I can clearly remember the first time I felt attraction towards a boy. I can remember the rush of adrenaline, the sinking feeling in my stomach, the way I couldn’t meet his eyes and my tongue turned into rubber and I went home that night and hid my head under the pillow. How I felt a simultaneous feeling of, “oh, so this is what the poets write about” mixed with, “I don’t ever want to feel this ridiculous again.”
I was just a kid. What I felt was not in the least sexual in nature. I wasn’t thinking about kissing, even, just about holding his hand and talking to him and having him really pay attention to me. It wasn’t physicality, but a young girl’s concept of what a relationship could be. I wanted shared trust and secrets, togetherness, whatever it is that kids think relationships are.
In fact that sexual part of me was pretty crippled. I would end up being eighteen before I ever pursued a relationship, and even then the physical aspects of that relationship would be bribed and forced from me, because what I wanted wasn’t sex. What I wanted was interest, shared reasoning, walks to the store, companionship, someone to call at night just to unwind before bed. Attraction for me still wasn’t based off of physicality, it was based off of emotion. Even my relationship with my husband started out not as romance but as intimate friendship, the romance being an unexpected side effect that rather shocked both of us. Our mutual attraction could not have been further removed from sexuality, it had far more to do with similar goals in life, similar alienations and friendships, shared literary and musical interests, both being obsessed with movies and culture…
I think we underplay the importance of attraction when we portray it as a purely sexual function. We downplay the importance of romantic relationships when we excessively exaggerate the role sex plays in them. Not that sex and sexuality are not fundamental parts of the human experience- but who we are is far, far more than who we have sex with. The true value of attraction is not found in the sexual aspect, but in the emotional and personal components of what attraction mean. Ask the average person what attracts them to a life partner and often times you won’t hear physical features listed, but instead things like “compassion, drive, humor, wit, shared interest, similar life goals”, etc. Because what we want, at the end of the day, is more than a nice bounce on the mattress. We all want someone with whom to share our lives, someone to witness our everyday existence, someone with whom to spend both the good and bad hours of the day, to share with in misery and joy, someone whose hand we can hold and whose butt we can kick when needed.
No one wants to live a life alone.
Sex is just the cherry on top.