I’ve stopped telling people what my number is—you know, that magic number everyone is so curious about.
How many people have I had sex with.
And it’s not because of the patriarchy or sexual double standards. I’m openly kinky and, whatever that number is, it’s a high one, so I’m already screwed over by that aspect, whether I disclose or not. So, at that point, why not?
Well...here’s the thing: I don’t know how many people I’ve had sex with.
I mean, if I sat down and made a list of all the guys I’ve had straight-up, traditional, PIV sex with...yeah, I could do that and my number would likely be rather average.
But is that really the definition of sex? Is that really a good standard to use?
Like Greta Christina says in her wonderful piece “ARE WE HAVING SEX NOW OR WHAT?”, “It's a pretty simple distinction, a straightforward binary system. Did it go in or didn’t it? Yes or no? One or zero? On or off? Granted, it’s a pretty arbitrary definition; but it’s the customary one, with an ancient and respected tradition behind it, and when I was just screwing men, there was no really compelling reason to question it.” When I was young and the only sex I was having was straight-up, traditional, PIV sex, there really was no reason to question the measuring system. It made sense.
Then, like Christina, I began widening my horizons. I began going to kink and sex parties. I began playing with people and sex. If I grinded naked with a guy in a hot tub, but his penis never went in my vagina, did I just have sex with him? If I fooled around with a woman, who clearly did not have a penis to put in my vagina, did she now count in my number? And, if she did, did every guy I’d fooled around with before her, but didn't have PIV sex with, now factor in? Did that now make me bisexual? What about the transwomen or gender fluid people I’d teased and touched and let tease and touch me? Did I now have to identify as pansexual? I’d also been part of large group scenes where sex was happening but not specifically with me or with PIV with just me and one other partner while other people participated in other ways; which, if any, of those counted?
Everything was getting a bit blurry and I was suddenly contending with labels that, while I had no particular problem with in general, felt...ill-fitting on me. Because, while these experiences were positive ones for me and my partners, they’d felt more friendly than anything. Sure, they were sexual and intimate and pleasurable as all hell, but they felt distinctly different than most of the sex I was counting as Sex.
They felt like play. Much like spanking or flogging or whipping or restraints, where you are definitely doing something sexual, but it doesn’t quite feel like sex yet.
I’d also had scenes that had felt more like making love than just about any other sexual experience I’d ever had. Hell, the first time I’d said I loved a partner and meant it was in the middle of a scene. Not sex. A scene. So, if in that moment, with my raw back arched and my sweaty body tingling and shaking with sensation, we were quite literally making love, were we having sex?
And, if so, then which scenes, of all the scenes I’ve had, counted as sex and which didn’t?
I find myself at the same place Christina does at the end of her essay, “I still don't have an answer.”
And I think that’s okay.
I am okay with not knowing my number. I am okay with letting that definition and distinction die. Because straight-up, traditional, PIV sex, which while fun—don’t get me wrong—doesn’t quite capture the vast expanse of what feels like sex to me anymore. It isn’t the culminating act. Hell, it’s not even my favorite part or most pleasurable act. I can think of a lot of acts I find sexier and more stimulating that PIV sex. So why would I ever use it as my standard?
Hell, I wrote an entire novel dedicated to the idea that you could have awesome, amazing, mind-blowing sex without it. Because, like other kinksters, I could do without it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it and would miss it, if I never had it again, and there are days and nights when I crave it so much I can’t stop thinking about it, can’t stop getting distracted by it, until I have it. But, even if I didn't, if I never did again, that would be so very far from the end of my sex life. The near limitless sexual variety that kink opened up for me is one of my favorite things about it. If you can think it, you can find a safe, sane, consensual way to explore it. Having that kind of endless buffet of options kinda dethrones the idea of a definite sexual act. There are soooooo many other acts that I could engage in and enjoy the fuck out of, if that one act, or really any singular act at all, was taken off my table.
I’m often asked by readers and publishers why my stories don’t focus on or linger on the more traditional forms of sex. Like I said, I had an entire novel where PIV never happens. Many of my short stories don’t have it either. If they do, the actual push and thrust of PIV is a tiny fraction of a scene, a few paragraphs of a story that can take pages waxing poetic about bondage or spanking.
And I think the answer is that PIV sex isn’t a fantasy of mine. When I close my eyes and fantasize, PIV isn’t where my mind goes. What gets me hot is all the other stuff. Partly because all the other stuff, foreplay and kink play, is so intentional. The intent is to seduce. To arouse. To tease and heat. To me, those acts exist purely to provide pleasure. To turn you and your partner on. Why wouldn’t you want to linger there? It’s something that’s meant to take time. That takes effort. That builds and flows. It can be full of familiar ground, tricks and touches that feel like a dance you know all the steps to, or can feel like uncharted territory, leaving you a little lost in the excitement. You could say one sentence to someone in the morning and, with the right intention behind it, it’ll stay with them like a constant caress throughout the day.
Next to that PIV sex seems like a mad dash to a finish line. A fun race, to be sure, but not something that requires a whole lot of choreography. Much less word count.
I find myself so much less concerned or interested in specific acts than in the intention that fills and fuels them. And I find myself really not caring what others think of my sex life or sexual definitions or experiences; because, not having been there—in the moment with me—who are they to say anything anyway? Which is why, whatever my number or definition, I think I like Oh Joy Sex Toy’s viewpoint: “Sex doesn’t define you (...) Sex is about experiencing consensual sexual things that make you and your partner feel happy and pleasurable, and satisfied.” That covers a lot of ground and gives you near limitless room to explore.
And, yeah, I’m more than okay with that.