When Did Writing About Detached Sex Become a Thing?by Chiara Atik on February 12, 2013
“It is 10:00 in the morning on a Saturday and I’m beneath a man who I am telling needs to fuck me harder. To fuck me like he’ll never see me again, like I am a cancer patient whose final wish is one last, gutting orgasm—like I am his Miela. He is timid. His eyes are blue or green, he looks old. I ask him to squeeze my tits as hard as he can—I want them to bruise. When he doesn’t I roll over and tell him that I have to get ready for work. I put my dress back on with no underwear because I can’t find them and say, ‘Well, that was fun.’”
-RedTube: Making Love With Miela
A new type of personal essay has emerged on blogs lately, have you noticed? It involves young, female bloggers describing their sexual encounters in graphic detail, with nearly absurd levels of emotional detachment. Cat Marnell did it for Vice. Lenina Lilic did it for Gawker, in an essay that, while not poorly written, certainly doesn’t fall under the category of “daily news media and gossip.” XOJane seems to have practically made it a subcategory. Describing weird sex with someone you have no affinity for is becoming a literary device.
The leitmotif of these essays is clear: look how self-aware we are of the fact that having casual sexual encounters doesn’t make us feel sexy, doesn’t make us feel loved, doesn’t make us feel less alone. And yet we continue to do it, in an act of sexual nihilism that seems to fly in the face of our mothers’ hard-fought sexual liberation. (“Sure, we can have sex whenever now. Who cares? It’s meaningless.”)
I devour these essays, the way I do almost anything that’s overshare-y on the internet. I appreciate the “poor little rich girl” aspect — except instead of money, these girls have sexuality for currency. Poor little sexy girl, who’s wanted by men, but whose own physical and emotional needs go untended.
But as voyeuristically entertaining as these essays are (and they are, they really are!), we cannot, we must not, let this sexual nihilism become cool. Because what makes for a good essay (well, at least the first few times around) does not make for a good paradigm to put forward to women. Listless, detached sex should not become the prototype of the modern “feminist” experience.
Because here is where things seem to have gotten confused after the sexual liberation: the fact that women can now have casual sex without stigma (well, loosely speaking), does not mean that we are obliged to partake. You don’t have to always be having sex. You can, in fact, go for long periods without sex. If you’re depressed, or on drugs, or going through a hard time, or suffering from any sort of issue, you may in fact find that not having sex is preferable to unhappily engaging in an activity which you are not, at the moment, at full capacity to enjoy.
This is not an indictment of casual sex! Maybe there’s nothing in the world that makes you feel better than the physical release of a good one night stand. If that’s the case, then please, have sex as often and with as many people as you can possibly fit into your schedule. Just as long as you get actual pleasure from it, physical and emotional pleasure.
There is no need to have meaningless, unenjoyable sex – no inherent goodness or interestingness to that experience – when not having sex is a viable (and maybe in some cases, better) option.
Sex should matter, you know? It doesn’t have to be romantic. It doesn’t have to be especially racy or meaningful or exciting or explicit. But it does have to be something more than a means for proving – to yourself? to others? – how detached you’ve managed to become, how desensitized, how…fucked up.
We can’t let sex become another thing we’re blasé about, something we do because we can. Sex is one of the most human, natural, life-affirming activities there is, and that is something worth preserving.
Because if sex doesn’t matter, if sex doesn’t make you feel anything, then what will?