I challenge you this: find one interaction that you’ve had within your general peer group that wasn’t driven by some sexual purpose. I have failed to come up with any in my own personal experience, at least since I hit puberty.
Now, hold your horses and let me clarify: No, I do not want to have sex with everyone I meet. I’m a friendly person, and I’ve gone around for most of my young life assuming that if someone is nice to me, they are being amicable to be amicable. It took me about a year of college to realize that for (some) nice people, sex is on the brain big time, and that it is hard to equate friendship with desire for booty. It was also around this time I realized I had been unwittingly flirting with everyone. This lovely ménage of naïve assumptions and all-in-good-fun flirting led me to a number of not-so-platonic friendships. I’ve had some friendships that sort of survived the sex part and some that didn’t. (Even if you have been-there-done-that with a friend and you somehow managed to tumble your way out of bed and back onto the friendship couch, sexuality still lingers.)
My inability to maintain platonic relationships with good guy friends was getting me down, so I considered the nature of all of my friendships — with men and women of all sexual orientations — and started to see that everything is sexual.
I’m attaching a rather loose definition to the word “sexual” here — namely, that it represents sex’s purpose or at least its most profound consequence. Here’s a story to illustrate my point.
I imagine that back in the caveman days, the sexual scene played out something like this: Caveman #1 and Cavewoman #1 notice each other at the watering hole, send some flirtatious splashes at each other, and proceed to find a nice cozy corner of the cave and go at it. Then CM #1 proceeds to bring home the buffalo with his hunting buddies while CW #1 pops out a kid. (She also spends her time primping and getting extremely jealous when his gaze strays to her BFF Cavewoman #2 — it often occurs to him how hot her unibrow is). But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that cavewomen probably had buns in the oven on a regular basis. However enjoyable the romps in the corner of the cave were, sex had a purpose: that of baby cavepeople.
I don’t think we will ever fully separate sex from its baby-making agenda. Kick and scream all you want, but it seems our raison d’être is to pass on our genes and at least we can have a good time doing it! If those first little organisms decided (to anthropomorphize just a tad) that swimming in circles in the ancient goo was more fun than making copies of themselves, we wouldn’t be here.
Fortunately (or unfortunately?) we can’t self-fertilize. To pass on our genes, we need a partner. Enter: MEN / WOMEN (circle one, or both). Every interaction with a person is an investigation into whether or not you would want to raise babies with him or her.
Let’s not get all up in arms about the baby thing. I can already hear you exclaiming indignantly “Babies! Hell no! No way do I want to have babies with last night’s hookup!!” Let’s breathe, pop those birth control pills, and re-stock on the condoms. On a basic level, attraction to someone means you want to have sex with them, and thanks to those eons without birth control, sex means babies. Your version of “sexy” is your judgment about whether that person is quality enough to do the chromosome dance with.
If you’re smart, you’ll also accumulate some back-ups, and I don’t mean a booty-call list. Enter: your BFFs/Bros. Nothing is platonic with them either because these are the people you’d choose as godparents to your kids and the people you’d entrust with the embodiment of your genes if you weren’t there. (Cavewoman #1 gets kidnapped by a rival clan and her bestie Cavewoman #2 raises her child; meanwhile Caveman #1 and his hunting buddies high five). Sometimes these friends are people you end up hooking up with. Hollywood, that wonderful meter of our modern culture, seems to have finally caught on that not every sexual relationship happens because your name is James Bond and that sex doesn’t take place along the dating highway enroute to the marriage motel. These friends-with-benefits flings between people with compatible sexual preferences show that platonic relationships are usually not so innocent.
I have to give a shout out to family and assorted kin — they take part in many important relationships and might even be the first go-to for orphaned cavebabies. However, since family members already share your genes, no need to be sexually interested in them. Family relations are the H’s of relationships — they just don’t quite fit in with the rest of the consonants. We also don’t choose our family, and sexual decisions are (hopefully) all about choice.
We choose to surround ourselves with people who we want to mix our genes with and people we’d entrust with the raising of our kids if we too get kidnapped by a rival caveman clan. Every friend pair is mutually attracted because of personality or intellect or the easy way friends relate to each other (and physical attraction can play a part as well). You and your friends have a good banter. In bolder terms, you have good chemistry. I would go so far as to call it sexual chemistry.
Lauren C. is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at email@example.com. Below the Bellybutton appears alternate Thursdays this semester.