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Contemplating Sexual Desires With Compassion (Saturday, July 25th, 2020)

Oh…striving for competence! And along with that, a conscience…embrace of ethics/morality (and already I see two different directions this stream of thoughts could go:

1)) deep into the abstract forests of why we might suppose such a thing as ethics/morality exists or…ought to be recognized as a conducive standard to living out of ***respect*** for others 1)(and what do we even mean by “respect” and why?; attempts at constructive thought overwhelm me so much that instead of suffering in near paranoia in the midst of more passively and less explicitly contemplating questions in my mind or how to clarify a concept/thought, et cetera, verbalizing the thought process in this diary is one of the greatest feelings of psychological relief I’ve ever felt! It’s like…waking up from a good night’s sleep and sipping on hot coffee outside in the breezy and not yet utterly hot summer air.);

2) since, over the past 17 years or so, I’ve been refining my most fundamental philosophical principles and have reached a point, not of pure conviction, but adjustable and flexible 2)(open/subject to change and inevitable margins of error) GUIDELINES and while the true theoretical philosophers who have actually invested the time to offer considerable devotion to articulating and working through them will perhaps always inevitably out do my attempts at articulating my interpretation of an acceptable system of ethics/morality and how/why we can have more confidence than less in the theory/system…while such is the case, I’m going to DEFER to more elaborate commentaries on the potential justification for my interpretations that I’ll provide in writing, in the future, either an annotation to this or another/earlier (?) entry and/or a supplementary appendix perhaps…hopefully as part of the BOOK version of this diary.

Instead of Digressing Into a Treatise at This Time

In the meantime, on ethics I’m going to jump right to the two fundamental principles that seem most reasonable to me at this time. Furthermore, based on decades of conversations with quite a range of wonderful people, it is my observation that at least in the abstract, my ethics are barely “controversial” or non-traditional or revolutionary or some sort of “rage against the machine” screaming “fuck the system” and what have you.

Compassion and Self/Cultural Improvement. These SEEM simple enough but in practice but…as with all human thought, activity, interaction, imperfection is inevitable, whether we are defining a concept or honing a skill there is always more clarity to pursue, always a new temporary ideal to conceive of, strive towards, then revise or replace. And…context always complicates the nuanced situations plenty! Even supposing we agreed on the same definition!

For now, the ethical/moral concept I wish to focus on is “compassion” for this concept is the “root” of where I intend to go today with regard to further thinking through certain aspects of sexual desire. I’m For that matter, I’m going to WORK WITH (as opposed to proclaim as absolutely) a few of the Oxford English Dictionary definitions.

 Compassion (noun): “1. Suffering together with another, participation in suffering; fellow-feeling, sympathy;… 2. a: The feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it; pity that inclines one to spare or to succour.”

Perhaps a fair enough synonym is *CARING about the general well-being, welfare, of other people in general and in personal interactions* -? What do you think?

It is the context of compassion/caring that I wish to contemplate specifically monogamy and polyamory and what potential impacts these sexual preferences suggest, from my point of view, as such, when they align, and when they clash.

The Significance of Sexual Orientation, How We Define It, and How We Approach Our Highly Unique, Personal Turn-Ons and Turn-Offs In General

One thing I believe matters significantly is the extent to which we grant that sexuality may exist within a person in many cases as orientation. Here’s why I wish to focus on this point with a bit of greater depth. Supposing you find yourself in a long term relationship based on one assumption about your sexuality and as the years go on it occurs to you that how you actually feel sexually is not the way you had initially claimed and that thus, as a consequence, the nature of the relationship is jolted.

Some examples: a heterosexual couple where one discovers one is gay or bi; a monogamous couple where one discovers one is polyamorous (or ‘non-monogamous’), or someone in a polyamorous (or non-monogamous) set up throws off the current emotional context by declaring one’s self monogamous.

Unlike the context in which a compassionless infidelity occurs, when people discover something new or unacknowledged about themselves sexually (I mean, maybe it even comes down simply to a fetish or set of fetishes…maybe one person loves anal sex and the other does not, make one loves BDSM and the other doesn’t and these risk becoming “dealbreakers!”) it can cause rifts in relationships despite having never been belligerent or inconsiderate in nature or intention. This also depends highly on how one values the extent to which one wants to pursue one’s happiness and desires, and the extent to which one values subordinating or sacrificing certain desires (whether pursuing the new sexual interest, choosing not to, or further attempting to find some “compromise”, et cetera).  

