Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Maybe Sex Is The Least Fun Thing Two People Can Do

Kirin McCrory is 25, lives in New York, and doesn't like sex. At least, not that much. She's normal insomuch as any of us is normal; she happens to like boys and she likes dating, but as for sex? "I'd rather analyze a good book," she said to me one night at a bar. Kirin is my friend, and when she said this I thought she was out of her fucking mind. Or that she had a weird hormonal imbalance or was living a PTSD-crippled life. The sky is blue, water is wet, and everyone likes sex.

Kirin isn't traumatized, isn't ill, and isn't asexual. Asexuality is a real thing: people who are asexual develop romantic attachments but rarely have the sex drive to go with them. Unlike asexual people, she both develops romantic attachments and has a sex drive. She's not a plain old prude. What she is is a person with a nuanced view of sex that may resonate with the rest of us horndogs more than I might have thought at first.

Desiree Browne: You've said in casual conversation that when it comes down to it, you'd rather enjoy a good book than have sex and that talking to a man about his tastes in books and music is more interesting to you than sex. I thought that was really interesting and kinda shocking, if I'm honest.

Kirin McCrory: Yes! I'm glad you reminded me what I said, because that night is a little hazy for me and I wasn't sure what sparked your interest.

But yes, I have a very bizarre point of view on sex and, in general, being with someone. Or, not bizarre, but uncommon. Generally when it comes up, I feel like I come off sounding like a severely repressed Anglo-Saxon Puritan, or a robot.

Yeah, my knee jerk reaction was oh my God, soooo repressed, especially for someone in theater. But then I was like, ok, I will withhold judgment because I do actually want to understand.

I too spend a lot of time thinking, "Am I just very repressed?" It isn't that I don't enjoy being physical with men, or that I have no desire to be sexual. For me, it comes down to this: I do not experience a lot of extreme physical pleasure. The heights are not there for me. I have definitely experienced physical orgasms, but it's never the mind-blowing event that it is for some people. I am a very over-analytical, intellectual person, so it's very possible that my mind is holding my body back from experiencing a deeper, more transcendent orgasm, and I suppose that is something I could explore and experiment with and devote attention to. But at the end of the day, it isn't a realm that I find very interesting, so I generally choose not to exert a lot of energy over figuring it out.

I would rather analyze a good book than analyze what I could do for myself to enjoy a sexual experience on my own end more.

I am very big on banter and flirting and that sort of sexually charged competition between two people attracted to each other, and I am very into the tensions that build in all sorts of sexual situations, physical or otherwise.

But the release, as it were, isn't great?

Yeah, exactly. But the most important thing about me, I think, is that that does not bother me. Which makes me sound, once again, like an ignorantly repressed woman, I think, by modern standards. "Oh, I just don't care that I'm not orgasming! It's really okay!" when we all know it isn't. But I do truly feel that it does not bother me. I enjoy sex as an act that brings me closer to someone I would like to be intimate with. I think it's a lot of fun if things are jiving with the right person.

But I find there's a lot of pressure—which is probably warranted!—for it to get both people off and be a really beautiful moment of individual-and-thus-collective release. And that doesn't happen for me that way.

Can you give me a brief overview of your "history"? Like, when did you start dating, when did you realize you were "different," how did you come to terms with your position on sex

Sure. I did not date until late college. I had my first kiss at 18, in college. I fooled around with someone for the first time at 19. I lost my virginity at 20 at the very end of a sort of bizarre summer fling. I've slept with 5 people but only 2 of those were regularly recurring partners. I would say I've always known that I was not as interested in sex as other people I knew, because my solo sexual relationship is pretty limited. 'Bout to get TMI, but we're talking about sex anyway, so whatever—I'd say I masturbate, on average, about once a week, and have for most of my life. So, I mean, I think I always knew that I would just rather be doing any number of other things than focusing on sex at all.

Obviously, once I became sexually active I had to start dealing with how I felt about having sex with someone and not thinking about having sex with someone. And there have been about two times in my life that I've had amazing, stand-out physical moments with men. But neither of those was during sexual intercourse, and neither of them were, like, white-light, head-thrashing, body-shaking moments either.

What were they like?

Both times were during oral, and I would say it was like being dunked in an amazing, warm bath and soaking there.

That's not bad, though, the warm bath thing. It's definitely sounds comfortable and like a release, like a good payoff for the experience.

Exactly! And both of those moments were great. And I would never decline experiencing them again. But ask me if I'd rather have that moment or finish a great book, and we both know what my answer's going to be.

Not focusing on an orgasm in and of itself isn't wrong or uncommon. I've read that it's a very Western thing to focus on the orgasm rather than the arousal and the experience that may eventually get you there.

