain that becoming a pandora has robbed her of at least one avenue of establishing intimacy with another person because it has. 

As to what’s attractive to me? Real life, it’s mostly conversation and faces. Eyes and lively expressions are especially fascinating. I suppose the body types of the women I’ve found attractive are in that average weight-range of not skinny and not large and I can’t rightly remember what their breasts or rear end were like. I get attracted to women because they’re women I like talking to and who talk about the same things with me. I don’t doubt that physical appearance is an issue with me, I probably do judge on appearances quite often. The features that stick in the mind, however, are faces and conversations.

That said, some of my characters do go with the stereotypical big breasted thing. In some cases this is a deliberate parody (my CoH character Wyrmling was a joke on the big-breasted tank characters from comics such as She-Hulk). In other cases it is a set up for a joke later (one character who will eventually get shape-shifting abilities is going to make her chest smaller). Sometimes it is part of maintaining an homage to an inspiring character (Mao Semezou’s physical form is inspired by the female Ranma, so she’s short and busty). In the sexual fantasies that involve physical transformation, the idealization of the secondary sexual features is an easy way to mirror a mental shift. In at least one case the breast size is as a result of psychological issues (some metaphysical development things going on) and is directly a result of the character’s warped perception of herself and sexuality. Given earlier comments, it might be a bit too obvious which character that is.

Most of my characters, however, are average or even flat. I am, in fact, fairly light on the description of some of my characters. One result of this is that the art of the characters I get done is the stereotypical fantasy/sci-fi female and unless it’s a character who I’ve specifically envisioned as being small chested or even flat (such as Yooji) then I rarely notice because my main concern is on costume, face and other details. That and the large chested characters are so ubiquitous in fantasy art that I’m reasonably sure that they are a part of the default image. This tendency to overlook such art has gotten me into some trouble recently in regards to a piece of art I had done for an RPG project.

Overall, I don’t really know much about sexuality. I haven’t experienced sex yet. So I am generally unsuited to be making any sort of conclusions on this matter, but I decided to at least sit down and write it out. Much of this is stuff I wouldn’t say in real life. Sometimes, I’ll end up in a rant and say some of this, because when I get talking I tend to progressively lose all my filters, but I generally try to avoid the subject outside close friends and family. Some of this is stuff I only consciously thought about as I wrote this, so maybe this is a bit of catharsis for me.

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