Dualism really gets on my tits. Black vs white, male vs female, gay vs straight – why do we still insist on framing everything as a binary opposition? It's the twenty-first century; can't we get beyond
The Kinsey scale, for all its flaws, has been a useful tool for getting people to conceive sexual orientation as a spectrum rather than a binary (even if much of the mass media continues to frame it as an either/or). In order to paint a fuller picture of human sexual identity, though, it would be useful to plot a few more axes.
What if we considered a spectrum for the having of sexual attraction at all? Borrowing the numbers from Kinsey, 0 = no interest in partnered sex, 6 = partnered sex is of paramount importance.
What if we considered a spectrum for feelings of romantic attraction? 0 = no interest in a romantic partner, 6 = a romantic partner is of paramount importance.
Our culture frames “normal” as a 6 on both scales. Even as Teh Gays are slowly eking out a modicum of recognition from mainstream culture (people of sexualities other than gay or straight, not so much), acceptance is still framed as the almighty Monogamous Marriage. You find a sexual and romantic partner, who will be the most important person in your life. If you don't find that person, it's a tragedy, because obviously this is what everyone wants.
Our culture is still flummoxed by the idea that anyone might not be a 6 on both the Sexual Attraction and the Romantic Attraction scales.
I was reminded of this the other night, when playing Zombies!!! with some friends. Being a massive zombie enthusiast, I got somewhat overexcited, and may or may not have been yelling, “DIE, ZOMBIE SCUM!” in between dropping some mad zombie knowledge on my chums: did you know that zombies didn't eat brains before 1985's Return of the Living Dead? That human beings weren't their food at all before 1968's Night of the Living Dead? That in its earliest iteration, starting with 1932's White Zombie, zombie cinema was a fascinating (and incredibly racist) expression of white people's postcolonial fears about being enslaved by their erstwhile slaves?
I know all this because I spent my teens watching zombie movies, rather than having relationships, getting laid, etc. like many of those around me. I made a self-deprecating jest to this effect, and one friend hastened to reassure me that I didn't miss much because teenage sex is pretty crap. Then I said that it's actually a good thing, because zombie movies had a much greater influence on my personality than any hypothetical teenage sex would have done.
“Wait a minute,” said D. “Did you just say that zombie movies are better than sex?”
At which everybody LOLs, grabs another fistful of cheese puffs, and rolls the dice to battle more ZOMBIE SCUM.
But now I have a chance to explain myself, so I will say:
Yes, D, I do think zombie movies are better than sex.
I could draw you up a list of things that I think are better than sex. It would include all-night MST3K marathons, books by China Miéville, frolicking in powerful ocean waves, having a hermeneutic revelation, breaking your fast at the end of Yom Kippur, playing a really great game of soccer...
What I'm saying is, I score really low on both the Sexual Attraction and the Romantic Attraction scales. I've been in relationships before, but friends and family members have always mattered much more to me, and at this point I feel I could happily go the rest of my life without having another romantic or sexual partner. For me, both partnered sex and relationships are a bit like skiing: yes, there are some thrilling moments, but those moments just aren't worth the expense, effort, specialized equipment, long lines, and risk of violent death. (N.B. Analogy may not be exact in every particular.)
Plenty of people love skiing. Good for them. Go for it, I say: ski to your heart's content, all day and all of the night, if that's what you want. Just don't assume that everybody else loves skiing as much as you do. Or even wants to do it ever. I'm bothered, not by skiers themselves, but by the culturally normalized expectation that everyone must think skiing is the apex of human existence (“the thing that makes us fully human” – thanks for the invalidation, favorite childhood author!), and that if you don't really care about skiing then there's something wrong with you.