Yes! I can see that, definitely. Eastern sexuality is a lot about the whole journey of wooing and seducing and finding the moments of intense pleasure in every step along the way.

Which, actually, I would probably be way more into.

I think what you described earlier—the banter and tension built when two people have their clothes on—falls into the category of romance, which is kind of separate from sex, no?

I guess it depends on your separation of the two. Again, being someone who is so deeply intellectual, I put a lot of weight in general on my ability to interact with someone else's brain. So whereas banter for others might be a romantic intimacy-building experience, honestly, for me, banter becomes way more of an important mind fuck, in the most literal sense. If we can have an amazing conversation about a novel, or if I can find someone whose sense of humor is as sharp and as combative as mine can be, I might as well be naked and getting freaky. That is important to me.

So that night in the bar you said you were sort of asexual but this actually kinda sounds more like being a sapiosexual. Which I sort of wrote off as the kind of bullshit people who are "deep" say but what you’re saying sounds a lot more genuine.

Right, because it's a compromise, or a concession, or a building. If I meet a man who can do those things for me intellectually, I want to rip my clothes off and do whatever he wants me to do to satisfy him, and I'll enjoy that. It's a give and take.The same way sex is for people. It just spans a couple different arenas for me.

I feel like when people say sapiosexual, it comes off as meaning they aren't interested in sex at all, a sort of condescending view of the physical.

Right. They’re like, "Oh, I'm attracted to people's minds.” But you can just as easily like boobs, and that's okay, too.

Right! And I don't feel that way. I get why people like sex, just for sex, and I get why that's super important to some people. And, for someone who doesn't really like touching people in casual circumstances or in public or anything like that, I do really enjoy physical intimacy with a man I'm into. There's no avoidance of the physical on my part, which is different than some people who claim sapiosexuality or a disinterest in sex. I freaking love making out with people—it's just that it's got to be someone who's just one-upped me in a wits' battle first. I will roll around with you all day long if you've done that successfully.

So Joan Sewell wrote a book a few years ago about how she has a low libido and after trying everything she could do to "fix" it, because the culture made it seem like something was wrong with her she just came to terms with it. She goes so far as to say a lot of women are faking how much they crave sex in order to be equal to men and that many would rather read something great. She's gotten to a point where she negotiates and manages sexual experiences with her husband and it doesn’t actually include a lot of intercourse. What do you think?

I don't want to say I think anyone's faking it, but I do think that—and it's a totally natural and necessary order of things, to reverse previous societal beliefs so strongly—we've become obsessed with our enjoyment of sex as a society. We're all supposed to be okay with sex now, which somehow translates into wanting and enjoying and even needing sex, men, women, doesn't matter. That's where we're coming from. We came from sex as a procreative tool for women and enjoyment for men, and we needed to balance that out by asserting that everyone can and should enjoy sex.

I think we're coming to find, with many things, not just with sex, that people are just more complicated and diverse than that. And that's becoming the thing we need to try to accept now.

I would also say that my case is different from Sewell's. Libido just means sexual desire, and again, I do have that. I've yet to have to—or want to—schedule sex for my partner's sake.

I think that when it comes to sex people mostly just want to know two things: am I doing it right and am I really not alone in my strange desires?

Right! But it's like that with everything, I think. I think that about cooking, you know.

Am I doing this right? Am I weird for wanting to eat chili powder in some sort of chocolate concoction? But sex has been, in my view, unfairly pressurized. Humans sit around all day, consciously or unconsciously, wondering if they're doing everything right, or if what they like in any realm is weird comparatively.Clothes, books, music, food, lifestyle, everything.

Wow, the subject of getting laid just got really existential.

That's how I feel about it, though! We're eating food way more often than we're having sex. Why are we not discussing my bizarre neutrality towards, I don't know, grains right now? (Not that I have one; I love grains.) But that's what it comes down to for me.

You talked about give and take. So in these situations, you've enjoyed really good conversation and that's you taking. So then you give sex? In that case, sex isn't really about you. Or am I wrong?

No, you're mostly right. It is about me, in the sense that I do get enjoyment out of it, and it does bring me closer to someone–so I'm always getting something from sex–but it is more about knowing someone else enjoys it more straightforwardly than I do.

I almost pity the men who've slept with me. I've tried to explain it to most of them, and I imagine, in today's modern world, they have serious complexes about whether what they're doing is backwards or selfish or misogynistic. They're probably freaking out in their heads every time, thinking, "She doesn't like this, but I respect her and I respect women and oh my god what does it mean for a man to be essentially taking sex from a woman, that's fucked up." Not that I don't have my own complexes about it, but I can feel for them.

Do you feel like your position on sex makes you a bad feminist?

