It’s cold for summer and genuinely an awful date when we sit on benches by the river on the Upper East Side drinking the beer I’ve bought for us. S is talking about moving to Oregon or somewhere. At this moment, I’m a 75-year-old butch in a blue mini-dress with tits flying amok and bouts of glitter rubbed carelessly just below the corners of my eyes. It’s in the third beer that I’m thinking we’re definitely going to smooch, and it’s about time because a true old butch—even an eighteen-year-old in femme drag—should have kissed a lesbo by now. We’re back at her place, more beer appears, and I lean my head against the bed frame.
Apparently it’s sexy time when S turns the lights off and wordlessly slips her knee between my thighs. We start smooching, and as her teeth knock clumsily around my mouth, a familiar feeling seeps in. As it becomes clear that I’m on the cusp of full dissociation, logic and reason tell me it’s time to fuck: To my understanding, that is the duty which comes with a performance as the good butch. At this time, my definition of good butch is essentially, an emotionless dude who’s a dutiful top in the sack. So I’m fucking S, and after hearing what is presumably an orgasm, she’s going down on me, and at this point I’m essentially watching this happen from across the room. Then, it’s a quick reassurance—that’s okay, I’m good—from the depths of my inner stone butch, and a brief bout of spooning before I’m using my phone flashlight to track down my strappy sandals. In my haste, I forget my underwear buried among piles of crap on the floor, and bawling into the phone to a friend of mine on my way home, I’m undoubtedly feeling the breeze.
Up until this point my past experiences in the realm of sexy time solely included porny performances as a balls-grabbing hot girl. During these episodes in my late teenage life, sex meant asserting power in order to derive some kind of entertainment from an otherwise dissociative penis-focused affair. Crucial to these experiences was an utter physical and mental indifference, which, whilst fucking men throughout many grand years of repression, I attributed completely to an unwillingness to accept my queerness. A date with S meant getting rid of that baggage all at once, becoming the queer I was always meant to be after one quick fuck. I essentially repurposed all the tools and forms of intimacy learned from dudes I’d fucked to create a queer sexual identity.
My attempt at dating à la the horny teenage boy I may one day become culminated in a panic: a panic over fucking. I use the term “horny teenage boy” lightly, but what I mean to describe is a hormone-ridden seventeen-year-old eager to get his dick wet. The trope itself is a product of compulsory sexuality, the idea that all humans are inclined to fuck and perform a sexual identity of desire. The point is, if I was going to fuck, it wasn’t going to be as simple and sexy as I’d hoped after coming to terms with my dyke-dom. Hence, a panic over fucking. Countless interactions with others have confirmed time and again that sexuality and gender identity which diverts from the absolute norm is a cause for panic. Even while you’re not fucking and not worried about it, someone else is undoubtedly worrying about it for you.
I’m not currently a horny teenage boy, nor is this a problem to be dealt with. Many people understand asexuality to mean a lack of desire, a total aversion to any form of sexy time, and although this may be true for some, asexualities are pluralistic, ranging from total horndog to sex- and romance-averse. My identification as not a horny teenage boy may be where I place myself on this spectrum, though an asexual-identifying person is by no means necessarily not fucking. This kind of label is useful to a good old boy like me and, had I been introduced to it earlier, could’ve been useful to the aforementioned baby dyke crying commando on a long cab ride home. Asexuality provided the vocabulary for the spectrum of who’s fucking, who’s not fucking, and who that’s important to. Having only heard of sexless relationships needing to be “spiced up” and of the narrative of sexual repression assigned to closeted queers, the idea of not fucking, and still having feelings of love or intimacy, never occurred to me. However, as my mother once generously reminded me, her freaky genderqueer child, in a conversation about my sexual life, it’s very possible to “make myself come with someone else!” My Republican mother’s willingness to imagine slightly nonnormative intimacies can set an example for us all.
A friend of mine, N, is a sweater-wearing English major at a fratty university who goes on a date with a dude for the first time. Sitting in the booth of an Ann Arbor diner, they’re talking about the op-ed N is writing, his date listening intently. Suddenly, he looks at this dude over a plate of eggs over-easy and imagines them fucking. The heat rises, the sweaters come off, the masculinity simply oozes out in beads of sweat. N tells me that this is a pivotal moment for him. He can imagine them fucking without any feelings of disgust or shame. For him, an envisioned fuck legitimizes his queerness, makes it tangible, even easy. This fuck signifies that he’s a big queer, and he’s going to bang a hot dude into the sunset. His existing baggage around intimacy—which we all have a fair dose of—would simply disappear after a good orgasm. In a cloudy flashback, I see my baby femme self, chock-full of dissociative sexual experiences with cis men, diving blindly into S’s bed on 86th and Lexington Ave. He tells me this story and I think, good job, you’ve shed one small layer of shame. Because being able to fantasize about embracing queerness is a great thing. What I ask is that my dear friend not think of his queerness as reliant on a sex drive. I want him to consider his desires and whether they’re being reflected accurately onto this brunch boy. What was unfulfilling to him during his career of solely fucking women could open up possibilities for his future queer interactions. Straight relationships and interactions don’t ask for a diversion from intimacy as we tend to define it. When repression and shame are part of one’s narrative of queerness, as they so often are, it’s useful to ask basic questions about how we want to be intimate. “Do I want to fuck?” and if so, who, where, when, why, is a decent start. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything unexciting about a hunky babe with egg dripping down his face; rather, I’m wary of sex as a qualifier for queerness.
It’s like when I tell my brother that M and I are together but not fucking. I think I use the phrase “casual emotional romance.” He responds, “isn’t that just friendship?” which is not a bad question, nor an original one. Where does one draw the line? If I spend half of my time fucking my platonic roommate and the other half maintaining an asexual romantic relationship with a partner, which of the two is my friend? Which my lover? My brother, a cis man and comedy writer—a fatal combination—approaches me with curiosity and suspicion because my romantic experience hardly resembles his. And then I understand that many of the romances I have or once had or will have may be classified as just friendships. It takes me a long time to recognize that my romance with M is a romance. That the number of smooches we share or times we get nice and naked in front of each other doesn’t define our interaction. That M not kissing me at times when in previous romances I would’ve expected it doesn’t mean that they don’t feel things for me. My expectations were tainted by interactions where sex and minor sexual cues took absolute precedence, and where my desires weren’t acknowledged, many times because I didn’t know they mattered; for me, kissing had existed as a tool for validation and security rather than a form of getting close to another person or being sexy together. This mode of being together—all the not-fucking in the world, plus all the baggage of two repressed queers, plus telling each other how crazy hot we are—could go unrecognized as a romance. And then I’m asking myself if my brother would recognize romance if he wasn’t fucking it.