My friend Dave is a very decent guy. He treats people fairly. No one has ever accused him of being sexist. He’s surprisingly unburdened by lookism, the tendency to treat attractive people as more deserving of his attention than unattractive people.
Capable of small talk and deep talk, Dave makes friends easily and is loyal to old friends and family. He doesn’t worry about growing old alone. “I make friends so easily,” he tells me. “I find people so interesting, and if there’s one thing this world has a lot of, it’s people.”
He doesn’t date and doesn’t miss it. He did date and even married. “I like friendship better,” he says. “You don’t have to conform to some force standard of intimacy. You connect where the connecting is good.
“Friendship,” he says, “is a sliding scale, whatever intimacy you can both afford, no one saying, ‘Hey you owe me more attention,’ no one coming at each other with that cookie cutter, saying fit this form or you’ll get cut.”
“How about friends with benefits?” I ask Dave.
“I tried but didn’t care for it, not that it felt sinful or shameful or that was hard for me to treat sex casually. It’s just that, for me, the benefits always distort the friendship and the friendship is worth more to me. As soon as you kiss the expectations and obligations kick in.”
Dave is in his 40s. I ask him “So what about your libido?”
“Oh, it’s alive and kicking, even a little kinky,” he says, “But I just drain that lizard. I’m a pornosexual. For me, libido has become like going to the bathroom. I get the urge. I go. It relieves the urge. I get back to the real world.”
“Doesn’t that fantasizing distort how you look at people?” I asked him.
“I can see how it might for some,” he says. “I mean some people watch violent movies, play violent video games or listen to violent music and end up violent. But I don’t find that to be the case for me. I fantasize instead of bringing that drive into my social life where it only confuses things.”
“But what about love?” I ask.
“Oh, I love!” he says, “If you don't believe me, ask my other friends. I’m a hugger too. It’s just that for me, love is not tethered to sex, nor do I think it has to be. After all, lots of people are aroused by people they don’t love, and lots of people love people who don’t arouse them.”
“I can see how, for some people the sex and love must be paired, no sex without love; no love without sex. Sure, some people need a special friend to love and get it on with. Maybe that’s hormones or temperament or just social expectations. I wouldn’t know. I find it contrived and that it actually gets in the way of love since jealousy kicks in. ‘If you really love me you wouldn’t want to hang out with those other people.’ Sexual jealousy is intense. I’ve experienced it, and it retrospect, it wasn’t worth it. I like my freedom of association. Friendship is both the more honorable and freeing way to be with people, no wondering who’s hanging out with whom.”
“And by the way,’ he continues, “I know plenty of long-married couples that have basically the same attitude about sex. They love each other – that’s obvious. They’re faithful and devoted – nothing they wouldn’t do for each other. But sex? They had it but not anymore. There are married pornosexuals too.”
“Isn’t that sad?” I asked.
“Not for them. They’re fine with it. Other’s might think it’s sad. But then people sometimes think that asexuality or homosexuality are sad and I say it’s none of their business. Whatever floats your boat as long as you’re not hurting anyone.”
“Doesn’t pornography hurt someone?” I ask.
“Well, I’m lucky that way. I’m not turned on by the stuff that seems exploitative. Maybe some of the porn I watch is a little exploitive – underpaid actors, people who wish there was a nicer way to make their living, people who will end up regretting their porn career. But I think we might be confusing the notion that it’s sinful with the notion that it's exploitive. After all, many of us eat meat, wear clothes or use technology produced under exploitative conditions. We don’t seem to worry as much about that exploitation. I suspect that that’s because there isn’t this long history of associating it with sin and shame.”
“And how about that unique feeling of making love to a real person?
“I’m not a musician,” he says, “I hear that it’s great fun to be able to play, but I can’t. Still, I listen to music and love it. I guess I feel the same about watching people have sex.”
“Do people know that you’re a pornosexual?” I ask.
“Well, I don’t broadcast it since it’s still stigmatized. A few friends know, the ones I trust not to think less of me for it.”
I say, “You’re a handsome, healthy hard-working guy. I’d think that occasionally women flirt with you. How do you handle that?”
“I like a sweet flirtation,” he says. “Great fun, but I have to set boundaries because I don’t want to mislead anyone. I keep it at the friend level. Occasionally when someone comes on strong, I’ve blocked it by joking that I’m a lesbian because that way I get to be fascinated by women without risk of getting coupled. I say the lesbians don’t want me because I’m a guy and the straights don’t want me because I’m a lesbian. I’ve confused or offended a few with that line, but I’ve gotten a laugh or two.”