No, I don't. I feel that feminism is all about equality and choice, and not a definite position on anything. Of course, sometimes I worry if it means I'm a bad feminist because we now put so much pressure on sex as some sort of symbol of liberation, but at this point in my life, I've come to terms with the way I feel about it. It's a thought out and experienced opinion on my part, and that's what feminism is about. I get to feel the way I feel about it, and you get to feel the way you feel about it.

Also, I mean, for someone to say that she cares more about what a man thinks about a book than whether she orgasms or not is not exactly a reversion to any out-dated position for a woman. Women weren't running around in the 1950s saying they needed a man who made their brain explode before he got in their pants.

But one feminist view might be like, well, if you don't like sex it's because the patriarchy has crushed your naturally libidinous soul and now we must rehabilitate you!

Right! Exactly. That's the worst version of feminism, and, in my opinion, isn't really feminism. At this point we should know that humans, men and women, are more complex than that.

I had one truly awful experience with a guy I was seeing. We were fooling around one night and intermittently discussing my weird views on sex, and he pinned me against a wall (something I'm a fan of, under normal circumstances) and said, "I think you just need to be liberated." And I just felt my blood go cold and my stomach drop. I'm sure he thought he was being helpful, but it felt so disgusting and offensive at a moment when I was very vulnerable with someone. I left shortly thereafter and sobbed the whole walk home.

That's awful. And not helpful. You didn't ask him to fix you. I want to backtrack and ask you why you masturbate once a week if it's a warm bath feeling at the end (assuming you orgasm on a regular basis).

Again, I feel like me saying that I don't care about orgasming means to most people that I don't feel ANYTHING when it comes to sex. I masturbate because I do have sexual urges and I do still get pleasure from engaging in sexual intimacy, whether it's with myself or others. But when orgasming is difficult or unimportant, there just isn't a lot of point in sitting around touching yourself. Not that there's no point, but there's less impetus to do so.

How do you negotiate your feelings with being in theater. I know you can't make generalizations but it's been my experience with my theater friends that they have pretty liberal attitudes toward sex and act accordingly.

But my attitude is liberal! It is! If we want to be textbook about it, I might even say my view is more liberal than some others! I have no stipulations. If I want to have sex with you, I will have sex with you. My low personal stake in sex means that I am way more open to whatever the other person may be into, and I have no judgments when it comes to that. And I don't judge anyone for wanting to have lots of sex with as many different people as they like, if that's what they really enjoy.

Desiree Browne is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. Her mother once told her she was oversexed; a high school crush was sad she was still a virgin at 15. Follow her on Twitter @itsdlovely. This conversation has been edited. Australian street shot by "Petra."

16 Comments / Post A Comment

b's knees (#257,374)

I take issue with the approach of this article. Why are we assuming that for an intellectual woman who likes sex, but likes it on her terms, she must be anti feminist and repressed? Why is this even 'newsworthy?' I totally understand and agree with Kirin. If I had to pick never having sex again vs never reading a book again, I'd rather not have sex.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@b's knees When something is posted on The Awl, that makes it newsworthy.

Michael R (#257,375)

Kirin, thanks for sharing. I feel the same exact way, and you are the first person I've read whose experience of sex matches my own. I'm a man in my early 30s, I am not asexual, I've been in relationships and feel sexual desire and like my body and other people's bodies– but I like a lot of other things better than sex. This fact makes people freak out, even though it doesn't make me freak out at all (except when people accuse me of being repressed, out of touch with my sexuality, in denial, scared of intimacy, scared of pleasure, scared of life!…)

There is a great article by Mark Greif called Afternoon of the Sex Children that talks about how our culture got focused on sex the way it is, and it's worth reading.

Thanks for the validation. I even made an account to sign in just to leave this comment, that's how great it was to read this.

Kalorama_Kat (#257,391)

@Michael R Agreed, this is so refreshing. I think a totally unintended consequence of sex-positive feminism is the reinforcement of traditional notions of masculinity.

Michael R (#257,375)

@Kalorama_Kat Ah that makes sense… I never thought of it that way.

ugh books vs. sex comparison is so lame

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"I freaking love making out with people—it's just that it's got to be someone who's just one-upped me in a wits' battle first."

And for the one-upper (as a man) it would have to be a woman he just one-upped? So in his case, he would still have to be "physical first" type, because he has to have *something* high to aim for, right?

Oh man, how do you go from the sexual revolution to not even masturbation? God sure has a messed up sense of humor:

Bobby Womack (#4,074)

She's got a well-expressed viewpoint that I can understand. Except this bit.

"I am a very over-analytical, intellectual person, so it's very possible that my mind is holding my body back from experiencing a deeper, more transcendent orgasm[.]"

