The Dynamics of Libido, Consent and Communication in Sexual Intimacy
Article Series Note and Content Warning: This is a multi part series on demisexual sexuality. Having a familiarity with demisexuality, either previously or having read my initial article on the subject would be necessary to understand some of the terms here, which I will not redefine in detail. These articles will explore in depth many of the aspects of human sexuality from a demisexual’s perspective, so hopefully beneficial if you are demisexual or have a demisexual partner you’d like to understand better. These will also be rather detailed and potentially graphic in discussing sexual paradigms and techniques (potentially NSFW). I also will be using mostly physiological terms that a quick Wikipedia search may help for the unfamiliar.
“If we all knew that we were all perverts, we might be a lot happier.”—Heather O’Neill
Maria lay on my sofa, basking in her post orgasmic bliss. I’d gone down on her and she had been satisfied. She was the younger sister of neighbor, and a friendship had blossomed in the preceding weeks and during a moment of friendly hanging out, she’d made it clear she was into me. I liked her, but wasn’t connected with her, being I was as a demisexual yet did not know the term or what I truly was. Also, I was only days from moving away with no expectation of continuing things with her in this new direction. This wasn’t about my “getting off”, but rather sharing a human moment together. She reached for my belt buckle to undo it.
“Let’s just make tonight about you,” I expressed to her, stopping her attempt to undress me, and a playful smile spread across her lips. I just wanted to please her. I did.
As a demisexual, sexual intimacy can be quite complicated. Demisexuality is, put simply, the capacity for sexual attraction to others only once a deep emotional bond has been formed, called connection. We are on the spectrum of asexuality, with thoses that completly lack sexual attraction to others, and differ from their polar opposite, allosexuality, which is normal human sexual attraction based on physical observation. This basic difference, which is a valid difference, makes sex a different experience for us. We are not inclined to hook up, as our sexual nature is substantially different than most, and far from what many would deem as normal. We simply don’t see someone who is aesthetically attractive and have a desire to be sexual with them initially. But, when we have spent time with, communicated and experienced life with someone, the established emotional bond can flood us with as much sexual desire as anyone can experience.
But capacity of attraction is very much different than sexual drive itself. Libido is that sexual drive. A demisexual can have sexual yearnings without having a partner or even someone they are currently sexually attracted too. A demisexual can also be quite touch and sex phobic, as a result of how they are sexually wired, or as a result of deeply emotional and often traumatic past experiences. For some, sexuality can be limited to only self stimulation, such as masturbation, as well as enjoyment of erotic literature or even adult films. The discussion of the “use of pornography” can be quite convoluted and divisive among many people, but the nature of how erotica is approached will differ in many demisexuals, as some will be able to abstract themselves from the imagery, while others will envision themselves interacting with a theoretical partner. The difference is how we feel attraction to someone in real life, once connection has been formed.
But libido capacity speaks to the nature of sexual interaction with a partner, and I find myself drawing on the amazing resource videos by sexologist and intimacy coach Betty Martin, and her Wheel of Consent. I’ll offer a brief break down of the four sexual dynamics she discusses:
Giving (or serving): This is an active doing and giving act. Giving a sensual massage, service topping and performing oral intercourse are examples of acts that are done with the explicit intention of pleasing your partner.
Taking: This is an active doing and receiving act, such as active topping / domination, body worship, and playing with a partners body sexually.
Receiving: This is an passive being done to and receiving act, the counterpoint to giving, simply put lying back and enjoying being serviced, such as receiving oral intercourse, bottoming or being submissive.
Allowing: This is an passive being done to and giving act, the counterpoint to taking, such as service bottoming, allowing a partner to explore your body and be played with.
The point of sharing these is that they do much to express the complete range of sexual dynamics that we can experience as a sexual being, and sexual intimacy can often involve some if not all of them in a single shared experience. Yet, for some demisexuals, their attraction will only extend to the notion of allowing a sexual act to be done, because of a fairly sex phobic nature being overwhelmed by their rare sexual attraction to a partner with whom they’ve established a connection. While for many demisexuals, we often fall into the giving and serving dynamic, as our desire to please a partner becomes very powerful once the connection has occurred.
But sexual attraction is not required for sexual expression. As demisexuals, we are still human beings and the benefits of sexual activity are numerous, such as improving our immune system, reducing stress, pain and blood pressure, and even improving bladder control in women and helping to prevent enlarged prostates and cancer in men. But physiologically, sex can allow demisexuals to feel more human and normal, and some of us can and will have sex with ex partners, friends and the like for the emotional release and the sensual affection that can accompany it. Full asexuals have also been know to do the same, despite lacking attraction. Sexual dysfunction connected to lack of sexual attraction can inhibit some sexual capabilities, but simply defining sex as only penis-in-vagina or other penetrative acts and the rest as foreplay, is inherently sexist and dismissive of the immense range of human sexuality. Sometimes it comes down to a simple desire to get off with someone, or get someone else off, that is simply needed… often a more complicated reality for us.
Now let’s say you have an intimate partner, either via the often challenging process of dating as a demisexual, or having discovered a relationship via an emotional connection with a friend. Regardless of past experience, ability or talent, the two most fundamental concerns for being a good lover are simply establishing consent and having good communication with your partner. There is entirely too much shame about your sexual needs. Western society is steeped in a morass of guilt and insecurity about being sexual beings, yet this is unique only to the human animal. What hidden desire stimulates us is probably not unique, and to misappropriate on old Bible verse, there is nothing new under the sun.
