Our world is filled with contradictions, strict rules, and weird traditions for all things regarding sex and relationships and the feelings that come with both of them.
Too often, sex, love and intimacy are taken as a package deal; an idea that becomes problematic when we think about sex work. Because we cannot separate these ideas, we often develop harmful ideas about sex work and the women who engage with it. We do not view the affective labor that sex workers engage in as the same affective labor that we view any one in the service industry. We do not see masseuses or flight attendants or therapists as intimate partners when they engage in emotional labor that soothes us. But when it comes to sex work, we see that as linked to the physical act, and so see the workers as emotionally stunted or unable to engage in “real intimacy” outside of work. In her paper “Whether From Reason or Prejudice: Taking Money for Bodily Services”, Martha Nussbaum talks about how, although all workers are selling their bodily services, sex work somehow becomes stigmatized over all others through our notions of the relationship between sex and intimacy. I highly recommend reading this paper- its only about thirty pages and its written fantastically.
As an aromantic, I struggle daily with these ideas myself. Intimacy is not romantic to me, and I desire to have it. I see it in close friends, sexual partners, etc. Love is important, but doesn’t come to me in the form of a romantic relationship. I feel it with my dog, my best friend, my physical partners, my sister. And don’t even get me started on relationships- a conversation in which I quickly become the outcast. I am viewed as not dedicated because I do not care for long term partners. I am too picky, I want to “have my cake and eat it too” when I have different partners for different aspects of my life. I care only about sex, because I don’t want the romance. (why??????) People see my desire for a QPR (Queer Platonic Relationship) as weird, especially if I have a sexual partner separate from that. I deal with self-shame at not fitting neatly into the box that is ascribed to women in relationships.
I do not see it necessary to hold one up person as the fit-all puzzle piece to the many different parts of my life. I’m a cost-benefit analyist of not putting all my eggs in one basket. This makes me look aloof, uncaring, someone who uses people; when I simply view it as being practical and comfortable. I have never wanted romance and in this world, that excludes me from love and intimacy. I cannot have relationships that suit me because they do not follow the traditional path that relationships should take.
It is important to remember that love, sex, romance, and relationships all have their own culturally created meanings. These things have no hold on their own, they do not exist in a vacuum. It is okay, even healthy and important, to pursue relationships outside of this in a safe and comfortable way. We must engage with others and ourselves in a way that makes us happy and satisfied. And we MUST remember not to ascribe these things onto other people. This includes those outside of the US!
Obviously all of these nuances affect and apply to trans people, asexuals, people recovering from sexual trauma, and those who just aren’t sure what makes them happy yet. The Western/American relationship script is damaging to many people.
Happy fucking, happy monogamy, happy polyamory, happy single and stoked, happy asexual life, enjoy yourselves!