Problems without solutions

Well I have asked myself a difficult question now, and one I can no longer keep asking you lot and avoiding myself – not if I want this blog to have any integrity whatsoever, or rather, to relate to it’s title!

My epic-fail example of asexual sleeping together (see Confession Part 1) and Marnia Robinson’s case studies illuminate the problem we are facing in the same way – albeit from two sides of the same coin. Her witnesses are amazed that their cuddling worked out, despite obstacles so obvious that we can all just fill them in. Then they loved it. On reading these I get the sneaking suspicion that, although some are clearly not destined to couple up, some could well go that way – in time – precisely because they have created a safe space to share love and affection. By subverting the expectations of sex, they have laid the foundation for trust that many couples never achieve.

What? Yes, here I believe there is a real problem. Many couples who don’t develop open communication about sex and non-sexual cuddling experience some anxiety almost every night: whether it’s about getting or not-getting sex or about giving or not-giving sex. The biggest stereotype is the sex-hungry man and the exhausted woman, but whatever truth there is in that, we know it will be happening in every possible combination, every night. In a relationship, do you know with certainty before you go to bed at night, every night, whether you want to be sexual with your partner or not and whether they do? How can we ever have this certainty?

Before I list so many problems I start to give up hope, bear with me while I try to break it down a bit:

  • It is normal for human beings to cuddle, and this includes to cuddle overnight – an obvious winner in any geographical region not sweltering at 30° all year round (IMHO).

  • Most adults in the West (which is all I know about) only share a bed with another adult regularly when they are in a sexual relationship with that person.

  • Couples may enjoy non-sexual cuddling at night, or may feel tense about sexual willingness/performance, depending on clear communication about sexual desire.

  • While many couples do enjoy non-sexual cuddling, a lot of people who are not paired up sexually miss out on night time skin contact or even clothed contact, maybe for years on end…

The so-called cuddle sluts show all this perfectly: we are conditioned to pair up and to keep sex in couples. People who have casual sex while not paired up don’t get guarantees for the level of pure cuddle contact they’ll get from temporary lovers. Which brings me back to my first aim with this blog: a nosy-as-hell call out to those of you in-betweeners who evade the strictures of a trad relationship – for whatever reasons – but have established bed relationships which do include affection and trust. Maybe one person, maybe several, maybe never the same person twice; maybe you had sex only to find you both wanted the cuddle more and struck a deal…

This is not to forget that a lot of people are engaged in non-trad relationships with unique rules, no rules, multiple partners and so on ad delirium and infinitum. Do these experiences enlighten us about the path to a cuddling world? You tell me. And what about age? Do young adults and older teens spend more time sleeping in beds with friends, without sex, than older people? Do you know?  Tell me tell me tell me.


Confession time Part 1: A crap idea?

And so to bed. I said I would start the ball rolling by sharing my own experiences of sleeping with friends without having sex, and so I will. Unfortunately, life keeps throwing up surprises that complicate and expand my mission.

Instead of living an interesting parallel between being in a sexual relationship, and exploring the ideal I talk about in this blog (being ‘free’ to expand bed/sleep sharing to any close friend as normally and easily as watching a movie together), I find myself bringing non-sexual elements more and more into my sexual relationship. As my lover and I get easier and more confident with one another, we talk about open relationships, the joys of snogging, and not-f*cking, and still I am nowhere even close to sharing a bed with a platonic friend.

So it’s time to get my own story straight: yes I have had non-sexual bed-sharing experiences; yes I have shagged friends as a result of trying to share a bed; no I have not given up sex nor have I any intention of doing so; no I have not asked a single embodied friend whether they want to share a bed from time to time (not since I started this blog, nor before then for that matter).

My heavenly ideal was that we could all become so free of sexual hang-ups, that we could fully enjoy the bliss of bodily contact with trusted others, without assuming sexual intentions. What I find on reflection is that we are too vulnerable to risk it. Is your friend in a couple? Then why on earth would they want to share your bed? Is your friend single? Then why would you confuse them by carefully explaining that you don’t fancy them but you do want to sleep with them? “You bastard, I thought you liked our great conversations and similar taste in movies, but all you really want me for is my body heat!?”

And how have I managed to do this in the past? Okay, confession time: firstly the one boy I have slept with platonically I had snogged on a previous occasion. We are very close, so after we snogged and it didn’t spark us up we both worked really hard to protect our friendship. We have since agreed to share a bed for convenience – because we had already invested so much effort in being close while not being sexual. Last time I stayed at his house he slept on the sofa. (Then again, this is moot, he has a single bed.)

Is that the best I can do? It pretty much is. The worst part of this confession is that it is only as I am writing this post that I realise that we avoided touching. The point of my groundbreaking night time experiment was always to increase our opportunities to touch and hug other people, not just to fill empty spaces in double beds.

A number of early conclusions present themselves at this point. 1. I can give up the idea of the sleep project as such; in here I can happily just talk about sex, or whatever else passes through my delirious mind that day. 2. I can try harder to sell the hypothetical benefits of my imaginary movement – a great uprising of “cuddle sluts” as Marnia Robinson put it – until slowly the first hand experiences start to trickle in – in maybe a year or ten. 3. I can widen my remit.

A blog whose purpose was to invite people to send in any stories at all about, er, bedtime, might be stretching the point a bit too far. But surely there is still room to think about increasing our overall cuddle output as a society – is being cuddled a recognised human right yet? The case studies in MR’s article all reinforce the fact that there is a problem: the cuddling they managed to create, or discover, came as a surprise, and they loved it. How can we possibly create a culture, from where we are at right now, in which being close to other adults at night doesn’t mean anything heavier than that?