Sure, Sex Is Great (Unless You Have Social Anxiety and a Touch Aversion)

Yesterday was a “sexy” day. It came up as a topic of conversation among friends, and then I continued reading “The Shadow of the Wind” and its charming sex scenes.

I have a strange relationship with sex. The topic does not bother me because I think it’s perfectly natural and healthy. If anything, society does not discuss it enough. Sex is still an all-too-taboo topic (at least in the United States), even when things like violence are not. It brings to mind an interview with Eva Green from 2004:

It must be very shocking for the American people, but what I don’t understand is why they are so crazy about that. I don’t understand why you can’t see naked people on screen, but we can see a baby being killed. It’s quite strange. They’re too puritan, too uptight.

on her sex scenes in “The Dreamers” (2003)

We have seen a lot of violence portrayed on screen, but sex is highly censored because anything beyond that, regardless of context, is regarded as pornographic. I tend to agree with Green because sex is something many people will experience in a healthy way during their life. Violence is something, hopefully, relatively few will experience.

All of that said, I have been largely unimpressed with sex. It excited me in high school because I had no experience, was not sure what to expect, and had the social impression that it was the greatest thing in the world. Many people still seem to treat it that way, though whether because they sincerely believe that or they’re succumbing to the same social prioritisation of sex is another matter.

This is not to say that sex is unimportant or unenjoyable. What I am describing is entirely a matter of personal perception that relates to one key sensory element: touch. Touch plays a critical role in my experience with the topic and falls somewhere in the middle of the process.

First, I have my social and generalised anxiety. Those obstacles have nothing to do specifically with sex, but they have created in me a strong aversion to the sense of touch. I also have a high degree of medical anxiety and doctor phobia, so the fear of negative touch sensations exacerbates things. I do not like touching most things, and I do not like things touching me. My anxious mind attaches itself to even the tiniest sensory inputs and I try to minimise that.

I have written in the past about my demisexuality, though I sometimes struggle with that label. Sexuality is not a choice, and we have the ongoing nature/nurture discussions, but so much of my demisexual experience seems connected with my anxiety. The implication there would be that if I resolved my anxiety enough, I might also cease to be demisexual.

This is the second part of the process. Anxiety makes me averse to touch except in certain circumstances, such as a high level of comfort with a person, which then translates to a selfless attitude towards sex. What attracts me to another person sexually is a high level of emotional and mental connection, and the knowledge that they’re excited by me. I’m kind of indifferent to sex, but I enjoy their enjoyment.

The translation is that I enjoy the idea of sex more than sex itself. The reality (of my personal experience) is underwhelming because it’s concrete and tangible. The idea of sex is ethereal. Fellow writers might understand it the way we conceptualise and idea and then what we get on paper feels like a poor imitation.

I think the reason for that is people put a lot of emphasis on touch. Sex is primarily a question of “feel” (both in a physical and emotional sense). I love the emotional sense, but the physical sense is too delimited. People seem to agree, at least in a non-sexual sense, because when recounting relationships, we hear people remembering the other sense: how someone smelled, how a kiss tasted, physical features, the sound of their voice or breathing.

Those other sense are the ones that tend to engage our minds. Encountering a smell can transport us to another place a time. It might be an objective smell, but the other senses contextualise things and give them that ethereal quality.

It’s a lot of romanticism, but that is where the appeal of sex resides in me. It makes the other person intoxicating and special, which in turn makes the relationship special. Because the point of this is not an attempt at a universal perspective on sex, it’s a personal perspective informed by psychology (and that being one marked by several anxieties). The sex is not about sex, but about belonging and authenticity. The demisexuality refers to a need for an emotional connection with the person because the want, the real want, is to be vulnerably intimate with someone that matters. It’s a form of communication where one already knows how they feel about the other person, but it becomes confirmation that the other person feels just as strongly.

Personally, when the emphasis is too much on the matter of touch that does not occur. Quite the opposite, it implies the presence of a barrier. When someone touches me, I feel that they are trying to get close but can’t. It leaves me feeling somewhat distant (assuming it’s someone emotionally close, otherwise I just feel anxious). The emotional closeness and the aforementioned ethereal qualities of the other senses feel close, like two people so open they inhabit one another for a time.

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