Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Between Freedom and Desire: A Conversation

LJ: There is no model for female desire. Our desire traditionally situates itself in relation to the other. I want you to want me. I need you to need me. What happens if I don't want to be needed? If I want to be wanted in the way I want to be wanted? Our earlier discussion of my desire for non-conventional relationships led me to wonder about the complex nexus of power and desire which informs our choices in with whom, and when, we will be intimate. I said I wanted to control desire, but I realize it's more complicated than that. I also want to be wrecked by desire. My desire. Not the desire of the other. Is what I want now really some masturbatory investment in my own desire? I'll leave it there for a moment to await your response to any, or all, of the above.

LLL: It seems that we want relationships, intimate personal relationships with men, to be more like the relationships we have with women. I have been hearing this, and talking about this, for years and years.

What makes a relationship satisfying (outside of sex)? The amount of time I have spent, do spend, with women friends in discussion, on the phone, via email, and face-to-face is enormous. I rarely feel cheated, or ignored, or like I need to listen more than talk. I cannot believe that I am saying this at the point that it is almost 2010. Can I be exaggerating? It seems to me after our talk that I might not be.

I have been out of a relationship a long time, as you know. At this point in my life I do not want to live with anyone again. Ever. Let me cut to the chase. During tea, you used a phrase that I have not heard for some time--free love. It is the thing we are talking about I think, and so I was surprised, and yet not, to hear you utter it. To be free to love, including sexual expression (or maybe we are talking entirely about sex) without the hindrance of cultural, familial, and political ideas of who we (any of us, male or female) must, or should, be placed upon us is the freedom to live our lives in independent expression of who we are.

I do not think this is masturbatory, this desire to be "wrecked" by our own desires, enflamed by our capacity to feel passion, to express it. How do we want to be wanted? Is this what I am talking about when I say that it seems we want our relationships with men to be more like the ones we have with women.

I never concern myself with your desire for my friendship. I was surprised by it, and am extremely happy to have it, and I do not question it. I know you feel the same. So, we can move forward without all that. Is this possible in sexual relationships? What describes intimacy in those relationships that is different from the day we spent together today, where I grabbed your arm and said, "...because you are not happy." and we both felt the weight of that statement?

LJ: I think your point about wanting our sexual relationships (and I'm deliberately avoiding the word intimate, because you are right--sexual relationships are not the only intimate relationships) to be more like our relationships with women is right on. The question then becomes, what do we want in any relationship?

This ought not even be necessary to articulate, let alone to be, but I'm finally at a point in my life where I only want to have sex with people I like. I mean really like. I want to want when I'm in bed with someone--I want to want them. Some knowledge of them. Some real, profound communication. There should be real desire. We should all be capable of it.

What I value now, more than anything, though I struggle with it from time to time, is honesty. Honesty and dignity. These are difficult to achieve in a sexual relationship, at least for me, because I so often make the mistake of acting as I believe the other person wants me to act. This, I think, is the supreme act of hubris. I don't actually *know* how the other wants me to act. I just like to think I do. If I'm really being honest, I should act as I would act, and come what may. But this, we know, is scary.

Why are we so vulnerable in sexual relationships?

LLL: For myself, I would say that I am so vulnerable in sexual relationships because of the body issue. But there is much more than that.

To be naked, as we are trying to do here, and living in a country that still punctuates itself saying this is a Christian country, and unfortunately whether this is the case or not we get this information, this Christian identity as Americans, all to subliminally and often, then we are working against the shame of Eve-- right?

Long story short, inherited shame. I think it goes back to Eve's desire and we are still under that influence. Not to continually blame Christians, because religion has, and much more of late it would seem, deflated, outright outlawed, sexual desire for women. It is risky to want sex, to let someone know you want sex, and even when you are about to have sex, there must be a moment when this thought is there for a flash. I am a woman allowing myself the pleasure of sex, the instigation of this act even, and women cannot have this kind of power.

So here we are again I believe. Power. To want what I want, no matter what the other wants, and intending to have it, sounds like more power than we are allowed without retribution.

But I could be wrong...