And again, as mentioned with the fetish angle, it could get even more and more nuanced down to little aspects of personality and ideology shifts. Looking back at my own life, though this didn’t actually happen, supposing my wife and I went separate ways politically, one of us for Trump and the other not, this would cause such a dissonance of values that it would not only throw off the relationship in general, but—let us suppose we were masochistic and irrational enough to stick together through that—nonetheless, I highly trust this would destroy whatever sexual attraction there was.

In the context Using the word “orientation” exclusively I concede to you opens its own plethora of debates. Is there a distinct contrast between attraction to GENDER (i.e., currently the widest use of “sexual orientation”) and the more nuanced complexities of what turns someone on or might even gross a person out or inexplicably upset them because it incites some memory of a traumatic or awkward past lurching in the unconscious?

(And before I look into the implications of how we think about/define “sexual orientation” or related notions I want to make a point about the following: whether we reduce sexual thoughts, feelings, and desires to psychology, biology, or something else, how much does it even matter?

If We Think, Feel, and Desire What We Think, Feel, and Desire…Then What?

Ultimately, in the HOLISTIC context, the thoughts, feelings, and desires are there and it’s one thing to understand how, we as humans, “work” and function, what we make of whether or not a given set of thoughts, feelings, and desires are to be pursued is an entirely different question.

THIS , in my opinion, is where COMPASSION becomes the crucial consideration. And by compassion, I want to add, both one’s self and others deserve it. If you experience a given sexual desire, other than very practical considerations like consent, safety, whether or not is going to be of any psychological harm or self-actualization 3)that is to say, whether it furthers or chips away at one’s SELF-ESTEEM—beyond those, what is the determining factor as to whether or not you think you ought to or ought not to pursue this desire?

Put another way by example: is it unethical to pursue non-monogamy in what was previously a thoroughly and elaborately established monogamous relationship?

The Ethics of Sexual Desire?

Are there specific conditions that would need further consideration to address that question?

And to bring this back to that concept of SEXUAL ORIENTATION, if one feels inherently wired to be monogamous or polyamorous, and one discovers this feeling just recently, with knowledge that pursuit of exploring one’s newly realized sexuality could cause emotional harm and risk fracturing deep relationships, which pain (both paths probably causing both people pain) is the less immoral/unethical one?

Or…if you want to REMOVE moralizing terminology and address the question from a more “health” oriented point of view, which path is better for one’s well-being, and which is worse?)

If we do view sexuality in all its nuances with more of an “orientation” mindset, in that, in a substantial number of cases, one can’t necessarily HELP what turns her or him on, and what contributes to one’s sense of sexual peace and fulfillment versus one’s disgust (as opposed to viewing it as merely a wide set of options one pursues based purely on whim, which if one was only more considerate, one would NOT pursue!?!)—in this light, so long as one’s sexuality is not an attack on another person’s self, or dignity, or autonomy, just as we’ve come to recognize (many of us, at least) that it would be cruel to impose on homosexuals or bisexuals the suppression of their orientation, would this not follow suit for the monogamous and the non-monogamous (polyamorous)?    

A Point of View From a Legal Scholar

This point, in my opinion, is exceptionally articulated better than I can, in the October 2011 University of Cincinnati Law Review (Volume 79; Issue 4; Article 5) article Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation by legal scholar Ann Tweedy

http://anntweedy.com/

(which was cited as a reference in the article I shared

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-polyamorists-next-door/201610/is-polyamory-form-sexual-orientation#:~:text=Legally%2C%20polyamory%20is%20not%20considered,sex%2C%20sexuality%2C%20or%20gender.

in yesterday’s entry

https://seanoconnordiary.blog/2020/07/24/sexual-orientation-philosophy-evidence-friday-july-24th-2020/   :

It’s a lengthy six paragraph quote but gets at the core and heart and soul of what I’m contemplating regarding sexual taste how to process alignments and clashes:

“just about any sexual preference would appear to be covered by the term [‘sexual orientation’] as a matter of ordinary meaning, provided it was abiding enough to constitute a ‘settl[ed] sense of [personal] direction’ or a repeatedly chosen set ‘of associations, connections, or dispositions.’

