Nessie Monster‘s comment on my post about what it means to me to feel sexy helped to alter my approach to the topic just enough to have a bit of a break-through on it. Her perspective also focused on the performativity of sexiness, but does so in a way that just made things click. The key phrase for me is “feeling desired”. I kind of touched on the desire to feel desire in my post as as well, in discussing how important people’s visceral sexual reactions can be to me – just being told that I am am sexy/attractive generally doesn’t get through to me unless the person giving the compliment backs their claim up with evidence of arousal/genuine desire (which can take many, many forms, but it is pretty essential to me.)
My big realization, though, was that I only genuinely feel desired these days when I am actively participating in the creation of the desire. If someone happens to find me attractive when I have not intended to be attractive to that person, it’s not much of an ego boost to me. I don’t even really feel like their attraction under those circumstances has anything to do with me, per se; it has to do with what they see me as, which is often distinctly different from my own perception of myself. When strangers flirt with me, I am always confused as to what they think they see in me, and I’m certain that they’re mistaken, that I’m not what they think they want.
This might itself still be a confidence issue, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just a desire for a greater degree of control over my sexiness, in some way. Because when people respond to intentional actions (including more passive actions such as presenting in a certain way) on my part that express myself sexually, it can be the biggest charge ever. I imagine that some people feel a certain amount of power in being able to unintentionally turn people on; but I only get that feeling when it’s intentional. And I don’t think that’s really a problem.
Except that, well, at it’s heart, I think that this construction of feeling sexy still rests in a lack of self-confidence. I need to be deliberately involved in stoking someone’s desire for me in order to actually believe that what they desire is actually *me*, and not some other idea they’re using me to approximate. And I don’t know where that self-doubt is coming from. Certainly having spent so many years on dating sites hasn’t helped – the number of people (usually) make who zero in on one or two of my (usually physical) characteristics and show zero interest in me beyond that is depressing to say the least. And even with the people who seem more genuinely interested in the whole person that I am, I am frequently disappointed by the goal-oriented trajectory of dating-type relationships. I thrive on more open and organic modes of meeting and getting to know people, where no one has a primary goal for what the relationship will settle into, or whether it will necessarily include sex.
And I’ve been struggling to find expectation- and goal-free places to seek new relationships that still carry the possibility of romance (since, for instance, developing relationships with straight women would remove that pressure to state immediately whether this was leading to sex, but also remove the possibility that mutual attraction and/or romance could develop). Why must I know when I meet someone new into which category they are going to fall?
I’m not even sure why these things (the things that do and do not make me feel sexy, and my frustrations with dating) are related enough to have talked about them both here in this way. These have just been things I’ve stumbling over pretty constantly for quite a while, with no apparent solutions in sight.
Bleh. I’ll get back to more intellectual and less intensely personal stuff soon, I promise.