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Casual Dating and ‘The One’
Sometimes I feel alone in a sea of vibrant sexually fluid young people. I feel this even while being nonbinary and queer. More people seem to be coming out as polyamorous and heteroflexible and I feel like an anomaly as someone who still is holding out for “the one”. I’m intimidated, scared, and confused. Who isn’t? Regardless, I believe these are exciting new options for people. And besides, it’s not like I am any less scared of monogamous couples.
It seems like fewer people are getting into relationships, making it harder for the rest of us to find “our one”. This idea of ‘the one’ is of course deeply intertwined with heteropatriarchal ideas of fulfillment. I know, we aren’t competing for happiness. It isn’t a scarcity contest with limited resources. Instead, we must reframe how we find ourselves and our own joy. We can all find fulfillment in a variety of encounters, casual or otherwise.
Despite this or perhaps because of this, I have worked hard to open myself up to new experiences ranging from anarchist farmers to communists who try and seduce you with their DVD copy of The Room.
I even ended up going out with a self-described heteropatriarchy fighter who took me to a Bennington party, which basically meant straight men cornering me into talking about how heteroflexible they’ve become since graduation. I don’t want to deny the complexity of sexuality, but I do think the stakes are different for people who are openly not straight versus those who say in some parallel universe they might have sex with someone “of the same gender”. This often means they don’t understand the complexity of genders or my gender and this makes me shut down and not trust them to have a nuanced conversation. “Heteroflexible” seems like a way straight people can cash in politically.
How do we navigate wanting to have kind-hearted sexual and romantic explorations?
How do we take care of ourselves and others in a romantic environment that is often toxic, capitalist, and treats bodies as disposable?
People who claim to be anti-capitalists end up treating bodies as disposable. I’ve known a myriad anarchists who disappear into the night after a date that I thought was perfectly fun. On the one hand, no one is owed a goodbye. And while ghosting is frowned upon, in a world of social anxiety, it’s understandable. On the other hand, ghosting can replicate and mirror ideas of the worth of bodies and the worth of what bodies can do.
Choosing kindness and communication can allow both people the opportunity to get what they desire. Most of the time people, whatever their political affiliation, have deep ties to capitalism. People view sex and dating as a transaction where you trade your body for fun. Who is in control of the transaction is often mired in gender, race, dom/sub dynamics, class, and similar hegemonic narratives. Treating sex as ‘owed’ is tied to the way capitalism structures itself as goods and services that are owed and necessary to the function of heteropatriarchal hegemonies. This parallels the way rape culture prescribes sex as owed to men regardless of circumstances.
People view sex as a good and sometimes, a right. While we all deserve sexual satisfaction if we want it, we must also acknowledge we don’t deserve it unequivocally. That only feeds into rape culture. We must be kind, accept our partners where they are at in terms of consent and emotions, and ask when we introduce new dynamics into sex or dating. What do you want? What do you need? What makes you comfortable? Calling people sluts or prudes is damaging and not productive.
How do we navigate sexual encounters with kindness and without compromising ourselves? How do we love ourselves and others and not give into dichotomies of sex as a commodity?
More Radical Reads: 5 Ways You Can Respond to Racism While Online Dating
Capitalism, Kindness and How Not to be an Asshole When You Aren’t Interested
Kindness may seem like a sort of bland, noncommittal way of combating seeing sex or people as a capitalist transaction- but politics won’t shield you from being a dick to the people you have interact with in a romantic context. Plenty of guys and genderqueer folk I’ve dated have treated me like I mean they treated me as something disposable.
After a date, I do think I deserve to be talked to as a human being. If you are still interested- say so. If you are no longer interested, it is kind to say “I had a good time! I don’t see this going elsewhere but I wish you well”. Ghosting happens. If someone hurts you or harms you or you are anxious you can ghost. Of course. If this is not the case, it is much kinder to let the other person know where you are at. Being blunt or direct may seem mean but in the long run it is much kinder and much easier.
I am not owed a response.
I don’t want you to treat my day-after text like a chore or like I’m crazy for being interested.
I don’t want you to ghost me if you can help it.
I don’t want you to pretend like we don’t know each other if I see you again. A wave is nice.
I don’t want you to break up with me in two seconds if we have been dating and you know I am interested in you.
Even within our leftist circles that claim to do better there are disparities.
Even within trans circles and LGBT circles.
Kindness is a muscle we have to flex. It isn’t simple, it isn’t easy and it requires work and relearning what it means to connect with another person. You have to be open about what you are looking for at every stage and you have to learn how to respect people you interact with in a romantic context.
Of course, sometimes things happen. Sometimes you have to adapt the plan. There are no rules to being kind and there are times that being kind and vulnerable can mean getting hurt or let down. It should not, however, mean getting physically hurt. Kindness is a choice and not one that everyone deserves to get.
Being kind to others is a process. It starts with being kind to yourself.
It starts with prioritizing your happiness without hurting others.
It starts with being kind but firm with the way you encounter others romantically.
You can’t always protect yourself and you can’t always protect others, but you can do your best. And that’s all I’m asking. To figure it out with someone as you go and to be open, kind, and not treat people as flesh but as complex, vulnerable people with complex, vulnerable desires.
[Featured Image: A photo of a person’s face with short hair. Their facial expression is one of disgust. Source: Lan Pham]