Slowly slowly

Ndank, ndank…” begins a Wolof proverb, variously translated as something along the lines of, “Slowly, slowly, one catches the monkey in the forest.”

I have a huge backlog of writing to do. Much of it belongs here, on this blog; more of it belongs elsewhere in my life. And as often happens when I have writing to do elsewhere, I need to clear out the brush in my mind by doing some writing here. I’m practicing being a little patient with myself: I had given myself a deadline of “Labor Day” to finish the writing I need to do for elsewhere. Labor Day is six weeks or so off, and I’ve made the tiniest dent in my writing. Slowly, slowly, I’ll catch this monkey.

I’m torn between two subjects about which I want to write: one is a continuation of my “procurement” fantasy. Another, related (in interesting ways), my hunger for hunger, the dynamics of indifference and receding in my desire.

In recent days, weeks, months, I’ve confronted several instances of women in whom I’ve been interested receding a bit, seeing the intensity of their hunger for me diminish. In at least one case, there never really was much hunger; in one or two others, there was overwhelming hunger, and it seems to have evaporated almost entirely. In each case, it’s laid bare the paucity of my own internally generated hunger, the extent to which my hunger arises in response to that of another.

I remember learning about the “female sexual response,” about different models for it. I was raised to believe (or maybe I just somehow developed the belief) that a) male desire and female desire are similar, and b) that they are relatively homogenous across the population. It wasn’t until my forties that I learned both the possibility of variation, and the specifics of it. Blame Masters & Johnson, who created the first sexual response model: “Excitement -> plateau -> orgasmic -> resolution.”

In English: people start off horny, then they get stimulated, then they come, then they relax.

In my forties, I learned:

  1. This isn’t my sexual response cycle, and
  2. This isn’t the sexual response cycle for most women.

For me, and, it turns out for most women, the first step in sexual response is not arousal or excitement; willingness, or openness precede arousal and excitement. And, more often than not? Some sort of emotional intimacy precedes, and actually is required, for that willingness to appear. In order for me (and for most women) to become aroused, we need first to feel some closeness to someone, after which we might then feel willingness, and only then are we receptive to the stimulation (whether mental, physical, or both) that may produce arousal. Never mind desire, which, in many cases, doesn’t materialize until after even the arousal! (See Basson, for one alternative conceptualization of the M&J sexual response model.)

So this all fairly describes something of how my sexual response cycle works: I only start to feel open to desire when I start to feel a connection, and then, as that openness materializes, I only start to feel aroused in the presence of some combination of mutual willingness and stimulation. I’ve written about little manifestations of this before: how I use porn not to satisfy sexual hunger, but rather to give rise to it. My desire follows arousal, which follows stimulation, which follows willingness, which follows intimacy.

Add to that: my desire? Fragile. All it takes to uproot my desire is the slightest hint of the absence of desire on the other side. When a woman recedes from me? I recede from her. Partly, I do this to protect myself from the abandonment I fear. More, though, this fear of abandonment itself arises reflexively, unconsciously, and manifests in the evaporation of my own desire.

On the other hand…. when a woman presents me with desire? Well, as long as that desire is calibrated correctly for me (a huge if), my body will respond, in kind, with its own overwhelming desire. That, too, is fragile, though: that “calibration” itself is almost like an old-school Fichet key and lock.

Consider this a warning label?

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