I'm willing to wager most Nobel laureates don't believe their minds hold them back from enjoying orgasms. Not an intellectual thing, but a psychological thing.

Neptune (#257,558)

@Bobby Womack
She didn't say being intelligent might be holding her back, she said being over-analytical and intellectual (i.e. rational, not emotional). I can't speak for Kirin, but as someone who has and is working on this very issue, I do believe this way of thinking can affect enjoyment of sex.

Personally, I find it very difficult to stop thinking about what's next and what I'm doing and whether I'm enjoying it enough and whether my partner is enjoying it enough, etc etc etc… instead of just DOING. I'm trying to control the flow instead of just letting it carry me along. I didn't realise I was doing this for a long time – it's just the way my brain operates all the time – but now I believe that this keeps my emotions (and people) at a distance and dulls my experiences of things, especially sex. It stops me being in the moment.

Anyway, since I started working on this, I've noticed that things *feel* different somehow. I could only pick up on it when I had another way of experiencing things to compare it to, but I realised that usually when I get close to orgasm, I try to force my body over the edge. Whereas now when I manage to get out of my own head successfully, everything feels much more relaxed and natural and the orgasm is different too – it feels more all-encompassing and lasts much longer.

It's really interesting to hear from someone who has somewhat similar feelings about sex but a very different attitude to it. I really admire how comfortable Kirin is with herself.

sunnyciegos (#551)

Kirin seems awesome and has a beautiful way of expressing a complex thing. But the interviewer is weird to even suggest that Kirin is "repressed" or "a bad feminist." Pretty sure taking charge of your sexual choices makes you a great feminist.

I remember saying sex was overrated at a hack circle in college, and the guys to the left and to the right immediately backed away, like they were afraid they'd be associated with such heresy, maybe come down with whatever disease I had. Outward exclamations of enthusiasm for sex are their own kind of ideology, and not very well justified on the merits.

sharilyn (#4,599)

I remember feeling this way in my early 20s, I'm sure it's something a lot of young women can relate to. However, as I became more sure of myself and my desires as an independent woman in the world, my desire for interactions that included sex increased. I guess my point is that desire and ideas about sex can ebb and flow for one person over a lifetime (particularly women, whose lives are more at the mercy of various chemical interactions) and that's totally normal and okay. We don't have to live in a dichotomy of horndog vs. prude.

Myrtle (#9,838)

Terrific read-why is it normal to be this constantly half-aroused persona with jutting silicone breasts? Equally mesmerizing illustration with cute, healthy girl eying the cigarette-toting owner of The Male Gaze striding past, flip-flops a-ploshing.

I've followed up on this interview with another post. Thanks for helping me think about issues surrounding sexuality, issues that some of my friends are really struggling with. Here it is:

BugoTheCat (#269,233)

Wow! That's the most interesting recent article I read on a subject that bothers me. With new food for thought.

I dislike binary generalizations like you must either be repressed or love sex. So, the case of someone talking openly about being in some weird middle or low point, neither asexual nor praising sex, is one I really liked reading about. I think it shouldn't be uncommon, there are different gradients of how much important someone finds sex, it's just that most of us would definitely not deny sex being one of the best things, even if we don't have that experience. Cause it would be weird. And so the myth of sex being something like an unforgetable experience, something so strong like enlightenment, is perpetuated. I like that this starts showing as not being the norm, through the internet.

There are so many nice points here, first reading the phrase "Wow, the subject of getting laid just got really existential." was an eye opener for me, because that's what it really is. More and more you find young people being scared that they will never get laid, it's the bane of modern society, to feel like there is something wrong with you just because you don't get enough sex for whatever reason. Do you understand the damage that happens with this hypersexualization? Suddenly sex is not the beautiful best thing in the world, but an idea that makes you feel bad about yourself, just because you may not get enough of it (for various reasons, I accept everything, asexuality, reduced drive, or even wanting it but being too afraid to form a relationship). Many people try to get it even if they don't necessary crave it, just to be socially acceptable. Other people despair and wish they never had to do anything with it at all from the beginning. It doesn't seem like the so great and beautiful thing anymore. So yes, sexual revolution would make sense even with lack of sex, if it's some kind of liberation from the stereotypes.

I like how Kirin concludes at various point the most important idea, that basically not everyone is the same. We need to show understanding, not throw stereotypes and simple explanations at people. The sex/relationship confusion is big now, I was bothered by it (as a mostly virgin who doesn't get big motivational kicks from the idea of sex while also love shy) and see lot's of people worrying endlessly (at least I am not alone), it's depressing. This, and the whole "normality" shaming.

So, I made an account here just to reply how much I liked this one, and even the articles in your website seem interesting. I will stick more here I guess.

Post a Comment