Thursday, 4 November 2010

Gender: Oh yeah, forgot about that

So, in this utopian world with ultra-flexible relationship models that we’re going to create (we being me and the Imaginary Brotherhood of Aromantics that I’m increasingly talking to. All you other guys are just eavesdropping), what do we do about orientation? By which I mean sexual and romantic attraction along gender lines.

It seems to me that those sexualities which disregard gender, asexual aromantics and bi/pansexuals, get to smoosh around with the definitions a bit, play loose and easy with the rules. Which is fun and all (except for, you know, when it’s not), but it leaves the monos playing catch-up a bit. How does a mono-sexual person implement a non-binary approach to relationships? When you clearly don’t have infinite possibilities with fifty percent of the population, do you deal with them the same as the others?

My point isn’t that monosexual people are incompatible with this hypothetical universe, simply that it’s going to seriously change the validity of orientation in everyday life.
Imagine, for example, two straight people of the same gender becoming committed life partners, living together, raising children, sharing hobbies, talking about everything and looking outside their relationship for more ‘casual’ ones, focussed on romance and kissing and sex, and those few things which they aren’t getting from their committed friend. How often would this type of arrangement occur in our hypothetical universe? Theoretically, not that rarely, I think a lot of people have the ability to share incredibly strong bonds with people they’re not sexually attracted to. In fact, I think the idea that the person who really gets you going in bed is the same as the one you can share amazing conversations and commitments with is getting kinda strained. I think a system where sexual intimacy comes relatively detached from everything else would be a pretty useful one for a lot of people.

And this ties in a little with a point I threw hurriedly into my last post- the mechanics of jealousy rely on the idea that you only have to be worried about one gender. The idea that only opposite-sex interactions are threatening. This is convenient because it allows an awful lot of control through wielding jealousy, but it still allows your partner to have someone in their life other than you. And this myth and the myth of the romantic binary prop each other up in loads of other subtle ways. If a relationship with people you’re not sexually attracted to is completely unthreatening, but any relationship with the slightest hint of sexuality is suddenly a massive deal, does that tell us anything important about our culture's relative valuations of sex and emotional intimacy?

I’d argue, nothing we don’t already know.


  1. And what about people outside the gender binary in terms of naming for monosexual orientations? (This is why I actually prefer gynosexual and androsexual to homosexual and heterosexual. I'd probably use them more if people knew what I was talking about.) A lot of the romantic binary also relies heavily on the gender binary to enforce its issues. If we're saying that a relationship with an opposite-gender friend is threatening but same-gender friends are okay, where do agendered people or people who are in between fit in to that?

  2. Yeah, andro and gynosexual are on my list of words which I intend to bring into circulation by using more. They're up there with asexy, which is really difficult to sneak in.

    And I'm guessing your last question's rhetorical, but my answer is, they don't. It's a flaw in the system. Orientation in general is based on the assumption that both you and your suitors have binary gender. How attracted individuals are to all other genders is something so complicated it'd be difficult to express in words (unless you happen to have something easy, like pansexual or asexual).