“Indeed, although such an all-encompassing usage of the term is rare, some scholars and commentators have employed the term in this way. As quoted above, Dr. Hubbard has argued that ‘many of us have other strong and consistent sexual orientations–toward certain hair colors, body shapes, and racial types.’ The bisexual theorist Jennifer Baumgardner has also used the term in an all-encompassing fashion, albeit without arguing explicitly for such usage. For example, Baumgardner has suggested with respect to Ellen DeGeneres that ‘dating straight-looking blond starlets is, if anything, her sexual orientation.” Similarly, Baumgardner has used the synonymous term ‘sexual preference’ just as broadly: ‘some lesbians date only bi women; you could call it a sexual preference.’ Additionally, the Canadian sexuality theorist Nathan Patrick Rambukkana has described his own sexual orientation as a straight male in a more nuanced way than one ordinarily hears in common parlance: ‘I believe that though my sexual orientation is straight, my ideological and political orientation towards sex is queer.’

These usages suggest that a person’s sexual orientation may, in actual application, be both broader and narrower than the common use of the term.

“Hubbard’s use, for example, would encompass any ‘strong and consistent’ sexual preference, so it is broader in application than just the sex of the objects of one’s attraction. By contrast, Baumgardner’s usage suggests that one’s orientation may be narrower than the typical use of the term; one may be attracted to not just women for example, but only to ‘bi women,’ or, even more specifically, to ‘straight-looking blond starlets.’ Rambukkana’s statement calls to mind not just a very specific orientation but also one with theoretical subtleties beyond what many would probably consider as a possibility.

“Both Hubbard’s and Baumgardner’s uses appear to comport with common sense. With respect to Baumgardner’s usage, the person who was attracted to all women or to all men or to everyone regardless of sex would appear to be the exception rather than the rule, although this fact is arguably obscured—or at least devalued—by the common usage of the term “sexual orientation.” Similarly, addressing Hubbard’s usage, people do commonly speak of having a “type” of person they are attracted to, the significance of which tends to include physical characteristics and personality traits; these characteristics and traits could easily be conceived of as aspects of one’s sexual orientation.

“Rambukkana’s statement suggests that there may be facets to the notion of sexual orientation that are largely unexplored by the general populace. His description of his own sexual orientation also implies the need for self-definition—indeed the identification of such subtleties suggests that sexual orientation may be such a personal, value-laden concept that society would be best-served by each person’s being free to define her own.”

My thoughts can easily get tripped up as I have a thunderous fear of thinking the wrong thing. I feel traumatized by how awfully incompetent I used to be in my younger days and how that caused such problematic impact both on my relationships with others, my life circumstances, and my psychology. (I don’t suppose myself that much more competent but I take pride at least in doing my very best to think something through as to minimize possible future damage or even to improve life a little. Actually, I often err on the side of over-thinking to a point of either constantly shifting from guess to guess and with too much intensity with too much inevitable haste, or paralyzing my capacity to make a judgment call at all. These are things I need to work on.  

References   [ + ]

1. (and what do we even mean by “respect” and why?; attempts at constructive thought overwhelm me so much that instead of suffering in near paranoia in the midst of more passively and less explicitly contemplating questions in my mind or how to clarify a concept/thought, et cetera, verbalizing the thought process in this diary is one of the greatest feelings of psychological relief I’ve ever felt! It’s like…waking up from a good night’s sleep and sipping on hot coffee outside in the breezy and not yet utterly hot summer air.
2. (open/subject to change and inevitable margins of error
3. that is to say, whether it furthers or chips away at one’s SELF-ESTEEM

By Sean O'Connor

Hi, I'm Sean O'Connor, a poet and writer pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at William Paterson University, where I also work as a learning generalist and where I received my BA in Liberal Studies.

Currently. I also work as a writing tutor at Raritan Valley Community College and Mercer County Community College.

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