In regards to establishing consent, it is necessary to understand there are two levels, clearly established and communicated consent by a partner, and when their actions are showing that they are not truly able to give consent, such as being drunk, otherwise impaired or emotionally-damaged. As a good partner, it is necessary to respect both, as not even marriage or a BDSM-related relationship grant you sovereign rights of the body of an intimate partner. Even during mind-blowing sex, consent can be withdrawn at any time, and not respecting that could devastate and destroy of persons sense of body autonomy. Asking for consent, may not seem sexy, but assuming it can damage a healthy relationship.
In much a connecting manner, this leads into communication of needs and desires. Communication in all aspect of a sexual relationship, any relationship really, is essential. No one is a perfect lover to everyone at first, and often it takes a couple intimate encounters to figure out how to touch and please a lover in the ways they need. This is an area where hookup culture fails, because that kind of sex is typically only for personal gratification. As a demisexual, we need a bit more.
In really comes down to open and vulnerable communication. The heat of the moment may lead to difficulty initially opening this conversation, but post-coital bonding is an ideal time to open a dialogue about what worked or didn’t. In the kink scene, this is called aftercare and is just as valuable an experience for even the most vanilla of trysts. But, prior to that, use your intuition. If your partner is responding to your actions, continue. If they aren’t switch it up. A simple “is this good” can go a long way. This simple inquiry can often open the flood gates, as simply asking a partner about their needs can achieve both greater emotional intimacy and often encourage exploration of what they truly enjoy but may be nervous to share.
What about communicating your needs? That can be tricky if you don’t know what you like, so time and experience may be needed. There is an abundance of selfish lovers out there, and many simply won’t care about what you need. If you share that you don’t enjoy something they do, or something that they are unwilling to try within reason, then you are again dealing with a potentially selfish lover. The desire to try to be a skilled lover, having the capacity to be giving in nature and being willing to step out of your comfort zone to try new things for your partners pleasure, or your own, can be summed up and being good, giving and game… an imperfect term but denoting a partner who is likely to be a more compatible, and reciprocal lover with others. You can’t change the nature of your partners, if they are unwilling to change. Asking someone to try doing something different isn’t an antagonistic action if done in a non-accusatory manner. Maybe offer something like “can we try this like this” to try to communicate your desires.
But a great deal of people have a weird sense of pride in their assumed sexual prowess. Despite the irony of shame, some people will not deal well with the requests to change how they perform sexually as it diminishes some sense of their ego. I remember an ex girlfriend who was offended when I asked her to stop doing something that was causing me quite displeasurable pain, and it angered her greatly that I dared to question her skill at sex. News flash, people, most people aren’t amazing lovers, but most have the capacity to become good lovers, if not great, via communication. Just because a past partner loved what you did doesn’t mean the next one will. Something you do, that may be quite adept with one, could trigger some deep anxiety or discomfort in another. I can think of several past lovers that felt uncomfortable about my going down on them, mostly due to societal misogynist fears about a woman’s natural scent, but also by the words and actions of their past loved ones and partners. As being able to do this with a partner is important to me, in time they learned to appreciate the experience, due to my simply working within their comfort levels, exploring, experimenting and eventually showing them that nothing bad was going to happen—quite the opposite really and all initiated via open and vulnerable communication.
Still, some will never step back from what they want and are willing to do, despite being fundamentally incompatible with your needs. It may be time, as a demisexual, to cease sexual intimacy with such a partner, as disconnection is often inevitable with this kind of a partner.
Great, but what about initiating sexual intimacy with a reciprocal and open partner? Again, having a partner doesn’t guarantee sex on demand ever. There are many factors that can affect a persons sexual desire. Work, family concerns, money worries, health and physical exhaustion all can dramatically impact anyone’s desire and even ability to sexually perform. A lot of undue pressure is put on people who are cisgender male about being a man. Erectile dysfunction is very common, and even one occurrence can be devastating. It is important to understand that there are many factors that can cause erectile dysfunction, and for a demisexual male, disconnection (even temporarily) is one more. Taking a partner’s sexual dysfunction personally, and communicating that to them is possibly the worst response you can have and often guaranteeing that it will continue to happen. There are many other things that can be done to build and share sexual intimacy together. Still, gender aside, sexual dysfunction can and often will affect everyone as some point in their life.
If you fear your partner may not be up for sex, instead of directly asking for it first, instead ask how they feel. A sincere inquiry into their well being can change the perception of being asked for sex to be more sincere desire and attraction, and less personal expectation. But do ask, if you think the answer may be yes. If sex is off the table, it may be worthwhile to ask if they’d like to cuddle and spend some time together in a more affectionate manner. A little time nuzzling, kissing and holding each other can be equally wonderful, and even potentially ignite a quenched fire—but don’t expect it will, just be happy if the embers do kindle. This will also do much to strengthen your emotional intimacy.
Another important thing to consider, if your partner needs to stop in the middle of sex, or is unable to continue whether due to dysfunction or negative emotional response, no matter how close you are to orgasming or how much you want to continue, remember that their needs are also important. So many potentially healthy relationships are destroyed but this foolish mistake. It can be very frustrating to you, but can be equally soul crushing to verbally berate them of this. It will be the words you state in that moment that they will remembered more clearly than most, and resonate in their head the next time… if there is even a next time. If you choose to break them down, they you may caustically destroy their ability to be vulnerable with you.
We, as demisexuals, connect via emotional bond. Sexual intimacy is a very powerful way to cement that bond, if done in an open and supportive way.
This is the first article of this series, explaining “what”. Next will be more an exploration of “how” and later “why not”.