Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zombies: Better Than Sex

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 Thunderdome dualism?

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.


  1. I've gotten the "not fully human" attitude before (granted, just from people online in response to my being an asshole about something years ago, but I persist in thinking that someone telling me that I had to lose my virginity in order to be able to talk to people with IQs above those of houseplants was a little much).

    I'm the 32 year old virgin! It's not because I'm "pure" or "resilient" or any of the crap church once fed me to make me overproud... it's becuase I'm disinterested. I just tell people I'm a freak or bring up my illness issue to shut them up.

    I've also been in a mutually-advantageous/romantic relationship in which I have been living with someone for six years. I'm pretty sure we're left alone in real life because things are just assumed. We've decided not to do "it" until we're both ready. Neither of us ever have been. He's older than me. It's just nothing we need. (We're what happens when asexuals fall in love)?

    For us, ANIME (among other things) is better than sex.

  2. Ooh, don't get me started on our culture's obsession with "virginity". What the hell is that anyway? I don't know why we still talk about it. "Virginity" is not a thing. It's a ridiculous construct from the days when women were legally and factually property, and I don't understand why we legitmize it by talking about it today. Anyone who told you you had to "lose your virginity" to be worth talking to was probably a young teenager who was desperate to "lose" theirs.

  3. I don't know if I was talking to a teen... more likely a porn-obessed young adult.

    At the time, I cannot say I didn't deserve to be shot in some way. The remark was in response me being an asshole over a fan fiction writing community in a fandom I was in, compounded by a toxic friendship. Someone was defending a friend, whom this "friend" of mine and I were persistently attacking over stupid things.

    At the time, I was still in my "church mode" - eating the stuff fed to me by the church I went to (namely "gay is bad" and "You're a young adult virgin! You're a special snowflake for that!")

    Obviously, I'm not like that anymore. But, at the time, when in my fandom, I was annoyed with fellow creative fans/ fanfiction writers "oversexxing" a favorite thing of mine. Even now, even after being kicked out of my old way of thinking, I persist in thinking that the main male characters were best friends, nothing "more," that the protagonist probably has too many issues to have anything "sudden" happen with anyone (even with the person I *like* fan-pairing with him) and that the anime/manga was about gunslinging and philosophy rather than about sex (in fact, it seemed like the canon writer was very bad whenever he tried to write any kind of romance, really, as in generally awkward when it seems like he wanted to write it and making fanservice-sexytimes in the comic-version deliberately horrible and squicky as a Take That to some of his fanbase).

    Something funny - though the protagonist of this series I liked is a bit of a flirt, the *one* time he's ever shown to be confronted with the willing (a pair of prostitutes people of a town hired to reward him for being a hero), he pretended to be passed out from drinking to avoid their lovin' and asked himself if he might have regretted his ruse.

    And yet, I was seen as weird for writing and preferring gen-fic for the series that reflected the spirit of the actual series. Go fig.

    Moved onto other fandoms - still a gen-ficcer, which in fanfiction culture circles, makes me "non-existant."