I’m going to argue against labelling sexuality. Everything comes with a label these days: watches, wine, even bananas. In most cases, the label brings nothing to the experience other than pre-conceptions. Human sexuality is just too complicated to admit labels. All you need to ask yourself is “does it work for me”.
Good morning darling,
It is a hot, humid, sticky day here at Cruella Towers, and anything other than an iced coffee would be unthinkable! The mercury is winking at 35C degrees this morning and I am quite ready to kick my heels and restrictive clothes off. Add some ice cubes to a glass and join me in the garden.
You’re asking about my book? Well, it turns out that I am in the mood for a little titillation this morning. But, I took quite a circuitous route to this celebration of latex-clad female beauties. My fingers dithered over the Robert Mapplethorpe omnibus and the Dita von Teese compendium on the coffee table. I ended up with Emma Delves Broughton’s Kinky Couture to sate me while I sip my coffee.
The sweaty temperatures have been getting into my dreams this week, even with the ceiling fan set to high. The air is too thick and sticky, and I have spent most nights tossing and turning, in a permanent REM state.
This morning when I woke up, I had flashes of disconnected sensual images from the night before. They came to me like snapshots of whatever was wandering around in my mind. When I pressed the coffee machine button (for my double shot of Nespresso), I had the most vivid sensation that I was sliding around in my latex catsuit, receiving a sensual massage from both a man and a woman, neither of which were my regular partners.
I added ice cubes and blended the coffee and stepped out into the sunshine. And I started at another image of myself emerging out of a racing car that I had been driving. I was removing my helmet, shaking out my hair and brushing a speck of dust from my leather driving suit.
This has been happening all morning! It has been both frustrating and arousing to get such a brief glimpse of these images without properly remembering them. So this has put me in the mood for some sensual latex photography – I am calling it research *wink*.
Just for the record, I have never, ever driven a racing car. And given that my driving record has neither advanced nor confounded the myths about women drivers, the people of Formula One will not be calling me any time soon.
Although no one would call me a racing car driver, I have been called many things. Amongst others, I have been called a “bitch”; also, I have been described as an “artist”; and many years ago when I was giving a crying friend a hug in the ladies’ room in a UK pub, we were both called “lesbian nymphomaniacs”. Hmmm… Racy!
But forget about the strangers. Recently, a good friend asked me: “Don’t you think of yourself as bisexual then?” We smiled at each other and I changed the subject, refusing to jump on the bus of labelling sexuality.
Why do we feel the need to start labelling sexuality?
Human beings love to classify things, and they do it well and very effectively. We have systematically built catalogues of insects and leaves and even types of rocks. Let’s be honest though: Most of us still get a bit confused about how to classify the poor platypus.
I am OK with that.
When anything is unique and fascinating and naturally resists classification, we should resist the temptation to force one upon it. Labels are a useful shortcut but when it comes to human sexuality, they are the fastest way to hit a brick wall at 100 miles an hour.
Classification is an important and useful skill. It has enabled humanity to build an in-depth and systematic understanding of the world around us. We can’t float about aimlessly, fancying ourselves too much of a free spirit to indulge in definitions, descriptions and organisation of the flood of data that makes up our environment. Chaos is a starting point, not a life ambition.
Ever since the first cavewoman grunted at the first caveman and he understood that particular grunt to mean “don’t leave that bloody spear there, that’s the baby’s bed,” we have enjoyed order and organisation. And to achieve this organisation, we need rules that help us decide what something is, what something isn’t, where it should go. To get that right, we lean on the use of labels.
Isn’t labelling sexuality just like classifying rocks?
Here’s how human sexuality is different to types of rocks. Like sedimentary rocks, layers of experience are added to human sexuality as we proceed through life. And like igneous rocks, human sexuality is the product of hot explosive reactions, and the cooling of situations past. Furthermore, like metamorphic rocks, depending on environmental conditions, what you thought you knew was definitely one thing, may surprise you by morphing into something slightly or completely different depending on pressure, temperature or whether today is a Tuesday or a Saturday. However, rocks will never look up from an application form, baffled because they cannot find the “all of the above” box to tick.
