Desert Island Test

As a minor diversion from my theme-so-far about sleeping with people without having sex with them, I’m writing tonight about having sex with people that you wouldn’t have sex with. More specifically, I’m writing about what it would take to come to feel like having sex with someone that, honestly, you just wouldn’t have sex with.

Now it’s many years ago I first noticed myself having this conversation in my head while I was talking to someone I wouldn’t have sex with. It’s so long ago I can’t remember what really started it off. What I remember is that one day I spotted the repeating pattern – I had become a serial wonderer, and gave it a name – my desert island test. How long would it take, if I was stranded on a desert island with the individual in question, before I had sex with them? Clearly this test does not work when you JUST WOULD, and on no account should it be used with anyone who you would sabotage the boat for.

The test works only with people you wouldn’t remotely consider having sex with.

Do they smell? How old are they? How does your sexual orientation come into it? Are they actually ugly, or just a bit annoying? Would they be so hideously smug that you couldn’t live on the same island afterwards? Could you REALLY, honestly, not ever, ever, get turned on with them, even if it was the only way you would ever get to have sex again, ever, ever, with anyone?

Sexual orientation comes into my tests because I can’t imagine that I would change from generally only having sex with men to suddenly having sex with a woman, on a desert island. Frankly, the whole desert island scenario is useful here from a totally different angle. More honestly – I’ve actually only done this test with men. The test doesn’t even come into my head unless I am confronted with a man I wouldn’t have sex with and I just have to wonder.

The feedback is: I surprised myself – he’s more than double my age, he doesn’t smell too bad but he’s annoying, physically unappealing, maybe hapless, maybe even sexist, vain and insensitive, and I think – probably a few hours. Not because I would have to overcome disgust and self-loathing, or because I would have to be genuinely afraid of starving to death before I would give up on my self-respect so completely, but because I think, what the hell? If no-one else is going to know, if you aren’t going to wake up thinking “*&*!!%$£@%” (because you are going to wake up worrying about starving), and if you are never going to find yourself walking down the street past your ex with him, then why not just enjoy the huge distraction of a totally incongruous companion? The few hours are what it would take to safely establish some kind of understanding that the having of sex does not create a new level of endorsement that was previously absent in your interaction. Some people would need a lot longer to get their heads around this I guess.

Okay, I do also accept that there are a lot of people who fundamentally make masturbation more attractive. But I have a hunch that I wouldn’t pull that off (no pun intended) very easily during this near-death experience. Not so soon anyway. And what I really learnt was how hard it was to find a total NO. I have not plumbed too deeply to do so I admit – Ted Bundy, watch me swim – but the contrast between the tiny pool of people I know that I would choose to have sex with, and the difficulty I have finding anyone who wouldn’t ‘pass’ the desert island test really strikes me.

Are we that fussy? Are we spoilt? Are we extraordinarily sophisticated genetic research devices (my favourite), with such complex requirements that only one in a million can possibly press our buttons? I think we are really, really lucky. Sadly we know a lot of sexual relationships are still arranged by someone with an unhealthy power over the partners. But those of us who can pick for ourselves – as we all should – are getting a very, very good deal.

P.S. Feel free to post your test results here… Colonel Gaddafi anyone?


Friends – ‘Platonic’

Now I confess I am not researching the term ‘Platonic’ before I write this bit. But I think lots of friends of the same sex, and maybe some of opposite sexes, feel quite comfortable with the lack of sexual tension between them, and such friends would benefit a lot from sleeping together from time to time.

This may seem a bit ridiculous to some people, because if you live with a monogamous sexual partner, you already have someone to sleep with every night. There are two responses to this. On the one hand, lots of people do not sleep with a monogamous sexual partner every night. Some couples don’t sleep together every night. Many people aren’t in a relationship of that kind, some because they don’t want to be.

On the other hand, people who are in a long-term relationship and live together are often under enormous pressure to keep being nice to each other every day and night, which can be extremely difficult, even if you are very much in love. A break is as good as a change, and does the world of good. Every partner who goes out with somebody else to the cinema or for dinner or for drinks, or meets up with groups of friends, or travels from time to time, knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Problems? Of course there are problems. A single person bedding down with a friend who is attached is at risk of suspicion of sexual motives – they both are – but this is also true of two single people or two who are attached (to others). This is not a frivolous action however. Sleeping together is not about getting drunk and giving the finger to possessive partners. This is serious science.

I once listened to an American man talking about a group of college boys he had taught. In his classes they must have discussed male homosexuality – his talk was about homosexuality in American history. Brave enough to discuss it again out of class, a group of the boys, being by social training strongly anti-homosexual, discovered that they shared a deep fear that if they were alone at night with another man they would have sexual feelings for them.

Some of his students came to him and told him they had got naked together and slept together but had not been aroused. They were jubilant. They had not discovered that they were latently homosexual, just that there was no reason to fear intimacy.

The core problem with Platonic friends sleeping together is not the reactions of others. It is the fear of becoming aroused, or of the other becoming aroused, and of being rejected, or having to reject the other, or not being able to reject the other … and losing or damaging the friendship. Someone who fancies you might well suggest sleeping together for scientific purposes so they can test your sexual boundaries from a much closer vantage point. Experiments must therefore be conducted with a great deal of honest communication up front.

Coming soon: Open relationships – a witness’ perpsective

Opposite sex friendships

One thing that makes me insanely angry is the unspoken assumption that women are not supposed to be friends with men other than their husband. This makes me want to kill. The logic seems to be that a woman only needs a man for sex (children), for money, a house, and to keep other men at bay so she can get on with her work and looking after her family. After that, men are presumably useless to her.

Maybe I am a little oversensitive about this. (A similar logic applies to ‘married’ men having female friends.) Neither law is written anywhere that it can be challenged, as far as I know. I read it in people’s faces, in the assumptions people make about me and my friends, and in the assumptions I make about other people.

In my reality men are often very interesting, and occasionally, loving, caring, intelligent, affectionate and helpful, even without sex or family ties. I don’t think a man has to be a brother or cousin in order for a woman to be safe if she is left alone with him (not that she always is of course).

That much said, I spend much more time making friends with sexually attractive men than I do with men I find a bit creepy, or slimy, or weird, or nasty, aggressive, sexist, homophobic, racist, massively capitalist, smelly or unable to stand or speak properly due to intoxication. I spend very little energy getting to know men who demand my phone number because their friend has just introduced me to them and I am not married or being stood over by some other man.

My closest male friends are gorgeous men, many of whom I would have sex with in certain hypothetical circumstances. The same is true of some of my closest women friends, although the circumstances are probably a degree more hypothetical. Because some of my friends are so gorgeous I would probably not sleep with them, and they know why. But I have some gorgeous friends who I could sleep with (and have) without being sexual. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

Ideally, we base our decisions about who we do and don’t have sex with on an understanding of the risks and rewards of having sex, and the rewards of not having sex. I am very fortunate in only having had one night stands with gorgeous men (very fortunate indeed), but I really don’t mind not having made friends with them. On the other hand, I would be gutted if I lost a close friend through badly timed sex.

If there was ever a time when one man could provide all the interesting perspectives on life a woman might ever want to hear, that time has gone. Close friendship often involves conversations that simply can’t happen when someone else is listening. We cannot treat a sexual partner as an elevated representative of the whole of the opposite sex – no-one can bear such a burden.