January 04, 2004

The Washington Post has an interesting article on teenage girls who are "partway gay."

The gist of the article is that a suprisingly large number of women engage in a mixture of same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, that they are able to distinguish between behavior and orientation - performing an action and defining an identity - and that their actions do not fit our current models of sexual orientation and behavior, most of which were derived by studying straight white men.

What I found interesting about the article was the extent to which these girls seem to have picked up a habit that is also found among the bdsm and kinky sex community - it is more important to play with the person than with the body. For many people, what matters in a lover is what matters in a friend - can you talk, can you inspire one another, can you create a shared headspace together? Plumbing is only indirectly related to that sort of connection.

This more open and experimental approach to dating and sexuality reminds me of another difference between what I will call queer and straight sex for lack of a better phrase. For many "straight" people, sex is penis in vagina hopefully leading to orgasm. No PiV, no sex - just ask Chuck Robb or Bill Clinton. For many "queer" people, sex is two or more people, one or more orgasm, or penetration (the definition of sex that I worked up in college many years ago.) So, heavy petting is "sex," as are a great many activities that are a felony in Virginia. (1)

Behavior v orientation and "queer" definitions of sex have interesting implications for the current debate on the nature and purpose of marriage.

Polls on same sex marriage have revealed a strong age-based difference, with most young people supporting either same sex marriage or some form of meaningful civil union, and most older people objecting to both. Pundits have pointed out that, if these trends hold, then same-sex marriage will become a political non-issue as its opponents die off. The comparison is to generational attitudes about race relations and gender roles, with the generations raised following the civil rights and women's liberation movements having very different expectations about their futures.

So, if bisexual, omnisexual, or heteroflexible approaches become, if not normative then at least normal, how will that change our approaches to marriage, child rearing, casual flirtation, or even such everyday moments as restrooms and gym lockers? I have some thoughts which I will explore off and on over the next few weeks. Mostly, though, I have questions.

(1)Virginia's sodomy laws made it a felony to touch another person below the neck with your mouth. In the right tone of voice, "Hey babe, wanna commit a felony?" can be a good way to tell your honey that you are horny.

Posted by Red Ted at January 4, 2004 09:41 AM | TrackBack