Sometime in the summer of maybe 2008, I sat on a roof in Baltimore with my brother and sister, drinking beer and talking about luuuuuv.
My brother said, “I don’t like to introduce anyone as ‘my girlfriend’ or ‘my partner’ because it’s like I’m saying that’s their whole identity, they exist only as part of my collection of stuff.”
And fair enough. He’s an Extremely Nice Guy. Feminist.
But I am also extremely nice and femininst, and I said, “No, I like it when a guy does that. I like that he’s publicly saying that he’s in this very specific kind of relationship with me.”
The idea of women as actual property – “belonging to me, mine to buy and sell” – is obviously offensive, misogynist, and utterly unacceptable, as indeed is the idea of any human at all as property (except, of course, under mutually consenting circumstances, which are by definition not ACTUALLY property-based).
But people who feel the way I do – that hearing the phrase, “This is my spouse/partner/euphemism/whatever” is a pleasant form of PDA – are not hearing, “THIS ONE BELONGS TO ME SHE IS MINE.” We’re hearing, “I have a strange feeling in regard to you, as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs tightly knotted to a similar string in you, and if you were to leave I’m afraid that cord of communion would snap and I have a notion I would take to bleeding inwardly.” Or anyway, those of us who have read Jane Eyre hear that.
In other words, we hear, “I am attached to this person.”
Children feel possessive of their adult caregivers; sometimes they even get jealous. They’re attached.
Biology does this, without capitalism or gender politics. It’s natural – which doesn’t mean it’s inherently good or bad, it just means that it’s more or less unavoidable and so there’s not much use insisting that someone “shouldn’t” feel that way. People just do feel that way. And very often they like it when others feel that way in return.
I’ve been working on the book a lot lately – I have a revision of the proposal due to my agent sometime in the next week, holy shit fuck I gotta get crackalackin’ – and one of the things that’s becoming clearer as I write is that a message people need to hear is that the erotic brain of a human is INTEGRATED into the rest of the brain, in particular into the other emotional systems: love/attachment, stress/rage/fear, seeking, etc. More for some people than others – and I’m quite ready to say more for women than for men – access to the erotic brain is heavily mediated by these other emotional systems.
For those with responsive desire styles (30% of women, 10% of men), the state of the other emotional systems may entirely control access to sexual arousal. I’ve written before about how stress (fight/flight/freeze) shuts down sexual response for many people (and turns it up for a few). But seeking for safety with others – one version of the oxyotcin-mediated attachment system – often takes the form of sexual connection.
Here is where I’m going with this:
This has been a hellish week. Whenever a person feels attacked, one natural response is too seek out their tribe, the people they care about, who care about them in return. So if you find yourself reaching out to hold on to someone, to hold on with your entire body, to say or to hear them say, “This one is mine,” that’s your attachment system doing what it does best. It’s increasing your successful survival in a densely social species by reinforcing your attachment to a specific other.
Folks without a specific other to claim can meet the need with an intensely connected social group, or through any version of prayer, guided visualization, or imagination that meets the need. What matters is generating a feeling of belonging to a loving presence (it’s not an accident that the modern god is a parent).
“This one is mine.” It’s something your monkey-body craves. Let us not police our needs and dismiss a desire as unfeminist. Dive into it, with mutual consent and satisfaction.