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Archive for June 3rd, 2016

Since a three-dimensional object casts a two-dimensional shadow, we should be able to imagine the unknown four-dimensional object whose shadow we are. – Marcel Duchamp

Most of y’all are probably familiar with the Kinsey scale of sexual orientation; it’s the 0-6 in the chart below.  Earlier this week, my attention was called to an article in Mic which promoted this new classification system, which expands Kinsey’s one dimension to two.  But while on the one hand it gives a slightly better picture of vanilla sexual response, it completely ignores both the kink dimension and the existence of responsive sexuality (the norm in about a third of women), and gives a place of precedence to ongoing sexual “relationships” despite the fact that many individuals aren’t interested in them:

purple-red scale

Given only this system to work with, I’d probably best be classified as a C4; I don’t ever develop what most people would define as “lustful feelings”, no matter how long I’m in a relationship or how attractive I find my partner.  Yet at the same time, that “C” description makes it sound as though sex is always a calculated and rather sterile decision for people like me, and that we can’t experience passion.  And that is 99 44/100% pure bullshit; anyone who’s ever seen me actually aroused can tell you that I’m very passionate indeed.  The people who designed this chart seem to believe that responding to sexual stimuli requires “lustful feelings”, which is roughly equivalent to saying that a car is non-functional because it requires a driver to start and operate it.

And then there’s this weird and narrow focus on vanilla notions of sexuality; obviously that isn’t spelled out in the chart legend, but the language strongly implies that when the designers say “sex” they mean intercourse, oral sex and other genital diddling designed to produce orgasm.  But many people’s sexualities aren’t like that at all; some people might be described as A, B or C where fucking is concerned, yet they’re D, E or even F with some sort of kink.  Furthermore, that kink might not even be something the majority would recognize as sexual, yet it gets the individual hard or wet and results in the same kind of gratification vanillas get from the old in-out (or some equally satisfying physiological/emotional state).  Expanding one dimension to two is not a big improvement, especially if one is going to use descriptors like “true orientation” while ignoring a lot of the human race.  As I wrote in “East is East and West is West“,

Human sexuality is not like a standard light switch, which has two and only two positions; it’s not even like a dimmer switch, with an infinite number of subtle gradations along one linear path.  It’s much more like a faucet, in which two kinds of water can be mixed to produce many temperature gradations while the intensity of the flow can also have many levels.  In fact, if you can imagine a shower where the water can be directed to come out of either the lower faucet or the shower head or a movable nozzle or jacuzzi jets, that might be a model a bit closer to the truth.  Though modern Westerners  like to pretend that everyone falls into rigidly-defined boxes of “straight” or “queer” which they occupy from birth until death and never leave, the truth is that this does not adequately describe many, perhaps most, people’s sexuality…

One final note: I find the phrase “bonds stronger than friendship” (in the “B” description) extremely offensive.  For most people deep friendship can be a stronger bond than romance, which is why friendships so often outlast marriages.  The people (almost certainly men) who designed this chart are the same sort who come up with ugly phrases like “friend zone” and “friends with benefits”, who imagine relationships as fitting into some sort of linear scale where those containing sex and romance are objectively “better” or “higher” than those which don’t.  The reality of human sexuality is a whole world; describing it requires at least four dimensions plus time.  So though two dimensions of description is certainly an improvement over one, it’s hardly revolutionary; if anything, it’s kind of a slow start.

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