Human sexuality is extremely complex. This is not always acknowledged. Many prefer the simplicity of a binary model, and will stick to it against all evidence to the contrary and all evidence of instinct and experience. However, we tend to go too far the other way too. In our attempts to come up with a word to describe every permutation of something as changeable as shape-shifting Marvel character Mystique, we have ended up with an ever growing list of labels. These newly coined terms attempt to pigeon-hole a human characteristic that is all the more glorious for being ethereal, nebulous and as difficult to nail down as a plateful of lubricated jelly beans.
I remember reading about three years ago that Facebook was offering 56 options for gender. And Tinder more recently was offering 37 new gender identity options (unsurprisingly there wasn’t much of a distinction between sexual identity and sexual orientation). Also unsurprisingly, this news was accompanied by a flurry of articles in popular periodicals offering definitions and descriptions to “assist” the larger proportion of the general public that was mostly baffled by these words.
Many people with alternative sexual identities expressed a relief that there was finally a box that they could comfortably tick, a few objected to the attempt to segregate them. Personally, I felt mainly that this move, although not negative, did not help people connect half as much as the PR teams liked to pretend it did. When it comes to sexuality, labels try and inevitably fail to create an individual box for something that is infinitely variable.
If I am a Gemini do I also prefer the colour pink?
Attempting to label human sexuality is not dissimilar in its presumption and pointlessness to astrology’s attempt to assign characteristics and personality traits to individuals based on something as random as their date of birth. The label creates a box that enables people to pretend they know and understand someone before they have invested time and effort into getting to know them. Just as reading your star sign predictions for the month is both appealing and irresistible, so is identifying with a pre-existing label. Unlike Astrology, this could have serious consequences.
I am not necessarily objecting to the action itself, but I am arguing that there is no box in which you can place yourself for long, or you should allow others to place you. This is because you are a human being you are infinitely complex. And you are always evolving.
Arthropods don’t label sexual behaviour
Anyway, back to my morning coffee.
I am currently sitting on the grass in the coolest part of the garden. I am watching a spider shibari-ing a leaf, I wish I had her skill. Yet, I find comfort in the fact that although I could look up what kind of leaf she is working on, and what class of arthropod she belongs to, were the roles reversed the same could not be said about me. In fact, if I touched her, and she bit my finger, I would turn into a one of a kind spider-woman which would suit me fine. Apart from one thing… You wouldn’t catch me dead in latex coloured in that loud combination of fire-engine red and police-siren blue!
Responses to last week’s QotW
Before I wrap this up, big thanks to my darlings for the response to last week’s Question of the Week on the end of the Mediterranean LGBT Pride Month newsletter
The comment that made me smile was from AMasterfulMind who told us that they engaged in gender defiance by the wearing of a pocket watch.
I am looking down at my summer dress and trying to imagine what I could possible attach the watch chain to. An interesting idea, very classic styling and I must keep an eye out for an accessory with history. Thank you!
Question of the Week
By the way, I have been wondering…
Do you have any stories to share on the subjects of labels and labelling, either yourself or with others? By which I mean:
- How, if at all, are you comforted by the use of labels in your life?
Feel free to tell us your story. We would love to hear from you. Use the comments section below!
Until next time…
Look at the time! I really must dash to the office now. Coffee-boy and Photo-princess are coming in today, and we should make the most of it. But, I am not just excited that we will finally get a full day’s work together, I am happy that I’m going to spend most of my working day with two of my closest friends. I have hinted before that their sexualities are beyond the binary defaults. And occasionally someone will ask for a clarification, but I can’t help with that – when I hang out with my friends, I don’t carry a dictionary.
Stay well, till next time,