The Performance of Sex and Transportation
I realized the other day, while I sat on a crowded BART train, that my commute includes a lot of performance on a daily basis. I think it’s because I often notice people avoid sitting next to me. Now, I avoid trying to reason why (it could be my gender, which borders on ambiguous at times; it could be my size, as a fat girl I’m aware of the looks I get when my large butt/hips/self is in the way; or it could be queerness, working class sensibilities, youth. . . I mean I’m pretty clueless about how people read me). None of this really matters, because I’m busy putting on an act. I walk steadily, with purpose like I know what I’m doing but still aware of my interactions (I don’t want to be that person that rudely brushes past everyone in some feigned urgency). I make sure that when I sit down I have open body language and I am respectful to the people around me, I’m trying to play that part that feels like the safest at any given moment. I want to perform the me that everyone will like.
And while thinking about this strange phenomena of performance, I began to think of the freedom that comes from admitting you’re putting on a front. When I’m acting tough and run into someone that I know, I can switch into flamboyant queen in an instant, and there’s safety in admitting that you aren’t really that thing that you’re pretending to be. And that doesn’t mean that you aren’t really sometimes tough, it’s just that you have the freedom to be other things.
For instance, for the first time since I’ve lived in my current apartment, going on 3 years now, I heard neighbors having sex. We’d suspected that the walls were rather thin when we occasionally heard someone sneeze next door. But this confirmed that some neighbors, depending on their connection to our apartment, had heard years of loud and kinky sex. We’ve joked about it since we moved in that we’re the “loud sex neighbors but I don’t think we’d realized how intimate of an experience it was.
I told my partner about it and we listened as this neighbor, (who we could pick out in a crowd but have never really spoken to) and some woman had sex. The sounds were hot, perhaps because all sex sounds are hot if they’re really in the moment- I’m sure thoughts of “maybe we should turn on some music, or “this has to be an invasion of privacy. . . Where does consent come into play and finally I began to feel a competitive spirit speak up. “If these neighbors could have loud sex, then so could we!” or so we said.
Before we had a chance to think too much about the performance anxiety of having to “beat this other couple in a sex-showdown, the couple finished. We both exhaled a deep breath and then smiled at each other, “Oh. . . Maybe if we meet him we could suggest some products to help him last longer
And while this almost ridiculous competition is an extreme version of the “performance aspect of sex, just think about the pressure to go long, hard, fast, confidently, dominantly, expertly, perfectly. . . And maybe it’s an assumption but I think that many people let this obvious Catch 22 get in the way of good sex and communication with a partner. The Catch 22 is this, the perfect performance is different every time, but if you have to ask, then you may “ruin the mood. and if that’s the case, maybe you’re not in the mood for sex, you’re in the mood for orchestrating your orgasm. Lighten up! If we can admit that we are all playing roles in our sex and relationships we can take a step back and check in about things. All parties can take a breather and get some care. Big -Top- Daddies can get some tender loving and recognize that perhaps smaller but still present aspect of themselves. Straight men can admit to feeling embarrassed/unattractive/impotent and be met with understanding, and dominance without emasculation. If you can’t wrap your head around these seeming contradictions, then I ask you to keep watching.
Pay attention to the positive relationships where communication and feedback are valued not considered a degrading act.
Watch for those moments when people feel free enough to ask for what they want, enforce bottom lines (of safety and consent), and have fun.
If we continue to use the performance analogy, sometimes the theater you love the most isn’t the perfect recitation of lines, the most elaborate design and costume, or famous “trophy actors and actresses. Sometimes the most impact theater is when the actors become real, let us peek behind their masquerade and witness the art and craft of the show they are delivering. Sometimes we might even have to help with the lines. . .
In the end, it’s up to the critic (but I think you should try it before you write it off)